- National Programs’ Business Systems Analysts, 27 strong, help our companies and new acquisitions better align themselves for growth.
- The team impacts product development and launch and product maintenance (particularly with regards to rate changes and filings).
- The team is also instrumental in integrating products with comparative raters (via API).
National Programs is a conglomeration of PAs and MGAs that offer a wide-ranging suite of insurance products from personal lines to excess and surplus, and from commercial lines to niche-specific specialty programs. We offer to our companies and our recently acquired companies a host of what we call “Shared Services” that range from legal, financial and accounting to data analytics, CAT modeling, product development, marketing and more. Today we’re taking a look at our team of business system analysts and their crucial role in product development, maintenance and integration. We sat down recently with Rob Baker, vice president of commercial business systems, to learn how our business systems analysts play a key role in product launches and growth.
What exactly do business systems analysts do?
In a nutshell, my team is always in the weeds, getting into the details that the business may or may not know how to articulate. We evaluate opportunities for new and existing profit centers by identifying the lines of business and/or systems and product details to support both technology and insurance needs. Examples would be integrating Arrowhead Exchange for rate, quote, bind into a back-end policy system, or building automated underwriting rules so that underwriters can effectively write more business, often with straight through processing.
Our business systems analysts create specifications for automation that help with high-volume, low-touch integrations, to keep as much commission on those low premium policies as possible. Examples of this include underwriting automation to decline business outside of underwriting rules or offering rating through issuance with automated underwriting. This allows underwriters to focus on accounts that require higher levels of experience.
The company comes to us with their initiatives. We help them make their dreams a planned reality. We’re taking their ideas and thoughts and figuring out a way to build what they envision.
We work behind the scenes, evaluating the product and its rates, rules and forms against their policy administration and point of sale systems.
How does that work in real life?
A company may say, “We’re looking at this system, but we’re not sure if our product will even fit. Can you help us?” We evaluate the product to determine their system needs and capabilities. They may think they need a system with lots of bells and whistles, but in actuality they need something much simpler. They may also assume their product is simple, when it’s far more complex.
What are the first steps in your analysis of a business and their products?
The conversation starts with a product analysis. This helps identify the complexity and definition used to support the product. We then go into the product details, such as whether their product(s) are ISO-based or proprietary. That defines what sort of system we need to build. If it’s ISO-based, the system generally has what they need already built into it. In that instance, our job is to identify whether the rates and rules are already developed in that system.
If the product is proprietary, then the entire product must be built from scratch. We need to understand the rating algorithm and form details. We need to construct a user interface that evaluates the rates, ensuring we have all the inputs for rating. We also need to evaluate the forms to ensure the inputs for the forms are captured through the data. We look at the reporting to make sure that every feed for the report gets populated and is fed from the policy system. All of these details roll up to properly capturing the data to have an effective application. We also check compliance issues: Are you compliant with regards to ISO, data, billing, your notice requirements and especially on forms and output? And is the wording on your quote or binder compliant?
To use a metaphor, some companies try to build a plane while they’re flying it, and often they crash. My team creates the blueprint to build the plane before takeoff.
But there’s additional building going on as we fly the plane. Sometimes one of our businesses comes up with a product idea for a carrier – they’re constructing this vision of what the product needs to look like. The carrier may not be able to provide you with any guidelines early on. That’s where we come in and say, “Here’s a template for the questions that you should ask, to ensure that you’re in tandem with the carrier in developing the product that you desire.”
Otherwise, the carrier may come back with rates, rules or forms that will completely surprise you, and your plan will then have to change. We see this happen, where the carrier introduces the product, and now we must rewrite much of what we previously developed. Often it’s because that plan wasn’t clearly communicated with them in the beginning.
What impact have your business systems analysts had in product launches and growth?
Our recent projects have focused in these three areas, to bring lift to our various National Programs companies:
1. Product development and launch. Most of the work that we do is in product development: An evaluation of what the policy administration system needs to do plus maintenance of rates, rules and forms. We also work to create Power BI capabilities: We ensure that companies coming to us have a complete set of data to be analyzed. Sometimes we must reconstruct some data cues in order for power BI to work.
2. Product maintenance. We support and maintain products that are already live. This involves handling updates such as rate changes or enhancements to keep the product fresh. Often one or more people are required to review and maintain the systems on an ongoing basis, through the life of the product.
3. Product integration / API integrations. When a company wants to integrate with CoverHound or any outside aggregator, we build out the customer profile and all that the line of business needs to get that specific rate, most likely an automated quote-to-bind.
Our team has a depth of industry knowledge that
allows us to speak with carriers in an effective way
that smaller business can’t.
Much of what we do involves leveraging our relationship with carriers, because there’s a depth of industry knowledge within our teams that allows us to speak with the carrier in an effective way that the business can’t. We know our carriers, how to work with them and at times how to streamline the process. Our business systems analysts integrate across all functions with carriers.
Give us a brief rundown of your more recent projects.
In the last year or so, we’ve worked with Protector Plans; we’re currently working with Wright Flood on their requirements analysis. We built out the systems for the new Accelerate dealership program, Wright Specialty’s municipalities and education programs and Arrowhead’s Core Commercial and Automotive Aftermarket programs.
We also helped finalize the complete 50-state setup on Arrowhead Exchange and its policy administration system. In fact, industry standard for this type of job is a five-year project. We did in 18 months.
Industry standard for this type of job
is a five-year project. We did in 18 months.
Our business systems analysts have had a hand in every new product/ program that’s gone live. These new product launches and/or support include
- E&S program
- Arrowhead Tribal
- Wright Specialty
- Arrowhead Workers’ Compensation
- Core Commercial
- Arrowhead Automotive Aftermarket
- Accelerate dealer program
- Wright Public Entity
- Protector Plans
We impact many National Programs’ companies. Often it’s the lack of problems that these companies experience that shows our success. The fact that their businesses are humming along is a testament to our success. It means the systems that were built and supported by my team are working.
Tell us about your team.
My team consists of 27 business analysts, some who are working through new projects and others who support various programs.
We’re using templates whenever possible. But when you have systems that are not proprietary and need constant maintenance support and evaluation to stay in business, such as for floating rate changes, our evaluation and maintenance is ongoing.
The templates that we’ve developed to help us streamline these processes have become a playbook of sorts, built on our history of successes. Our playbook is always evolving and always in motion. One template won’t fit every company, so it’s a constant refinement.
Because we work behind the scenes, our successes are the successes of others through our support and maintenance. Our team shines because of their diligent work on our products, asking important questions and building sustainable requirements day in and day out.