A desire to grow commercial lines business
In the Ontario “near-north” communities of Barrie and Orillia, Will Marshall Insurance Brokers Ltd. could see early on that the wind was shifting in personal P&C insurance, with customers becoming more price-conscious and products more commodity-driven. “You can do the best job for someone on an auto or home policy, but then the banks or direct writers offer big discounts and there is really nothing you can do about that,” says Colin Marshall, vice president. “Whereas with commercial, clients really need your advice and it is not as cookie cutter. There are lots of opportunities we see to write commercial business in a better way; we can spot weaknesses and do it properly.”
The brokerage, which runs two offices in Barrie and Orillia, has been in business since 1983. A fixture of Simcoe County, Will Marshall Insurance has 21 employees who sell a wide range of insurance solutions along a roughly 35-65% split in commercial and personal premium volume. In particular, the brokerage writes a lot of farm insurance in the agricultural areas surrounding the region.
A commercial lines solution to bring the brokerage into the 21st century
Will Marshall Insurance was an early adopter of Applied Policy Works, bringing the commercial management system (CMS) on board in 2004. The brokerage wanted to bolster its commercial volume and gain a competitive edge, according to Janice Schoonhoven, commercial account executive and operations manager. “Looking back from today’s perspective, we can’t even fathom doing business the old way of paper-based files,” Schoonhoven observes. “There have been so many changes in technology. It really has dictated to brokers how they will adapt – are you going to be part of the 21st century or are you going to be stale, sitting back and watching change happen?”
One platform to standardize processes and improve ease of doing business
Today, Will Marshall Insurance uses Applied Policy Works throughout the entire policy lifecycle – from marketing, new business and submissions to endorsements, renewals and cancellations. “Because we are paperless, and everything’s on one platform, it makes our turnaround so much quicker. I think our paperless approach and Applied Policy Works really go hand in hand when it comes to efficiency,” Schoonhoven says.
Marshall concurs that a single point of access for commercial accounts has improved ease of doing business. “The great thing about Applied Policy Works is that all your policies are on one platform,” he comments. “I don’t have to read five or six different companies and how they present their information; it is all there in one format.”
For Schoonhoven, the benefits of Applied Policy Works can be tracked to the specifics of day-to-day business workflow. “When you enter a new piece of business into the system, everything is done right there, whether that is gathering responses from companies, getting a proposal to an insured or issuing a binder,” she observes. “We can do that all from our desktops, instead of pulling a file. The same is true for endorsements and renewals.”
There is also close integration between the broker management system, Applied TAM®, and Applied Policy Works. “I can go into Applied Policy Works through Applied TAM on my desktop,” she says. “When I get into Applied Policy Works and do something, it automatically prompts me to put that activity into Applied TAM. That makes it easy.”
While the new business and submission process is greatly improved through Applied Policy Works, Schoonhoven notes that remarketing also represents a much more streamlined way of doing business. “If you have a client who may not want to renew because of the premium, you can go into Applied Policy Works, adjust a few things that may need to be updated and send it out to several markets,” she comments. “You don’t have to re-type or re-input or fax something; it is all done in one step in Applied Policy Works.”
Recently, Will Marshall Insurance has begun to use the commercial auto module of Applied Policy Works, which will bring a new level of efficiency to fleet management, according to Schoonhoven. "We can put in all the vehicles and the drivers and then send it to an insurance company to quote it; whereas in the old way, we would ask clients to complete applications for various markets,” she says. “That can take a long time and delay the process of getting a quote.”
While the brokerage has a close familiarity with most Applied Policy Works features, Schoonhoven observes that there are still a few advantages to pursue. One is increasing their usage of the reporting features in Applied Policy Works. “For example, if an insurance company asks why we haven’t written business with them, we can come back and show that we have sent 30 requests for quotation and we have not heard back on 27 of them,” she says. “We are working with Applied Policy Works to tap even more into the reporting side so we can tell insurers what we want and don’t want.”
Indeed, Will Marshall Insurance is keen to take any business process to the next level. One example of its forward thinking is the development of a working template for farm insurance, which is already being used at the brokerage. “There is interest in creating a farm module,” Schoonhoven says. “We saw the vision of where this could go and Applied Policy Works saw us as an innovator who was one step ahead on farm. On both sides, there is a strong motivation to move this forward.”
For Schoonhoven, this emphasis on improvement and enhanced efficiency in the business is something that characterizes the ongoing relationship between Will Marshall Insurance and Applied Policy Works. “No matter what the line of business or the type of work, we have been able to put in procedures that have allowed us as a brokerage to move ahead and do better. For the past four years we have intentionally streamlined our operations to be technology-driven, and Applied Policy Works is a key part of that,” she says.
Marshall notes that he is intrigued with what the future holds for commercial growth at the brokerage. “With Applied Policy Works, having all our business insurance on one platform certainly makes it easier,” he concludes. “But there is a lot of potential in terms of what we can do with it in the future. That’s pretty exciting.”
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