Zurich hones competitive edge with Net reporting tool

Establishing efficient risk management processes was not Zurich Australia's forte until the company replaced a manual reporting process for its motor insurance business with an Internet reporting tool.

This enabled faster reporting on risk levels while improving service and reducing costs.

A subsidiary of the Swiss financial services giant Zurich Group, Zurich Australia is one of the nations largest commercial motor insurers. The 1300-person company deals with around 400 insurance brokers including AON, Marsh and Willis, worldwide.

Zurich's reporting service is part of the company's wider risk management service to give clients a clearer understanding of the number and types of claims being made by their organisation, so as to pinpoint trends that show a need for more training or policy changes, according to national corporate portfolio manager Kim Pagotto.

Zurich implemented WebFocus, by New York-based business intelligence software vendor Information Builders in December 2002, as its management reporting tool. Codenamed Z Fleet Navigator, the solution provides a secure portal through which Zurich's staff, brokers and clients can access claims information and analyse trends in real time.

Previously Zurich used cumbersome reporting processes to track and report on fleet insurance claims, which saw staff taking up to six hours to produce a single report to regional offices on claims history. Staff productivity also suffered because of ongoing problems with the system where it became old and unworkable, only allowing the company to produce one management report a year at best, according to Pagotto.

"Now customers like the fact that they have live data in their hands and can be far more proactive about the way they manage their own claims history. It leaves the whole control mechanism of the claims handling with the individual," he said.

WebFocus has the sophistication to combine multiple policies for Zurich from different divisions and locations. It downloads data into Excel spreadsheet format for database manipulation, according to Information Builders.

Zurich Australia IS project manager for Z Fleet Navigator, Phillip Coleman, is confident the new system will give the insurer a competitive advantage, claiming it is the first of its kind in Australia's financial services industry offering self-service insurance claims reporting to brokers and clients

With competitive differentiation as a priority, Coleman is keen to help evolve the product by enhancing it to give users more flexibility and better data manipulation power to "help them save money on their insurance costs".

Adopting the risk management tool has improved the company's business renewal rate by 5 per cent since going live in December, translating into millions of dollars in profit, Pagotta told Computerworld. The new system has also helped boost staff productivity, making them less 'report generators' and more responsive to customer requests by enhancing their access to customer information. This frees employees to focus their efforts on product marketing, customer retention and new business development.

Aside from rigorous use by dedicated users including 20 underwriters, 12 users from a risk engineering team and a handful of claims staff, Zurich expects stronger takeup of the system by other employees, brokers and customers, particularly with business experiencing peak activity around the end of June due to end of 2003 financial year reporting. "We write quite a bit of government business in particular, dealing with 300 to 400 clients, and most of that business is in June," Pagotta said.

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