Right in TMC’s (News - Alert) backyard, the Vantis Life Insurance Company of Windsor, CT has been creating a decided competitive advantage putting online technology to great use. Selling its insurance policies almost exclusively through agents in 80 affiliated banks in 40 of the 50 states in the U.S., the company, which started in 1942, has grown to have more than $4.9 billion of life insurance in force and $671 million of annuities. As Craig Simms, VP at Vantis, explained in an exclusive interview, “We could not have done this without having an electronic platform. That is why in 2004 we went to an online solution.”
With a direct sales staff of less than 10, for Vantis to be successful it had to make sure that bank employees who were certified to sell insurance had not just all of the information and product knowledge they needed in order to engender a compelling customer experience at the point of sale, but also the support the agents and customers would need to have access to experts who could answer their questions and provide up-to-date account information.
“From 1942 through 2001 we only did business in Connecticut. When we moved online in 2004 banks were at first reluctant to go online doing such transactions. However, we created a system that answered all of their concerns. It also spoke to their desires to increase their lines of business that arose from the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act which allowed commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies to combine,” he noted. “We saw an opportunity, but we had to make it simple for the agents to use and for the banks to trust.”
The platform has evolved over time to take advantage of the latest in Web-based solutions for providing real-time information as well as increasing business process optimization for the banks. Several objectives have been the focus, according to Simms:
- Banks need to have direct access to the underwriter
- Agents need access to sales as well as product information that was accurate and up-to-date
- Agents need access to system support people
- Customers need access to such things as getting online quotations, and their account status (which they can also obtain from their friendly agent at the bank)
- Customers need access to customer service using multiple channels, i.e., online and via phone should they have questions
- Provisioning of a secure environment
The results have been impressive as the growth of Vantis indicates. Simms notes, “As a result of going electronic from a paper-based system we have gotten rid of not in good order (NIGO) policies which were the bane of our existence and frustrating to our agents.”
He pointed to the fact that a policy can be accurately writeen in 15 minutes, and, “We now get a three day head start on the underwriting process and have cut an entire week off of the entire process. Plus, we now use fax instead of regular mail for signature validation and all of the information regarding the policy now goes not just to Vantis, but prints out at the point of sale for customer signature and fax back.”
The bottom line in this case really is the bottom line. Vantis has used technology to create a value proposition that is built around satisfying both agent needs for being product savvy and capable of doing a transaction in a short period of time, and customers have the convenience of dealing with an entity they have a trusted relationship with in a convenient setting and with full accountability.
What’s ahead on the technology front for Vantis? Simms says it is constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience both for their banking agent (who are after all critical customers) as well as ways in which they and Vantis can provide the policy holders even better customer service. In fact, he noted that already under consideration is moving to a cloud-based solution for CRM. Simms sees additional operational savings from such a move, along with the ability to provide additional functionality.
Vantis Life is a good example of hitting the major reasons insurance companies, regardless of their go-to-market business models, are investing in state-of-the-art online solutions. Improved operations, enhanced customer service, ease-of-use, better business intelligence and security are all covered. They also happen to offer impressive life insurance coverage as well.
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Edited by Rachel Ramsey