I recently got a call from the new CEO of a mid-sized life and health carrier. He had recently taken the helm at his company. Previously, among other stops in his career, he had been with an IdeaStar client during a time when we were developing a new agent-driven health insurance quote-through-issue Web site. While he had not been directly involved in the IdeaStar insurance tech project, he had peripheral knowledge of it and had heard good things about our work.

I write about this because it seems that this is one of the most common ways that Web development happens today at health and life insurance carriers in the small and mid-sized class. A new guy (or gal, but quite frankly, mostly guys — that’s a whole ‘nother issue) takes over the helm, sees the obvious elephant in the middle of the room that everyone had ignored under the previous administration (like 50% of the producers screaming for “a better way,” i.e. Web-based processes) and says, “This is an easy fix. We’re gonna’ get this done right now. Anyone not on board with this, get off the train. And by the way, we don’t have time to re-invent the wheel in-house — I know a perfect group to partner with…”

And you know what’s going to happen? Very positive results will start to surface in about 12-18 months (assuming that carrier has the underlying competitive products to offer the market, a good reputation for agent and customer service, and a good A.M. Best™ rating). If the online system is designed and engineered properly, producers will be fed a new source of leads by leads engines like Norvax™, they will then be able to Log In and generate quotes, prospective insureds will be able to sign the applications and forms electronically, and the administrative process will flow electronically from there. Again, with intelligent information architecture, in about 12-18 months, the carrier will have more producers, more apps coming in per producer, cleaner apps arriving that fit the carrier-defined underwriting profile, much faster and lower-cost policy-issuance processes, longer agent and policy holder retention, an improving A.M. Best™ rating, and major gains in shareholder value.

Yes, e-business struggled in the late 90’s as we tried to “figure it out.” And I completely understand the post-9/11, two- to three-year adverse economic environment in the insurance industry with regard to IT dollars and initiatives. But I want to encourage all senior insurance executives out there: Now is the time for E-business Action. Move! And don’t let your IT department re-invent the wheel. Fund these projects out of previous project ROI — prioritize and execute. GO!!