With its power to transform portfolio and geographic data, mapping technology may seem like black-box wizardry. For many users, though, accessing the tool could be as easy as clicking on an icon on their desktop.
"I think it's fairly flexible, and once you go through the initial training and get the hang of it," says Christopher Graham, chief information officer at Church Mutual Insurance Co., "it's very easy to use, and it's very easy to update from our standpoint."
It's so easy to use that even the president and CEO at Church Mutual taps into the maps, as well as staff down through the underwriting, claims, sales and risk management departments. Not everyone at the niche property/casualty carrier creates the maps. Certain individuals specialize in that, he says. But everyone can share the maps via the company's Intranet. (The application itself is located in-house on a server).
Greater New York Insurance Cos. has a similar setup. Their MapInfo mapping program resides on a server, and users access it via an icon on their desktops. Everyone has access to it, says Kathleen Hurley, assistant vice president of IT, though mostly underwriters, raters and the executive team need it most.
Hurley is in charge of updating the maps with the latest information from the carrier's in-force book of business. This responsibility involves downloading client property information from the back-end policy and claims system into a spreadsheet, geocoding it (giving each property an accurate longitude and latitude), and then uploading it all to the mapping database on the server. She does this every Friday. It takes all of 15 minutes.
Of course, bigger insurers and reinsurers may require more complicated mapping systems. Never fear. The technology can be customized to fit any size client, says Sean Fitzpatrick, commercial account manager for mapping vendor ESRI. The solution can be desktop-based, Web-based or server-based, and scalable for a single user or an entire enterprise.
That means the vendor doesn't need to hold the insurer's hand after the initial learning curve.
Risk managers and other corporate officers, however, may need more of the vendor's help at first, says Fitzpatrick, because "it's a fairly new concept to them."
June 1, 2006
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