Custom technology helps keep AmWINS
on retailers’ radar.
What is “good technology”? Is it a management
system that eliminates the need to duplicate entries? Is it a
database that mines and “reverse-mines” data to
mesh carriers with retailers in real time? Is it integrated
with privacy protection and confidentiality measures so
important in today’s corporate culture?
Yes. But for retailers and carriers, the most meaningful
question for determining the value of a technology is a simple
one: “How does it help me?”
Retailers are putting wholesalers on the spot as they search
for reasons to choose one potential partner over another.
Everyone claims to have “great relationships” and
“expertise,” so retailers are putting greater value
on how the wholesaler uses technology to link the risk, the
retailer, the wholesaler and the market.
“We have a very strong belief in the ability to
leverage data,” says Tom Lott, director of marketing,
practices and client relationships at AmWINS. It’s a key
factor for any wholesaler, he says. Whether it’s an
off-the-shelf system or something designed in-house,
wholesalers must be able to show retailers how they match risks
with markets while reducing redundancy. AmWINS, he says, made
the decision to create its own management system, first
introduced in April 2004.
“Designing and managing our system with our own
in-house technology team helps us control our own
destiny,” he explains.
Retailers may not be impressed by a wholesaler using
technology solely to collect information about the risk, such
as location, class code and other information obtainable from a
number of resources. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of
off-the-shelf systems stop, says Lott. He notes that retailers
want to see how the wholesaler will use data to increase the
chances of finding the best product for that risk.
“Our system goes farther in that it also captures data
about people—for example, who the individuals are who
head the brokerage team working the account and who the
individual underwriters are at the markets who manage
substantial books of that type of account.” A system that
connects brokers with these contacts is very helpful in the
submission process, he says.
While the ability to mine a database seamlessly to help
place the account is important to retailers, so is
confidentiality. Accounts are already uneasy providing the
sensitive information required to complete a submission,
explains Chris Gill, director of operations for AmWINS. Failure
of a retailer, wholesaler or market to protect that data could
prove devastating. For this reason, a wholesaler using a
database must make privacy a priority, he says. “For
confidentiality reasons, the data available for mining in our
system is not account-specific. The only individuals who can
see account-specific data are the members of the brokerage team
that are working that account. Rather, the data is aggregated
by factors such as class code,” Gill says. Access to this
aggregated data will provide brokers with valuable information.
For example, it will also show the individual brokers across
the organization who manage large books in that class of
business and their contact information, creating a potentially
valuable resource within the organization.
It also aggregates data on markets. “For example, if
we’re looking at an account in a construction class code,
our system taps the database to show the broker which markets
are our strongest players for that class as well as the
individual underwriters at those markets he or she should
Brokers receive information from the aggregated data in real
time. “A broker could be filling in submission details,
such as physical location, class code, etc., and the system
will link those details to suggested markets during the
process,” Lott explains.
Retailers are not the only ones who benefit from a
wholesaler’s investment in technology, says Gill.
“We believe the technology used by a wholesaler is a
deciding factor in with whom that market decides to
partner,” he says.
AmWINS can reverse-mine data to connect the market to a
broker specializing in the type of risks likely to benefit from
a market’s product, Gill explains. “That broker can
then identify retail partners most likely to generate that kind
Lott says using an in-house system as opposed to something
off-the-shelf gives the wholesaler control over other important
functions. For example, AmWINS was able to build in all the
necessary tax models, rules and other information to ensure
compliance with surplus lines laws.
Retailers often tell me that, regardless of what the
wholesaler says, the time spent in the submission process makes
them skeptical of working with many wholesale brokers. A
wholesaler that can demonstrate how its technology helps
simplify and speed the placement process with the best possible
market stands a much better chance of staying on retailer short
Amrhein is wholesale editor.