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The logical next step

Applied Systems sets its sights on enriching the online connection consumers have with agents

By Nancy Doucette

Since 1993, when ACORD first began recognizing agency management system vendors for their interface efforts in connecting agencies with their carriers, Applied Systems has received top honors every year. "The number of connections, the number of transactions, and the lines of business—all that ease of doing business has been a large part of Applied Systems' success," declares James P. Kellner, chairman and CEO of Applied.

While Applied's work on that front is by no means finished, Kellner says the logical next step for the vendor is to enhance consumers' ability to interact online with agents.

That's a decision that resonates well with Brian Bartosh, CIC, LUTCF, president of Top O' Michigan Insurance and chair of ASCnet (Applied Systems Client Network). "As client needs change, independent agents must expand their offerings in terms of self-servicing and Web presence," Bartosh observes. "Although there have been offerings for these types of service, many agents have only offered client-facing transactions carrier-by-carrier. With the lead of a major vendor like Applied Systems, we can now see these opportunities grow.

"As independent agents, we have relationships with multiple carriers," Bartosh explains. "But our relationship with our client is one-to-one. We expect and need to be the one to maintain this relationship, to be the point of contact for our client. Whether it's for billing information, coverage information, or to file a claim, the client comes to us."

"People want service anytime, anywhere, often online, maybe after hours," Kellner notes. "For consumers seeking information about their insurance, they're going to contact their independent agent. Their relationship is with the agent, not the carrier. So agents need to provide 24/7 access to multiple carriers."

Being there

Kellner says he's known Richard Roy, president of Artizan Internet Services, LLC, for more than 20 years. For the past 12 years, Roy's company has been just ahead of the curve, providing the industry with a solution that includes agency-branded 24/7 Internet access, policyholder self-service, an after-hours or 24/7 call center, online certificates of insurance, certificate tracking, and a live CSR for claim reporting after hours—with all items connected to the agents' management systems. So  when Kellner decided he wanted to take that logical next step on behalf of agents, he discussed it with Roy.

Coincidentally, Roy was also interested in expanding consumers' access to their insurance information. "Younger consumers won't tolerate '9-to-5' and touchtone phones," he says with a chuckle. With the industry's growing adoption of real-time transactions, he saw an opportunity to extend the connection from carrier to policyholder and agent.

However, the need to expand infrastructures that would accommodate growth required more resources than Artizan had available, Roy acknowledges. To make that happen, "We needed a stronger financial commitment," he says.

So in late December 2010, Applied Systems acquired Artizan Internet Services, naming it Artizan Internet Services, an Applied Systems Company. Roy says the Windsor, Connecticut, office will continue to serve as headquarters for Artizan, and development will continue to take place at the Phoenix, Arizona, location. "Applied's acquisition of Artizan isn't just about product, it's about the people we have and our brand," he states. "This capital investment will allow Artizan to grow to the next level with people and infrastructure.

"Over the years, Artizan has provided solutions that are system agnostic," Roy points out. "We have a tremendous number of Vertafore clients in addition to the tremendous number of Applied clients, along with a number of clients on other vendor systems. The fact that we're now owned by Applied isn't going to change the landscape for our products and the management systems they work with.

"Artizan plays in the world of data," he continues. "We extract data from management systems to enrich the transactions and features available to policyholders. Sensitivity around access to that data is one of the driving forces for Artizan to exist as a separate entity owned by Applied Systems. We will continue to improve our Vertafore features as aggressively as we improve our features with Applied's platform. We are confident that all parties will benefit."

Speaking on behalf of the Network of Vertafore Users (NetVU), Carl Schlotman III, CPCU, CIC, president of Cincinnati-based CAI Insurance Agency, Inc., says: "Everyone on the Artizan team are long-term friends of NetVU. We are excited for them.

"Having a larger parent will allow Artizan to bring more features to their products more quickly. As a user of their products, I look forward to continuing to work with them," he says.

Back at it

Once the deal was inked, both organizations quickly got to work on their respective logical next steps.

Kellner says that within 45 days of the acquisition, parts of the real-time integration between The Agency Manager (TAM)® and Artizan were complete. "Not having to allow for the overnight processing that's necessary when there's no real-time integration between Artizan and the management system, a CSR can now input a policy renewal into TAM and if the customer simultaneously signs on, he or she will be able to see that fresh data," he explains.

Additionally, TAM will be automatically updated with an activity alert each time a customer completes a transaction using Artizan.

Down the line, Artizan will be integrated with Epic, Applied Systems' newest management system, Kellner says.

And more is on the drawing board. "We're going to take Artizan further so this will benefit all Artizan customers, not just those who use Applied," Kellner emphasizes. "We'll be communicating with all of Artizan's non-Applied customers so that we can provide them with a roadmap of what we're going to be able to do now that we own both sides of the transaction."

Bartosh says agents will appreciate having an activity appear in their management system each time a client uses Artizan. "As agents, we want to be able to provide professional advice to our clients," he notes.

"Suppose a client files a claim through Artizan," he continues. "It might not be in the client's best interest to file this claim with the carrier because he has had three already and the carrier will likely terminate the policy. We will see the activity and be able to contact the client to discuss the implications. That doesn't happen when the client logs into the carrier site directly.

"And just because the claim is posted to our database, it doesn't mean that the claim is automatically processed through to the carrier database," he adds. "Similarly, if a client submits a change request, we can pull it up and review the data. It doesn't automatically go through. We can still be involved, providing professional advice, but we don't have to rekey the data because the customer did so already."

Enhanced Web sites

Roy says Artizan also specializes in providing Web site services—everything from low-cost turnkey sites to high-end, custom-designed Internet solutions with custom-developed functionality.

Kellner says he's excited about being able to offer this capability to agents. "It gives us a broader reach, allowing us to offer more of what agents and brokers need," he notes.

Bartosh is switching his agency's Web site to Artizan, and he too is enthusiastic about the melding of Artizan's talents with Applied's capabilities. In acquiring Artizan, he says, Applied "obtained critical knowledge in the areas of Web presence, online customer service, and working with customer portals in order to gather information.

"Combining Artizan's ability to do the client-facing activities along with Applied's ability to manage the data on the agency side is a big win for Applied users," Bartosh proclaims. "If I can create a customer portal through Artizan that directly links to my database and writes data in and out of it, I'm going to have a better opportunity to service my clients.

"Our agency goal for the next 12 to 18 months is to enhance the whole customer-facing experience. We want to be more interactive," he adds. "We also want to tie ourselves more tightly to social networking. Clients have used our live chat a lot on our old site. We're going to enhance that with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn."

Kellner says all of these capabilities will help agents improve customer retention. And in tomorrow's world, he expects that a more interactive Web site also will be able to better track prospects. "We're working toward enabling the CSR, producer, and principal—at their desktops—to immediately 'understand' and act on whatever happens at the Web site."

For more information:

Applied Systems, Inc.

Web site:

Artizan Internet Services

Web site:


Richard Roy, President of Artizan Internet Services, an Applied Systems Company.


James P. Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Applied Systems, Inc.


"The fact that we're now owned by Applied isn't going to change the landscape for our products and the management systems they work with."

—Richard Roy


"We're going to take Artizan further so this will benefit all Artizan customers, not just those who use Applied."

—James P. Kellner

Brian Bartosh, CIC, LUTCF, President of Top O' Michigan Insurance, comments during the Arizona gathering.

A meeting attendee tries out Artizan's mobile Web page.



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