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Accelerating Connected Underwriting on a Global Scale: A Conversation with CNA

Jake Sloan, VP of Insurance
March 30, 2022

To remain competitive, insurers need to look for ways to modernize the underwriting process. However, too often disconnected systems and siloed data get in the way, resulting in inefficiencies and a poor customer experience.

We recently had the chance to sit down with Kathleen Ellis, SVP of International Solutions at CNA, during Digital Insurance’s annual conference to discuss how to accelerate connected underwriting on a global scale and their success with their CNA ComPass™ solution. Here’s what she had to say.


Jake Sloan (Global Insurance Industry Leader, Appian): What underwriting challenges was CNA initially experiencing? What led CNA to look at low-code?

Kathleen Ellis (SVP of International Solutions, CNA): Well, it’s a great story. I could talk about it all day long. The process and the outcome was successful, but with any new build or development, there were challenges along the way. I had just joined CNA 5.5 years ago when I was deep into the process of evaluating processes, products, technologies and operational models surrounding our multinational business. My role was to help shape and to drive our multinational solutions. It was critical to ensure we had consistent, efficient and dependable tools to provide a company-wide global platform. 

When you do underwrite multi-country business, there are usually master policies or CMP’s that align and coordinate with locally admitted policies for client exposures around the world. Those local policies are often issued in local language, local currencies with terms common or usual to that country. Additionally, these placements are coordinated with owned operations or managed network fronting partners who are in a country with strong financial and technical reputations to insure exposures. 

Prior to the creation of ComPass™, we were managing those same transactions on a manual basis using little or no technology solutions including email chains. They were therefore not connected or easily shared so work could be passed along the process within CNA and with our network partners. It was clear that at the most basic level, we needed to create something to connect the dots. This realization or need was not unique to CNA. Any and all global insurers have been faced with solving this very same challenge. How we each do this is a bit different, but the challenge and needs are the same. 

At the time we were evaluating options—internal build or buy, CNA had just finished up an engagement with Appian in the commercial space for a dashboard for managing and creating underwriting letters of authority. This solution was, at its core, a communication tool to help create and to maintain statements of authority for underwriters around the world. Initially, when looking for a solution for our global program management, we weren’t thinking of a build effort, but we did have success on the authority project with the agile approach with Appian. We started out with working sessions with key Appian developers, team members and our technology and business team members as well. We leveraged our relationships with our network partners, owned offices, underwriters and agents/brokers to gather feedback to ensure our solution was going to be reflective of our business model. We wanted the platform to be strong and effective from a technology perspective but also, we wanted to ensure it would not replace or abdicate the personal engagement of our field and platform team. Self-service in the international business space looks like a great solution, but our brokers/agents and clients are not always best served by being pushed onto the technology platform. Often, for global programs, conversation and discussion around best solutions and program implementation is most desired.  

Jake Sloan: How did CNA ComPass™ come to be?

Kathleen Ellis: At its core, the CNA ComPass™ solution was meant to be a communication platform end to end, but we also wanted the platform to support needed internal branding. We wanted to leverage this platform to showcase our capabilities internally and externally. It was critical our internal constituents believed in program execution and service deliverables as much as we did. Only then could we expect to gain their commitment and energies to drive growth in new business. 

We are on a journey to engage our company around the strong business case to sell international programs. Property and casualty underwriters, as well as specialty underwriters and every line of business and territory, such as the United States, Canada, UK, Europe, etc. had to join our mission. 

Every single underwriter today has or will have the opportunity and need to leverage the solution. The solution we were building had to be comprehensive, and it was to create a great opportunity for us to build cohesive messaging around our products, services and program execution. 

All insurers who write global programs work with internally and externally managed partners across the globe. Not one company owns operations in all countries around the world. These network partners often support more than one producing insurer’s programs. This means they must work with other companies and their platforms. Ensuring our platform was easy to work with by our partners and owned operations as well as internal teams in underwriting, claims, billing and collections and operations was critical. 

Ease of use, intuitive results and high adoption rates by these partners as well as our own teams was important. We had to encourage and engage partners. We involved them in helping us build the process and requirements for the solution, and we also wanted to give them something that was easy to use.

Jake Sloan: What did the implementation of CNA ComPass™ look like?

Kathleen Ellis: We rolled our ComPass™ platform out effective for new business in 2019. We are more than two years post rollout now and are pleased to report that the deliverables were met and exceeded. We continue to work on enhancements to support newly developing needs and market demands. This was a brand new and a company-wide deployment. 

Consistency, ease of use, intuitiveness, and dependability were key. Beyond the operational and program implementation aspects of the platform, we also enhanced ComPass™ with other ‘extras’ we hung on the platform. Examples of this would be our news feature. We use this broadcast news feature to celebrate global holidays/events as well as to update impacts to service or changes important for all users to see quickly. 

We also built-in claims reporting and data including claims data and clients’ claims records as well as billing and collections. Besides delivering policy documents in an accurate and timely fashion, there are billing and collection transactions that are core to being a full service international underwriting operation. 

Billing and collections elements are underserved in the market. The ability to provide real-time information on when payment has been received and how much paid is important. In some countries, there is a regulation called “cash before cover.” Admitted coverage cannot incept in that country if the premium has not been paid.  Having these elements tied into the platform is critical. CNA ComPass™ is more than just an end-to-end communication platform. It provides a  360-degree view of the client’s program.

Jake Sloan: What were the key results or benefits from CNA ComPass™?

Kathleen Ellis: A key benefit of this solution has been greater transparency and efficiency. When we compare the old way we were doing things, it was very manual. Our new platform has reduced the time spent for each transaction by 60%. Clearly this is a big improvement and critical in the pursuit of growing our portfolio with excellence in service. 

Want to watch the rest of the interview?

To hear the full conversation, check out the video from DigIn 2021 or read the full case study to see why CNA won the 2021 Celent Model Insurer Award for Legacy and Ecosystem Transformation.

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