Building Better Mobile Solutions

A software development tool allowed Primerica Financial Services to develop a flexible mobile solution for use by its licensed agents.

Integrated Solutions, February 2007
By Julie Ritzer Ross

Primerica Financial Services, a Citigroup subsidiary headquartered in Duluth, GA, is the largest financial services marketing organization in North America. The company provides financial products and services, including term life insurance, mutual funds, variable annuities, loans, and long-term care insurance, to approximately 6 million clients through more than 100,000 licensed independent representatives. Primerica reps handle a collective 30,000 to 35,000 life insurance applications each month.

Prior to 2005, agents used traditional paper forms to collect information from individuals applying for life insurance coverage. Reps would sit down with prospective clients at their residences or places of business to assist them in completing the documents. Completed forms were subsequently duplicated for agents’ files and mailed to Primerica’s home office for processing.

“The paper method, which is still common in our industry, was labor-intensive and slow,” says Tom Swift, executive VP, field technology. “Agents not only had to collect and send in applications; scanning and rekeying of information then had to take place. As a result of all this, it was not unusual for the paper applications received at our home office to be incomplete, illegible, or both.”

Complicating things more, approximately 25% of the applications required some kind of telephone follow-up conversation between corporate, agents, and the customer; often it took days or weeks before the company could get an application corrected and fully processed. And, about 50% of applications were submitted during the last several days of the month, leaving staff at the home office scrambling.

WANTED: Freedom of Mobile Device Choice

Primerica addressed these problems by replacing the paper-based system with a solution that would enable agents to input clients’ information into electronic application forms via wireless handheld devices. However, there were obstacles. Notably, Primerica wanted its agents to be able to use the solution on whichever handheld wireless devices they happened to own, yet was not prepared to incur the cost and grapple with the complexity of building a separate application for each of the major mobile operating systems (e.g. Palm OS, Windows Mobile).

“Most of our agents have handhelds from Palm, Inc., but it was important to us that having that particular brand of device not be a limiting factor in future adoption of the system by field personnel,” says Swift. “We also needed a solution that would be compliant with the rigorous standards set by insurance regulators in every state, but testing each operating system version for use in each state could have been beyond the realm of possibilities for the initial release.”

On Palm, Inc.’s recommendation, Primerica turned to mobile solutions vendor AppForge, Inc. for assistance. Swift and his team employed AppForge’s Crossfire technology platform to develop the requisite application, which it named TurboApps to indicate the rapid processing speed promised by the system. An add-on product for Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET, Crossfire permits applications for Palm OS, Pocket PC, and Symbian devices to be written using Microsoft Visual Basic .NET programming language. Developers can store data in applications configured for a given device in the database type native to that particular piece of hardware.

“One of our top priorities was to develop and maintain TurboApps using one source code,” Swift explains. “The Crossfire platform allowed this to happen and protects our investment by ensuring TurboApps will work with multiple devices or newer software versions down the road. Also, by using Crossfire, we cut implementation time considerably, as only one set of code needs to be submitted for certification, versus multiple codes for multiple devices.”

TurboApps was released to Primerica agents in July of 2005. As of late 2006, 27,000 agents in 33 states opted to make the $200 investment needed to run the system on their handheld devices, and the rate of adoption continues to increase. For the last completed month, 55% of insurance applications were electronic in those 33 states. While only the Palm OS version of the solution is currently available, Primerica intends to modify TurboApps for agents whose devices run on the Windows Mobile operating system. The solution will use Crossfire as the linchpin and will be used to enable electronic processing of loan and mutual fund applications and new recruit paperwork.

Solution Slashes Policy Issuance Time

The benefits Primerica is reaping from TurboApps are significant. “In addition to making it much easier for agents to take applications, the solution benefits our home office in many ways,” Swift observes. Electronic forms acceptance eliminates the need to handle, scan, and re-key customer information from mailed documents, thereby boosting accuracy, streamlining overall workflow, and reducing the interval between application submission and policy issuance from an average of 10 to 11 days to an average of 1 day.

The system also enables agents to correct errors and prompts them to ensure that all data is filled in while they are still in a customer’s presence. This, coupled with the capability of automatically populating different data fields on individual applications with identical information, further enhances accuracy and cuts operational costs.