Wawanesa turns to Web app for property insurance assessments

Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. is taking some of the paperwork out of property assessment by introducing a Web-based data collection tool for its field agents.

The Winnipeg-based firm is in the process of rolling out WebWriter Inspection from Insurance Systems Inc. to its 20 inspection agents across Canada and in its San Diego office.

The inspectors collect information assessment data from the properties they visit, including taking photos and making diagrams. In a restaurant, for example, the inspectors would look at the type of cooking facilities, the building’s basic construction, fire protection measures, heating systems, etc. These reports help the insurance company determine whether or not it is prepared to assume the risk associated with the policy.

Traditionally, these reports are to be collected on paper then filed away in the company’s various offices where they could be viewed by underwriters. Once WebWriter is rolled out, the information will be recorded electronically on a laptop or tablet PC, then sent to a central server via an Internet connection or, more likely, uploaded once field agents are back in the office.

“If you’re out in the boonies, you’re not going to be able to get an Internet connection, so there’s a system that’s local to the tablet,” explained Dave Hanley, vice-president of business development for Toronto-based Insurance Systems. “That feeds into the Web-based system that’s sitting on the server in the insurance company. The beauty is, they can do it once in the field . . . they don’t have to sit there and type it in again.”

It may be a convenience for field agents, but the biggest time savings will come from underwriters working in the offices, said John Bjornson, vice-president of marketing and property underwriting for Wawanesa.

Wawanesa has its own field inspectors but also employs about six other firms across Canada that do property inspections. The WebWriter tool will allow those third-party agents to file reports electronically in a PDF format which will then be stored in the same database as the reports Wawanesa generates.

“It’s really key that we can gather the internal inspections and the external inspections in the same place in the same manner,” said Bjornson. “It allows . . . our underwriters, when they’re reviewing a policy, to pull up the inspection, including the photographs and diagrams, on to their screens as they’re writing the policy. It will be a big help for us.”

Bjornson said that most of the properties Wawanesa inspects are commercial, like farms, office buildings and restaurants, but could also include homes. In the future, the company may look at using the tool for vehicle assessments as part of its auto insurance business.

The tool is modifiable and available in .Net and Java flavours, said Hanley. “You can create your own forms using the system. We’ve got one company inspecting churches, one does houses, one does commercial properties, the other one does boats. It’s basically anything you can have a form for.”

Bjornson said he expects WebWriter will be up and running at Wawanesa by the end of the first quarter of this year.

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