In 2001, Stacy Cutbirth and her team at Bratrud Middleton Insurance reviewed all of the steps in their process of developing surety bonds, which insure the value of a construction project should the contractor be unable to complete the job. Contractors must submit these bonds with every bid, and developing construction and surety bonds is one of Bratrud Middleton’s several specialty areas. The number of steps and areas of duplication it discovered made the company realize that it needed to automate its surety workflow process.
Founded in 1923, Bratrud Middleton Insurance, Inc. is the largest privately owned insurance brokerage in the Northwest, providing insurance, surety bonds, advisory, and other financial services to more than 50,000 consumers and businesses. Headquartered in Tacoma, Washington, Bratrud Middleton employs over 200 people in its network of branch offices and generated $30 million in revenue in 2004.
“We went through, line by line, the steps involved in issuing bonds, from the initial call to getting the bond out the door,” says Cutbirth, who is an account manager for Bratrud Middleton. “There were so many duplicate steps within the office, and so much paper – we had to make a change.”
The company researched a number of solutions, but chose iAutomate: Erlon Surety
from the Insurance Automation Group of Workgroup Technology Partners. iAutomate: Erlon Surety is a software application that automates the surety workflow process, and helps insurance agencies develop error-free surety bonds quickly and easily.
Because Bratrud Middleton specializes in surety bonds, it’s very common for it to develop multiple bonds for the same project on behalf of its construction company clients. “We had multiple CSRs doing the same thing,” says Cutbirth. “We often have seven or eight contractors bidding on the same job, and we were manually typing the same forms for each bond.”
The company chose iAutomate: Erlon Surety primarily because, unlike underwriting-based products or generic automation software packages, it was designed specifically for automating the surety workflow. “The entire program is based on your specific job details, contractor information, and surety information,” says Cutbirth. “It incorporates the common workflow and basic information you need to issue bonds.”
Before automation, Cutbirth estimates the agency was spending between 15 and 20 minutes developing each bond; with iAutomate: Erlon Surety, it has slashed the time to five minutes or less. In addition, the product has enabled the agency to maintain the same staffing levels despite significant growth. “During the summer, we average 100 bid bonds a week,” says Cutbirth. “Without iAutomate: Erlon Surety, we would have to increase our staff significantly to be able to handle that workload manually.”
In addition to the time and staff savings, Cutbirth says the product’s ability to check for errors and omissions is a significant benefit for the agency. CSRs enter initial job information for a project bid; when another CSR accesses that job, iAutomate: Erlon Surety displays any discrepancies in information. “We often need to go back to a contractor and say, ‘I have a different job number for that project,’ or ‘My records show that this job requires bidders to use an owner-provided bond form,’” says Cutbirth. “Those kinds of things can cause a bid to be kicked out – iAutomate: Erlon Surety is a checks-and-balances system for us.”