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Think that technology isn’t important to the surety bonding process? Think again. From improved access to information to customized reporting, surety workflow technology is automating the process for the better.

There’s technology for just about every aspect of managing a construction business, but not all construction executives seek out the latest digital tools. Construction firms that want to succeed in today’s growth market must find every opportunity to streamline processes and become more efficient, and that includes selecting the right partners. One area where technology has driven improved processes is surety bonding. Surety agencies that have deployed a surety bond workflow solution have helped their construction firm customers benefit with everything from real-time data access to sophisticated reporting.

Today’s fast pace of business has affected even the smallest construction firm, but large firms in particular operate 24/7/365. “Our customers are working nights, weekends, in different countries, and in different time zones,” says Joseph “Drew” Brach, managing director and USA surety practice leader for Marsh. “Technology has become critical to the surety process.” Marsh, a global leader in insurance brokering and risk management, uses an automated surety workflow software solution to process 500,000 surety bond transactions a year in the United States. While many of the agency’s construction companies rely on analog processes, they reap benefits enabled by the technology, including online access to information around-the-clock and customizable reporting.

Technology Enhances Accuracy and Information Access

One of the big benefits of using technology during the surety bonding process is that it helps improve accuracy. Most information is entered once into a system and used throughout the process, eliminating manual re-keying. “Doing things electronically reduces paperwork and the number of errors,” Brach says.

In addition to reducing data errors, automated surety workflow software can ensure the agency walks each bond through the appropriate steps. Each state has its own set of requirements, from forms used to signatures required. “If it’s not done right, a bid can get thrown out,” Brach says. “It’s critical to make certain that all of the processes are done to the state’s standards. Technology is a vital aspect of the surety process.”

Agencies may have their clients input bond request information into the software solution, or they may just gather information from emails or paper-based forms. Either way, all information can be accessible to clients online. “They want 24/7 access to their bond portfolio in our system,” Brach says. “They may want to check on a Saturday morning, or an executive could be based in another country and need access during their work hours to approve contracts. When everything is stored electronically, they can find what they need.”

Storing information electronically also means that agencies can share it more efficiently and have it more readily available when they need it. Online access eases the process of getting information into the right hands rapidly, at every stage of the bond's life cycle. “Our clients can see everything that has been done on a performance bond: who it is for, who has approved it, the trail of execution, the billing and a copy of the actual bond,” Brach says. “Our surety workflow system offers a complete bond history and audit log.”

Real-Time Tracking and Reporting

While not every construction executive uses all of the online features that Marsh offers, just about all of them benefit from the system. “Some clients use it every day, and others don’t log in for three months,” Brach says. “But they can view what’s happening with their bond portfolio at any time and from any perspective.”

Access to information helps construction firms manage and grow their business, particularly when the agency can deliver customized reports. The range of information required varies depending on the firm and includes data on bond liability, cost to complete work remaining on all jobs, or any other aspect of the business. “One of our clients has 12,000 bonds in the data base; we can slice and dice the information in a whole bunch of ways,” Brach says. “Whether they are a small company or have 10 global entities, every construction firm wants reports tailored to their own needs.”

This type of reporting is not possible without an automated surety workflow system, particularly within the time frames that most firms need the data. “Construction firms know when they need information,” Brach says. “We use technology to get them detailed reports they can’t get easily any other way.

Delivering Results

Technology delivers so many benefits in the surety process, yet it can be surprising that not all construction firms understand its role. “Most construction firms think they can rely on us to do everything they need, and they’re right,” Brach says. “They ask us to do the tech stuff so they don’t have to.”

But even when a construction firm doesn’t know the specifics of technology’s role, they feel the results when they choose a surety agency that uses a software workflow solution. “With a system like the one we use, we can do a lot with technology to free up people to devote more time to the clients,” Brach says. “If we want to continue to handle more transactions, then we have to invest in technology.”

For Marsh, automated surety workflow technology has enabled it to offer 24/7 access to information, a complete history of each client’s bond portfolio on demand and customized reporting with rapid turnaround. “Savvy construction firms understand the value that technology delivers,” Brach says. The bottom line for construction executives is that choosing a surety agency that uses technology wisely can streamline processes, reduce redundancy and improve productivity.
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