Insuring success

The insurance industry produces a lot of paperwork and Armour Insurance Services was in need of a radical IT transformation in order to boost its operational efficiency.

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By  Sarah Gain Published  January 29, 2006

|~|padmanabhan200.jpg|~|Padmanabhan: Insurance brokerage is very competitive and customer service is key.|~|For insurance broker Armour Insurance Services (AIS), a relative newcomer in Oman's competitive insurance sector, paper-based processes were a routine way of doing business and the company relied heavily on home-grown solutions and Excel spreadsheets to carry out much of its core business practices. So, to meet its expansion and growth goals, and enhance its ability to respond quickly and effectively to evolving customer needs, the company's management decided a comprehensive IT overhaul was essential.

"We had no previous (enterprise) software in place," says Anwar Ali Sultan, AIS chairman. "We required a solution that could improve the efficiency of our business processes and considerably minimise our response time to customers."

The company, which opened for business in September 2005, identified better integration as key to achieiving its goals, and decided to redefine its processes and deploy an integrated applications environment with central data processing capabilities.

After evaluating the specialised systems available, the company selected 3i Infotech's Premia Broker application, which offered seamless integration across all major broking activities, backed by comprehensive financial accounting, reporting and analysis features.

"This is an end-to-end product that takes care of the entire insurance process, from issuing the policy to processing claims, reinsurance and financial management. It also has reporting capabilities for management decision-making. It's really an ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution specifically for insurance companies," explains 3i Infotech's executive director and president, Hari Padmanabhan.

This enterprise-class insurance broking management and control system supports broking, consultancy and claims. It facilitates AIS' conversion of broking slips to quotations and allows the company to eliminate redundant data entry.

"Premia Broker manages all classes of our insurance needs. It covers insurance and reinsurance broking solutions as well as the integration across underwriting, broking and accounting," says Sultan. "The solution's adaptability will allow us to streamline operations and also allow us to provide better service to our customers."

In November 2005, working in close collaboration with the AIS in-house IT team, two of 3i Infotech's specialists began the project to deploy Premia Broker across AIS' operations. Because the team had a blank canvas to work on, the entire implementation was able to be completed in less than two months and went live in mid-December last year. "We were actively involved in the whole deployment procedure, and knowledge transfer from our team to the AIS IT department was an important part of the process," says 3i Infotech's Padmanabhan.

Upper management and other core users at AIS were involved in the customisation and business process mapping of the new software so that the solution could be accurately tailored to the day-to-day demands of the company's operations. 3i Infotech also provided training for these key users, as well as for the internal technical staff.

Further training was then carried out to familiarise all the company's employees with the technology. "Because we had no software in place originally all the staff needed to be trained on this system. The 'train the trainer' approach was used and this worked well - there have been no problems so far with user acceptance," says Sultan.

The AIS IT team is now able to manage the solution internally. In addition, as the software is still being bedded down, 3i Infotech will continue to provide assistance and technical support for the insurers should any issues arise.
"We have a lot of experience in the insurance sector, and especially in Oman. In fact, the majority of major insurers in the Sultanate use our products, and around 90% of the premium is written using our applications," says Padmanabhan. "We will use this knowledge and expertise to continue to assist Armour Insurance."

Premia now manages all classes of AIS' insurance needs across the spectrum of its business from general insurance to life insurance, and the company is now starting to see the benefits of having a more integrated system. Transaction processing is more convenient for the brokers and critical business information can be accessed more easily. Perhaps the most significant advantage at this stage is the improvement the software and new operating procedures have brought to AIS' customer service levels.

"Insurance brokerage is very competitive, and customer service is a key differentiator for businesses in this market," says Padmanabhan. "By being able to respond more efficiently and quickly to its customers AIS will set itself apart from its competition and over time this will help the company become more established in the marketplace," he adds.

The insurance broker expects to begin to see a return on its Premia investment within the next 12 months, and the flexibility and scalability of the new solution should ensure AIS continues to benefit in the long term. The company's long-term strategy includes expansion into other markets in the GCC region, and Sultan is confident that the application will be able to support this type of growth.

"Premia Broker is in tune with Armour's long term needs. At this point, we are concentrating on providing cost effective and innovative insurance risk solutions to Oman. In the future, however, we will look to broaden the reach of the business into new markets, and we will be able to scale the solution easily to meet those new requirements," he says.

Once AIS has succeeded in securing significant market share in Oman, the management will also look for further ways in which to leverage this technology investment. Further down the line, the company is considering utilising the internet to further improve internal interactions. Such an approach would make a single system available across multiple channels, improving customer service further as well as helping to cut costs.||**||

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