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Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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Arch Insurance CIO Scott McClintock Supports the Specialty Insurer’s Changing Underwriting Needs With a Flexible Platform

Scott McClintock, CIO, Arch Insurance Group When Scott McClintock joined Arch Insurance ($692.6 million in net income) in fall 2002 as VP of actuarial information services, the young company was working on establishing a technology infrastructure that would support its specialty insurance lines, including CAR/EAR (construction all risk/erection all risk), environmental liability, offshore energy, technical risk, and global marine cargo and aviation. Today, as CIO, McClintock says, his focus is o

I&T: How do your technology decisions support Arch Insurance's business strategy?

McClintock: Bottom line profitability is one of the strategic operating principles that Arch is built on. Our services-oriented architecture (SOA) is key in enabling us to support that strategy.

Our business relies on specialty underwriting expertise. Obviously, we try to avoid doing anything twice. Whenever we build out or enhance functionality, we have an eye toward making it consistent with our overall long-term architectural strategy. We look at our users' needs and then fit our solutions into a common platform so we can reuse as much as possible and keep the architecture as lean as we can.

I&T: Did you develop your underwriting systems in-house, or did you purchase them?

McClintock: We've done some of our own development, and we've also used some third-party products. When we have a special need that we can't fill in the marketplace, especially around some of our specialty product lines, we'll build.

I&T: What is the size of your IT staff?

McClintock: Including contingent workers, we have a staff of about 200. Our overall spend on technology is consistent with what you see in the industry.

I&T: What development tools does the Arch IT organization use?

McClintock: On the front end we are primarily a Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) shop and use .NET tools and Windows SharePoint Services. Our database is SQL Server. On the back end we use a J2EE- (Sun Microsystems; Santa Clara, Calif.) and Oracle- (Redwood Shores, Calif.) based approach.

We found that using the Microsoft tools on the front end allows us to be much more flexible and develop and provide solutions quickly. There's also a good number of resources with Microsoft product know-how available.

On the back end we were looking for long-term scalability and felt J2EE/Oracle was a good fit. Fortunately, there has been a lot of progress in middleware and connecting technologies so we haven't had a problem routing information through this architecture.

I&T: What do you use for middleware?

McClintock: We use the IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) WebSphere MQSeries product line. We'll also use pure Web services calls when we need more-interactive real-time response.

I&T: Can you describe the applications that you've developed in-house?

McClintock: We started building our front-end application called Archlink in 2004. It's been an ongoing project and system build that we feel really good about. Archlink is modular, so as new functionality needs come up, we can plug into its framework, reusing a lot of the capabilities. This way we can use our most-critical resources to focus on the new functionality rather than having to redo utility functions.

In the back office we've built a similar services-oriented system that serves as our core operational data store. It can process the results of all this front-end activity. Again, we built it to be flexible and able to change with the business and accept new data sources without having to recreate the infrastructure.

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