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Aegon Images Up-Front

Softheon document management system automates massive workload and paves the way for paperless processes.

A direct marketing approach to selling life insurance involves the generation and receipt of tremendous quantities of documentation. Automating those activities, from imaging to all phases of internal distribution and processing, can result in tremendous efficiencies and service enhancements.

Aegon Direct Marketing Services (Aegon DMS), a Plano, TX-based subsidiary of Aegon USA (Baltimore, $23 billion in assets), uses direct mail campaigns to deliver life insurance applications to potential clients, resulting in a processing load of about 17.6 million documents annually.

Improving Workflow

About a year ago, when Aegon DMS would receive mailed policy applications, its mail room would circulate the paper applications to the new business area, which is housed in another building, reports Joan Thomas, image services manager, Aegon DMS. The documents were then processed manually among the departments that needed to touch them—many being sent on to outsourced keying staff to be entered into Media, a home-grown batch processing storage system that feeds new customer information into Aegon's Solcorp (Toronto) Ingenium policy administration system. Only after processing were documents scanned into a document management system for storage and retrieval. Aegon DMS scanned nearly four million documents in 2001 and expects to scan five million in 2002.

"We didn't set up workflow processes to help any of the other departments," says Thomas. "We just put the documents into the electronic document managing system and they used it as they needed to, like a file drawer." No system was in place to trace where in the handling process a particular document might be, she adds, noting it took about seven days for the document to circulate back to imaging for storage.

Recognizing there was room for improvement, in February 2001 Aegon DMS invited Softheon (Hauppauge, NY) to convert its system to a process automation system that scanned in documents at the beginning of the workflow process. Beginning with the new business department, Softheon worked with the carrier to map business processes and implement its Enterprise Document Management (EDM) product, a platform for paperless workflow invisible to Aegon's customer service representatives. "Documents come up when they need human intervention, but otherwise there's logic to make it flow automatically," says Thomas.

The application runs on Microsoft (Redmond, WA) Windows NT 4.0. The server application at Aegon DMS is supported by two IBM (Armonk, NY) AIX high-end S70 servers, as well as a smaller H50 class machine, reports Al Bowen, vice president, professional services, Softheon. The solution utilizes 1.6 terabytes (Tb) of disk storage for all the images online, plus about three more Tb of recently archived images on 12-gigabyte (Gb) optical platters, using Plasmon (Eden Prairie, MN) WORM technology, and two Plasmon jukebox optical storage units. "It's two-tier client/server technology, with a fat client that the users see at their workstation running on NT, and the back-end servers on clustered IBM," Bowen says.

Since EDM went live in August '01, all new business applications that arrive from potential policyholders are scanned in up-front, automatically stored, then distributed to appropriate departments.

Some reengineering of business processes had to be done in order to exploit the potential of the technology, says Thomas. "New processes had to be developed and existing ones modified, on both the imaging and new business side," she says. But that labor was more than compensated for, explains Thomas, since cutting outsourced keying costs alone amounts to a savings of about $400,000 annually.

At press time, Aegon DMS was at the point of completing implementation of Softheon EDM for its customer service department, according to Thomas. The carrier will continue to roll out the system until all incoming mail is rendered paperless, Thomas says. "Our goal is to have all reps doing their work without paper on their desk. That's the future."


Case Study Closeup

Aegon Direct Marketing Services, Plano, TX, subsidiary of Aegon USA, $23 billion in assets.

Life insurance.

Softheon Enterprise Document Management; Microsoft Windows NT; IBM AIX servers; Plasmon jukeboxes; Solcorp (Toronto) Ingenium.

Manage customer correspondence electronically.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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