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Canada Life Unifies Customer Information

Strategic shift to contracted broker distribution model drives nationwide, centralized customer platform.

When Toronto-based Canada Life (more than CD$66 billion in assets) made a strategic move from a captive agent force to a contracted external broker distribution model, it found it needed a robust customer information platform.

Existing customer information platforms built with the carrier's captive force distribution model in mind were "fragile and used inconsistently," according to Fred Verboom, project director, Canada Life. "We had an outdated mainframe application to support our external broker force for contacts and licensing agreements, but it didn't meet the needs of internal users who work with our brokers," he says. "We also had some Windows-based client/server applications for our contact centers, but they were inconsistent developments from one call center to another. The integration of the software products was really brittle and problematic."

Hierarchies of Information

The direct spur to implementing a more solid, unified platform was the complexity of information demands inherent to an external distribution force, according to Verboom. "The legacy system could not support the hierarchies of information and how we serviced them," he says.

The insurer has contracts with large broker firms for the sale of its products, but the levels of relationships with producers within those firms brought administrative challenges. "There are sometimes up to five or six layers within the broker organizations we deal with, so it was a matter of maintaining that hierarchy of information and how compensation is to be paid within it," Verboom explains.

In search of a solution, Canada Life sent out a request for information to several vendors, leading to a short list of three companies. The carrier decided on Siebel Systems (San Mateo, CA) in March 2000, because not only could the vendor supply "a robust product that could meet our immediate needs, but also because we felt they would be a partner that we could work with," Verboom says. "They had an open architecture for future development and strong integration partners from a contact center perspective as well," including Witness Systems (Roswell, GA) GeneSys (San Francisco) and FileNET (Costa Mesa, CA).

Beginning the Siebel implementation, in October 2000, brought several systems challenges.

The data quality and conversion effort was "massive," Verboom says, "especially as we had three years of contact history, product and client information on the former contact center application," amounting to approximately 25 million records. Software version compatibility issues had to be faced with the GeneSys, FileNET and Witness products, and the carrier also had to develop GUIs in both English and French.

The total cost of the Siebel implementation will range between CD$10 million to $15 million all told, according to Verboom. What the carrier has achieved thus far is "a centralized customer repository for both our distributors and our end customers, and consistent contact management processes across the organization with a stable platform which will serve as a base for the future," Verboom says.

Right the First Time

Among the benefits already resulting from a single, effective platform are "less rework in both our development processes and even in the business practices," according to Verboom. "We're getting better measurements of our activities and can therefore better measure services to our customers," such as processing claims, answering contact center queries, and performing tasks such as address changes, Verboom says.

Canada Life is currently reviewing an "end-state" exercise it performed in 2001, to review what functionality it will add to the Siebel platform in the future. Among pending initiatives is "workflow around claims processing" to enable consistent claims processing across the organization, according to Verboom.


Case Study Closeup


Canada Life, Toronto, more than CD$66 billion in assets.


Life and wealth management products.


Siebel Systems (San Mateo, CA) Sales, Call Center 2000; Witness Systems (Roswell, GA); GeneSys (San Francisco); FileNET (Costa Mesa, CA).


Create a centralized, standardized customer repository.

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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