Although Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. (OKFB) initially installed its data warehouse to support actuaries, it is having big payoffs for all business users who need access to financial data.
"One of the things that is really wowing us is with the accounting folks using Beacon," says David Nockels, vice president of information systems, OKFB ($177 million in assets under management, Oklahoma City), about the users of OKFB's Beacon data warehouse and analytical tool from Millbrook, Inc (Lehigh Valley, PA).
Beacon makes it possible for OKFB's users, which include senior executives, accountants, actuaries, claims specialists and underwriters, to analyze OKFB's business critical data using any one of the 100 standard insurance industry measures, such as loss ratio, combined ratio, premiums, endorsements, new business, commissions and losses incurred, according to Nockels. Reports that are generated in Beacon are presented in a familiar spreadsheet format.
"While Beacon is a data warehouse, our accountants use it as a cross reference to the general ledger," Nockels says. "In the past we have had reporting systems andanalysis tools that we thought the users would use. Unfortunately, they were not intuitive for non-technical people, so we had to dedicate programmers" to support the tools.
Beacon also enables users to develop reports, without having to ask for support from IT, Nockels says. "Users can drill down all the way to the policy level to analyze the business," he says. "That is very powerful." Analytical results, reports and graphs can be saved to a personal workstation or network, transmitted to other parties via e-mail, or exported to other applications, Nockels adds.
In 2000 OKFB began to search for a solution provider that could help the carrier develop a single storage location for business data, Nockels says. "We have disparate databases in the policy processing systems and we needed to come up with a standardized location."
OKFB's quest for a data warehouse coincided with an effort to move off of its MVS-based operating system that used CICS on the front end. The carrier wanted to move towards a client/server architecture. Since the move off of MVS would be gradual (one line of business at a time), the data warehouse would have to be able to integrate data from both the old and new systems. OKFB chose Millbrook for its analytical capabilities and its insurance knowledge. "Beacon is not a product that happens to be used by insurers," he says. "It was designed for insurers.
"OKFB completed the project in early 2001, including, defining, mapping and reconciling 75 data elements and over 100 measurements for 21 lines of business, he says. "If we didn't do this, we would not have as much access to data and we would need programmers to interface the data from the new and old systems," in order to give users access to a complete set of data.
Although OKFB has seen some returns from its users, in terms of having business executives run their own reports, the company is far from where it would like to be. "We are trying to educate all of the users, so they can start to use Beacon to generate reports," he says. The system really will start to deliver benefits "when we move to 100 percent real time near the end of the year," allowing users to get up-to-the-minute data about the status of the business.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co., Oklahoma City, $177 million in assets under management.
LINES OF BUSINESS:
Domestic property & casualty, life insurance.
Millbrook Inc.'s (Lehigh Valley, PA) Beacon data warehouse and analytical tools.
Leverage data warehouse to deliver financial data to the business.
Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio