Soon after the World Trade Center disaster, AXIS Specialty Limited (Hamilton, Bermuda, $2 billion in assets) was formed-by Marsh & McLennan subsidiary MMC Capital, through its Trident II L.P. fund-to address the market dislocation that took place as a result of September 11th's events. Less than two months after the tragedy, the global reinsurance and insurance company had its operations up and running.
Due to the immediacy of its needs, AXIS had initially outsourced its accounting operations, but the paradigm limited the carrier's ability to access its own financial data. So AXIS decided to seek a more permanent solution, relates Dale Gawley, project manager, financial systems.
"Basically, we were starting from scratch," says Gawley, who led a group for the general ledger selection process composed mostly of members of AXIS' finance department. The global carrier, anticipating rapid expansion and growth due to market conditions, needed to find a financial system that could support its entire business (which currently consists of operations in the US, Ireland, England and Bermuda). The system needed to support operations regardless of country or currency because, despite AXIS' international locations, it manages a centralized technology system. Additionally AXIS' team was seeking a financial management tool that required little set-up and maintenance.
In addition to determining a list of must-haves, AXIS' team had a pretty good idea of what it didn't want. Before they began their search, members of the team decided to rule out large ERP (enterprise resource planning) solutions. The reason, according to Gawley, was because it was not part of AXIS' business model to purchase solutions that needed a team of people to implement them and another team of people to manage them each month.
In August 2002, the group decided to award Systems Union (Farnborough, England) a contract for use of its SunSystems Insurance product. The tool is a financial and business management software solution that handles accounting, financial reporting and accounts payable needs.
In order to meet the tight implementation deadline, SunSystems Insurance's implementation began immediately after the contract was awarded. The product's rollout was based on Systems Union's PQIS (professional quality implementation services) methodology, which involved 10 steps, explains Gawley. Prior to the software's installation, terms of reference were determined and project planning took place. It was determined that SunSystems Insurance would utilize a shared services architecture in order to link all of the carrier's systems around the globe. The architecture was based on Citrix Systems (Fort Lauderdale, FL) software-enterprise access infrastructure products that provide access to resources from any location, device or connection.
After the installation, SunSystems Insurance's configuration was designed and built to AXIS' specific needs during August and September 2002. Also, during this time, AXIS' data migration to the new system took place. Before the system's Oct. 1, 2002, rollout, training was provided for AXIS' 13 users by SunSystems, reports Gawley. Representatives of the vendor visited three separate AXIS locations and conducted four days worth of training at each site.
Since SunSystems Insurance's implementation, AXIS has grown its business and nearly doubled the number of general ledger users. The product has proven its scalability, reports Gawley, who adds that users in multiple locations can be added quickly to the system.
"AXIS constantly has expansion in the works," says Gawley. "It never really settled down, but SunSystems Insurance is able to support our growth because it is scalable." Also, because its users are working on a centralized database, duplication of services has been eliminated, and predetermined standards and processes are being followed. Additionally, the system enables the presentation of reports to management in real time.
CASE STUDY CLOSEUP
COMPANY: AXIS Specialty Limited, Hamilton, Bermuda, $2 billion in assets.
LINES OF BUSINESS: Specialty lines, catastrophe exposure.
VENDOR/TECHNOLOGY: Systems Union Group's (Farnborough, England) SunSystems Insurance.
CHALLENGE: Find a scalable general ledger system that didn't require a lot of set-up or maintenance.