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Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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Life of the South CIO Bob Fullington Utilizes Tech Infrastructure to Drive Growth

As CIO of Life of the South, Bob Fullington has the technology infrastructure to enable rapid product development, and intends to continually leverage that technology to drive growth.

I&T: Can you describe Life of the South's business?

Fullington: We provide loan-protection products to financial institutions. One product, credit insurance, is a three-party contract between the financial institution, the customer and the insurance company. It's a mature product that is being replaced by debt cancellation. Debt cancellation is a noninsurance product that we manage for banks so they don't have to carry the risk.

Bob Fullington Life of the South

I&T: What technology challenges does the loan-protection business present?

Fullington: Our major IT challenges are communications, security and customer service. ... We need a lot of software to deal with [our clients'] different file structures. Security is a big challenge. We store sensitive credit information, so we encrypt everything as soon as it hits our server. Managing firewalls is also a challenge. We're applying artificial intelligence to incoming data streams -- the appliance learns what the data stream should look like, and it shuts down the stream and alerts us if it looks different than it should.

If we are not secure with our information and it gets out in the street, we won't have any customers. That's an out-of-business situation, and we're working very hard on mitigating that risk.

I&T: What are the security benefits of being PCI [Payment Card Industry]-compliant?

Fullington: Being PCI-compliant is a very big differentiator in our niche market. Probably fewer than 10 percent of companies handling credit cards are PCI-certified.

We spent a lot of time and money on becoming compliant and are very proud of that. It's valuable not only to our financial institution customers, but it allows us to sleep a little better at night knowing we won't wake up one day and find a breach in our system.

I&T: Since you sell to financial institutions rather than consumers, how does that impact your views on customer service?

Fullington: In a regulated industry, it's very difficult to compete on price, so you have to compete on customer service. We pride ourselves on good service and fast turnaround times, and have put a lot of effort into making sure we don't have any paper files.

I&T: What is LOTSolutions?

Fullington: LOTSolutions is a wholly owned subsidiary with its own brand. It's a marketing, manufacturing and administrative company. We help banks market our products with direct mail, outbound and inbound telemarketing, statement inserts, etc. ... We develop our own products or we get them from others. As an agency, LOTSolutions can sell products from other insurance companies. We also serve as a third-party administrative unit for other insurers and financial institutions. Our back-end system handles enrollment, fulfillment, rules, billing and marketing analytics.

We aren't limited to insurance and are looking at different marketplaces, such as boat liability, service warranties and protecting student loans. We're expanding our markets as fast as we can.

I&T: Why create this subsidiary?

Fullington: We created LOTSolutions to serve an unmet industry need. Loan-protection products are sold at the bank or car dealership when the loan is made, and typically about 20 percent of consumers take the product. Up until now, there was no way to market to the 80 percent of consumers who declined at the point of sale.

LOTSolutions markets products to that 80 percent using tactics that other insurers don't tend to use, such as combined channel marketing or premium offers. As a result, we've recaptured a marketing opportunity lost after the loan was closed and picked up another 25 percent of consumers. It's a big boom for the banks and makes us successful.

I&T: What is the back-end system?

Fullington: The back-end system is proprietary and product-independent. Its flexibility allows us to push any product through the system. We'll mix and match product features and build products that don't exist today. For example, we'll load an identity theft product on top of an existing product and create a new product.

I&T: How do you market these products to banks?

Fullington: We call these noninsurance products financial accessories. This is a retail model: If you buy a camera, you expect to buy accessories such as a bag or additional memory. We talk to the banks about offering accessories around their loans and products. Banks have to think like consumers and follow what's going on in retail markets to understand how to deliver products.

I&T: What are a few of the technology projects on which you're working?

Fullington: We have a data warehouse initiative to improve our reporting capability and slice profitability by account, territory, product line, etc. This will allow us to look at trends and financial data, help us with risk exposures and ensure we meet insurance industry regulations.

We're also working on a high-availability project, installing a duplicate capacity system at an AT&T (San Antonio, Texas) center in Seattle. If our production system goes down, our recovery time is hours rather than days. We could also have 24/7 operations since we never have to run a backup.

We are also building e-commerce sites for our financial institutions, especially our smaller banks that don't have the resources to sell products and services.

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