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After 9/11, when insurance companies returned to "normal" operations they began reevaluating their disaster recovery and business continuity plans, taking into account the lessons learned.

After 9/11, when insurance companies returned to "normal" operations—a term that has been changed forever, says Craig Lowenthal, chief information officer of New York-based Hartford Financial Products (HFP), a unit of The Hartford—they began reevaluating their disaster recovery and business continuity plans, taking into account the lessons learned.

"From a corporate standpoint, IT has been concerned with the need for disaster recovery long before 9/11 and had been involved in a project to increase our data storage capabilities when the disaster hit," according to Lowenthal. HFP had its offices in Seven World Trade Center, one of the buildings that collapsed. "The big change is that after 9/11, The Hartford moved from an IT disaster recovery focus to a broader re-focus on the entire issue of business continuity. In New York City, we lost our paper files, and recreating them has involved significant effort for most employees and our business partners. As a result, we've implemented a document imaging system that provides an electronic backup of our paper files."

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more on the experiences of some of the insurance companies that were directly impacted by the events of September 11, please see the October issue of Insurance & Technology magazine, on line at

However, some of the changes implemented after 9/11 that were designed to promote business continuity have taken some getting used to, Lowenthal adds. "We expect employees to grow more comfortable using electronic copies of documents and our reliance on paper files will diminish," he notes.

Other changes, while not procedural, are more apparent and seem almost obvious in the post-terrorist attack environment. "Prior to 9/11, we maintained a critical mini-computer in a data center housed in a high-rise building in Boston," says Lowenthal "Since 9/11, we have moved that computer into a one-story data center in a non-urban area. Additionally, any designated disaster recovery site has a connection into our enterprise WAN."

In addition to the logistical and procedural enhancements that have been made to business continuity plans, companies also discovered that the human element in any plan should not be short changed—something that is especially noticeable today, on the one-year anniversary.

New York-based St. Paul Re's offices were one block from Ground Zero and although its offices were relatively undamaged, the company had to abandon its offices for a few months following the collapse of the World Trade Center. St. Paul Re's close proximity to the tragic events took a toll on the staff, says Andrew Cole, chief information officer, St. Paul Re. "On an overall corporate level, St. Paul Re's HR team did a great job providing counselors, conducting group sessions and educating management at all levels on how to best deal with the mental impacts the disaster had on the staff," he says. "Additional ongoing counseling was made available to any one who requested it."

And because of the urgency of getting the operation up and running again from numerous locations, including some operations in Morristown, NJ where St. Paul had existing office space, staffers at St. Paul Re didn't have much time initially to reflect on 9/11. "At the IT level we were blessed, in a way, to be so busy that we did not have much time to contemplate what we had witnessed that terrible day," Cole adds. "But eventually, the reality of what happened sunk in and the IT folks all had a good cry over it in a department meeting about a month later. It was the first time I was able to get everyone together in one location since the disaster. Just seeing everyone united again in one place had an enormous healing effect."

But as with most people, 9/11 will always be an event that brings back strong memories, especially for the people who were located in or very close to Ground Zero. "Moving back into our Broadway location was mentally very daunting and our proximity to Ground Zero constantly reminds us of the tragedy. It gets easier with time but this is the kind of event you never get over completely."

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

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