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Issue of February 2006 

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Enterprise content management at ING Vysya

ING Vysya Life needed to create a customer-centric business model to understand its customers’ needs. It also needed to streamline operations, reduce cost, focus on growing market segments, and provide a wide range of services. The insurance company therefore decided to stay ahead of the pack by implementing Enterprise Content Management (ECM). by Kumar Dawada

ING Vysya Life Insurance Company entered the life insurance industry in India in September 2001. The liberalisation of the insurance sector in March 2000 paved the way for not only private players but also well-known foreign insurers. It had to compete with those companies as well as LIC which had been around for almost half-a-century.


K R Subramanian, COO, ING Vysya Life feels that in a fiercely competitive market like life insurance, all players deal in similar products. They use the same Indian mortality assumptions and pricing. “The only differentiating factor is cost leadership and efficient service. We have to issue policies faster and make sure that normal insurance applications are processed quickly. The Filenet ECM helps measure the actual time in each segment of activity. We are also able to take insourcing or outsourcing decisions based on cost. The turnaround time has drastically fallen. Front-end offices in hundreds of locations can scan applications and papers and send them to the processing offices by evening. The people sitting there can feed data and process it. This reduces the processing time by at least eight hours,” says Subramanian.


The paradox of a service industry is that it relies upon standardisation but requires customisation. “The insurance application forms and papers were standard but there was a need to know that it was sent by an individual. Hence, there was a scope for incorporation of unique features and processing. Parameters were required to route the data intelligently to the right people,” recalls Subramanian.

ING Vysya Life centralised its operations. “Being a new industry, we had to get new people, train them and maintain process purity, so it made business sense to centralise things. The node sending the applications can be located anywhere. This helped manage the business despite geographical diversity and complexity of products and processes. The basic infrastructure laid the foundation for that,” says Subramanian.


Implementing a new technology can be painful. So a strategy was devised to make users suggest technology instead of thrusting a new technology on them. “The underwriters were asked for suggestions to make their work easier. Even before the ECM implementation, underwriters had internally developed an underwriting rating engine working on a crude workflow. The ECM became a logical extension of that idea on a superior platform. We followed the Japanese methodology and spent a lot of time on preparation, thinking, brainstorming, gathering requirements and understanding the implication of other activities. The requirements were then converted into business and technical specifications. Then a prototype was created to see how comfortable people were with its usage. As the staff was already IT-savvy the transition was smoother than expected,” confides Subramanian.


The ING Vysya Life ECM implementation has many value-added features, which can be enabled as required. This addresses scalability issues. The company uses Life Asia solution for their transaction processing. It has been customised internally. In the insurance business, it is necessary to maintain records for several years because life insurance contacts are long-term. It is also sensitive and needs reliability. The solution uses satellite communication for integrating the transaction system with sending messages to customers about various schemes, information and bank payments. It also uses BI tools like Cognos.

“The company’s strategy is to use the ECM as a basic system and plug it into various other systems. The Life Asia system and automated rating system is already plugging into the ECM. People make the biggest mistake by going for tight integration. Due to that, they are unable to take advantage of future developments in technology. Our integration approach is focussed on getting more information from the transaction processing system to overflow instead of vice-versa. This is because the transaction processing system is a labyrinth. When you put data into it, many internal validations have to be satisfied but this takes a lot of effort which does not pay dividends. So, we focussed on integration from the transaction processing system into the overflow system,” elaborates Subramanian.

About ING Vysya Life
The company has a customer base of over 1,50,000. The headquarters is at Bangalore. It has a presence in cities like Ahmedabad, Baroda, Belgaum, Bhopal, Calicut, Chandigarh, Chennai, Kochi, Coimbatore, Delhi, Goa, Guntur, Gurgaon, Hubli, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ludhiana, Mangalore, Mumbai, Mysore, Nagpur, Pune, Secunderabad, Surat, Thiruvananthapuram, Vadodara, Vijaywada, and Vizag. It also has over 10,000 advisors working from 46 branches (in 30 cities) and has 1,200 plus employees.


“The tangible benefit of ECM is that the company is aware of what is going on. Anyone in any department or the management can find any file, any application from anywhere in the country and know its status. It also permits parallel processing and skills-based routing. For instance, a new underwriter can be given simple cases. The non-tangible benefits include raising employee retention, as their jobs become easier. It creates enthusiasm in the sales force due to efficient processing of applications. The biggest benefit is the possibility of decentralising operations without losing control, which is a necessity in a business like insurance that’s all about managing risks,” feels Subramanian.

Subramanian says that in most IT implementations, RoI is not easy to quantify. “We are expecting tangible results within a year. All key employees are instructed to take a snapshot of key parameters before implementation. These are then measured after six months. It covers things from employee productivity per person to turnaround time and customer satisfaction,” explains Subramanian.


“We have a state-of-the-art insurance architecture and are trying to standardise it in terms of service levels and for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. In insurance the raw material and end product are data. We will use IT as a strategic tool to provide functional value from sales automation, for agency remuneration, and customer and agency portals, which integrate into the transaction system through overflows. We also have a clear Business Continuity plan (BCP) as a part of BS7799 standards and ING security requirements. We are not fully-compliant but are moving in that direction. We have a Disaster Recovery (DR) site in Hyderabad. The DR is based on overnight transfer of tapes. We are planning to make it a warm site in the not too distant future,” reveals Subramanian.


Subramanian feels that there is a need to build awareness about risk management so that people adopt good risk minimisation methodology. Insurance is a crucial element of transferring risk. Today’s well-informed customers want to spend an allotted amount intelligently.

“Insurance has developed to such an extent that it can shift risk from insurance to the capital market by means of a methodology called alternate risk transfer (ART). This includes catastrophe bonds, for instance you get a particular return if earthquake hits Japan or you get another value as return if an earthquake does not hit Japan,” says Subramanian.

The insurance sector follows a cycle of boom and bust. Too much competition, reduced margins, major catastrophes and disasters may bankrupt a few companies. The reinsurance companies prevent insurers from getting into price wars. This is because insurance is not an annual but a long-term game. They research risk and advise insurers as well as customers on how best to manage the risks.

Actuary is the life breath of insurance because it determines the pricing and profitability of any policy. The leading risk management tool for life insurance is called Prophet. It helps insurance companies model products and has advanced facilities for profit testing and product valuation. It is already used by over 500 insurance companies worldwide.

Integration is happening between legacy systems, insurers, reinsurers, brokers, agents and healthcare providers through a data format called Accord based on XML-based standards. It helps an insurance company to talk to any application. “Suppose a customer comes to the company for insurance. The company can find out whether he has been accepted by some other company earlier and if not then why not. The company can access the database and get the desired information. This creates a ready reference of customers and reduces the need of detailed scrutiny of applications,” explains Subramanian.

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