By Zoe Moleshead
Facing up to the challenges of the Internet, American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) has installed the latest generation IBM AS/400 server. The 820 model will provide the company with the infrastructure it requires to develop e-services for its customer base.
|~||~||~|Facing up to the challenges of the Internet, American Life Insurance Company (ALICO) has installed the latest generation IBM AS/400 server. The 820 model will provide the company with the infrastructure it requires to develop e-services for its customer base.The company has been operating AS/400 servers for over ten years and has multiple machines scattered throughout its worldwide operations, supporting its collection of business critical applications.“In this office [in Sharjah] we have three AS/400s, one is production, one is disaster recovery and the other [the 820 model] is development,” says Nakhle Joun, regional IT manager at ALICO. The company has adapted its corporate applications to the local market. “It’s very much a corporate platform; it allows us to interface with our head office and with other regions. We’re making [global] synergies and building regional support,” explains Rabih Abdul Khalek, general manager of ALICO. ALICO, a subsidiary of AIG, has teams that support the applications on a worldwide level, driving the strategies and connecting the company. While on a regional level teams focus on the specific market, and tailoring services and products to meet the needs of that market.The deployment of the 820 AS/400 is going to be key as the insurance business moves its services to the web. The implementation of the 820 reflects the company’s shift in thinking from “policy orientated systems” to “customer orientated systems,” which involves leveraging its current applications to deliver services to customers over the web. “Our business plans coincide with the innovations in technology and the services that they can provide,” comments Khalek. “We’re focusing on the future, and hoping to web-enable these technologies.”As part of the drive towards web-enablement and customer orientated services, ALICO is also deploying a middleware layer to web-enable its backend information.The insurance company is also considering Java and WebSphere as it plans its migration to the web, but the benefits of linking the WebSphere and the AS/400 suggest a more comprehensive solution.“AS/400 is a reliable system, a scalable system, so basically WebSphere has some plus points to be considered over the other platforms,” explains Joun.As ALICO moves to embrace the Internet, the insurance company is creating a data warehouse to consolidate and manage its customer data on the AS/400 platform. The warehouse will enable the company to collate information pertaining to the policies it currently sells, including life insurance, group insurance, personal insurance, pensions and personal accident insurance.But the insurance industry is determined by the customer, and as such ALICO says the prime focus of the 18 month project is to offer customers e-services, not e-commerce.“Everybody is talking about e-commerce, but selling insurance over the Net is a service. [We] are working on developing products that serve the people,” explains Joun.The company is looking to provide customers with the ability to access a whole host of information over the web such as: “account values, loans, exchange of plans, change of address and transferability of products,” adds Khalek.However, as ALICO moves towards e-services and its customer-orientated policy it is keen to maintain the personal touch that the insurance industry depends on. The Internet will open up different channels for the company to market, but insurance policies can also involve health checks, social and psychological issues, personal and financial information, therefore ALICO is looking to combine the strengths of its personnel with the opportunities the Internet creates.“We can combine the strengths of our people with the technology and make them available for the client, this is what we’re calling added value,” says Khalek. “Selling on the web is something for the future, and it will continue to be a possibility.”The company is also planning to Arabise its online services to ensure it caters to all its customers within the region.The project is just in the initial stages regionally, but in other areas, including Japan, the Far East and Latin America the strategic shift from policy to customer is well underway. ALICO intends to leverage the knowledge and experiences of the worldwide operation to enhance regional efforts. The slower rate of Internet adoption in the Middle East also meant that the regional deployment was held back.Members of the IT team in the UAE are due to travel to South Asia in the coming weeks to attend conferences and training.ALICO, currently has 13 IT employees in the GCC region, but may also capitalise on its local partners to ensure that it has the additional skills to enable the delivery of these solutions.||**||