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Blended services help leading insurer create new risk culture

This insurer discovered that powerful software is only one element in creating a genuinely risk-focused business: with external services needed for delivery, specialist expertise and trust proved equally important.

"Our relationship with this insurance company goes back 15 years, and more recently has seen us providing help and support for Solvency II," says Jeremy Clarke, Client Services Manager, SAS. Solvency II, which comes into effect from 2014, is a European Union directive to codify and harmonise insurance regulations. In essence, the directive covers the amount of capital an insurance company must hold to reduce the risk of going bust. It's also controversial, drawing criticism from some insurers on how the legislation was drawn up, and it has become a political issue. The fact remains that it needs to be implemented – with some companies using it as a useful vehicle to deal with broader issues around enterprise governance, risk and control.

'One team' approach

Clarke says, "We responded to a request for a proposal from the company at group level to provide management, risk and compliance reporting to meet internal requirements to support more effective management of key risks and controls – the company mission is to improve returns for its policyholders – as well as external obligations. We responded with a solution that addressed all those requirements." What made this sale special, however, was the fact that SAS® Professional Services were involved from the outset, to help plan and deploy the solution, to provide adoption services and training, and deliver high levels of premium support. "This was a 'one team' approach," Clarke says. "The client recognised the software was right for them, and also saw our people as the acknowledged experts in the field – we know the software inside out, and understood what was required to deliver a new risk-management culture across the organisation, integrating the various repositories around risk. They saw us as far more than 'just' another software vendor."

The result was a blended team that comprised domain experts, software architects, technical account managers and education specialists, working closely with the insurer's people – who while clearly talented, faced a skills shortfall in SAS®. Initially, a consulting team provided best-of-breed technical skills and expertise. This essential Phase Zero and requirements-gathering phase was followed by architecture and infrastructure design to map these into functional specifications, then implementation across three distinct business environments, with project management expertise threaded throughout.

'A relationship based on trust'

The first phases were delivered successfully, despite delays on the client side caused by budgetary constraints that meant SAS had to be even more flexible and adaptable in service delivery than would ordinarily be the case. "Throughout, we worked closely with the in-house team responsible for delivery on the insurer's side," says Steve Thompson, Project Manager. "This was based on a good understanding of what was required, a determination by both sides not to deliver late, and the fact we'd built a relationship based on trust. That really helped. Both sides could speak openly on any issues. We also made sure they knew precisely what was happening and what costs were being incurred, with regular phone calls and monthly billing." Thompson says it was vital to have strong project management on both sides, for sound governance and to keep everything on track. "Some of the biggest challenges came at the end, with the customisations and bespoke work required – however, we still were able to deliver the system within the client's budget."

Project management and control

"This implementation shows the importance of IT and the business working together to achieve the best outcomes," Clarke adds. "Along with that all-important Phase Zero and flexibility in how we engaged – caused by the client's budget issues – it's clear that great project management and control on both sides was critical, especially when different stages of the roll-out started to overlap. At the same time as we were building release 1 modules, we were documenting functional specifications for release 2 modules, based on their requirements. Then we had testing and support for release 1, while also building release 2 modules. It was a busy time."

The insurer now has new insights and can make faster and more effective decisions relating to financial exposure. "The firm has a single system: a central point for recording risks and its controls around risk, and for reporting incidents," Clarke says. "They've replaced manual reports, and the quality of data has improved dramatically. They can now recognise and report, by financial exposure, on the top five risks faced by the business."

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Leading insurer

Business Issue:
Deploy new risk infrastructure successfully to address internal requirements to protect and enhance policyholder returns, as well as external/compliance obligations in terms of the Solvency II directive
Integrated SAS Professional Services with a 'one team' approach: Consulting, Phase Zero, Requirements Gathering, Architecture, Infrastructure Design, Implementation, Project Management
Successfully achieving project goals, with highly focused expertise and external resources via SAS Professional Services: deploying a new enterprise risk management, governance and compliance solution to provide new insights and better enable the business to understand financial exposure

"This was a 'one team' approach: the client recognised the software was right and saw our people as acknowledged experts. The firm can now recognise and report on the top five risks it faces."

Jeremy Clarke

Client Services Manager

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