In the life insurance and investment business, getting a financial planner to sell your product can be a competitive business. Making it easier for them to get access to information about clients and products can make a big difference in the number of GICs and policies sold.

At Halifax-based

Maritime Life there is no direct sales force. Instead, the company distributes exclusively through independent financial advisors and mutual fund dealers – what the company calls managing general agencies.

If an agent at Scotia McLeod can determine from their desktop how many customers have GICs rolling over in the next 90 days they can get a jump on approaching those customers about renewing.

“They want to be able to say, ‘Tell me all the customers who might be RIF (Registered Income Fund) candidates, all the customers that hold a particular fund that isn’t performing particularly well and I should move them. Tell me all the customers that live in Sudbury because I’m going up there next week,’” explains Gerald MacNeil, project manager for InfoCentre, Maritime Life.

Maritime Life had been using reporting software from Vancouver-based Crystal Decisions, designed for report creation. The company was looking for a more effective way to manage and deliver those reports to users.

The answer was Crystal Decisions’s Web-based application, called InfoCenter.

“There’s a lot of people out there thinking, we have all these reports, we like the tool, if only we could distribute them via the Web,” says MacNeil. “One of the things they need, because they (the agents) own the primary relationship with the customer, they need information that allows them to know who the customer is and what the current value of their holdings are.”

The Web-based application was implemented last December and is used by about 4,000 agents of Maritime Life. The only tool they need is a Web browser.

Using the tool has provided a number of benefits to Martime Life, MacNeil says, including reducing some of its IT costs because staff were no longer required to distribute CDs of updated software to those using the reporting application.

When the Web service became more popular than originally anticipated, Joe Malek vice-president of retail systems for Maritime Life, says the system’s ability to scale to demand was critical.

“We had lot more people come to the site. The take-up rate was three times what we thought it was going to be and in that short period of time it was going to create some problems for us. So, in a span of two to three weeks, we were able to scale the application to support 10 times the number of users it was originally designed for,” says Malek.

The application is integrated with another Web application called Advisor Center and now even more information is available in a one-stop environment. All Maritime marketing and product information, commission schedules and underwriting guidelines integrated together.

It’s something many companies are looking for when it comes to taking information valuable to many and pushing it out to them via the Web.

“Martime is a good poster child for what a lot of our customers are doing, which is trying to find better ways to get information into the hands of whoever is going to contribute to their business,” says Marc Borbas, senior product manager with Crystal Enterprise in Vancouver. “So in the case of Martime Life it’s their sales reps and agents out in the field that need the information and that is consistently what we see across our customer base.”

Borbas says the challenge of managing information and finding ways of accessing data is not a new challenge, but one that requires tools that are easy to use and effective.

“It’s something we’ve been facing since the first database was invented. It’s just there are more people who need the information now.”

What Borbas sees on a regular basis are organizations that have a process in place, and it’s either broken or inefficient and they are looking to improve that and gain value. “They are looking to distribute it to far more people than they ever have before.”

“With the kind of Web-based applications Maritime Life is doing, with information going outside the firewall they need the flexibility to integrate that information into some type of portal or extranet site that their agents want to access. So we made a big effort two years ago in re-inventing our system to support these kind of deployments and the kind of flexibilities they need.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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