The Equitable Companies, recently renamed AXA Financial, is looking to Candle Corp.s flagship middleware product, Roma, and FileNets imaging and workflow system to link client information stored in a number of disparate legacy systems. The firm, recently acquired by the $390 billion global investment powerhouse AXA Financial, is looking to offer a competitive customer service package, as well as more effectively cross-sell its insurance, investment management and broker/dealer services.
"From a strategic standpoint, this is a directive to make our customer service a competitive advantage," says Don Buskard, senior vice president of technology. "We decided that we have a nice embedded system in our legacy systems, and we dont want to replace them."
Buskard sees no reason to replace the various client database and accounting systemssome proprietary, others from vendors like CSC and SunGard Insurance Systemsbecause they still accomplish the tasks they were created to do. As he puts it, "the systems used by the insurance industry today are the same ones that were used by our parents."
Enter middleware. The company looked at a number of vendors like Neon, but decided to go with Candle because of the extensive relationship Equitable has had with the company and its mainframe-based performance measurement and modeling tools.
"We determined pretty early on Roma was one of the best in class," Buskard says. "But, most importantly, we have a longstanding relationship with Candle as a vendor ... Theyve been a good partner, and thats a very important aspect when it comes to working with middleware. Its a new concept, and its technology that youre not going to buy out of the box and have it do everything you need it to do."
Roma is also compatible with IBMs MQ Series of mainframes, the back-end system which Equitable relies on most.
The firm is set to roll out in the next nine weeks the first component in a three year, multi-phase plan. This first phase includes tying together all the in-house client information for its life administration operations business. "We chose this as the first phase for a number of reasons," explains Buskard. "First of all, the life insurance administration business had not had a lot of technology, and was starting to suffer from that. Secondly, the life administration business is one that has a lot of activities associated with it.
The next step is to rollout Roma and FileNet to the pension and annuity area, a project that is expected to be completed by the end of next year. Equitable will then look to tie in its investment management and broker/dealer operations.
The whole client relationship management project comes at a time when Equitable is ramping up efforts to re-train most of its 5,000 member sales force to be more complete investment advisors, rather than supporting three distinct groups of insurance salesman, brokers and money managers. The firm has had a pilot training program in Texas and is looking to roll it out country-wide over the next year.
"Were training our people, getting them to raise their credentials so they can charge fees for financial planning and be fully equipped to advise on investment and everything else you might need like retirement and estate planning," says an Equitable spokesman.