March 09, 2012

With its legacy claims system "creaking at the seams" from a dozen Celtic Tiger boom years, Dublin, Ireland-based FBD Insurance faced a refresh, recalls Michael Whelehan, head of claims operations for the country's third-largest insurer. "With our old system, customers drove the process whenever they contacted us to inquire about the status of their claim," he says. "We needed to automate and become proactive in settling claims."

FBD set out in early 2008 to modernize a host of claims-related processes for its auto, home, small-business and agriculture lines, and in 2009 it began centralizing renewals away from local representatives and into the company’s first call center. Around the same time, Whelehan notes, the insurer also launched a new online, no-frills homeowners and personal auto brand. "Therefore, we needed a claims system that would support all of these initiatives as well as our traditional small business and agriculture-based book," he explains.

After evaluating six vendors, FBD — a division of FBD Holdings (US$1.3 billion in total assets) — began to focus on Dublin-based FINEOS, Whelehan reports. But, he emphasizes, not for the convenience of the vendor's location. "FINEOS had a proven record in the life market, which we valued, and was keen to develop a P&C solution," Whelehan recounts. "FINEOS's answers to our RFP were ahead of the others, and their timelines to implementation were very positive, which was critical."

To test the waters, FBD first piloted FINEOS Claims as a call center-only application. "We figured we could disengage if we weren't happy," notes Whelehan. But when the project proceeded smoothly, FBD decided to roll out FINEOS enterprisewide.

Preparations began in late 2009, including establishing a new Linux-based virtualized hardware environment using IBM's (Armonk, N.Y.) System x servers, DB2 and WebSphere. According to Whelehan, this permitted FBD to run approximately 12 virtual machines per physical device. The insurer also assembled a cross-functional core implementation team, including about a dozen executives, with plans to draw in significant IT and claims resources as needed. To minimize the business drain while still pursuing an aggressive timeline, Whelehan relates, FINEOS suggested utilizing an agile development process with a series of staggered sprints.

A Stalled Kick-Off

After kicking off in early January 2010, the initiative stalled briefly, Whelehan acknowledges, explaining that the effort came too close on the heels of the call center deployment late in late 2009. "Key team members kept getting pulled into post-project clean-up," he says. "Ultimately, this delayed the larger deployment by about two months."

Fortunately, the new system went live in late November 2010, just in time for the region's harshest blizzard in 30 years. "Temperatures fluctuated drastically in 24 hours," Whelehan recounts. "This uncovered damage manifestations immediately, and we registered as many freeze claims following the event as in the entire nine months previous."