Financial management systems provide the foundation of many of the most essential functions insurance companies perform, including meeting regulatory compliance requirements and assessing product and channel performance. But as carriers embark on modernizing those systems, there are the same kinds of challenges in getting a return on the investments in that modernization that they face with other core systems such as claims and policy administration.
Accordingly, business software provider UNIT4 Business Software, the North American subsidiary of UNIT 4, outlines six best practices in implementing finance accounting software to support business growth. To address their current business challenges "requires a financial management system that empowers insurers with real-time access to data, the ability to report and monitor transparently, and agility to adapt to changing market conditions," notes Peter Witham, director and financial services lead, UNIT4 Business Software, in a press release. According to a company statement the best practices are:
- Enable true visibility in real time. Conduct businesses effectively in a 24/7 world with financial visibility in real-time. Efficiencies, faster closes and balanced ledgers are possible with a single ledger system that combines general ledger, accounts payable and accounts receivable.
- Break down cross-border barriers. Aim for financial visibility across offices and divisions regardless of differing country languages, tax regulations, currencies, etc.
- Ensure financial information is easy to share. Gain additional insights and efficiencies by providing access to relevant financial information by the correct people and systems across the enterprise. This requires seamless integration between the accounting system, the ERP system and other key operational systems.
- Make each report work for the organization. Provide targeted reports that accommodate the varying needs of different departments to improve decision making. Finance accounting software should allow users to drill down into data in multiple ways -- such as viewing profitability by salesperson, state, product line, and more -- to identify root causes, roadblocks and opportunities.
- Embrace change. Ensure financial systems are flexible to handle any ad hoc changes that arise due to business change pressures. Insurance companies can't afford losing time, money and opportunity to revamp their financial system when these changes occur.
- Look to the future. Continually assess technologies to enhance the effectiveness of business processes. For example, evaluate the benefits and potential risks of implementing financial processes on the cloud and how mobile technologies might fit into the organization.
At the 2013 ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum, UNIT4 also announced it has signed an agreement with Amazon.com that will enable the company to extend its portfolio of cloud locations through the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud platform. Under the agreement, UNIT4 becomes an Amazon Technology & Consulting partner. It will develop consultancy and technical support aimed at deploying AWS as a flexible, scalable on-demand cloud platform for its customers.
This arrangement provides insurers with what is essentially a "virtual private plan, a cloud-based private solution" in addition to the company's existing SaaS solution, notes Mike Tansley, pre-sales consultant with UNIT4. "We provide the infrastructure for the customer." Available on a year-to-year contract basis, "this takes a lot of risk out of the deal for the customer," adds Witham.