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Monday, March 25, 2002

Computer experts have insured career
Sumesh Raizada

WITH the government relaxing the restrictions imposed on various service industries, a whole new market place is getting created in banking, finance and insurance sector. The recent opening up of insurance services for private and multinational companies has led to the fierce competition among the service providers.

A large number of banks and mutual fund companies are venturing into this otherwise high potential but restricted market. This has considerably improved the quality and response time of the providers, thereby offering several benefits to the customers. The foreign companies together with their Indian partners have brought in advanced techniques of generating inquiries from the prospective customers, providing detailed insurance-related information, processing of the application forms, receipts of payments/ premiums and settlement of claims. The competition is now forcing the restructuring of existing insurance companies also, who are now making their operations IT enabled.


With India being a large market in terms of population, there is a vast potential of business for the insurance in medical and healthcare, property, vehicles, life and accidental, rail, road and air transport. Apart from personal insurance, there are insurance on goods and materials being transported to different places within and outside the country. Since the proportion and volume of insurance business is quite vast, it is practically impossible for the insurance firms to maintain the database and record of each individual customer manually. To manage the insurance operations in different categories of personal, group or health, which are altogether different areas, insurance companies are now depending heavily on to the IT tools and techniques. Specialised software are being developed and implemented at various locations and branches for the smooth and fast customer service. The career for professionals skilled in programming, software development, networking and database management have vast prospect in the insurance sector.

Specialised insurance software product helps in customised remittance advice, automated bank reconciliation, electronic payments and debits and easy verification of payment information. These software products are highly functional and user-friendly requiring minimal training for the operating staff. The integrated database contains fields for insurance-specific data such as policy number, claim number, claimant, agent ID, insured name, loss date, and cause of loss, etc. Since the insurance companies have company-specific workflow and terminology, the software products are so designed that they support multiple payment to conform to the company's workflow and terminology.

The specific software implemented in a insurance firm also has its own payment database, a permanent record of all payment details for every funds transfer processed through the system. This offers benefits of reprinting of individual file copies at any time thus eliminating the need for file copies of every payment. The property insurers often have high volumes and specialised remittance advice containing claim and policy information. Often there is a need to look up and review a file copy of a remittance advice. However, a firm with its own integrated database of payments, there is no need to retain paper file copies. The automated bank reconciliation feature eliminates much of the manual effort in reconciliation. Property and casualty insurers often acquire policies through agents and make regular commission payments. With the specific software one can provide greater agent service by converting commission payments to Electronic Fund Transfers. Also, commission detail by agent and policy can be printed as part of customized remittance advice.

Healthcare insurers often have high check volumes and specialised remittance advice containing explanation of benefits (EOB). One payment may result in multiple copies of remittance advice: to healthcare providers, case managers, employers, and insured parties. Insurance software products can print out copies of remittance advice on single or multiple printers. Healthcare payments are often for multiple claims, but to a single provider. Significant cost-savings can thus be achieved by combining multiple claim payments into a single cheque or electronic payment. Software can combine payments to a single provider, providing a detailed listing of claim information on a single EOB or remittance advice.

There are large numbers of multinational insurance firms especially from the USA, which are opening up either their subsidiaries in India or subcontracting their insurance related tasks to the Indian software firms. These firms develop software and database tools for their European or US clients to suit their specific requirement and needs. Depending upon the area of operation of a firm, the professionals develop software products for data processing, payment transactions, claim settlement, etc. These experts are employed in a consultancy company for the development of software products for the client. They may be employed directly in a firm or bank offering insurance services for the maintenance of their working software, database, Local or wide area networks, hardware equipment, etc. Those working as project engineer or a manager must be proficient in Microsoft and Java platforms, ERP and relational databases, OOAD, etc. They must have strong inclination towards design and distributed architecture and must possess good project management skills.

IT professionals work as designers, programmers and client support specialists to provide integrated, customized and client-configurable solutions for payment processing, database management and product information related requirement.

Apart from public sector giants like LIC and GIC, several banks and business houses are now venturing into the insurance sector. These are SBI, Bajaj, HDFC, Tata, etc. Apex Systems, a Singapore-based software firm has teamed up with IBM India for implementing software solutions for Insurance companies within and outside India. Among their clients include insurance companies like Allianz, Mitsui and Sumitomo. Some of the specialised software solutions developed and implemented by the Apex - IBM alliance are eLIFE, XGEN, XGROUP, etc. catering to individual life insurance and annuity, property and casualty insurance, medical indemnity and managed care, group life and reinsurance. These are ready to use solutions and can be deployed immediately for customised applications.

Another multinational software firm called AGO Insurance Software, Inc., having its sales office at Pune, provides computer software and services for the companies dealing in the property and casualty insurances. The software packages developed by the firm are applied in policy administration, claims processing, accounting, etc. The AGO solutions can be designed and installed as a completely integrated system and the online solutions are so designed, that a person can get quotation, be able to review his account status, buy an insurance policy, update his policy, file claims, get coverage guidance, etc.

Global Business Technology Services (GBTS), a joint venture global IT consulting and software service organisation having its headquarters at Chennai is a joint venture of leading insurance firms Westfield Group of US and Alea Group of UK. The firm has expertise in designing insurance and reinsurance software products and services. Those working with the organisation get an exposure to latest global technologies in the field of insurance and IT. A person needs to have good analytical and team skills, besides having sufficient accounting and finance knowledge.

Some other vendors for insurance software products, worldwide are ADP-Integrated Medical Solutions, Inc., the developer of medical claims software for property and casualty insurers; Agency Solution, a company providing custom insurance applications, software programming services and insurance software; AMS Services, Inc., the developer of automated insurance software for insurance agencies in handling billing, claims processing and policy handling, general ledger, risk management; Applied Insurance Research, a software developer of catastrophe risk assessment and management technologies for the insurance industry; Axint Technologies Corp. , a firm in the development of IBM compatible insurance software including actuarial software, claims processing software and policy handling software for the insurance industry; Claims On Line, Inc. a firm that offers risk managers, insurers, brokers and agents, a source for online claim and insurance management information, facilitating management of global claim information as well as data warehousing; Prelude Software, Inc. a leading developer of payment processing has designed several products for insurance applications such as PayPilot, etc.