A migration towards modernisation for Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance

Asysco helped Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance migrate to Windows, combatting the challenge of mainframe skills loss and enabling them to provide services suited to modern customers

Elly Yates-Roberts
By Elly Yates-Roberts on 26 October 2021
A migration towards modernisation for Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance

According to research from the Centre for Better Ageing, as of 2020 a third of all workers were aged 50 or older.

Life insurance and financial planning business Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance (SFBLI) was one of the many organisations that had been affected by an ageing workforce. Many of its experienced mainframe application developers and systems programmers were nearing retirement, creating a knowledge gap in relation to mainframe operations.

SFBLI’s policy admin system – called Ingenium – is its main platform for selling and servicing its insurance products. It had been running on the firm’s IBM mainframe for over 20 years. However, as SFBLI’s mainframe-savvy employees were retiring, it was struggling to recruit college graduates with knowledge of the technology. SFBLI’s chief technology officer Charlie Allen knew that the business needed to modernise its mainframe operations for a younger demographic of employees and customers, while it still had the experienced workforce to pull it off.

“Typically, life insurance companies are slow to embrace change and innovation,” he said. “Many times, that is caused by regulatory concerns but innovation is becoming very important for our customers and we felt like the mainframe was going to be an impediment to innovation.

“As our customers get younger, they want to be able to do things themselves without the need to talk with a person. We want to be able to move in that direction much faster, while still providing customers with the human touch when appropriate.”  

After receiving an external audit which suggested that the business double the size of its development team – an option that was not viable – SFBLI began working with Asysco, a firm that specialises in modernising legacy IT infrastructure.

“I was looking for a company that would be a partner and have as much interest in the project being successful as we were,” said Allen. “I wanted a partner that understood what we were trying to accomplish and could see the project through to a successful conclusion. I felt like Asysco was the right size company to help with this – not too big, but just big enough. It had an excellent track record on previous engagements too.”

Allen chose Asysco for the project because of the speed and low cost of its proposal. The aim was for Asysco to deliver manageable, working code that would perform as well or better on Windows as it had on the mainframe. Successful completion of this goal would allow SFBLI to shut down the mainframe, replacing it with more modern solutions.

“We have to move faster and give the customer what they want, when they want it,” said Allen. “We need to improve the customer experience. Not doing so risks losing customers to the competition.”

The migration of the IBM mainframe to Windows began in November 2018 and was successfully completed in November 2020.

“I now have a staff that can take us into the future, confident that all members are knowledgeable and experienced using the platform and tools we provide them to work with,” said Allen. “We were about to face a situation where we had very few staff with experience on the computing platform that supported the business. That is not a good position to be in.”

From their first meeting, Allen, and the team at SFBLI were impressed with Asysco’s knowledge of the mainframe, which reassured them that the firm could migrate them from it. However, neither party could have guessed that the collaboration would coincide with a global pandemic. Despite this, Asysco’s responsiveness and flexibility, and the synergy between the two organisations, created a strong team that was able to deliver on time and work remotely where necessary.

“Due to Covid-19, we had no on-site support from Asysco personnel,” said Allen. “Obviously, we were concerned about that, but I can’t say enough about the support that Asysco gave us remotely. It was amazing!”

Asysco – with a team spanning its US and European offices – even adjusted its work schedule to US Central Standard Time to deliver results that exceeded expectations.

“What can I say? I am ecstatic about what SFBLI and Asysco pulled off!” said Allen.  

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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