Founded in 1998, Cardiff-based TFP was originally set up to provide insurance for taxi fleet businesses. Since the turn of the millennium, business has been a roller coaster for the firm. After experiencing a period of growth from 2001 to 2005, business slowed in 2006 then dipped in 2008. When the firm started to look at alternative products in 2010 as a strategy to grow its business, things took off again. In recent years, the firm has continued to expand its product offering and underwriting footprint, and in 2013 it was confirmed as the sole distribution channel for UK insurer Aviva’s taxi business.
The firm first approached financial services IT specialist peterevans in 2001 when a broking platform it was using could no longer support its business requirements. At the time, it was employing 10-15 staff and dealt with approximately 20-30 cases a month, so the new system it adopted was still relatively simple.
Over the next decade, though, as TFP’s business has continued to grow both in size and complexity, it has required more sophisticated IT solutions to support its operations. Every step of the way, it has been able to rely on peterevans’ expertise to provide the required functionality without having to worry about developing ad-hoc solutions in house.
“When we launched our single vehicle products in 2005, we knew that we would need an internet-based quote-and-buy system that brokers could access to get quotes and administer the business themselves,” says Damian Walsh, a partner at TFP. “We instructed peterevans to move us to a broker-facing system and they created an internet trading platform we called TFP Solo. This acted as the front office and integrated with our VIPS back-office system, which they built in 2002.”
In 2013, peterevans and TFP developed a scientific pricing structure tool for clients, which includes client profiling with applied, sophisticated variables that tailor the process. A base rate is provided as normal and then discounts are applied based on factors such as age, experience and a no-claims bonus. The ‘scientific’ part then applies a variable based on several features of the individual, taking into account lifestyle factors.
“In some ways this has added complexity to what we do, but it also gives us a competitive advantage as we are now able to price our business for the risks that we want to attract,” says Walsh. “peterevans has built that sophistication into the system.”
Over the years, TFP has benefited significantly from being able to outsource its IT function, keep overheads down as it hasn’t needed to employ an in-house IT team, and been able to continue focusing on its core business without having to worry about something that sits outside its expertise. What’s more is that Walsh reports that the rollout of new products is fairly seamless.
Behind the scenes, peterevans is given as much notice as possible when TFP requires new functionality. The firm then puts together a specification, which peterevans verifies and confirms. New functionality is then built as per instruction on TFP’s user acceptance testing system. Once testing is completed, a launch date is agreed and the new functionality is added overnight. When brokers go into work the next day, they can start taking advantage of it straight away.
As Richard Davies, peterevans IT and support manager, explains, TFP’s entire managed IT infrastructure relies on Microsoft software solutions to guarantee system uptime and platform availability to their brokers.
“Database availability is guaranteed using Microsoft SQL Server failover clustering,” he says. “SQL Server synchronous database mirroring ensures that an exact copy of the database is saved at the secondary data centre with automatic failover in seconds. Plus, with multiple load balanced application servers all running on the Microsoft Windows Server operating system, TFP can be confident of providing a highly scalable and resilient service.”
“It is pretty seamless; there is no downtime at all from a customer perspective,” adds Walsh.
Since it was founded, the firm’s technology architecture has changed significantly. From having a 6x4-foot box sat in a cupboard, it has moved to a mostly remote server model. The plan over the next two years is to move everything off site. This will further simplify the way it manages its IT while continuing to improve uptime. However it is TFP’s speedy and reliabile customer service supported by the responsiveness of peterevans that keeps it in business.
“People want to access quotations immediately; service has got to be instant as people are not prepared to wait,” says Walsh. “If you can’t deliver, you lose that competitive edge.”
This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issueof Finance on Windows
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