IBM and Manulife forge ties on two fronts

In a flurry of press releases and corporate handshakes, IBM Canada Ltd. and Manulife Financial Corp. announced Monday both a new partnership to fund a university research centre and a new outsourcing deal.

On the research side, IBM will create the International Insurance Solutions Centre (ISC) at the University of Waterloo that the company hopes will help it deliver applications that deal with wealth management, customer relationship management and other IT needs for the insurance industry.

David Kerr, a Toronto-based financial services industry executive with IBM Global Services said details about the size and logistics of the ISC will be finalized over the next few months, but the numbers and resources involved will make it a broad-based centre capable of serving the Canadian and global insurance industries.

“The notion of the centre is that it’s oriented around application management and solution delivery, so this is both our customers’ existing portfolios – whatever they might be – and some new applications that they would want to have delivered,” Kerr said.

The Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.-headquartered Manulife Financial will be the “premiere participant” in this program, Kerr said, but once IBM irons out the details other insurance industry players will be coming aboard. He added that Kitchener-Waterloo’s concentration of insurance industries, cost of real estate, cost of living and proximity to the University of Waterloo and other key technical centres all combined to make it the natural place to build the ISC.

According to Big Blue, the new centre will work closely with IBM Research’s 3,000 staff members in eight labs around the world and will focus on early adoption of innovative insurance software solutions on IBM software platforms in partnership with firms including Castek, DSPA, DWL Inc., PeopleSoft, The Innovation Group and RPM Technologies Corp.

In an indication of even closer relations with IBM Canada, Manulife Financial also announced that it will be outsourcing its North American IT requirements to IBM Global Services.

In a joint press release, the companies said that IBM will provide operational support for Manulife’s data centres, help desk, desktop computers and voice and data networks all over North America. The agreement will also involve the transfer of approximately 400 Manulife employees to IBM.

As part of Manulife’s ongoing technology transformation program, the company also announced that Bell Nexxia will provide the support an delivery of the insurance company’s local area network (LAN), metropolitan area network (MAN) and wide area network infrastructure (WAN), as well as telephony services.

Manulife Financial is online at .

IBM Canada is at .

The University of Waterloo is at