Insurance carrier AXA moves to XML-based SOA

To deal with high-volume policy requests and underwriting information, Montreal-based insurance carrier AXA Canada is using an XML-based platform to automate its data systems.

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SOA and its discontents

With insurance industry standards moving toward XML regulations – such as those created by Canada’s Centre for Studies in Insurance Operations’ (CSIO) – AXA needed to implement a system which eliminated the vast amount of paper-based data movement in its operations. To achieve this, the property and casualty insurer chose Springs, Colo.-based XAware Inc. to both install a more automated data transferring system and to speed up the process toward compliance with CSIO XML standards.

AXA is “using XAware as a transformation service,” said its IT project manager, Yvon Lefebvre. “This reduces the risk of having different solutions for our data services.”

Today, if customers want to apply for insurance through an agent, their information is automatically sent to AXA in order to quickly generate a new policy in a matter of seconds. The broker management system, now in use by AXA agents, converts imputed data into appropriate formats for the back-end systems and culls all other necessary data to complete policy requests.

Prior to implementing XAware’s application, AXA employees would use hard-copy applications to send data to the back-end systems – a process that would often take three to seven days.

“Like a lot of insurance carriers, AXA had been doing business with their agent channels basically with paper,” Bill Miller, CTO at XAware, said. “When they needed to quote a policy or send out any information to agents and customers, they needed to do it in hard copy. In the insurance industry over the last several years, like in a lot of industries, there has been a move to eliminate that hand data entry and paper-based movement to a more automated system.”

With XAware, AXA has basically moved toward a service-oriented architecture (SOA) for its data services – something it didn’t expect to do at the start of the project.

“They hadn’t really set out to build an SOA, they really just wanted to implement the XML standards for their agency networks,” Miller said. “But using the application, they have now developed a set of data services that has become reusable and actually started them down the path of implementing SOA.”

As for whether IT managers in fields outside the financial sector should take note, both AXA and XAware agreed the move toward XML-based SOA has wide applicability to enterprises which have a significant data stream.

“There’s actually very broad relevance for any company that wants to go down the path of making data, that has been created by and exists in many different systems, reusable in new applications using a services approach,” Miller said. “For example, nowadays people are always coming up with new and better ways to create Web 2.0 applications, but they already have all these existing data systems. XAware can help transfer that data across existing data systems and integrate these new applications.”

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