Although the e-commerce platform that the life insurance industry is building lost two of its leaders, the industry in confident the project will roll ahead as planned.
The committee recently witnessed the departure of a key member and a role-change for another. Richard Miles, Vice-President, Insurance Operations at Canada Life and Co-Chair of Life Companies Central (LCC) has retired, and Mark Fujita, who once wore the hat of Principal, Insurance Services and Solutions at IBM Canada, left at the end of January to take on the role of Director of E-commerce at Sun Life.
Mr. Miles, an active and well-known figure in the committee that rounded up Canada Life, Manulife, National Life, RBC Insurance, Standard Life, Sun Life and Transamerica Life Canada, retired at the end of February, not only from his current position at Canada Life but also from his LCC role of Co-Chair.
He is not leaving the LCC completely, however. While he will no longer be Co-Chair of the LCC, he will take on the task of LCC spokesperson. His work will be based on a consulting basis and he will serve as a point of reference. Doug Smeall, Vice-President of Life Operations at Sun Life, served as Co-Chair with Mr. Miles and will now become the sole Chair.
The seven companies that Mr. Miles helped bring to the table have contributed financially to the LCC project. The project goal is to develop and implement a common electronic interface system between suppliers of insurance products and their distributors-something similar to FundServ but for life insurance.
The LCC project is still in its first phase of implementation, which is to develop a proof of concept. Mr. Miles says that the committee is presently looking to develop a simple prototype that will determine what the LCC has to offer and how the system will operate. The objective of the prototype is to receive feedback to see where and how changes need to be made to make the project run smoothly.
Mr. Miles adds that following the one to two months it will take to finalize the prototype, the committee will then proceed to select the software vendors. He stresses that the LCC is interested in being familiar with the different vendor options and is nowhere near deciding who the software vendors will be.
Meanwhile, Mr. Miles is confident that the project will continue to move forward, and that his change of title will not affect the end results.
“There will be good leadership for it, I am just a voice, I happen to be the public’s spokesperson that’s all. The project will keep it going. It is gaining momentum. We have had meetings with industry groups, we are reviewing vendor software, and we are going to see some prototypes for purposes of doing a proof of concept so we can prove we can make it work,” explains Mr. Miles.
“The reality is that everybody wins if we make it work. The insurance companies save a ton of money and the brokers save a ton of money!” he adds.
Mr. Fujita agrees that the departures do not cause a setback in the LCC project moving full-steam ahead. He says that the project will still be realized and that the new faces are solid choices.
Mr. Fujita worked as a consultant on the business side of the project researching whether the project was a worthwhile cause to undertake. He was involved with the Insurance Services and Solutions practice of IBM, which was given the mandate of finding a common, technological-based method that would establish standard tools and forms that life companies, managing general agencies (MGAs) and brokers could use.
He explains that the project has moved from a business and consulting side and has undertaken more of a building and delivering aspect. Therefore, Valerie Barclay has been appointed as Project Manager for the IBM division monitoring the project. Her role will be moving the project into the next phase which involves the execution of the project.
“IBM will continue to provide management. Ms. Barclay has prior experience with project management for new business processes for a variety of Canadian insurance companies,” stresses Mr. Miles.
Reaction from those closely following the LCC project has also been optimistic regarding the changes.
Jack Brown, Vice-President of Information Technology for PPI Financial Group in Vancouver, is still confident that the project will move ahead, despite the name changes.
“The initiative has enough momentum now that it will continue forth. The main driver behind this at one time was Guy Mills (Manulife), he actually got transferred to Japan and someone else picked up the ball and ran with it, so it has enough momentum,” he highlights.
Mr. Brown also sits on the Board of Directors for CLIEDIS, the Canadian body committed to the development of life insurance Electronic Data Interchange standards. CLIEDIS is the Canadian regional authority for ACORD (Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development) standard, which LCC has decided to adopt as the engine of the project. Mr. Brown explains that CLIEDIS plans to work closely with the LCC project in order to help move the project along.
Tim Fitzpatrick, President of CoVirt Inc., an Internet consulting and service provider for the insurance industry, seconds the notion that the changes will not place a dent in the project.
He recognizes that Mr. Fujita brought a lot of expertise to the project and that may have a caused setback, but feels that the project will still move forward.
“I think that when Guy Mills left, that caused a major setback, he had a real technical expertise, he was a key player,” he notes.