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05:20 PM

Acquisition Leads To Upgrade

Financial-services provider deploys data warehouse on Intel-based servers in Mexico

When ING Groep N.V. bought Mexico's largest insurance provider two years ago, the Netherlands-based banking, insurance, and financial-services firm saw a need to upgrade the Mexican insurer's technology infrastructure without making major changes to the work environment of its 6,000 employees.

Employees at Seguros Comercial America, now called ING Mexico, would get extracts of data from a mainframe in the form of flat files and run queries on their PCs to get the data they needed. But ING wanted its reps and agents to have access to more-specific data that, for example, would let them break down Mexico into territories for determining pricing. An upgrade also would let the unit issue more complete financial reports.


ING's Mexican unit upgraded computers and database to solve several business challenges. The company wanted to:

  • Break down customer data so geographic regions could be rated according to risk, and insurance policies priced accordingly

  • Understand how much the company could grow while still having sufficient money in reserve to pay claims

  • Plan for the future, factoring in data such as account sales, interest rates, and mortality rates

  • Data: ING

    "We definitely wanted to bring in the ING way," says Mike Wallace, ING Mexico's chief actuary. Wallace, who came to ING Mexico from ING Canada shortly after the acquisition, found this a tough sell. "Nobody likes change. We came in and said, 'now we're going to tell you to do it differently.'"

    Wallace's goal was to create a data warehouse with tools that would facilitate services pricing, reserving resources to ensure that claims could be paid, and planning to make sure the company invested properly. Another goal was to improve year-end reporting capabilities.

    ING Mexico put the data warehouse on a four-processor Intel Itanium-based server from Hewlett-Packard that uses SAS business-intelligence tools to manage the data. The company considered a RISC-based system similar to one ING Canada uses, but it ultimately determined that the Intel-based system would give them roughly the same performance at half the price. In October, ING tested the performance of SAS on the Itanium-based system running Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition against SAS on the Unix-based system at ING Canada. CPU performance was almost the same, although the RISC-based system had better input/output, Wallace says, adding that ING Canada will likely consider HP and Intel when it comes time to upgrade infrastructure.

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