Like other insurance and financial services firms, Primerica has to navigate the compliance hazards of social media, but it is now on track to implement Hearsay Social for public social media communications and IBM Connections for social collaboration among employees and its network of insurance agents and financial advisers, Primerica CIO David Wade said in an interview.
The internal and external social initiatives are being managed by different groups within the company, but they're coming to fruition now because the time is ripe, Wade said. "It's just an evolution of where we think the world is right now. We're not bleeding edge, but we don't want to be left behind." The social wave of products and services flowing into the enterprise is reminiscent of the technology transitions to the PC and to the Internet, he said. "If you don't engineer something around social, you're going to be left behind and have a competitor put you out of business."
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Wade joined Primerica 32 years ago, as one of its first employees, and watched it grow into a major provider of term life insurance policies and other products. He has served as CIO for 15 years. That he would choose IBM's collaboration technology is not surprising, given that Primerica treats IBM as its default technology vendor, running its core systems with DB2 on an IBM zEnterprise 196 mainframe server. "I'm a big believer in running a single-vendor shop," he said.
Already a big user of the IBM Websphere Application Server, Primerica is adding Websphere Portal for application personalization and Sametime for online presence and instant messaging, in addition to IBM Connections for social collaboration, Wade said. When agents sign onto the portal, Wade wants them to see personalized information relevant to their status within the company and factors like whether they are certified as insurance agents. One use of IBM Connections will be to create online communities for agents who are going through the certification process in each state where Primerica does business.
"Hopefully, what it will do is get more people licensed and help them be able to sell more products," Wade said.
IBM Connections ranks as one of the leaders in enterprise social networking. To address the regulatory requirements to track company communications, Primerica will take advantage of IBM's partnership with Actiance on archiving and compliance monitoring of activity in IBM Connections.
All this is still in the planning stages.
Primerica also plans to get more active in its use of public social media--not for direct selling, but for recruiting the independent contractors who act as its agents. "We recruit about 200,000 people a year," Wade said.
Hearsay, which has established a strong customer base among insurance companies, won Primerica's business with its capability of feeding pre-approved content to agents in the field, who can then publish it to their own social media pages. Hearsay will also provide the compliance monitoring capabilities Primerica requires to track activity on its social pages and profiles. Actiance offers some similar capabilities, but Primerica elected to use it only inside the company.
Hearsay is currently available to about 100 people and will be rolled out to 500 more in the next 90 days, and a total of 4,000 people over the next year, Wade said.
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