PanGlobal Online Makes Insurance History
First in Malaysia to attain Bank Negara’s coveted approval on online insurance system, built on Microsoft technology
Quotation: "Developing PanGlobal Online on the Microsoft platform has given us a highly flexible, cost effective, secure and reliable solution which exceeds Bank Negara Malaysia’s stringent Internet Security Guidelines."
- Edwin Wong, PanGlobal Insurance CEO.
Since a major restructuring in 2001, PanGlobal Insurance has evolved from a traditional single distribution general insurance company with generic products and services to a market leader in alternative distribution, products and services.
The company is the country's leading sports and lifestyle insurer, and is the official sponsor of Arrows F1 Team, KLMinardi F1 Team and Formula BMW/ 3000/2000.
Since launching a series of innovative products and services last year, PanGlobal has become one of Malaysia's fastest growing insurers, achieving a sales growth of over 60 per cent for the first five months of 2003.
Given the stiff competition and trend towards consolidation in the domestic insurance sector, PanGlobal sought to adopt innovative and pioneering strategies in selling insurance.
As with all general insurance companies in Malaysia, PanGlobal was served by the traditional agency force before its restructuring. Since then, it has built up a strong direct marketing channel and has also sought to tap the Internet as its third, and potentially, the largest distribution channel.
In July 2003, the medium-sized insurer stole a march on its bigger rivals when it became Malaysia’s first insurance company to offer car and other personal lines products such as personal accident and extreme sports coverage for sale via the Internet.
According to PanGlobal Insurance CEO Edwin Wong, the launch of PanGlobal Online was in line with the direction of Bank Negara Malaysia (the Central Bank) and Malaysia's aspirations towards building a knowledge-based society.
PanGlobal Online offers consumers the convenience of obtaining an insurance quotation, submitting a proposal form and buying insurance online without leaving their home or offices.
However, the road to the launching of PanGlobal Online was not without its potholes. PanGlobal had mooted the project in 1999 and awarded it to IBM and its partners. The project was completed after about 24 months, but hit a major roadblock when Bank Negara withheld its approval because the solution failed to meet its Internet Security Guidelines for insurers intending to conduct business via the Web.
After spending RM3 million on the project, Wong admitted PanGlobal was in a quandary as its e-business aspiration was effectively "jammed."
In January 2003, PanGlobal threw a challenge to local software developer Hypezero Sdn Bhd to develop a solution which would not only meet but exceed Bank Negara's stringent security guidelines. Hypezero took up the challenge and within three short months had successfully developed a solution based on the Microsoft platform.
More significantly for PanGlobal, its e-business strategy was now back on track as the solution successfully met Bank Negara Internet security guidelines, making it the first insurer in Malaysia to secure the authority's approval.
"We built it fully compliant with security requirements imposed by Bank Negara, particularly relating to firewalls, payment gateway, authentication, encryption, secure payment and anti-virus protection," said Hypezero CEO Joseph Yeo.
PanGlobal's Online service is built on a customisation of Hypezero's iBiz suite of insurance applications. The current implementation of iBiz, version 1.1, runs on Microsoft's .Net Framework 1.1 and incorporates Windows applications, Web applications, Windows Services and Web Services.
The operating system platform for the solution is Windows 2000 with SQL Server 2000 as the database application. Hypezero's solution integrates with PanGlobal's backend CSC's Polisy/M system which runs on AS 400. Credit card payments for online purchases are made through the Financial-Link and MEPS payment gateways, with Citibank as the acquiring bank. On the hardware side, the solution runs on two rack mounted Dell PowerEdge servers, in place of the RISC 6000 in the solution developed by IBM.
Faster Time to Market
PanGlobal's Edwin Wong admits that the company left it to Hypezero to choose the platform for the project. According to Wong, Hypezero was confident the Microsoft platform could enable the company to deliver a robust and reliable solution in a record time, and compliant with Bank Negara's security requirements.
"As Microsoft is an world renowned brand, we did not object."
Given the chequered history of the project, Wong was understandably impressed that solution could be delivered within three months. "That was very good. I don't think they could have done it with another platform," Wong adds. Yeo acknowledges the role played by the Microsoft .NET framework, which essentially helps software developers like Hypezero more easily build and deploy Windows-based applications, and integrate it with other networked systems. The company's familiarity with the Microsoft platform meant it had the necessary skill sets and cutting-edge development tools such as Microsoft Visual Studio to meet PanGlobal's very tight deadline.
In a constantly evolving Web environment, the ability to respond quickly to changing trends and market situations can mean the difference between success and failure for any e-business venture.
Wong recognizes this and says one of the key benefits of the Hypezero solution has been its flexibility. "In developing a web project, I can't tell you exactly what my website will be like in three months. So, flexibility is critical and it is one of the reasons why we are very happy with it."
"We wanted to tap the general internet community and at the same time, distribute our products through internet business partners who are already receiving more than five millions hits a month," says Wong. The website needed to display a high level of robustness.
Wong recounts Hypezero's confidence in the Microsoft platform being flexible enough to accommodate changes mandated by PanGlobal in response to changing trends and market conditions. "And they have proven to us how flexible the system is," he says.
For example, shortly after the first version of PanGlobal Online was launched, the insurer decided that the website should incorporate new auction and mechardising modules. The modules were developed within several days and were ready to be uploaded to the website within a week.
"We were able to put in the auction module easily with no hassles, no security issues and no operational issues. It was just awesome!!" Wong says.
"The Microsoft platform allows them to develop this very fast. Previously, if we had wanted to make such changes, it would have taken ages. We work on a prototyping basis and this is where the Microsoft platform becomes superior."
Excellent Technology, Reasonable Price
Wong acknowledges that for a solution that has proven itself to be highly robust, reliable, secure and flexible, PanGlobal paid a very reasonable price.
"It cost only about 10 per cent of the amount budgeted for the IBM implementation," adds Wong. The hardware requirements for the Microsoft platform is also quite "modest", he says. The solution only required two Dell PowerEdge servers.
"With the Microsoft platform, we are able to develop solutions faster, better and more cost effectively for our customers," says Yeo of Hypezero.
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 14, 2004