Case studies Foresters Financial

Out with the Old - In with the New and Improved

Foresters Financial was founded in 1874. Their unique history began when they set out to provide average working families with access to life insurance as a fraternal benefit society, championing the well-being of families through financial products, member benefits and community activities. Because the company shares its financial strength with its members, it has built a reputation for financial prudence and responsibility in its operations. More than 140 years later, they continue to provide life insurance, savings, retirement, and investment solutions to help families achieve lasting financial health and security.

The Challenge

When the leadership team at Foresters Financial was notified that the company’s Data Warehouse appliance would reach the end of its life in August 2017, they needed to make significant changes fast. They understood how this end-of-life announcement would necessitate some IT soul-searching.

Like many companies, Forester’s data platform is connected to other systems within the business, used by multiple departments and individuals in the organization. Their data informs key metrics from sales and marketing to board reports and financials. To replace it could mean a wholesale re-evaluation of Foresters’ entire technology infrastructure.

But given their unique financial approach, when Foresters sought proposals to explore replacing its end-of-life hardware, a new Data Warehouse solution with the same provider proved too costly. It, along with other options considered, had a “poor financial payback,” in the words of Foresters’ Senior Manager of Enterprise Data Management, Tony Tsang.

A company can simply keep their existing system or delay their data migration for a while. However, trying to maintain end-of-life hardware can lead to a myriad of problems in other areas.

Increased costs

As the system has become obsolete, any service or parts become more difficult to come by and generally costs more.

Lost productivity

Hardware that is nearing its end of life and is no longer being supported, makes updates, changes or improvements to the system difficult or impossible.  

Compromised security

Hardware that is no longer receiving ongoing security updates is hardware that is much more easily compromised. A technology platform that doesn’t receive security updates is too risky.

Regulatory non-compliance

Consider the speed and scope of regulatory change within the financial industry in the last decade. If your end-of-life hardware is no longer easily updated, you run the risk of failing to meet regulatory obligations.

Foresters had outsourced the management of their IT to a large, multi-national technology consulting firm. They weren’t satisfied with in the level of service provided on their Data Warehouse platform and anytime something went wrong, or needed to be changed, service tickets were submitted, often to offshore, non-subject matter experts for resolution. This resulted in difficulty in getting to the root of the problem ultimately failing to solve the issue, which is then more likely to re-occur.

Foresters was looking for a solution to replace its end-of-life Data Warehouse platform that was more responsive and cost effective. With less than a year until the appliance’s end of life, the clock was ticking.

The Journey

Adastra was one of several providers asked to submit a solution proposal, requested on the strength of our existing relationship with Foresters, and our reputation within the data management space.

“We considered Adastra our long-term data management business partner and, therefore we meet to discuss our immediate needs and strategic direction on a regular basis,” said Mr. Tsang. 

Robert Estey, Director of Managed Services at Adastra stated, “Data Warehouse management and fine-tuning is rather different than operational database management – and all of our Adastra folks are Data Warehouse specialists.”

Rather than looking only at Foresters’ Data Warehouse migration, Adastra proposed a Managed Services approach – one that included the management of the overall Data Warehouse infrastructure needs, application support, and back office operations.

This approach would allow us to get to know the client better and enable us to be more responsive, anticipate needs, and provide better solutions. This kind of service relationship includes our ongoing process improvements, capacity management and disciplined change management expertise. Instead of a piecemeal approach that costs more in the long run, Adastra provides Forester more service for its money.

We proposed to migrate the company’s end-of-life platform to an Adastra-managed SQL platform at Foresters’ Data Centre, run by their IT provider. This approach used SQL Server Enterprisefor both the staging database, as well as the enterprise Data Warehouse and data marts.

Our Impact

After approval, the migration of Forester’s end-of-life Data Warehouse onto the SQL server began in July 2017.  Following testing and migration of the code, the data was moved and tested by December of the same year and by year-end, Adastra was managing Foresters’ batch process, fine-tuning their Data Warehouse, handling change management on ETL and database code, and managing service tickets on issues. By March 2018, in well under a year, Adastra had stabilized the system and is now currently in a business-as-usual mode. Our expertise and execution excellence on smaller ad-hoc projects over time assisted in building the trust required for a long-term relationship with Foresters. Tony Tsang acknowledged our teams’ extensive knowledge and professionalism, appreciative of senior management’s diligence in listening to their needs.

Foresters was relieved they could rely on Adastra for their valuable expertise and was grateful for the consistent delivery of exceptional client care. After having struggled with the maintenance of their previous Data Warehouse, they were confident in the performance of SQL Server Enterprise and Adastra’s ability to manage its capabilities. Implementing a three-step approach of knowledge transfer, stabilization, and process optimization, we delivered a platform that was stable, both data and process-wise. Adastra not only ensured we delivered a reliable solution, we exceeded Foresters expectations in understanding their challenge and how the solution would impact their business processes in the future with intentions of improving the value of the solution.