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AEGON Improves Collaboration, Data Access and Customer Service with Web-Based System


By Ben Mattlin


AEGON Group, a Netherlands-based global purveyor of life insurance and retirement planning (annual revenue: $57 billion), needed a way for its 30,000 financial advisors to share information instantaneously and inexpensively. The firm’s old suite of desktop tools was just no longer adequate for identifying and servicing the myriad estate-planning and wealth-distribution requirements of a growing client base of baby boomers.


“We needed to update the technology platform to a Web-based application,” recalled Bruce A. Tannahill, vice president of business and estate planning for Western Reserve Life Assurance Co. of Ohio, an AEGON subsidiary.


By going to a Web-based tool, AEGON hoped to enable its agents to collaborate in real-time; distribute data more smoothly, speedily and cost-effectively; and generally enhance operations for customers and potential customers. In the end, AEGON got all this and more.


AEGON turned to Impact Technologies Group, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, based in Charlotte, NC, which had installed and maintained AEGON’s existing software. Impact offered a variety of new packages, but its “per seat” pricing model conflicted with AEGON’s desire to make the new software readily accessible to its entire advisor team.


“AEGON could not name the specific people, or ‘seats,’ that would be using the software, yet it wanted the capabilities to be available to all potential users at any time,” recalled Impact president Kevin R. Clay.


So Clay suggested Impact’s PlanLab, a .NET-based Web platform that comprises a full spectrum of financial tools. With PlanLab, AEGON’s squad of financial advisors could do all of their analyses in one place. The package includes proprietary tools such as Estate Tax Analysis, Qualified Plan Distribution, Estate Tax Concepts, Financial Needs Analysis and Retirement Road Map. In addition, because it’s Web-based, the package is easily delivered to multiple users far more quickly and at a lower cost than traditional desktop software.


“The suite allows our advisors to have it all on one platform,” explained Tannahill. “Whether they do estate planning, capital needs analysis or retirement distribution planning, they’re able to do it all under one ‘client-centric’ platform, which many other companies don’t offer.”


Once the decision to go with PlanLab was made, though, there was another tricky but critical requirement. AEGON, which has approximately 27,000 employees worldwide, wanted its advisors to be able to log in with the same IDs they had been using on the old corporate Web site. Impact was able to meet that requirement and install and customize the product within 30 days.


Last November, AEGON subsidiary Western Reserve Life executed a sort of trial run: It announced PlanLab’s availability on its own Web site. Some agents tried it, others did not. No training was offered until later. The test proved valuable because it allowed AEGON to discover a snag: Many agents had difficulty entering information in the order PlanLab required. Once the problem was identified, however, Impact was able to alter PlanLab and made a special point of training users on how to avoid that particular hangup.


In January, when PlanLab was fully rolled out, Impact provided Web-based training to bring all users up to speed. It also offered a three-month interactive marketing campaign, called Step by Step with Impact, to promote the new platform and answer users’ questions. This helped AEGON advisors feel comfortable with the new platform and gave them opportunities to consult Impact’s product experts, give feedback, and share success stories.


“The flexibility, capability and ease-of-use of PlanLab were apparent, but if our users encountered a learning curve with the software, the training and support that Impact offers minimized problems,” said Tannahill.


One surprising advantage of the new platform: PlanLab allows AEGON to monitor who is using it and how they are using it. “We’re able to track usage of the individual software tools, the number of people who activate the system and the amount of work they do with it,” Tannahill noted. With this feature, AEGON can be sure to support its most productive advisors with whatever extra marketing, sales or other assistance they need. “With other technology platforms, we didn’t have this capability,” he said.


Servicing PlanLab is far simpler and less expensive than with the old desktop system, too. Instead of distributing patches and upgrades on CDs sent through the mail, Impact can easily repair and/or update the software via the Web, “which is much more efficient from a time and dollars standpoint,” explained Tannahill.


From a business standpoint, the benefits of the new software platform are clear. “PlanLab is truly a market differentiator for AEGON,” Tannahill emphasized. “Staying on the cutting edge of the market is critical to keeping up.”




2006 Windows in Financial Services

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