Sanlam gets a new look on life with customer data

Sanlam Life achieved a unified view of the customer by relying on a system that identified the most trustworthy data sources.

When one salesman is walking in to meet with a client just as another is walking out, that tends to lead to a lot of embarrassment for the company they work for.

It was happening far too often for Sanlam Life Insurance Ltd., an insurance and financial services company in Bellville, South Africa. Different divisions within Sanlam cover different product lines and the company's customers are large corporations with multiple contact points. It led to a lot of confusion for the front line staff.

"Really, it was a situation of the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing," said Lynn Colledge, IT manager.

Sanlam set out to create a unified view of its customer. As so many companies have discovered as they try to achieve the "360-degree-view of the customer," it was not an easy task. When it began the project, Sanlam had 15 different sources of customer data and that number has since grown to 30. Those sources include a commercial database that markets commercial client information and Sanlam's own data warehouse that was largely unreliable and only used by a small number of analytics users, Colledge said.

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Sanlam was also working with a CRM system custom built by a South African firm and had to abide by the Financial Advisors and Investment Services Act (FAIS), which required advisers to capture additional information.

Sanlam elected to install Siperian Master Reference Manager from Siperian Corp. in San Mateo, Calif., after looking at an offering from Siebel Systems, Inc. and finding that it needed too much customization.

With 300,000 client records and multiple contacts within each corporate client, Sanlam had millions of records, much of which overlapped or conflicted. Sanlam first did as much as it could upfront to clean its data. The company identified, at a cell level, which data was most reliable in which data source. For example, the company would take the address from one source, the telephone number from another and the fax number from a third. The system allowed Sanlam to assign trust factors to each data source and also include a "decay factor." As data gets older, the trust factor declines.

"By maneuvering your trust and your decay factors, you are able to ensure you're getting the most reliable info from most reliable source," Colledge said.

All that work was done by an administrator without code work. A data steward and two other employees maintain the system and update the business rules as more sources of data become available.

"It's all very well identifying the correct or most accurate sources, but at the same time, we put processes in place to make sure data was being captured more often and more accurately," Colledge said.

Regulatory compliance issues, like those arising from FAIS, have helped force Sanlam's advisers, who have the most direct contact with clients, to enter accurate information. Additionally, where various administrative departments and clerical staff would update data in batch processes, sales consultants can now enter information for real-time updates.

Only recently has Sanlam rolled out the full implementation, but the results have been good, even if ROI is difficult to measure, Colledge said.

"It's a difficult question," he said. "The true value of this single view of the client is the professionalism with which we deal with our clients and the goodwill we provide. Goodwill is difficult to measure, but it has a big impact on improving sales."

Sanlam has also set up a database using the same technology that lists the client's name, which division is associated with it, the account manager and the contact information. That second database has resulted in some substantial cross-sell opportunities.

Sanlam has seen its premium income grow 15%, its policy lapse reduced 30% and its policies per adviser increase 13%.

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