Technology - Now & then: Do you remember the first time?


Technology is a way of life today, with insurance policies underwritten, sold and paid for in the blink of an eye, but not that long ago it was a whole new world for the industry. <BODY><p>Post</p></BODY>, therefore, asked some of the major insurance players when they first started to use computers and the impact these had.

Allianz Insurance
What was the first computer system owned by the firm?
Between 1963 and 1967, the first system installed at Allianz [then known as Cornhill] was Program Controlled Computers and Samastronic printers. They were then quickly taken over by an ICL 1500 with 20k memory; six 10KC tape drives; one 600 cpm card reader; and one 1000 1pm printer.

It then converted in 1968 to a Choice 360/30 with 64k memory. The records show that in 1965 there were 38 staff in what would now be known as the IT department. There were 27 input staff; three operations; seven in systems/programming and one administration employee. The data processing department formed between 1969 and 1970 with 66 staff. The team was made up of 41 input, nine operations, 14 systems/programming and two administration staff. The systems were used for renewals, agents' accounts, motor statistics and general statistics.

When did Allianz employ its first chief technology or information officer?
Mr MJ Newnham was the first data processing manager in 1979.

What do you think is the technology of the future?
Gary Mason, director of systems development at Allianz Insurance today, says: "We can envisage that technology of the future will increasingly connect information across organisational and regional boundaries, and the sharing of real-time data to enable new ways of servicing customers and partners.

"This real time information will need to be accessed and processed by many different devices, including the current fashionable Iphones and Ipads, as well as the more traditional devices."

What was the first computer system owned by the firm?
An ICL 1901 was bought in 1967. Its component parts were described (in a newsletter from the period) as - "a CPU, a console typewriter, a paper tape reader, and exchangeable disc storage". The total data storage capacity to hold all general and life policies was estimated at 64mb - today that would be insufficient to hold last year's holiday snaps. There were no screens in those days, just a console teletype interface used directly by the computer operators.

There were three people in the computer department who were actually trained to run and programme the computer - many others received training to understand what the computer could do and how it would be applied. Its purpose initially was to store policy information, later claims and renewal functionality was added. House owners and householders policies were loaded onto the computer first, followed by life new business.

When did Ecclesiastical employ its first chief technology or information officer?
The first person responsible for the ‘information data processing department', as it was then known, was appointed in 1967 with the title of assistant superintendent for data processing. Three people have held the role since then.

What do you think is the technology of the future?
Mike Burnup, Ecclesiastical's IT director, says: "Technology is forever changing but further exploitation of the internet for all insurance services will still have the greatest effect on our industry over the next few years."


What was the first computer system owned by the firm?
An ICL 1902A was the first computer owned in 1969 by Minster Insurance [as the firm was then known]. But, prior to that there was an ICT 1004, which was a tabulating machine that had to be plug-wired for its logic. The 1902A had punched card, line printer, tape desks, and 8mb exchangeable disc storage, considered to be very much ‘leading edge'. It was all batch processes delivering reports. All the input was keyed onto sheets and punched onto cards (later diskettes) by the ‘lovely' punch girls-as they were then known. There were about six or seven staff in development. First systems held simple records of policies plus some accounting capability. Policy record sheets were printed off and put in the policy file and operational reports, such as renewal listings, were produced. A manager of the time also suggested it was good for keeping warm during the night shift as it took up a whole room. The first ever programme was for the large commercial risk business and every other programme written was a clone of that.

When did Groupama employ its first chief technology or information officer?
In those days they were called DP managers and the firm has employed John Tarrant, Keith Quince, Peter Britton, Terry Bishop and Peter Bramhill. There has only been one CIO, Jem Eskenazi.

What was the first computer system owned by the firm?
It was in 1964 that the first computer arrived at, what was back then, the Norwich Union offices. It was an Orion 1, made to order by Ferranti in Manchester, and was supposedly the most powerful computer yet installed in any insurance company in the UK.

The first Micro computers, which are now more widely known as PCs, were installed 30 years ago, back in 1980. And as the use of Pcs rapidly increased the company set up a computer advice centre to train and support the end users.

But it was in 1987 when use of this technology really took off, with the number of computer terminals in Aviva's offices leaping from 1800 to 3000 that year alone.

When did Aviva employ its first chief technology or information officer?
The role of head of computer services was established in 1960, with Mr PCW Ives taking up this position. Later in 1966, the role of head of mechanisation department-an executive position probably closest to chief information officer-was established; Mr CR Newing held this position for eight years. Today, almost 44 years later, Malcolm Simpkin is CIO for Aviva UK general Insurance and Ian Butterworth CIO for Aviva UK life.

What do you think is the technology of the future?
Iain Napier, Aviva It shared services director, says: "Aviva, and the insurance industry as a whole, has benefited greatly from the vast improvements that have been made in the area of telephony, computing and, of course, the internet.

"With the rapid rate of technological development, Aviva constantly reviews the systems we currently have in place as well as looking at new technologies coming on to the market."


What was the first computer system owned by LV?
In November 1971, Frizzell [as LV was known then] was operating a UNIVAC 9300 mainframe. To give some kind of idea, this took up a room of approximately 90m2 in the office. The system used magnetic tape drives and had a punched paper tape transmission and reader, a mega large matrix printer and punch cards. There was no screen, but a console with lights and switches.

We had to read off the 16 lights-four sections of four-to derive a four-digit hexadecimal code, then look up the code on a chart to determine what the machine was ‘saying'. People got used to it and knew the basic codes for many messages. The machine had main memory of 64k and the main programming language was assembler-low-level machine code.

We received a transmission of the day's business onto punched paper tape. This was then used as input to the batch computer run. The main file update run, which happened overnight, consisted of nine reels of 2400 magnetic tape, and typically took 90 minutes to run. The computer operated in daytime only (7:30 to 10:30)-except in the winter of 1971 and 1972, when there were the coal miner strikes and the resultant power strikes, which meant more hours were needed to get all the processing done. The computer operators also had to decollate and guillotine the printed output, which was printed on multi-part carbon infill paper.

The continuous paper pile was fed through a machine that separated the carbon sheet and cut the documents and also separated these for internal filing and customer copies.

Programmers coded their programs onto forms and gave them to the punch girls, who punched each line of code on to 80-character punch cards. The programs were run through the machine at set times, for compilation and return. The programmers would ‘repair' any failed compilations and resubmit. In those days, they were lucky to get two or three runs a day, which heightened their need to use each attempt wisely to get a clean compile with minimal submissions.

How is technology viewed by those at the top?
See LV GI boss John O'Rourke at POst's technology forum.

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