It’s been many decades since an insurance customer paid their premiums with a sack of wheat. But for Co-operators, an insurance cooperative with roots in rural Canada, responding to local needs is still the heart of its business mission.
Founded in 1945 by farmers whose needs weren’t being met by traditional insurance providers, and who needed coverage after losing nearly everything in the Great Depression, Co-operators strives to balance profits and community.
That’s hardly slowed its growth. Today, the business includes smaller insurance co-ops and credit unions across Canada. It insures more than 5.2 million members, more than 890,000 homes, 41,000 farms, and 265,000 businesses, ranking in the top 10 of Canadian insurance companies.
Over time, all that growth resulted in a tangle of financial systems, with each piece managed separately and run with on-premises servers—and even mainframes. “The whole setup looked like a big bowl of spaghetti,” says Hrag Kakousian, vice president of finance and financial accounting services.
Some of the applications were reaching end of life, including Oracle E-Business Suite and an SAP planning and budgeting system. There was a separate tax application, and a proprietary financial system on a mainframe that was slated to be decommissioned. Realizing it was time to consolidate in the cloud, Co-operators sought the right partners for a software upgrade and implementation. After careful evaluation, it chose Oracle Cloud for both.
In choosing Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Co-operators was able to build on the investment in Oracle E-Business Suite. “Oracle Cloud ERP offered the power and flexibility we needed going forward,” Kakousian says. “It met our mantra of ‘the power of one’—one platform to improve efficiencies and deliver the support we needed.” For planning and budgeting, his team chose Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).
Besides streamlining operations, moving to a single platform gave Co-operators the stability to tackle a major job: meeting new rules from the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), which among other things governs how financial firms account for insurance contracts. Kakousian says it represents “a significant change” in accounting policies and procedures for the business.
Once the team chose Oracle Cloud for its financial platform, it made sense to use Oracle Consulting Services for the implementation. “We knew Oracle Consulting would have the product expertise we wanted, and after checking references such as Gartner, we felt the team could also handle the transformation work,” Kakousian says. “As we moved to the cloud, they were the best choice to lower barriers to entry.”
He adds that Oracle Consulting brought in experts whose focus on customer outcomes matched their product knowledge—and who forged close ties to the in-house IT team. “These massive projects always have some bumps in the road, but it’s how you overcome them together that makes the difference,” he says. “We had a great working relationship.”
|“The implementation was a very complex piece of work. Fortunately, Oracle Consulting had these brilliant, dedicated people to help us get over any hurdles.”
—Hrag Kakousian, Vice President, Finance - Financial Accounting Services, The Co-operators
The project unfolded in phases. First up was Oracle Cloud ERP, encompassing general ledger, assets, payables, receivables, cash management, tax, and accounting hub. A few months later, Oracle Cloud EPM went live. The team used Oracle Soar, a set of automated tools and methodologies for cloud migrations, to help move business processes, configurations, and data. “The project’s scope expanded and the timeline was extended, largely due to the complexity of our integrations, but the Oracle team was with us every step of the way,” Kakousian says.
Upon finishing the project, Co-operators gained a single platform that powers the move to new IFRS standards, reduces costs, and streamlines support. The back office integrates more easily with the front office and can better support customer-facing innovations.
While the company’s mission and social purpose hasn’t changed, its customers’ needs have, so Co-operators is expanding its offering, supplementing traditional insurance and investment product offerings with new advice-based services.
A prime example is wealth management, a recently launched service delivered with a twist: instead of focusing on the wealthy, Co-operators offers advice for “everyday Canadians” and makes it accessible by having no account minimum.
More than anything, those folks still count on Co-operators to guide their financial security. The company has their backs in other ways too, such as flood awareness programs, mental health education for employers, and a strong commitment to sustainability. Co-operators was the first Canadian insurer to sign on to the United Nations-backed Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, an international group of investment advisors working to transition investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Our organization is purpose-built to strengthen the community,” Kakousian says. “As we strive to do that, we find ourselves at the intersection of finance and technology. I think it’s a really exciting place to be.”
Mark Jackley is an Oracle digital content specialist.