NU Online News Service, April 9, 2:23 p.m. – Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, has agreed to pay International Business Machines Corp., Armonk, N.Y., up to $563 million over 10 years to manage its North American information technology infrastructure, including data centers, help desks, personal computer support, and voice and data networks.

About 400 Manulife employees will become IBM employees as a result of the agreement, the companies report.

Manulife says it’s hoping the arrangement will cut costs and improve customer service.

The companies note in the deal announcement that IBM will set up a center in Kitchener, Ontario, to develop new technology for the insurance industry. Manulife will also help with the research, the companies say.

The deal is the second major insurance outsourcing agreement IBM has announced this year.

In January, IBM and a corporate partner announced a $1.2 billion deal to handle IT work for PacifiCare Health Systems Inc., Santa Ana, Calif., a large managed care company.