Agents Are Finding Innovative Ways To Store Data

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After the laptop on which James Cotto stored his data crashed, he realized he needed a reliable backup system.

Although he only lost what had been stored in e-mail, the managing director of investments, Cotto and Padovani Financial Strategies Group of Wachovia Securities, Mt. Kisco, N.Y., saw the potential danger of leaving his data vulnerable to another crash.

Now, the agencys internal server acts directly with the servers at Wachovias offices in Richmond, Va., or Charlotte, N.C., he says. All data are backed up incrementally on an ongoing basis.

The agency uses Compact Troliant as its internal database management and client contact system. It uses Cisco networking hardware, which backs up to BlackWatch DLT, which uses half-inch tape, Cotto says.

Having all the data entered into the system go to a central server is “an easy way to access it,” he says. “When my partners and my laptops crashed, we lost everything. Now everything goes to the server.”

Now, if the agencys internal system does crash, it has a power system that will keep it operative for about an hour–the amount of time necessary for a complete backup, Cotto adds.

Joseph Sciabica, a certified financial planner with the Guardian Life Insurance Company, New York, uses the same system.

He stores all his data on his laptop hard drive and once a week backs it up to a mainframe network.

“Also, if its really important, Ill e-mail it from my office to my home, then I have it on the hard drive there, too,” he says.

Sciabica is grateful for never having lost anything. He attributes this not to luck but to using small documents.

“Most of the stuff is spread sheets, PowerPoint, Word documents. Its not so big that it takes up so much space,” he explains.

The real difficulties kick in when something goes wrong with the network, Sciabica says. “If I cant get on, thats a problem.”

Adelia Chung, a partner with Chung Insurance and Investment Group, Honolulu, uses software package E-Z Data, made by E-Z Data Inc., Pasadena, Calif. She says it is “a perfect database system for someone in our kind of operation because it supports life insurance, property and casualty, and it has an investment module as well.”

Its features include a smart pad that records every conversation and transaction made with a client, Chung notes.

“Theres a wealth of information available, like the clients name, birth date, key advisors, names of kids, spouse, income information, smoker status, and theres an online message pad,” she says.

If a client calls with a request, such as for a change of beneficiary form, the agent can go online, get the form and direct it to the appropriate person while the entire transaction is being recorded, says Chung.

“Its something a lot of insurance agents are using,” she says.

One negative is that when it goes down, one must rely on the company, E-Z Data, to service it, she adds. “They can be responsive or not responsive,” she says. “As with any software program, when its functioning to its capacity, its a fabulous system, but when you have glitches, its a nightmare because it basically shuts down the system that we rely on so heavily.”

Another potential disadvantage is that its not Web-based, Chung says. “You cant get access from a remote place,” she says. “Were on a network, but if I were in Japan and wanted to get online and see the files, I dont have that capability, so it has its limits.”

Marco Rodriguez, manager, Principal Financial, Sacramento, Calif., also uses E-Z Data. His system has never crashed, hes never lost any information and he is basically pleased with the software.

“It does what its supposed to do, it gives me the information I need, I can download it and it keeps track of all the claims,” he says.

Mary-Jo Iacovino, financial consultant with AXA Advisors, New York, stores data on her hard drive and backs it up to a CD. She also uses ACT software made by Symantec, Cupertino, Calif. Iacovino has been using and periodically upgrading ACT since 1990.

“Its the best,” Iacovino says. It stores “all my clients information as well as contact information for people that are sources for business, such as outside insurers and medical professionals.”

The software stores names, addresses, phone numbers and sundry other information, Iacovino notes. It also records the last conversation she had with a client and offers reminders, such as when a clients portfolio needs re-balancing, when her next premium is due, when its a clients birthday, as well as other such occasions.

“I can look people up so many different ways,” Iacovino says. “I even downloaded it to my Visor, which I carry with me instead of a big datebook.”


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, August 18, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.