Harel Insurance Investments & Financial Services has been in business for 85 years, but the company does not want to stand still. Israel’s largest insurance and financial services group, Harel could just rely on its market size to keep revenues flowing. But instead, company leaders want to keep Harel dynamic and relevant in the market. So, for six years, Harel has been undertaking a digital transformation initiative to enable the company to innovate and capitalise on market trends.

 

It can be challenging for insurance companies to distinguish themselves from competitors. Innovations must enhance customer experience. “We have to do the same things better and quicker than our competitors,” says Amir Levy, senior vice president for infrastructure technology and cybersecurity at Harel Insurance. 

 

Harel is clearly succeeding with its customer experience objectives. For example, the company launched a new service that allows customers to buy short-term car insurance policies through a WhatsApp chat bot, SMS or the company’s website. “Up until a couple of years ago, things like that were unheard of,” says Levy. “It’s a rare, new innovation that we bring to our customers.”

Building a flexible IT infrastructure

To deliver innovative modern apps for customers, Harel has transformed its IT infrastructure with multiple solutions from VMware. For example, Harel deployed VMware Cloud Foundation—an integrated software stack with components for cloud-native compute, storage, networking and management. Organisations can maximise cloud flexibility by using VMware Cloud Foundation for their private clouds while tapping into public clouds built on the same VMware technology. “The multi-cloud approach that VMware Cloud Foundation gives us [is an] infrastructure-free [road map] to just focus on the services,” said Niv Raz, chief technology officer at Harel, in an interview at the Dell Technologies World 2019 event.

Meanwhile, the company is taking advantage of network virtualisation to improve the agility and efficiency of IT. VMware NSX Data Center enables Harel to deliver networking and security entirely in software. VMware vRealize Network Insight speeds micro-segmentation while enhancing scalablity. “We looked at several products, but VMware NSX Data Center was the one that provided a complete ecosystem,” says Raz. “It is the piece of the puzzle that connects to our core infrastructure. We’re up and running in days because every feature is natively integrated.”

 

Freeing developers to innovate rapidly

The VMware-based infrastructure helps automate key management functions, which allows IT to focus more of its technology resources on development. At the same time, establishing a consistent infrastructure across multiple clouds gives developers greater flexibility for accessing the resources they need to innovate.

Developers, in turn, can deliver modern apps rapidly—and ahead of the competition. The WhatsApp service, for example, was the first of its kind in Israel for insurance products.

 

“The outcomes from innovation can be fantastic,” says Levy. “We don’t see new ventures not succeeding as failure. Perhaps it’s not the outcome we wanted, but we’ll benefit from the knowledge and experience.”

 

Turning IT into a silent leader

With a modern infrastructure, the IT group has a digital foundation for helping propel the insurance company forward. “One of the key values for us as IT is to be the silent leader of the organisation,” says Levy. “It means that we have to be behind the scenes but pointing the company in the correct direction.” ▪

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