Like an understudy suddenly thrust into the starring role, the investment portfolios of insurers are suddenly subject to an entirely new level of scrutiny in the age of the toxic asset. To be sure, keeping track of portfolios that are as dynamic as they are large is no mean feat, especially considering the openness and transparency now expected by investors and regulators. Fortunately for insurers, this once labor-intensive process can now be automated with an emerging class of financial management tools that are designed to track assets in a complex and fluid environment. Take a look at why employing these tools may be critical to an insurer's survival.

In the fourth quarter of 2008, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Minnesota's treasury and investment department was using a homegrown compliance engine and accounting system, and its analysts were laboring in spreadsheets to number-crunch their portfolios. While tedious and time-consuming practices, the firm lacked an investment accounting system with rich data mining capabilities. That's when it decided it needed to make a shift.

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