Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. has been no stranger to technology outsourcing initiatives over the past three years. But the term "outsourcing" might be an inaccurate depiction of what the carrier's senior IT team regards to be its mandate. Instead, Fireman's Chief Technology Officer Diane Comer views these agreements as "strategic partnerships."In January, the Novato, Calif.-based carrier announced two major initiatives involving technology firms that provide Fireman's Fund with a comfortable degree of internal decision-making latitude. Under a seven-year, $157-million contract with IBM Global Services, Fireman's Fund plans to implement IBM's on-demand computing technology. One of the key distinctions of IBM's on-demand computing is that it enables clients such as Fireman's to pay for only the computing power it uses within a shared-services arrangement. Fireman's Fund projects savings of about $10 million a year in IT-related costs from this advantage.

With Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM on board, the property/casualty carrier, an operating unit of Germany-based Allianz Group, then inked a five-year, $42-million contract with AT&T Corp. to develop a secure, high-speed, integrated network. AT&T's design and management of an Internet Protocol Virtual Private Network (IP VPN) is expected to provide 4,500 Fireman's employees in 60 locations across the United States with faster access to data on premiums, claims, insurance quotes and other customer information, according to Comer.

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