In the late 1990s, when insurance firms were running high loss ratios (from 110 to 130), Lombard Canada Ltd., one of the oldest property and casualty insurance operations in Ontario, hired a consulting firm to assess its underwriting and claims leakage while it sought to improve IT and drive down expenses.With the firm's help, Lombard's loss ratio started dropping. While other Canadian firms were still grappling with hefty loss ratios, Lombard moved on to major technological decisions.

That strategic move went hand in hand with a larger initiative: Lombard integrated its application developers into business units so that they no longer reported to IT. "They had the ability to sit in on planning sessions on business initiatives and then be coherent when it came to 'this is what we want the system to do now' discussions that could benefit the business," says Peter Howling, the firm's vice president of IT.

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