Helvetia Patria is Switzerland's fifth largest insurance firm and outside its home market, it has a bit role: It ranks approximately No. 40 in both Germany and Spain, its other top markets.Yet, the carrier has major ambitions for growth-and hopes that its service-oriented architecture (SOA) adoption can help lead its charge, particularly in Germany, Spain and Italy. "The plan is to acquire one to two new companies in the coming strategic period in one of these three countries," says Didier Beck, head of Helvetia Patria's e-business center.

The SOA adoption will be crucial for Helvetia Patria's future expansion, in part, because if it acquires a new company it will have to consolidate legacy systems. As Europe continues to integrate and borders recede, insurance firms such as Helvetia are looking for ways to present a single consistent look across the region. Indeed, this uniformity may be mandated over time.

"At the moment, we at least achieved physically having one platform, so we reused the same infrastructure, and we have reused the same services and the same insurance model," says Nick Stefania, deputy head of the e-business center for Helvetia Patria. "I can imagine that in the coming years there will be regulation of the European countries because today every country in the insurance area has its own legislation and its own regulations," he says.

Hewlett Packard Co. (HP), the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company that provided Helvetia Patria's new platform, believes that due to the hefty pace of consolidation ahead in regions such as Europe, SOA adoption will skyrocket.

In fact, HP predicts that beginning in 2007, SOA adoption will double annually over the next four years, with growth chiefly occurring in the financial services and manufacturing sectors, says Terri Schoenrock, HP's program director for application services, consulting and integration. She credits that, in part, to SOA's ability to increase agility, reduce costs and add new channels, but also to regulation and M&As.

"Even if you consolidate down to one platform, tomorrow you will merge and you will have two platforms," says Schoenrock. "You will always be in a heterogeneous world."

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