South African banking start-up Imagination signs for Microsoft technology

Source: Microsoft

Imagination, a South African start-up company that will provide life insurance, banking and healthcare services to citizens unable to participate in traditional financial services, has implemented a fully scalable, cost-effective and flexible IT system based on Microsoft technology.

This will enable the company to offer value-for-money financial services products to the 40 million South Africans who at present only have access to inadequate savings arrangements, loans at inflated rates and costly funeral plans.

With the support of community organisations such as labour unions and churches, the company aims to make life cover, savings accounts, loans and other financial products affordable to more people as well as design products more appropriate to their needs, for example, by taking into account that customers may make small or irregular contributions.

The IT system, which is being used by 20 people within the organisation and will soon provide web access to all its customers, was built in collaboration with Microsoft Certified Partner Fourge and the Microsoft Technology Centre. It uses Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, Microsoft BizTalk Server 2006, Microsoft Windows Workflow Foundation and Microsoft Visual Studio Team System.

Imagination will benefit from powerful reporting and analysis features, flexible development tools, and data integration. In particular, Microsoft SQL Server has been deployed to hold and receive client information and monitor customer accounts. It offers the company the ability to react quickly to market changes by adapting its financial services offerings, which in turn will support the firm's continuous business growth. Microsoft Visual Studio Team System and Microsoft ASP.NET are being used to create web pages containing product information and customer account sign-up features.

Gordon Ejsmond-Frey, industry director, Insurance, Financial Services Industry, Microsoft EMEA, said, "Imagination is a dynamic and visionary company with a precise business ethic and lots of potential to grow so we wanted to make sure that we built an infrastructure that would reflect this. By keeping IT expenditures down, we were able to help Imagination meet its business goal of offering low-cost financial products to non-affluent South African customers."

Jim Deane, CEO, Imagination Life, said, "Microsoft understood our vision, one that focuses on making available appropriate financial services products to more people across South Africa, more easily and at lower cost. The technology we have implemented is scalable, which means that we will easily be able to meet our aim of administering 250,000 customers in our first year of operation."

"The potential for microinsurance is significant," said Don Canning, industry solutions manager, Insurance Value Chain, Microsoft Worldwide. "Microsoft supports microinsurance through our relationships with thought leaders in the industry, such as Michael McCord, director of the MicroInsurance Centre, as well as many of our partners. These partners use the Microsoft platform and products when developing their solutions and services for the insurance industry. Many of our innovative partners such as Imagination are using our technologies to build solutions and services that will provide developing and emerging markets with cost-effective microinsurance products and services. This focus on microinsurance can, in turn, lead to successful new business models that also carry the potential to transform the quality of people's lives in under-served markets."

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