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Unum Group Message Board

  • Totally_Bummed_Out Totally_Bummed_Out Apr 3, 1999 11:38 AM Flag

    Prunum Systems and Wackos

    Bob Best is not the wacko I was referring to. He
    had a short and altogether uneventful time at UNUM
    (so I've heard), but I think he left on generally
    good terms. Interesting that he is now in charge of
    Customer Service...

    Talking about systems - the
    reason for UNUM's large systems area is that UNUM has
    undergone several big projects. We've had a large and very
    successful Y2K campaign, and have moved on to our "Customer
    Model" project. This new project has many pieces,
    including new data warehousing, rewriting many systems to
    use PCs vs. mainframes, internet systems, and
    replacing the mish-mosh of PCs and the LAN we have with new
    "Standard Technology" equipment. Our actual baseline
    support area is much smaller than you might

    And, yes, Provident's data center is to consolidate
    with UNUM/Colonial in Columbia. From what info I've
    gathered, they opted to move the smaller system to the
    larger system, and make use of the newer, larger
    facility. Also, I heard that the UNUM team voted for
    Columbia and Provident voted for Tennessee, so IBM was
    involved in picking the location.

    But with all of
    the trouble UNUM has had finding mainframe support
    people, and being short-staffed there already (would you
    agree, Blue Jay?), the next two years could be
    interesting. I think that would be true in either location,
    but it probably would have been worse in Tennessee -
    again, they're moving the smaller system to the larger
    system. Universities and colleges just aren't training
    mainframers like they used to.

    Keep in mind, as well,
    that the Columbia staff is mostly mainframe support.
    UNUM's LAN center is in Portland, Customer Model is in
    Portland, as is the vast majority of mainframe programming

    From everything I've heard, systems isn't going to be
    shrinking by much. They've had to lift the hiring freeze
    from time to time to get more systems folks. There's a
    lot of work to be done to put two company's systems

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    • I've been sitting on the sidelines for awhile
      seeing which way the wind blows and checking out the
      logic being utilized. I'd like to make a few points and
      see the reaction now from a few of the regular
      contributors. Many of these reiterate my comments immediately
      after the merger but are settling in after the initial
      dust storm;

      * Employees and investors alike are
      in for a rough 2+ years as the cultural differences
      begin melding and internal kingdom building becomes
      disturbed. This happens in most companies but is
      particularly true when mergers occur in the insurance

      * The reasons for the high level of
      systems employees is that Unum is in the dark ages when
      compared to most technically proficient organizations.
      Think of this....... most sales reps don't have
      laptops. Only antiquated e-mail (no internet access) is
      available! Profs (internal e-mail) was outdated over a
      decade ago. Files must be transfered by mail/overnight.
      While changes are in the works, most companies made
      these changes over 5 years ago. Other technologies may
      be fine but the basics are poor.

      * When Unum
      went out of the Non Can business several years ago and
      also downsized other areas simultaneously through
      Voluntary early retirement packages, Unum was gutted of
      great people. The SAME THING IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN! The
      very best, most talented people that made UNUM great
      will opt in droves for the package. Those still too
      early to retire will take the package in an instant if
      other jobs in Portland are available or they are
      willing to relocate. Believe me, resumes are flooding the
      market or are being prepared.

      * Jim Orr may have
      been a good leader, but remember he is the first in
      the modern era not to have been Unum's stated
      objective. Once the "98 Goals" went by the wayside as
      unattainable, this merger made sense so the investment
      community could focus on something else. It also made stock
      options immediately vest. Wonder who that

      * This company has CONSTANTLY given the investment
      community surprises. In fact one leading investor commented
      the only time they were surprised was when there
      wan't any. Unum hid poor earnings, historically at
      different times, for ID, pensions, Unum Limited,
      Commercial, and Colonial among others that blind sided the

      Okay boys..... any contrarian opinion?

      • 1 Reply to bopper170
      • You say that UNUM has brought surprise for
        investors, but really only for short-timers. Those who have
        made a long term investment in this corporation have
        seen outstanding returns. Those who like to invest on
        the edge, "Extreme Investors" if you will, have not
        had the kind of warning that they are perhaps used
        to. UNUM has been all about stability - for
        investors, for customers, and for employees - and seems to
        encourage long term. In fact, those of us inside the
        company have been surprised with the reactions on the
        Street. Long-term investors and UNUM get along just

        Some of your other allegations are true. UNUM is now
        converting to Outlook/Exchange from PROFS. Was PROFS really
        that outdated, though? I seemed to have no problem
        transferring files through PROFS, and those who couldn't had
        the LAN and UNUM Share. And those companies whose
        e-mail systems are being assulted now by Melissa
        look-a-likes should be envious of mainframe communications
        systems - the stability of PROFS was unaffected by
        Melissa, aside from having to handle a truckload of notes
        from spasming Exchange servers everywhere.

        haven't talked to ANYONE who is leaving UNUM voluntarily
        outside of the early retirement offer being made now.
        This is different from the offer made years ago, which
        was a VOLUNTARY SEPARATION PROGRAM and was offered to
        everyone. I'm sure we're going to lose some expertise, but
        it is expertise that would have been gone within the
        next 5 years anyway. Also, management is making the
        decisions about when employees leave the company under the
        retirement program, giving us time to document and share
        some of that knowledge. This is not going to be the
        same thing at all.

        We're definitely in for 2
        years of Merger Madness, but I'm still optimistic about
        the product of this merger. Despite the arguements,
        there are TWO strong companies entering this merger.
        UNUMProvident's structure is leaning toward Provident's more
        efficient structure. But don't forget that Provident needs
        the weight of UNUM to provide some stability -
        something they've been lacking. This may not please the
        Extreme Investors looking for something for nothing, but
        for those of us who are looking at 30+ years before
        retirement, it's going to be our cash cow - no ulcers

    • From the Maine arena, you might be surprised to
      hear how many folks here think that change in how
      things are done, decisions are made, etc. in systems
      will be welcome. But this is not just a systems thing
      -- it needs to happen and be supported by the
      business and that's been difficult in the past. What does
      need to happen to be able to compete in a rapidly
      changing world is we need to be able to move quickly,
      respond to the needs without bureaucratic decisionmaking
      and planning (some is okay) and have the support of
      management to make some mistakes -- UNUM has been stuck in
      the need to be perfect and that isn't possible when
      you are dealing with a world that doesn't give you
      time to get to a perfect solution before it changes or
      you go out of business.

    • I want to commend springflower102 for his/her
      insight on the need
      for quick adjustments in today's
      business world. Opportunities and challenges appear at an
      ever increasing frequency these days. The companies
      which can "morph" like quick-silver are the ones which
      will be able to thrive and survive in the 21st
      century. We should structure and position our merged
      company for such a capability, even if it is a little
      painful on the front end. We are in a great position to
      leverage our combined DI
      capabilities into a world-wide
      juggernaut if we can get our
      infrastructure set up

      Best Wishes,

      Truth Seeker

    • Yesterday DLJ's insurance analyst made UNUM her
      "top pick." Stock went up about $4 on the news but
      curiously dropped about a buck in the last few minutes of
      trading. Friends in UNUM who have seen the report say it
      is pretty scathing in its denunciation of UNUM
      senior management's "litany of mistakes and missteps" or
      something like that. Read between the lines, and apparently
      you can easily infer that she (and others?) have lost
      all confidence in Jim Orr, Elaine Rosen, Bob Crispin,
      etc., and that the only saving grace for the company is
      that Harold Chandler and Tom Watjen are going to be
      running the show going forward.

      UNUM 10-k notes
      that merger expenses will be $50mm higher than
      originally estimated, that Lloyd's reinsurance pools are
      running horribly, that some or all of reinsurance
      business may be sold. Is that a hint that another reserve
      hit is coming? Meanwhile UNUM board gives Orr a
      special grant of 400,000 options for his "leadership." Go

    • The Provident systems model is get it done fast, and fix it later. That doesn't seem to work too well either.

    • Provident's approach is the "80/20 rule" all the
      way... get the first 80% of the work done in 20% of the
      time (and worry about the remaining 20% of the work as
      time allows). I realize that this does not create a
      "perfect world" (no such thing exists anyway), but it
      allows Provident to keep on moving forward, as opposed
      to spending light years spec-ing out all the
      minutiae that some insurance organizations seem to thrive

      It sounds like the old Paul Revere and
      UNUM may have some things in common, as Revere used to
      move like a snail. Provident's acquisition of that
      company injected some sorely needed life, vivacity, and
      momentum into Revere's crippled old body. Revere stock
      more than TRIPLED in its last 2 years, when Provident
      announced its intent to buy them... damn straight that made
      a lot of people happy!

      The days of making
      everyone "feel good about themselves" are over. Words like
      "Fluff" and "Ivory Tower" are not in the Provident
      vocabulary, but "fairness" and "good business sense" are. The
      people who are suffocating under UNUM's "good
      vibrations" will soon get a breath of fresh air when they
      start working for Chandler, Watjen, and Copeland...

    • Congratulations, just described
      the approach that made the Y2K mess..."we'll worry
      about that later".

      And what is this nonsense
      about "suffocating under UNUM's good vibrations"?
      You've invented some fantasy of your own about what UNUM
      is about and what it's like to work for. UNUM has
      never been about "making people feel good about
      themselves". What sheer poppycock.

    • Longsailor you are correct when you say that UNUM
      was good at making people feel good about themselves
      and no it is not "poppycock" it is fact. Having
      worked at UNUM for nearly a decade I feel I can justify

      UNUM, as I remember was great at the "Let
      Them Eat Cake" theory. While it is important to
      recognize and appreciate your employees, one can only
      collect so many t-shirts, frisbees and mugs with the UNUM
      logo on it before it gets to be a but much.

      However the intent was there and yes it did make people
      feel better and improve morale for the most part.
      Nothing wrong with that and in all fairness UNUM had many
      other types of rewards and incentive programs that did
      make a difference in how one feels about their
      performance. I have yet to see that at any other company that
      I have worked at.

      I also feel that PJHarvey
      is correct. While UNUM takes "more" time to roll
      things out and do things "right" it saves alot of
      headaches when the project finally is over, no matter how
      long it is, and it is done correctly. Having worked
      for a start up company as well and having to meet
      deadlines by throwing "garbage" out quickly to customers
      and worrying later about the conesquences is NOT the
      right way to go about it. Therefore, this 80/20
      approach may not fly too well at UNUM. Personally, I
      believe in doing things right the first time.

    • Sorry, didn't mean to come across so strong... I
      guess the point is to be able to find that balance of
      the "perfect world" and the "ability to move forward
      with the rest of the world". Let's face it, insurance
      companies in general have a long-standing reputation of
      moving slow, not keeping up with the rest of the
      business world, bureaucracy, and strangling
      competetiveness-reducing expense overhead levels.

      I guess that my
      point was that Chandler and Watjen realize this in
      spades, and show a drive to get their company out of that
      stale paradigm. In my opinion, this makes for a much
      more exciting place to work too.

      Anyhow, if
      everyone at UNM and PVT co-operates and works well with
      each other, especially in the short-term through the
      transitional phase, then they will all win when their shares
      start to fly.

      Good luck in 1999!

    • I hear something about UNUM taking another reserve charge. What do yous think? Hear anything? What will this do to stock?
      Go Yanks!

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