To help its clients save for the future, Primerica depends on exchanging files with a wide range of partners. How could it enhance the security and auditability of its communications?
Primerica deployed a centralized, security-rich B2B integration gateway—enabling it to build file-transfer workflows that reduce risk and boost compliance by protecting sensitive data.
Helpsensure that file transfers are aligned with security best practices
Offersa comprehensive audit trail, facilitating regulatory compliance
Supportshigh-quality client services with dependable message delivery
Business challenge story
Moving sensitive data securely
Primerica aims to help households across North America make informed financial decisions and provides them with a strategy to gain financial independence. One of the company’s goals is to help customers manage their debt, and the organization offers a financial product designed to educate customers about prioritizing, consolidating and paying off their debts as quickly as possible.
To support this service, Primerica relies on file transfer systems to share data with a variety of trading partners, ranging from other financial services organizations to state governments. Security is always a top priority, and the company is continually looking for even smarter ways to guard against potential risks.
Patrick Bartkus, Systems Analyst at Primerica Financial Services, continues: “Our aim is to ensure that all confidential information that we receive from and share with other parties is transmitted securely and with the appropriate authorization.
“In our department, we are tasked with ensuring reliable and auditable communications—giving our customers, trading partners, regulators and stockholders the assurance that we are driving our business according to best practices. The security of our file transfer connections is also important for customers inside the business, especially our programming team, who help create the data-driven services that support our representatives in their customer-facing roles.”
He continues: “In the past, we relied on an internet-facing file server to process messages using File Transfer Protocol SSL [FTPS] and Secure File Transfer Protocol [SFTP]. The fact that there was no single team responsible for managing the platform made it difficult to ensure that file transactions complied with our rigorous standards. To solve the challenge, we decided to create a single point of control for all data entering and leaving the company.”
Embracing a centralized B2B gateway
Primerica deployed a flexible, security-rich B2B Integration gateway—enabling the organization to shape standardized workflows based on best practices and standards.
“One of the things that impressed us most about the B2B Integration gateway solution was its ability to support a perimeter server architecture in our DMZ [demilitarized zone],” recalls Bartkus. “Because the gateway application is not directly exposed to the internet, we knew we could dramatically reduce the risk of cyber-attacks.”
He adds: “Better still, the gateway supported all the protocols we needed, and enabled us to deliver encryption both for files and communications circuits—a practice that our CIO strongly advocates.”
Today, all file transfers flow through the centralized B2B Integration gateway, enabling Primerica’s team to ensure that communications are aligned with best-practice workflows.
“Our programming team is the driver of everything that we do, because they are ultimately responsible for managing the data that flows in and out of the company,” Bartkus explains. “When the programming team needs to develop a new trading partner connection, they reach out to us to discuss and document the types of encryption, protocols and authentication that will be required.”
He continues: “Next, we provision a test environment—isolated from our production servers—to ensure that the connection is working correctly. In parallel, we liaise with our network and firewall teams to ensure that the trading partner in question is whitelisted on our firewall, and work with the trading partner’s connection team to confirm that the integration is also working as expected on their side. Once our programming team has secured the necessary internal approvals from the business, we push the connection into production. Without a doubt, our centralized B2B Integration gateway makes it far easier to enforce this workflow across the whole business.”
Strengthening security, protecting data
With a single point of control for trading partner communications, Primerica has achieved its goal of increasing the security, oversight and auditability of its file transfer processes.
“Today, if someone in the business wants to send data, they have to go through our B2B Integration gateway and follow our workflow,” says Bartkus. “Once a message has entered the gateway, it’s only sent on its way if it aligns with our security standards—and nothing comes in or goes out that we don’t know about. The result is that we have a more comprehensive audit trail for our transactions, which is extremely valuable to demonstrate our compliance during internal and external audits.”
He continues: “Another benefit of having standardized workflows for file transfers is that we can provide better support to our internal customers, especially the programming team. If a programmer unfamiliar with file transfers takes on a project that requires transmissions, it can be a daunting process. Today, we can provide those programmers with the guidance they need to get up and running quickly via email or the process pages on our wiki. Around 75 percent of our workload centers around adding new files for existing trading partners, and the ability to assist the programming team in this way is definitely a value-add.”
More than 90 percent of Primerica’s files originate from its central mainframe. Any delays in receiving data can cause nightly batch processes to overrun—potentially impacting end-customer services.
“Some of our mainframe jobs require access to trading partner data to run successfully, which means it’s vital that files arrive on time,” Bartkus comments. “We are now in the process of deploying more advanced monitoring capabilities to our B2B Integration gateway. These will enable us to alert the appropriate teams automatically if a file has not arrived by the expected time—helping us to reduce the risk of batch processing delays on the mainframe.”
Based on the success of its integration platform, Primerica is investigating the possibility of deploying a high-availability solution for secure communications.
“Currently, we need to take our gateway down for short maintenance windows every six months, and for 30 minutes at the end of each day to run our nightly backups,” explains Bartkus. “Looking to the future, we are interested in deploying an advanced communications platform that would enable us to accept files even when our B2B gateway instance is offline.”
He concludes: “Thanks to our B2B Integration gateway, we’ve shaped a more structured and secure approach to implementing file transfers, which helps us demonstrate to our stakeholders that our communications comply with best practices. And with a security-rich integration platform at the heart of our organization, we can deliver the file transfer services that support high-quality services to our customers.”
Primerica, Inc., headquartered in Duluth, GA, is a leading distributor of financial products to Main Street clients in North America. Primerica’s 120,000+ representatives educate clients about preparing for a secure financial future by assessing their needs and providing appropriate solutions through term life insurance and mutual funds, annuities and other financial products. Primerica also provides a full- or part-time entrepreneurial business opportunity. As of the end of December 2016, the company insured approximately five million lives and had over two million client investment accounts.
- B2B Integrator