Insurance firm Zurich Financial Services has decided to outsource its front-end IT infrastructure to IBM, as part of a drive to streamline its IT operations.
IBM will manage about 65,000 "electronic workplaces", which include desktop PCs, laptop PCs, printers and software, a Zurich Financial spokeswoman said.
A workplace can be used by one or several employees, and an employee can use more than one workplace.
IBM will provide the services in five European countries, the US and Canada. The deal also calls for the transfer of about 470 Zurich Financial IT employees to IBM.
Zurich Financial will pay IBM a monthly fee based on its volume of service usage, as opposed to agreeing to an upfront fee. This is an increasingly popular way of billing clients for services which has been adopted by several IT services providers including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.
In May, Zurich Financial unveiled a global IT strategy for reducing costs by managing IT in a centralised manner and consolidating and streamlining IT services throughout the company.
At the time, it warned that the strategy could lead to a reduction of IT staff. In July, Zurich Financial announced plans to consolidate two datacentres in Europe into one. The IT strategy is part of a broader plan to improve the company's profitability.
The Zurich Financial contract is among the first of its kind won by IBM since it announced in November its push to sell desktop services through its Workplace offering, which bundles a variety of IBM desktop outsourcing offerings.
Juan Carlos Perez writes for IDG News Service