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November - 2013 - issue > CIO Insights

Technology and Innovation are Keys to Transformation in the Insurance Industry

Suren Gupta
Executive Vice President-Allstate
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Suren Gupta
Based in Illinois, the Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) is the nation\'s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, serving approximately 16 million households through its Allstate, Encompass, Esurance and Answer Financial brand names and Allstate Financial business segments.

The insurance industry in the United States is mature and highly competitive. Among the biggest players, you see what amounts to an advertising arms race. In the property and casualty space alone, the top five U.S. advertisers spent $3.6 billion in 2012. That is a seven percent increase over 2011. Still, when you see ad expenditures like that, you need to make sure you seize every advantage to create value for the customer.
That\'s where technology comes in and innovative application of technology will transform this industry. Those three trends are connectivity, cloud computing, and decision sciences, big data and analytics. They enable almost limitless ways to create value for the customer.
The Importance of Connectivity
Connectivity represents the convergence of increased bandwidth, processing power, internet capacity and device proliferation, to name some elements. As a whole, it allows customers to have ubiquitous access to their agent, a call center or information about their policies. Connectivity even helps to bring the best IT talent together from anywhere in the world. So the possibilities to create value by giving the customer something he or she needs are limited only by our creativity as technologists and business people. We can create many value-added touch points with our customers to identify the products that we need to develop, to deliver those products, and to add value to those products.
Technology companies need more tailored products and services that serve immediate needs and some of the services we need from them cannot be viewed and dealt with as commodity services. While hardware platforms are becoming more off the shelf, in some cases the choices are very limited. Vendors can position themselves better to provide the value-ads that CIOs are looking for by just getting better informed about the specific business needs.
Changing Role of the CIO
Because of the role technology can play in moving a business forward, the role of the CIO has to change, too. It is an evolution from technology implementer to change agent, from strategy-taker to strategy-maker which does not happen overnight. It takes a strong team working with the CIO to make that journey. Like Allstate, we have mapped out that path across three major stages. Each one is a stepping stone to the next:
Operations and Execution: First, the technology organization has to prove it has mastered the basic operations and execution the business requires. I call this \"keeping the lights on.\" It is about keeping all of the systems running at the highest levels of quality and availability. It is also about managing costs and improving productivity so that you are continuously wringing out the costs of inefficiency.

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