State of the Insurance Industry

Since I have a lot of insurance clients, I attended this afternoon’s panel on the state of the insurance industry, hosted by Cindy Maike of Progress, and including Dan Benton of Kemper Corporation (former underwriter, now in IT), David Brandeis of Strongwood Insurance Holdings (IT), and Roy Ausberger of Virtusa (formerly IT within insurance and financial organizations, now consulting).

It’s always a challenge to blog panels, and I’ve just captured a list of unattributed points that came out during the discussion:

  • The business has to own the process, not IT, in order to have successful technology implementation projects.
  • The idea that as soon as your insurance policy is bound, you should be able to do anything such as make changes or have ID cards issued, is placing a lot of stress on current batch-based IT systems (and the people who support them). These systems need to become more real-time and event-driven, provide better information faster, and provide mobile interfaces for the end customers.
  • Social media is useful for insurance fraud investigations, but more importantly, can provide the sales agents with social media platforms such as Facebook integration to push into new markets. This requires a more robust and open platform to support integration with external platforms such as this. There’s still a search in many insurance companies to figure out how to make money with social media, rather than just the “cool” factor. One of them said “are we really going to go out and create a [insurance] quoting app in Facebook?”, which implied that that would happen shortly after hell froze over. Good luck with that.
  • My observation is that there’s a lot of confusion between social and mobile: when Maike asked the question about social media, two of the three panelists included mobile platforms as part of their answer, although that’s a bit of a different vector.
  • Progress Software gives them a lot of flexibility, but in general they focus on buy rather than build, then integrate using tools such as Progress. The value of industry-specific accelerators or components from the BPM/middleware vendor depends a lot on how close that component is to what is required, and what customization would have to be done. It’s more important to have the knowledge and understanding internally than to expect a vendor or consultant to provide industry-specific models. Not surprisingly, that created an interesting conversation between the two insurance guys and the Virtusa guy.
  • With the economy tanked, it’s becoming easier to hire good IT and analytical skills into insurance; previously, it was nearly impossible. Insurance doesn’t have a reputation as a glamorous career path, and they are still finding it difficult to hire. They are tending to be more flexible with their IT workforce with respect to geographic location in order to attract the right people.
  • There was not a lot of trust in the public cloud as a platform, primarily for audit reasons.
  • Real-time data is becoming critical for insurance to be able to track events as they unfold, such as natural disasters. Operational insight is the hot topic right now.

Some good insights here.

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