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Navigating Digital Transformation in the Insurance Industry: Insights from Western & Southern's CIO

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Digital transformation is a complex journey for life insurers and throws up challenges that aren’t always foreseen. The promised benefits of ‘going digital’ are achievable, but every company will encounter hurdles that must be overcome at different stages of the journey.

In this episode of Life Accelerated, Jim Fitzgerald, SVP & CIO at Western & Southern Financial Group, shares his company’s approach to dealing with:

  1. Elevated customer expectations across all channels
  2. Cloud technology risks
  3. Mainframe talent scarcity

How to remove friction from customer experience

Keeping up with customer demand is getting more and more difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift towards digital in all industries and the insurance industry is no exception.

Customers have grown accustomed to doing everything online, including address changes and withdrawals. When they come to the insurance industry and are required to complete tasks using paper, it creates a sense of friction that is unaligned with their expectations. It is important for insurance companies to provide online services and options for their customers to avoid friction and meet the high expectations set by other industries, such as retail banking and e-commerce

Fitzgerald discusses Western & Southern's approach, emphasizing the importance of providing a seamless and consistent experience across all channels, whether that be with agents or directly to consumers (in-person and online).

Fitzgerald notes that, while it may not be possible to be as advanced as companies like Amazon, it is essential to be good enough to provide a seamless online experience for customers. This includes things like creating a streamlined experience for producers and policyholders by speeding up the time to issue.

We don't need to be as perfect as Amazon or as perfect as a retail bank, right? But we have to be good enough, so it's seamless for them and there's not a degradation of what they expect.

Jim Fitzgerald, SVP & CIO at Western & Southern Financial Group

The right approach to cloud adoption

Cloud technology is playing a key role in Western & Southern's digital transformation efforts.

However, while the cloud has been a hot topic in the industry for a while, not everyone fully understands it or its benefits.

Fitzgerald highlights how it is important to be cautious about what is placed in the cloud and to consider factors such as cost, risk reduction, and increased throughput. Western and Southern has taken a methodical approach to the cloud by partnering with multiple providers and carefully considering what to move to the cloud.

Fitzgerald discusses the company's recent acquisition of Fabric technologies, which provides an insurance platform built on AWS Cloud. This acquisition will be integrated into the Gerber Life brand and will help the company improve its D2C capabilities.

The approach we've taken here, just like we've done with everything else in our 134-year history, is very methodical. We're not gonna be the first in the pool. We watch the industry and we realize what're the right things to do from a technology perspective

Jim Fitzgerald, SVP & CIO at Western & Southern Financial Group

While the company plans to have a larger cloud presence in the future, it does not plan to fully abandon its data centers. The cloud still has a long way to go, and Western and Southern is benefiting from its careful approach.

How to overcome mainframe talent scarcity

Fitzgerald highlights mainframe talent as a concern in the industry.

This has been a concern for some time, and while efforts have been made to address it, more may need to be done to ensure that mainframes can be supported long-term. He worries there is a "race to the bottom" in mainframe development, and has concerns about the implications of this on the quality of mainframe development or the number of skilled developers in the talent pool.

The company is committed to providing a dynamic and forward-thinking work environment and is focused on hiring and retaining the best people in the industry.

The talent that I'm looking for now is somebody who's curious, who knows my business or can come up to speed on that quickly.

Fitzgerald points out that with the fast-moving technology landscape, no-code and low-code business analysts are the cream of the crop.

Wrap up:

Overall, Western & Southern's digital transformation efforts are focused on meeting changing customer expectations, leveraging cloud technology, and attracting and retaining top talent. These three things are what have helped the company remain competitive and position itself for continued growth in the future.

To find out more about how Western & Southern are solving their CX, cloud, and talent challenges, listen to the full episode with CIO, Jim Fitzgerald, wherever you get your podcasts.

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