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Why and How Life Insurance IT Structures are Changing – A New Vision from National Life’s CIO


Digital transformation is revolutionizing how life insurers create, market and service their products. It’s also going to drastically change carriers’ organizational charts‒for the better.

In a recent Life Accelerated Podcast, Nimesh Mehta, CIO of National Life, shared with Insurance Innovation Reporter’s, Anthony O’Donnell, his thoughts on where teams are heading in the next ten years and how the evolution is being shaped by TechDev trends.

The war for talent is over, and talent won

“Our products can be copied. Our technology at some point will get copied. But what we have that is really unique is our people. We truly believe at National Life that people are our secret sauce, which means getting the right talent at the right time, at the right place, to do the right things.”

‒Nimesh Mehta, CIO, National Life

National Life has focused on the core concept of moving away from teams to teammates‒ an idea popularized by Amy C. Edmondson, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and author of Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy.

The idea is that the work that produces value for customers is performed by increasingly flexible ‘team-like entities’. The success of these teams is dependent on being able to bring together people with a diverse skillset, getting them focused on one goal and having them learn about the needs of the project as they work together.

These goal-specific groups are able to improve very quickly because they are intensely focused on cooperatively achieving a defined outcome. They get results faster, and the recombinations of team members into different projects over time produces new experiences, more continuous learning and greater employee satisfaction.

These new forms of teams are the perfect structure for life insurers engaged in accelerating innovation. For a company that is largely made up of a flexible number of these teams working on the top business priorities it’s like having a lot of temporary incubators of talent and cross-functional ideas on the go all at once.

Technology and business are becoming interchangeable

Purpose-built teams evolve quickly into the optimal configuration required to deliver on their goal, whatever that may be. They aren’t held back by traditional separations between technology and business resources. Nimesh believes that by 2030 those two sides of the company will become interchangeable.

“I'm not sure the IT organization as it exists today will continue to exist 10 years down the road. There are so many things that are becoming more user friendly and user centric, that we're going to have a different type of technology organization and execution is going to look different.”

‒Nimesh Mehta, CIO, National Life

The concept of teaming is going to mean that staff will perhaps no longer be part of an IT team. They will apply their specific skillset to helping achieve the common goal shared by the other members of a temporary working group made up of people with expertise in everything from project management to CX to risk management, whatever the project requires.

A different focus for dedicated IT teams

While many IT staff will become internal SMEs attached to cross-functional teams, certain core IT responsibilities will persist. Things like maintenance and management of existing software and hardware solutions will continue to be IT responsibilities. Although, even those areas will require fewer resources as modern PAS solutions and many state-of-the-art sales and service solutions are purchased in a SaaS model and the upkeep is outsourced.

Organizational structure evolution mirrors App development advances

The trend towards distributed, componentized teams that are assembled to meet a specific need parallels the recent trends in software development. Traditional end-to-end systems that could do anything and everything in one ‘monolithic’ solution are dying out. These dinosaurs are being replaced by component apps built on microservices architectures and connected by APIs.

These component pieces can be connected as needed to form and reform custom ecosystems that deliver specific solutions. Just like Nimesh’s flexible, team-like entities.

This componentized approach to development greatly increases carrier flexibility and accelerates innovation. API connections between units enable real-time sharing and leveraging of data between all stakeholders, both at the insurer, around their distribution network and across partner systems. And low-code/no-code applications, democratize development by putting the ability to create new products in the hands of both IT and business units.

“There's no unique expertise apart from understanding the business that will be require. To configure and create these applications, and I think the world of it will move away from software development to becoming master integrators.”

‒Nimesh Mehta, CIO, National Life

Wrap up: A great example of structure accelerating innovation

The difference between the structure of IT teams today and what they will become 10 years from now is the degree of integration that is becoming possible‒ both between teams and apps. Pulling together the right people, at the right time with the right app components will lead to dramatic decreases in the time and resources required to achieve goals.

At National Life, a great early example of the power of teaming has been their solution to the challenge of getting policies to customers during COVID lockdowns. The company simply didn’t have a good way to deliver policies electronically.

Using traditional development methods, creating a solution would have taken 9-12 months. Bringing together the right people into a dedicated, diverse team enabled them to successfully deliver the solution in 32 days.

At Equisoft, we’re seeing similar successes across a wide range of clients we work with to standing up integrated solutions built from our suite of end-to-end solutions. Go-live times are shortened. Solutions are more targeted to client needs. New business starts flowing faster than ever before.

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