What do the most innovative tech leaders in the industry cite as their top digital transformation initiatives? You’ve come to the right episode. On this episode of Life Accelerated, host Anthony O’Donnell breaks down the unheard answers from a question he asks every guest: what are the top initiatives you consider indispensable for digital transformation? The answers (and themes) will inspire you and call you to action.
From MassMutual and New York Life to Protective and Mutual of Omaha. The Life Accelerated Podcast thus far has been a wealth of knowledge from leaders on the bleeding edge of digital transformation in the life insurance industry.
Now, we look back at the top 5 digital transformation initiatives shaping the modernization conversation, including customer-driven change, cloud migration and talent recruitment.
For a deeper dive into these initiatives and the core principles these leaders cite as imperative for digital transformation, read the latest eBook.
Change is happening at a rapid pace. It’s easy to get lost. Modernization and digital transformation start with prioritizing and being proactive.
Every change you make impacts the customer. Listen to their feedback and experience to guarantee your customer experience improves over time.
As the working world changes, so does your employee experience. It’s not enough to simply go remote. You must have a plan to attract and retain top talent.
Executive Editor, Insurance Innovation Reporter
Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT in life & annuities and property/casualty.
Anthony O'Donnell: I'm Anthony O'Donnell and this is Life Accelerated, a podcast for life insurers, striving to achieve digital transformation. We've had some extremely interesting conversations thus far on this season of life accelerated. One question I like to ask each guest is what three technology initiatives do you find indispensable to digital transformation at your organization?
Anthony O'Donnell: The answers have been revealing as to Technology and business innovation in the life insurance industry. This isn't surprising. Innovation is typically a kind of arms race where companies take incremental steps of improvement to differentiate themselves from their competitors. However, if the common themes of life accelerated, aren't surprising, they are illuminating as a guide to what constitutes the strategic priorities of the industry leaders with the resources to do what's most, I.
We've been saving the answers to the questions about indispensable initiatives. And in this episode, we'll be sharing those unheard answers. We present them now as a list of the top five initiatives, the most innovative technology leaders are investing in today.
Let's start with modernization. Every incumbent life insurer faces the need to modernize.
Many life insurance institutions are decades, even centuries. This begs the question, how do we balance innovation and technology with our core mission and values? Let's start by hearing from Alex Cook, head of strategic capabilities at New York Life on what modernization means to his team.
Alex Cook: I'd say modernization broadly is an ongoing thing, of course, but really taking that big step forward and modernizing some of our core legacy administration platforms and compensation platforms.
That's really critical. That's something that will set us up for. The decades to come and enable us to develop and deliver and maintain and service the kinds of insurance services and investment services that can work together really effectively to meet client's needs. And in the absence of that, we're going to continue to be restricted with, how, nimbly we're able to do that.
Anthony O'Donnell: Similarly, Kim Pfiffner VP and CIO of us insurance solutions at Principal discusses, how the company prioritizes its modernization efforts.
Kim Pfiffner: Modernization feels like a really large bucket, but I talked about the approach we've taken on aligning that with strategic business outcomes, which has really. Allowed us to make progress on the modernization efforts, but also recognize the most important business value at the same time. So that partnership between the two, I don't want to lose at some point on that journey to 2026. We'll have to look at that and say, is there, are there places where we're just going to have to go modernize and it may not have the clearest or the most, high priority business outcome that we're trying to drive to? We're not there yet
Anthony O'Donnell: The second theme we've identified as a preoccupation of this season's leaders is customer driven change while many organizations work to modernize. And as Kim mentioned, judiciously prioritize those efforts. Many have turned to customer insights to fuel their innovation process and prioritization.
Here's Cissy Williams, chief operations officer at Protective on the topic.
Cissy Williams: So customer at the center, it is our ground. It's not once and done. And you can't look at a report that someone in the industry did last month and understand what our customers are telling us today. So I think really making sure that we have teams from across the organization proactively seeking and bringing forward customer perspectives.
So consumer insights, advisor insights, what's going on with innovation and emerging tech ideas and trends. What's happening in the market. All of these teams play a part in having a holistic view of current and future customers and what they value and what their pain points are. And so we're always listening to protective customers and various ways, you know, first and foremost, even though it's not digital, it's, it's through our employees, given that they literally.
even with all the digital options, they, we have, they literally talk to customers millions of times a year. What are they hearing? What are customers telling us? What are we doing about it? And then certainly then complimenting that with surveys for customers and agents, focus groups and market research, and then working with industry, organizations to understand more trends on the horizon.
Anthony O'Donnell: The next logical step. Once a leader, prioritizes innovation is of course finding the technology that will get the job done. That brings us to our third and fourth initiatives, API enabling and cloud migration. Many of these highly innovative organizations have found clouds have found cloud-based technologies and tools to be the best option for both data management and application development, with an eye to agility and a more manageable total cost of ownership.
Let's revisit our conversation with Kim Pfiffner to hear how to hear how API enabling is less about the now and more about the.
Kim Pfiffner: This is another one of those situations where in the past it was, what are you trying to accomplish with this specific thing? And how are you going to make sure that this is going to drive value? That's really hard sometimes to talk about when you talk about API, enabling our capabilities, because it isn't about knowing exactly how you're going to use them in the future. about knowing that there are going to be opportunities to create new capabilities, new business models that are going to need to be able to leverage those things. And they're not going to be able to leverage something that's a monolith they're going to need to have those API APIs that can create a very varied experience based on who your audience might be.
What your business model is, or just how you want to put those capabilities together. Feels like a really large bucket, but I talked about the approach we've taken on aligning that with strategic business outcomes, which has really. Allowed us to make progress on the modernization efforts, but also recognize the most important business value at the same time. So that partnership between the two, I don't want to lose at some point on that journey to 2026. We'll have to look at that and say, is there, are there places where we're just going to have to go modernize and it may not have the clearest or the most, high priority business outcome that we're trying to drive to? We're not there yet
Anthony O'Donnell: Kim's philosophy is no doubt sound, but what does this look like in practice? We have a wonderful example. Brian Poppe, chief data officer at Mutual of Omaha shared details of his team's process in building a cloud based API enabled tool and the partnerships it took to make it a reality
Brian Poppe: We've been somewhat public about this, the next gen platform is a cloud based. API enabled end-to-end insurance customer experience. So everything from the marketing, the application process, the underwriting process all the way through claims.
So one of the main components that we've been relatively public about is, is we worked with a company called Socotra. They've been doing our policy administration platform for that next gen platform. We have a disability income product on it. We've got another one that'll be launching sometime in the next couple of months.
the hub that kind of makes that work. So if you, if you have heard Dan woods, he's the CEO of Socotra speak about
Brian Poppe: what his model is. Right. He's got a theory that best of breed that has taken over in nearly every other industry is also going to take hold and insurance too.
So he's like we do policy administration. We do that with API APIs. Here's our public documentation. If you want us to do underwriting. I mean, here's a basic underwriting component, but that's not really what we do best. If you want us to do claims, here's how we would administer it, but that's really not what we do best.
We are in the business of keeping track of your policies, whether they've paid premi but we don't collect the premiums. We were just in, in business of keeping track of them. And then enabling you as the carrier to connect via our platform via API. And then do all the other things that you want to create.
So you're going to want to create a, claim system that works for both your customers, your producers, and your internal associates. And he said, that's probably not Socotra that does that best. That's probably some other, system. So for a while on disability income, we did handle that manually.
since then we've put a, newer platform in place to be able to connect those pieces together. On the application side, we built our own, we said, Hey, we wanna, we wanna manage the applicant. ourselves so that we can do both a customer experience and a shared like producer customer experience.
Brian Poppe: So producer can fill out a part and then they can fill that out with the customer in mind. We didn't see anything in the market. So we built all that, ourselves since then. We've also integrated with a couple of other external carriers and things that would have taken us, maybe 12 months or more.
We’ve been able to do and something like 12 weeks, with, with a team that's about half the size of what we would've required before.
Anthony O'Donnell: A common theme among many of these initiatives, as we just heard from Brian is the effect these technologies have on people, not only on the customer and their end user experience, but also on internal teams. No doubt. These innovations have changed the way not only teams operate, but also how they hire.
Sherriff Balogun Jr.: Talent acquisition and retention is a perennial concern, of course, but it has only become more important in the wake of the pandemic. Let's hear from Sharif BGAN Jr. Head of platform transformation at mass mutual as he shares how his team is navigating, hiring in times like these, bringing in new townIs a major challenge for everyone right now that is hiring. if you just think customer expectations have changed, employee expectations have changed as well, particularly with the pandemic. So the way that we think about geography, the way that we think about in office versus hybrid versus fully remote, completely.
shifts, the talent landscape and we just have to be flexible and committed to going to find the talent where it is, at the same time. is kind of the, the intersection of. managing that talent and change management along the way.
if you think about going through any transformation and changing systems and changing processes, you're changing roles, you're changing the experience, that a person is having, doing their jobs internally. And you're changing the work that's being done across the organization.
a mainframe developer might have to code in a more modern language now because you have a more modern system, right? you have more automation. So things that used to be driven by people can now be driven by algorithms and, it might be augmented by algorithms.
the change management that goes along with that change considering the pace at which it's happening is really key and bringing people along that, that way and along that journey. is required for your talent to feel like they have a place in that future across the board.
Anthony O'Donnell: Brian Poppe shares similar insights from Mutual of Omaha.
Brian Poppe: the other main components of things we're working on in 2022 is how do we bring the talent? when we started the tech modernization journey, a little more than two years ago, one of the things we wanted to do is give our associates that chance to upscale.
So we've spent a fair amount of time and money. and Programs to be able to get them where they need to go. So to give them the skills of, Hey, here's what an API is, here's how you work with we've been public about our chosen partner in MuleSoft. We use AWS as our cloud platform.
Here's how you build on AWS. Here's how you would deploy services. That would be, mutual of Omaha compliant with regard to security, with regard to data, storage and so on. So we've done, we've done a fair amount of that over the last couple of years and are going to continue to do that. But like the rest of the industry, I mean, we've seen, we've seen turnover tick up.
It's not at a concerning level, but certainly more than we've had in the past.
Anthony O'Donnell: Thank you for joining us for the life accelerated podcast. For more relevant content, to help you achieve digital transformation. Visit equ.com/life accelerated.
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