Bob Lucas isn't your typical insurance company CIO. For starters, he has been with one company-The Hartford-for 30 years. What's more, he's a business administration major who was hired right out of college by the Hartford, Conn.-based financial services firm.
"I came to Hartford to learn about technology," says Lucas, who was promoted in December to the newly created position as senior vice president and CIO for property/casualty operations at the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. "The Hartford aligns technology people with its business, so I got the best of both worlds."
That philosophy has inspired Lucas to expand his professional horizons throughout the company, starting as a programmer and advancing through the company's technology and business ranks. At each stop throughout his career, Lucas has gained valuable insights not only on how technology supports business operations, but also on business priorities.
"Every opportunity that I've had to do something different has presented me with a different view of the world," he explains. "When you work on developing IT capabilities for business operations, you become exposed to the business view of the world, their issues and priorities. And when you help develop technology infrastructures, you get a better understanding of IT priorities."
IT Comes first
In some ways, Lucas' promotion to CIO overseeing The Hartford's property/casualty operations represents the full circle of his career at the carrier: He started out in IT as a COBOL programmer, then moved on to manage two IT subsidiaries. In between those two management jobs, he went back to Hartford's centralized IT operations where he oversaw claims and actuarial systems.
What Lucas remembers most about his early days at The Hartford was the simplicity of the carrier's systems. He was responsible for automating the billing systems supporting The Hartford's personal insurance lines. He also worked on automating systems supporting workers' compensation policies, commercial auto and small-business insurance.
"Back then The Hartford was predominantly an IBM shop and there wasn't any distributed computing or multiple languages to deal with," Lucas explains. "During my 30 years at The Hartford, the technology has gone from easy to learn and manage to very complex. There are a lot of choices and integration points. That's why it is so important to keep a critical core of people who have the expertise to manage the technology and apply it to new business models quickly and effectively."
The expertise Lucas developed while managing The Hartford's commercial lines systems prepared him for his next endeavor, which was overseeing the technology component of Commercial Lines Automation Corp., a subsidiary that the carrier established in the mid-1980s to sell the systems that Lucas helped develop. "We felt that we had state-of-the-art technology that we could sell to other insurers to help recover the investments we made in building our systems, and we were right," he explains.
Eventually, Lucas was promoted to president, resource support unit, of CLA Corp., a job that combined his technology know-how with his business skills. Running a business helped him understand the need to be customer-focused and to provide quality customer service. "The job certainly was technology-related, but it was more about managing a customer base," he says.
Back to IT roots
Just when his career appeared to be moving away from IT, Lucas opted to jump back into the thick of The Hartford's back-office claims and actuarial technology. He became what he calls a "technology strategist," developing, implementing and maintaining technical platforms and standards that were leveraged by all business units within the Hartford.
But as fate would have it, Lucas' career took yet another twist. In the 1990s, The Hartford, like most financial services organizations, struggled to attract and retain quality technology professionals. "There are certain IT professionals who like to be consultants and move from assignment to assignment, and these quality people were being hired out of college by the large consultants like PwC and Andersen," he explains.
In 1997, Lucas was named president of Hartford Technology Services Co. (HTSC), an in-house consulting company that was created as a wholly owned subsidiary of The Hartford, replacing CLA Corp. During his four-year tenure, HTSC recruited more than 500 IT workers. In some ways, HTSC's recruiting and retention success mirrors the reason why Lucas has remained with The Hartford his entire career.
"The major benefit of working for HTSC is the diversity of work and the ability to be involved in every major technology project at The Hartford," Lucas says. "We have recruited and retained people with great skill sets and I believe it's because they are not working with just one technology or one business area."
That philosophy also carries over to how Lucas ran the consulting group. "We couldn't be just another IT organization; I viewed it as an entrepreneurial operation," he explains. "When you're a consulting business, you spend a lot of time focusing on what competitors are doing and how they're doing it so they don't beat you to the client. We had to earn our business; there is no mandate within Hartford that HTSC must be used."
HTSC has its own budget, including rate structures and pricing that's competitive with outside firms. It survives solely on revenue it generates from The Hartford and from consulting work outside of the organization. About 10% of HTSC's IT consulting work has been for other carriers, primarily when there's a lull in projects at The Hartford. "HTSC is not intended to be a money-maker," he explains. "We only look for external work when we've had excess capacity of workers."
Scratching The IT Itch
Satisfied with establishing and running a successful business, it wasn't long before Lucas got the itch for new challenges. As CIO of The Hartford's property/casualty operations, he oversees a group that includes more than 1,500 IT workers and has annual expenditure in excess of $500 million.
"Bob has a keen sense of running IT as a business, not as a support function," says Joe Gauches, executive vice president, e-business and technology, Hartford Property/Casualty. "I hired him, in part, to take the successful business models that he developed for HTSC and implement them across an organization whose infrastructure and structure hasn't changed for many years."
His primary mission, Gauches says, will be to make IT more responsive and integrated with the business strategies. "Bob provides the catalyst that will make us more effective, efficient, responsive and able to improve the speed to market," he adds.
What Lucas views as his top infrastructure priority is to standardize architectures, strategies and tools across the enterprise-a strategy that will enable him to direct resources and personnel to where they are most needed.
"Any time you have standardization you have the opportunity to reduce redundancies and costs, and that's certainly a motive," he explains. "But our business and priorities are constantly changing, and that requires an IT infrastructure that can respond quickly and move people around as the demands of business require."
Perhaps the most valuable lesson that Lucas has learned in his 30 years at The Hartford is that change is good, whether it's professional growth or technology. "The real value of technology is that if you use it properly, it shortens the speed-to-market timeline, and that gives you a real competitive advantage," he explains. "We have to look at what we're adding to the business. We're insurance IT people and we have to determine what's essential for The Hartford to be successful."
Robert R. Lukas
Bachelor of Science, business administration, Southern New Hampshire University; ITT Executive Development Institute, Duke University, Durham, N.C.
2001 to Present
Senior vice president, CIO, property/casualty IT, The Hartford, Hartford, Conn.
1997 to 2001
President, Hartford Technology Services Co., The Hartford.
1993 to 1997
Assistant vice president, information technology strategic direction, The Hartford.
1986 to 1993
President, resource support unit, CLA Corp., a subsidiary of The Hartford.
1987 to 1993
Department director, specialty/corporation/financial, The Hartford.
1983 to 1987
Division director, commercial lines, The Hartford.
1976 to 1983
Systems management positions, team leader for various projects, The Hartford.
1973 to 1976
Systems/business analyst, programmer, The Hartford.
Life Office Management Association's system research committee; property & casualty.
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