Like many insurance carrier technology leaders, Ron Guerrier, who was appointed CIO of Farmers Insurance last December, finds himself taking the reins of a company facing intense disruption. Insurers are transitioning not only from a legacy technology environment — in terms of software and hardware — but also a legacy industry that has a reputation for being slow on the digital uptake. That means trying to compete with hot technology companies, and industries with a better digital reputation, for the staff that will lay the groundwork for the next century of insurance.

“People have a sense that insurance presents a unique opportunity to do some really interesting things with technology like the Internet of Things, autonomous cars and blockchain,” Guerrier says. “There’s an energy and excitement about this ‘What if?’ and ‘Why not?’”

Farmers isn’t alone in getting ready for the future of insurance. Celent’s latest IT budget forecast says that insurers worldwide are likely to spend nearly $185 billion on IT this year. And, the analyst firm adds, 43 cents on every one of those dollars is going toward “implementation of new projects including software, development staff and services,” rather than legacy modernization or maintenance — a larger percentage compared to prior years.

As insurers shift their environments from mainframe-based, green-screen systems to device agnosticism and distributed computing, as well as all the digital innovations and breakthroughs that come along with that, they are looking to add new skill sets to their IT departments to meet the demand. Guerrier has already made two significant hires since beginning his Farmers tenure: a chief architect and CTO. “We needed to double down on the engineering side of what we do because there’s a lot of focus on being aligned with the business,” he explains. “What I want to do is position the team to be prepared for the next level of systems of the horizon.”

At Aflac, CIO Julia Davis says that as speed to market becomes more important, the kinds of projects she’s asking her staff to do are changing. Agile development skills are in high demand, as is comfort working with packaged systems, because many insurers are leveraging partners to bring capabilities to the market faster.

“It’s more of an incremental process instead of a big bang,” she says “You’re buying a package that gives you something right out of the box. Employees with knowledge about the existing systems and process can help develop that as part of the configuration process for those packages.”

And it’s not just about new recruits. Guerrier, who started as a repo agent for Toyota before working his way up through the organization, says that professional development opportunities are a selling point for insurance.

“We’re finding people who are diamonds in the rough,” he says, noting that people can move from role to role in a more fluid way as the industry evolves. “Not every opportunity has to be a ladder, it can be a lattice.”

To understand how insurers across business lines are handling this shift, Insurance Networking News spoke to five technology hiring managers and asked them about their staff needs, recruiting strategies, and challenges. Following are their insights:

Vivian Chow, Travelers

Kate Miller, Unum

Jayne Olsen, Swiss Re

Julia Davis, Aflac

Ron Guerrier, Farmers

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