Laurie Ranegar, SVP, Operations, Tower Group Companies, has spent the better part of her career overseeing projects that emphasize efficiency and customer service. Focusing on these two aspects of operations, it's now wonder why she continues to find success - working with technology, moving pieces around and finding an efficient way to deliver more for customers is not only a common thread throughout her career, but also the industry at large.

"I've been very integrated with our IT department and our CIO," Ranegar says, and her most recent project is no exception. "We've been working on an e-delivery platform so our customers will have the ease of having their policies delivered to them electronically. We want to offer that and start reducing some of our expenses on the printing and postage."

Ranegar recognized that in-house expertise for document management needed help, so she oversaw a team that worked closely with the provider, Cedar Document Technologies, to implement its Agile Communication platform, which includes an e-delivery solution. And they redesigned communications, offered customers access to online payments and gave them an option for document delivery.

As technology reshapes the industry's business model, Ranegar has been there to integrate, reshape and improve operations and services to match, which caught the attention of the WIL judges, who noted that her "exceptional commitment to operational excellence and superior service demonstrates people, process and systems execution skills."

This career thread begins nearly 30 years ago as a general liability claims rep with Aetna, back when it had a property/casualty unit. That's where Ranegar encountered a couple of opportunities that she says sparked her focus.

After a series of rotating responsibilities, she latched onto a national project, a reduction of 60 offices to 20 claims service centers. After the downsizing, she took on the title of manager of operational effectiveness and quickly found her first opportunity to use technology to restructure and improve operations.

"I brought together two areas that we used to have separated: telephonic loss reporting and small claims handling. I blended the two and put them in a team environment so that when an insured called with a loss, we could start the claims handling process right away. When they called back, they didn't have to call a particular person, they could talk to whoever answered the phone," Ranegar says. "It helped us improve service significantly and drive down the cost of claims and the time they were open."

Aetna sold its property/casualty operations to Travelers Insurance Group in 1996, just before she was able to see this restructuring through at a national level, but she remembers it as a crucial opportunity.

Since then, Ranegar's career has spanned every corner of the enterprise - "policy service, some underwriting, billing and collections, statistical reporting, premium audit, cash processing customer service centers; it's been a variety of areas," she says - and as technology has evolved, her means of achieving operational efficiency has adapted as well, from consolidating and reorganizing underwriting service centers and workflows/business processes, to overseeing claims field operations and offices from an operational and technical perspective.

She credits having a creative and open mind (she almost pursued studio art in college) for her ability to jump from unit to unit and technology to technology.

"But then I have this other side that's very analytical and pragmatic. Process design and problem solving really enable me to be creative, but I balance that with the analytical and pragmatic side by employing disciplined methodology, such as lean Six Sigma, and using specific metrics to monitor process and service," she says. "It helped me with self-awareness. I could make a difference using my capabilities to focus on operational excellence."

Aside from maintaining an open mind and open ears, she advises both women and men to challenge themselves and not be afraid of change.

"New challenges can feel daunting," Ranegar says. "But knowing I had a chance to learn something new and contribute was motivating. If someone comes to you with an opportunity, you may wonder is that a lateral type of opportunity? Where's the benefit? But look at the new things you're going to learn. That should be the focus."

With nearly 30 years of experience and new challenges ahead, Ranegar is proof that advice can take you places, and that improved customer service and operational efficiency go hand-in-hand.

Number of years in the industry: 29

Number of direct reports: 3

Company size: $2 billion gross written premium

Nominated by: Cedar Document Technologies and Strategy Meets Action

For photos from the Women in Insurance Leadership Award ceremony, click here.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Digital Insurance content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access