XL Group CIO Robin Arendt isn't someone who is intimated by large transformational projects. She's the opposite, eagerly taking on at least one at every organization she's been a part of, including three large insurers. It was as a consultant at Accenture, where she started her career in 1992, that she discovered her love for these projects and penchant for insurance.
"I was able to see different industries and diverse clients all solving unique business problems," she says. "It helped me realize what I was passionate about and I found out that it was large-scale business transformation where the opportunity for impact was greatest. I was out of the Chicago office, so financial services and insurance was a big market there."
After seven years at Accenture, Arendt become VP of product technology at Safeco, where at the time the focus was expanding distribution to go direct to the small commercial and personal market.
She was with Safeco for five years before moving to another large-scale challenge at Zurich, where she also stayed five years. As CIO she established a global platform built from geographical silos and one-off solutions accumulated through acquisitions. "We drove a lot of cross-geography, cross-business IT programs to really get to the scale that we needed," she says.
At XL, Arendt is in the middle of her biggest transformation yet. When she arrived in 2010, XL was operating on multiple legacy systems and was ready to drive efficiencies, improve customer service and grow profitability. XL tasked Arendt with a variety of initiatives, including a global claims system implementation, a global underwriting platform, a tablet-based risk engineering application, advanced pricing and analytics models and more.
"This is probably the biggest transformation I've been a part of," she says. "There are several programs, and they're all in different phases. We're about 50 percent through. We're underway with the global underwriting platform, a global customer and distribution management, which is all about being able to better serve our customers and knowledge of our distribution partners, leaving us analytics and then our next-generation financial systems. So if you think about it, that's end-to-end."
The global claims project has won a number of awards from industry analyst firms, including the 2013 Celent Model Insurer award and a 2013 Research Council Impact Award, in the Transformation category, from Novarica.
Since Arendt's arrival in 2010, XL has delivered solid earnings and growth in book value. In 2012, XL Group improved its revenue by 10.45 percent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, and for the first quarter of 2013, XL Group's first-quarter profit nearly doubled as a result of more premiums, process efficiencies supported by new technology and a lack of catastrophes.
However, Arendt is most proud of the impact she's had on her colleagues. "Whether it was my Accenture days or at the different insurers of Safeco, Zurich or XL, it's great to take different folks out of their roles, challenge them, have them expand beyond what they think they can do, support them along the way and mentor and coach them and be able to see that investment in them come to fruition," she says. "I'm only as successful as the people around me."
Arendt makes sure she has the right people around her and advocates to her team the importance of delivering value by working closely with all of the team's internal clients. Her teams work hand-in-hand with revenue-generating underwriting teams to ensure the technology is meeting the needs of the business. In this effort, she helped establish the Global Business Management team, a group of eight high-performing leaders who help each of XL's business lines find technology solutions specific to their business unit's needs to improve their growth, analytic capabilities and operational efficiencies.
It also gives them leadership experience, Arendt says. "These eight leaders present the value in what they're doing and how it's going to drive the business. They have really become more well rounded and more aware of business needs and are really growing as a result."
In existence for just a year, the team has worked on a number of technology improvements, including an underwriting tool for XL's primary casualty business to deliver performance and usability improvements, resulting in a 20-percent reduction in underwriter effort, and freeing more time to directly assist more clients and underwrite more business.
"I inherited really good talent at XL," Arendt says. "I just needed to augment it with some folks that had some larger scale program management experience. It was just more around heading the vision, the direction and then really empowering my leadership team to make it happen."
Number of years in the industry: 20
Number of direct reports: 5
Company size: $7.2 billion gross written premium
Nominated by: FirstBest Systems and XL Group
For photos from the Women in Insurance Leadership Award ceremony, click here.
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