Tokio Marine CIO on communicating value, integrating insurtech

Robert Pick, SVP & CIO, Tokio Marine North America Services (TMNAS), leads a team of over 800 with full-suite technology responsibilities across enterprise architecture and applications, user services, analytics, digital, and security. Before Tokio Marine, Pick was senior executive director for technology at Condé Nast and principal consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers’ enterprise technology integration practice. Among other board positions, Pick serves on the executive steering committee for Capgemini’s World InsurTech Report. This interview has been reprinted with permission from Novarica.

What are your some of your top priorities for the next six to 12 months?

We have a number of initiatives, focused around ease of doing business and reducing transaction friction for our business partners. That’s a key theme across the group companies TMNAS supports overall. We have several digitalization efforts, including exploring RPA on a number of fronts. We are also in the middle of business and core system transformation programs at two of our group companies, with a third likely being chartered in 2019 at one of our other supported companies.

Internally, expense containment is always a hot topic across the enterprise, and IT is always a target. We’re making sure we’re continuing to invest where we need to, working to ensure that austerity now doesn’t bite us three years down the road.

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FILE: Electronic circuit boards from an International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Z14 server rack sit on display at the CeBIT 2018 tech fair in Hanover, Germany, on Monday, June 11, 2018. IBM’s $33 billion purchase of Red Hat Inc. -- the world’s second-largest technology deal ever -- is aimed at catapulting the company into the ranks of the top cloud software competitors. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

We’re also focused on KPIs, KRIs and tracking metrics. Our continued investment in ServiceNow for ESM and Apptio for TBM have been helpful in managing the business of IT. Having this kind of discipline and transparency is very important for a shared service company such as TMNAS, where we need to ensure that we are properly allocating and attributing costs and capital across multiple companies served.

We’ve noted that many CIOs in our client and council community struggle with using metrics to communicate value.

That’s a critical area. Investments in building a full stack enterprise architecture team, one which explicitly includes business architecture, have really helped. One of the foundations of EA was doing a business capabilities assessment with each of our supported group companies. We created a conversation where businesses are actively involved in architecture. Coupled with proper EAM tools like Alfabet and our incorporation of TBM and Apptio, we can now speak comprehensively about business value, true total cost of operations/ownership, and we can more easily assess the fiscal components and integration tentacles of any initiative. We can more comprehensively articulate what we’re doing – and the value of it – in terms that our business executives understand.

We adopted a motto of “IT is Business” in 2016. We’ve taken firm steps to bring IT back into the business both perceptively and operationally. IT is the only typical back-office service that traditionally is not regarded as part of the business, as opposed to things like HR, legal, or even facilities. IT is this other “thing” that supports business but isn’t necessarily viewed as a part of it. Our business relationship management and enterprise architecture teams are helping us get ourselves back into operating as one with the business. Transparency, KPIs, SLA articulation and achievement, and plain-language explanations are all part of that.

We’ve also made sure that KPIs are relevant to our business units in terms of what we’re producing for them and what they’re consuming from us. We’re moving away from engineering metrics, though those are still tracked for internal operational purposes. Those are useful details for our technology VPs, but less so for underwriting or claims VPs.

We also make sure we have frequent communication and continuous conversation. Of course, the foundation is predictability of service. We’re making sure that our enterprise data has good fidelity, and that we’re making continuous improvements of processes supporting high expectations and commensurate SLAs.

What’s your advice for other CIOs who might want to improve their ability to communicate value?

The first step is admitting that you have a problem. Just acknowledging that we weren’t on the same page was important. By opening that conversation at the beginning of 2107, we started to change our position from service provider to being part of the business. Part of it was changing the internal culture of IT, and re-convincing our own IT organization that it was possible to integrate as we once were.

We had to increase transparency and relevance of communication. It’s not about sharing mindless detail, it’s about providing the most critical info first and at the right point, and then being able to provide the drill down on demand. It’s also important to listen to reactions and adjust accordingly. And you have to staff for it. We expanded our business relationship manager, business process, and enterprise architect teams to match the need. Even our most senior enterprise architects work with our business leaders every day.

From an organizational structure perspective, one of the main things was encouraging and requiring people to be present in the business units. We ate some increased travel cost, but it was worth it. Having a welcoming business partner community is more than half the battle. Our team was blessed by having executive business partners who were open to changing the relationship and interested in doing so.

What kind of impact do you see from all the current excitement about insurtech?

It’s leading to different conversations. When insurtech is top of mind outside of the venue of a technology conversation, it’s helpful, but also daunting. We get pinged every week by executives who have come across new ideas and providers. We have a modest, dedicated budget focused on digital innovation, driven by the growth of good ideas and potential solutions. We’re exploring different business processes, operations, and even marketing initiatives.

Tokio Marine Group globally has invested in a Silicon Valley team working with incubators and startups to be our eyes and ears in the insurtech space. We’re doing investments and proof-of-concept projects as a result, and our visibility is improving.

How are you and your team leveraging your Novarica relationship?

Novarica is our core partner for insurance technology research and insight. The team speaks our language and understands technology. Being in the midst of two transformation programs, the intelligence we get from Novarica on an applied basis is key to help us understand where investments are being made and what’s going on in the rest of the industry. The executive briefs help broaden our exposure to related areas that are outside of our core focus, especially in terms of changes in expectations in the next generation of market participants. Commercial Lines isn’t immune to these changes. Novarica feeds our discussions of what’s coming next.

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