The technology and business sides of insurance entwine more and more with each passing year, as many of this year’s Women in Insurance Leadership honorees exemplify. Increasingly, technological acumen and skills are as important as a more fundamental understanding of the nature of insurance as a risk-mitigating entity.

For example, Sharon Ashton, worldwide commercial auto manager for Chubb, started out as a programmer in the company’s IT organization. In order to make it over to the business side, Ashton says, she let her natural curiosity take over.

“My love was tech, and still is, but if you are a service person and your core value is to help the business, you need to understand what they do,” Ashton says. “If I worked in the Macy’s IT department, I would’ve wanted to learn all I could about retail. The more you know about what you’re delivering, the better it will end up being.”

Heather Wilson, chief data officer for AIG, is leading big investments in data and analytics technology for the global insurer. But, she says, it’s important to recognize where the science ends, and the art begins, in order to be a great partner for the business.

“When we go back to all the historical data, we know from our actuaries what the important elements are,” she says. “We’re relying on the knowledge of people that have been underwritiers and actuaries to bring the art in.”

The importance of not just collecting and processing data, but getting to a higher level of insight, means that line of business executives are involved earlier in technology decisions. Ashton’s prime responsibility in selecting a new policy administration system (from Insurity) for her line of business might seem obvious given her background, but Homesite chief claims officer Grace Hanson was equally hands-on in the selection of the right claims system (from Innovation Group) to turn around that company’s customer experience.

“We worked very closely with the IT department, and we’re much more comfortable with the new claims system,” she says.

Line of business leaders are acutely aware of the power of technology to make their tasks more effective. That’s one of the reasons Teresa Cracas, chief risk officer for Cincinnati Insurance, took the lead on installing a predictive analytics function inside the insurance organization almost immediately after ascending to her role.

“The availability of data and the ability to use it in a robust way has improved a tremendous amount, but there’s still so much we’d like to have that would provide us more visibility,” she says. “We need more stability in the output of that data, CAT models and other models that are not under our control.”

Aflac CIO Julia Davis has spent her whole career in technology, and says that the business side is acutely aware of the need to make technology investments now more than ever.

“We have a lot underway from a tech perspective, in that we’re looking at major investments in modernizing our platforms and our environment,” she says. “We’re now in the process of investing in configurable software products and replacing some of our legacy platforms.”

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