Some of you may know from my appearances at industry conferences and events, or from my previous writing, that I have a major pet peeve: I don’t like when insurance companies are hectored by people inside or outside of the industry about how they aren’t innovative.

When I began covering insurance technology nearly five years ago, that refrain was common. And as an impressionable young reporter, I took it as the truth. But over the past few years, I’ve found that view to be outdated and, frankly, needlessly insulting. Many insurers are leading the way in gleaning real results from emerging technology disciplines, including big data, analytics, mobile technology, and telematics.

Insurance has always been a data-intensive business, and as long as insurers can lasso all the data within their systems, they are uniquely positioned to leverage advanced analytics in a big way. In this issue, we take a deep dive into the topic of data management. As Lenny Liebmann finds in our cover story, major insurers including Allstate and XL Group are making real progress in establishing a culture of data stewardship that allows all business units to take advantage of big data’s ability to provide an unprecedented amount of insight into policyholders.

[Insurance innovation in action: 6 Insurance Startups to Watch]

Following that, Peggy Bresnick Kendler reports that underwriters may have the most to gain from effective data management. Representatives from complex lines of business – reinsurance (Swiss Re) and life (Allianz Life) – tell Insurance Networking News that talented underwriters can get to a higher level of risk management and time to market.

Yet it’s not just data where insurers are leading the way. Many industries have transactional mobile applications that allow customers to buy products and manage accounts. But insurers also lean heavily on field personnel for customer service at the time of potentially traumatic events. Chris McMahon talked to insurers who empower both claims adjusters and customers with mobile solutions for claims management. And the largest enterprise software companies are taking notice of insurers’ hunger for mobility: IBM and Apple have partnered to develop suites of applications for a number of businesses – and insurance is one of the launch industries.

Stereotypes and reputations are difficult to break, and it may be a while before insurance is recognized rightfully as an industry where innovation is a reality. But I’m confident that the day is coming when the most talented technology associates flock to insurance companies because they know that’s where they have the greatest opportunity to make an impact on the business.

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