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The Expanding Importance of the Chief Information Officer for Life, Accident and Health Insurers

By Michael Kelly, CEO

Within Life, Accident and Health, many people would agree that insurance C-suite teams and CEOs should be strong technologists. Today’s business leaders need to keep up with digital innovations and must understand how technology can benefit their organizations as well as all related risks.

Traditionally, Life, Accident and Health carriers relied upon highly trained actuaries to invent new products, calculate risk, set premiums, and generally keep their companies solvent.  In many of the leading regulated markets, a CEO of a life and health carrier had to be a qualified actuary.  However, today there is a credible argument for a career path to the CEO position to include a stint as Chief Information Officer (CIO) for a carrier.

The role of the CIO has become much more than traditional IT delivery and operations.  The days of in-house insurance software development projects are well gone.  Carriers need to replace legacy systems and technology with modern, flexible commercial software product solutions that continually keep up with technology and market advances.  The CIO and internal IT team need to focus on partnering with their business colleagues as well as vendor selection, collaboration, and ongoing management.  Today the CIO needs to be as focused on business strategy as they are on technology and systems.

In a recent study by Gartner, 95% of CIOs indicated that they expect digitalization to transform their roles in the workplace. These changes are coming fast as CIOs move to support the business goals of digital customer experience, operational excellence, business flexibility and innovation.  Technology is truly the differentiator in our industry and an enabler to market defense, growth, and disruption.

The CIO is a top team position; the same level as Sales, People (HR), Customer Service, Operations, Product, and Finance.  The CIO must appreciate the business’s challenges, strategies and goals, and be a leader who can influence C-suite colleagues with respect to how technology will support and deliver business improvements.  This key position plays a pivotal role in the digital transformation of the company and must work closely with all parts of the business to be most effective.

In as much as the CEO and C-suite executives need to be aware of the power that digital bring to the business, the CIO must maintain strong understanding of the different areas of the business so that ideas and learning are shared in two directions: business to IT and IT to business.

The CIO plays a big role in the success of any organization – driving innovation, supporting digital transformation, digital sales and e-commerce, as well as enabling business strategy and enterprise change.  This person must spend as much time and energy outward facing as they spend inward facing so they keep abreast of advances and market dynamics.  They must build strategic partnerships with their vendor partners and continually search for ways to advance and deliver value.  This includes collaborating with universities, research groups, and even collaborating with competitors in areas of common interest such as industry standards, regulation, system and technology user groups, and corporate social responsibility.

With the rapid growth of digitalization and the need to modernize core systems and technology, the role of the CIO is certainly one that requires the vision, skills, personal dynamic, and energy levels of a top-class leader capable of becoming a future CEO.  We still need actuaries but future business performance will be won and lost on digital performance!