Amerisure CTO Shawn O’Rourke Drives Tech-Enabled Relationship Strategy

O’Rourke’s new title reflects the company’s strategic shift from high-touch vs. high-tech to high-touch and high-tech for its partner agencies.

(Amerisure’s headquarters in Farmington Hills, Mich. Photo courtesy of Amerisure Insurance Company.)

Like other insurers dedicated to differentiating themselves through service to their distribution partners, Amerisure Insurance Company ($692.3 million in 2013 direct written premium) has seen the need in the past to choose a high-touch over a high-tech approach to ease of doing business. However, the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based commercial lines carrier no longer accepts that dichotomy. While continuing to offer high-touch service in line with agent demand, the company now sees high-tech service features as part of its overall service proposition to its partner agencies, and newly appointed CTO Shawn O’Rourke says his promotion is more a validation of Amerisure’s emphasis on technology as a strategic service vehicle.

O’Rourke will retain many of the duties he held as VP of IT until last month, including overseeing Amerisure’s IT organization, with responsibility for all technology areas, including application development and services, architecture, infrastructure and security.

Shawn O'Rourke, CTO, Amerisure Insurance Company.

Shawn O’Rourke, CTO, Amerisure Insurance Company.

“It’s not a huge departure,” O’Rourke acknowledges. “I have a few new responsibilities but the promotion speaks to the importance the organization is placing on technology as a business enabler, a recognition that technology will be a significant factor impacting our service value proposition and how we interact with our distributor customers.”

That new emphasis is reflected in a commitment to driving what the carrier calls technology-enabled relationships. Like other carriers, Amerisure has long seen technology as a way to become a more efficient organization, but now the company is now focused on also using IT to extend services to its partner agencies.

“Whereas five years ago we might have seen technology as more of a threat to the kind of relationships we want to develop with our customers, today we’re embracing it,” O’Rourke elaborates. “We’re taking many of the services we have today and making them available through technology, including mobile.”

O’Rourke characterizes the shift to technological support as responding to changes in agent demand, which in turn reflects broader changes in the prominence of interactive technology in society. “We now view technology as a strategic differentiator, and we’re evolving accordingly,” he says. “We see the value of technology driving change and being a source of differentiation for our business.”

One avenue for that differentiation is Amerisure’s SureConnect agency portal, which includes an agency dashboard that gives agents both a high-level view of account performance as well as the ability to drill down. Amerisure is currently working to mobile-enable some of the portal’s functionality by next year.

“We’re matured SureConnect to a point that it’s a differentiator for us,” O’Rourke comments. “It provides customized views and enables us to alert agencies to critical events in the policy lifecycle, which is very popular with our agencies.”

Improved agent service is a key objective of a Guidewire ClaimCenter implementation announced last fall, which O’Rourke reports is progressing according to plan. The carrier is also nearing the end of a policy administration consolidation effort, going from three systems to one. “We’re coming to the final deployment of lines of business,” O’Rourke says. “By the middle of next year we’ll be on a single platform, a propriety policy system that we created.”

Amerisure also recently kicked off an enterprise business intelligence and analytics initiative, which will supply consistent data for self-services analytical capabilities across the company, O’Rourke relates. “We’ve always had a robust data warehouse and now we’re bringing in tools and developing a more substantial metadata level,” he says.

With regard to Amerisure’s changing technology strategy, O’Rourke observes that technology tends to change much faster than insurance, and the carrier’s technology-enabled relationship model is a response to that change. “We’re getting our arms around that because we see the differentiation that technology can provide for our business as agent demand evolves,” he says. “We are committed to mutually beneficial relationships with our partner agencies.”

(Related Content: Amerisure Ups Service to Agents with Guidewire ClaimCenter.)

Anthony R. O’Donnell // Anthony O'Donnell is Executive Editor of Insurance Innovation Reporter. For nearly two decades, he has been an observer and commentator on the use of information technology in the insurance industry, following industry trends and writing about the use of IT across all sectors of the insurance industry. He can be reached at [email protected] or (503) 936-2803.

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