Situational Awareness Will Be Key for Insurance IT Success in 2023

Insurance executives leading as if it were 2019 would do well to heed Churchill’s dictum that, ‘Generals are always ready to fight the last war.’

(Yousuf Karsh ‘Roaring Lion’ portrait of Winston S. Churchill, Dec. 30, 1941.)

Now that we’ve closed the books on 2022, it’s perhaps appropriate to consider how different the year we are headed into will be from those we fondly remember from the past. For insurance carrier IT organizations, planning now for this future will be key. As Winston Churchill noted in 1940, “generals are always ready to fight the last war.” The corporate equivalent of this would be to think that 2019 will represent what a post-pandemic era will look like.

From work that the Aite-Novarica Group’s insurance practice has done, the list of differences is long and rich. Digital experiences will be critical to future success, with UX/CX investments prominent for a world that’s increasingly self service oriented. The useful life of technology is getting progressively shorter, with significant implications for both architectural and financial models. Demographic shifts are continuing to be seismic, with clear implications for talent management … and perhaps even more significant, if less well understood, implications for knowledge management. A CIO I spoke with recently noted that in the back-half of 2022, 30 percent of his senior leadership team retired. Let that sink in for a minute. Replacing human capital is one thing, but a loss of institutional memory is an order of magnitude more challenging. Avoiding the corporate equivalent of a Maginot Line is now a serious issue. Companies need to be far more situationally aware, and prepared to adapt as new facts present themselves.

Turrets along the Maginot Line. Source: Visit Alsace website. (Click to enlarge.)

Humorously, this can also be true in our personal lives. Over the recent Thanksgiving Day holiday, we decided to get ready for Christmas with the annual decorating of our tree. It’s a fun event that my wife / best friend and I have done on our own in NC since our children have established their own families in Boston and San Francisco. The difference this year was an accidental FaceTime call in the middle of the decorating ceremony. The Boston Boys were excited to be part of it all, asking me to hold each ornament in front of the camera before suggesting placement on the tree, all from 750 miles away.

The 2019 call would have had us stop and single thread activities. Situational awareness combined with dramatically improved technical capabilities led to a completely new and exciting experience to be remembered by all.

More recently, the challenges that Southwest Airlines experienced over the year-end holidays provides another cautionary tale about the potential to become complacent.  A combination of under-investments in critical infrastructure, a loss of institutional memory, and a failure to learn key operational lessons from other events, conspired to turn an unfortunate winter storm into the kind of thing which has the potential to tarnish a storied brand.  As a long term SWA customer, I planned on using them to return from a family reunion in California to start the new year, but also had refundable tickets purchased on a competitor airline “just in case.”  Once confidence in a process or a business system dissipates, it can be difficult to rejuvenate.  While time may, in fact, heal all wounds, no one in their right mind wants to repeatedly touch a hot stove as a routine confirmation technique.

What other new things await us now that the calendar has flipped?  We are working on our Top 10 Trends Report for the Life, Annuities and Benefits space now!  This will be published in the coming weeks with a webinar to follow in February.  For this week, however, game on for a great 2023.

If you’d like to discuss any of this in more detail, please let me know at RMcIsaac@Aite-Novarica.com.

New Year’s Thoughts on Life Underwriting in the Mid-2020’s

Rob McIsaac // Rob McIsaac is the President and CEO of RPM Ventures NC, LLC, an organization focused on developing deep and actionable insights that are specific to the insurance industry in North America. Prior to creating this, Rob served as an Executive Principal at Novarica (now Datos Insights), a technology research and advisory firm, where he leveraged his expertise in IT leadership and transformation as well as technology and business strategy for life, annuities, wealth management, and banking. He has broad experience in IT strategy and management in the insurance and financial services industries. Prior to joining Novarica, he served in a series of senior technology management positions including leading the Business Transformation Office at Nationwide Insurance, and as the Enterprise CIO for First Citizens Bank. Rob spent the majority of his earlier career at Guardian Life, where he was the Divisional CIO responsible for annuity, distribution and broker dealer operations, and at Prudential Insurance, where he held a variety of positions including leading e-Business development efforts. Rob holds a BA in Economics from Montclair State University, an MBA in Information Systems from Seton Hall University, and has received a number of business and technical designations from both LOMA/LIMRA and MIT. He can be reached directly at rob@RPMVenturesNC.Com.

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