Inspiration has perhaps been harder to come by the past few years, as the global financial crisis put the entire financial services industry in jeopardy. We're all only too familiar with the array of unpleasant consequences spurred by the crisis and the related recession -- revenue and profit declines, workforce reductions, and reputational fallout, to name the most dramatic. In this environment, professionals no doubt have been working harder and possibly even with more determination. Fear will do that. But I'm guessing that inspiration has been in short supply.
That finally may be starting to change. Perhaps one of the less-noted signs of economic recovery is that inspiration appears to be back in business. That was in evidence at IT's recent Executive Summit, where CIOs and other insurance technologists displayed an optimism, energy level and excitement about what they're doing that I have not seen for several years. It's not just relief that the economy is slowly starting to improve. I believe it also has to do with recognition of real change and innovation on the technology front; evidence that even traditionally conservative insurance organizations can achieve significant transformation; and the challenge of a new, younger and different customer base. Having struggled through very difficult, frightening circumstances, there's a renewed focus and sense of mission, as well as a deeper understanding of what does and doesn't matter in business.
As the very inspiring George Fay, the retired Army Reserve Major General who now serves as CNA's EVP, worldwide P&C claim, told the Summit attendees, "Any organization needs to focus on values, but the right values, … and live them." In talking about the application of military values to the insurance business, he used words that don't regularly come up in most business discussions: courage, honor, respect -- and inspiration.
Happy New Year. Here's to an inspiring 2011:
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio