Given it's recent financial difficulties, The Hartford might not seem the most attractive destination for an ambitious senior insurance technology officer, and Bob Ingram acknowledges having questions of his own before taking the position of CIO of the carrier's P&C company. Any doubts Ingram may have had have been replaced by conviction in the carrier's ability to rebound and enthusiasm for its aggressive technology strategy.
Ingram's recent tenure as CIO of Safeco was interrupted as a result the acquisition of the Seattle-based P&C insurer by Liberty Mutual Group. Ingram spent a year enjoying what he describes as a "really aggressive place" before he left Safeco in February 2009, after seeing through the technology integration of the merged companies. As he reviewed new opportunities, he sought to find an enduring institution with dedicated people and a compelling work environment, and he says that he found that at The Hartford.
Ingram reports being reassured what he's discovered at the home office, what he's learned about the company's brand resilience from forays into the field, and how the company is performing according to market reports. "Every number I've seen says that we came through a difficult time without losing market share or momentum," he asserts. "I think that's a pretty outstanding tribute to an organization."
Among the specific attractions the job presented were The Hartford's enterprise agenda — which seeks to unify the technology organizations of its life and P&C company to an unprecedented extent — and the fact that the carrier's technology agenda compared favorably to Ingram's last appointment in terms of an aggressive transformation agenda.
"I saw a heavy investment cycle, and a focus on innovation and competing in the market place, and at the end of the day, that's the attraction for me," Ingram comments.
Among the major initiatives Ingram will shepherd to completion is the build-out of agent-facing and back-office capabilities for commercial lines, based on AgencyPort (Farmington, Conn.) technology.
In personal lines Ingram will see through the replacement of policy admin systems. "We're about two-thirds of the way through that cycle," he comments. "I'd like to find ways to pick up the pace, given some of the timeframes that I've seen."
Ingram reports that The Hartford's P&C company's IT organization is poised to implement some foundational components to expand its online analytic processing capabilities and its business intelligence (BI) capabilities more generally. "We've got some of the larger data stores in place, we've been through the process where we have selected tools and infrastructure components, and we had our first successes," he reports. "We're also in a position to retire some of the pre-existing VI infrastructure, so I think we'll get improvements on both capability and reduction in cost."
As with the BI environment, Ingram sees as one of his major objectives the simplification of the P&C company's systems environment in general. "In the background we have, relatively speaking, one of the most complex environments that I've seen, so we have a lot of rationalization and some retirement to do in order to pick up the pace of change while also trying to rationalize our cost structure," he says.
Ingram cites as another "marquee" initiative The Hartford's plan to remotely enable roughly 4,000 individuals within the company. "The scale and complexity of the environment is like nothing I've seen before," he remarks. Citing the importance of a VMware (Palo Alto, Calif.) implementation, Ingram describes the challenges associated with the initiative's implied extension of systems functionality. "What we're finding, along with other large institutions, is that trying to minimize any changes you make to the application portfolio and the way applications are served and configured is a pretty daunting challenge."
The daunting challenge of uniting the systems of The Hartford's life and P&C companies was a major attraction of the CIO position for Ingram, particularly in light of his recent work on enterprise-oriented initiatives at Safeco and, previously, USAA (San Antonio). He confides that The Hartford's "One IT" enterprise agenda was a very important part of all his discussions with his prospective employer. Of the potential benefits the agenda affords, he says, "there are more opportunities for reuse and cost sharing across the broader enterprise, and we have to take a leadership role in achieving that."
Ingram appears confident about assuming that leadership role, and that The Hartford can demonstrate market leadership. "We're excited to show everybody, starting with our customers, that we're really good at what we do, that we can compete in the marketplace and win market share," he says. "That was one of my questions as an outsider, and I have to tell you that I'm excited about the enthusiasm, the energy levels and the commitment internally."
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio