When Prudential Annuities, a division of Prudential Financial (Newark, N.J.;$500 billion in assets under management) acquired American Skandia in 2003, Nicholas Campanella, head of the Prudential Annuities technology group, oversaw the complete integration of the technical platforms. Although he uses words such as "tough" and "hard" to describe the integration, Campanella - named CIO of the combined Prudential and American Skandia IT organization - reports being energized by the entire experience, and he says he is looking forward to focusing on helping the business get new products to market.
I&T: How challenging was the integration of Prudential's systems with American Skandia's technology?
Campanella: Integrations are always tough. This was more than just a technology integration; it was a companywide integration. We didn't just buy a platform or a book of business - we actually bought the whole company. The total integration time from start to finish was about two-and-a-half years, and people worked a lot of hours during that time. It was hard, but it was a worthwhile endeavor. It was a great acquisition for Prudential - and we were thrilled to do it - but I believe it also worked out very well for American Skandia.
I&T: Since Prudential did the acquiring, did Prudential set the ground rules?
Campanella: Not at all. Just because Prudential acquired American Skandia did not mean that we did things the Prudential way. We had no set rules - only instructions to build the best team we could. That's unique - it's not many times in your career that you get an opportunity like that.
From a technology perspective, what can I say? Most of us are technology snobs - if we built it then it has to be the best. Sometimes that's just not the case. You have to keep an open mind when you evaluate platforms. Our job was to ensure that after integration the company had the best platform to execute its business. That's the bottom line.
I&T: How was the technology selection process conducted?
Campanella: The first thing we did was to form an integration team of senior managers from both companies. We then matched every department in Prudential with the appropriate department in American Skandia and looked for best practices in each group to ensure that the new company wound up with the best of both companies. We then asked the combined user community to look at all the systems options from both Prudential and American Skandia and compare them. The users made the choices - our role as technology people was just to implement what they selected and create a fully integrated platform.
I&T: What were some of the critical success factors for the technology integration?
Campanella: We realized right off that our people - and their talent and knowledge - were a very important resource, and we made a commitment to integrating our people first and viewed the platform integration as secondary. Prudential Annuities is a product-driven business. We were going to keep the American Skandia line of products and needed to build those products into the new platform. This requires a great deal of knowledge - you just don't bring in new people to rebuild products.
We also needed people who understood that we were one team and one company with one goal. The tack we took throughout the whole integration was that we needed to make people feel that it was important to get to the place we needed to be as a company.
I&T: During the implementation, staff often worked weekends with no vacations. How did you keep them motivated during a difficult time?
Campanella: Yes, for a long period of time people put in a lot of time, but they were driven. They wanted to accomplish this. At the beginning it seems like you are never going to get to the end, but we broke the integration up into phases so that people could start to see the end. The families are the ones who really suffer along with us.
I&T: Now that the integration is complete, how do you keep the staff motivated and engaged?
Campanella: Motivation is difficult because everyone is motivated differently. Some people are motivated by working on the next newest thing and others like to fix problems. We tried to get people slotted into the right jobs so that 75 percent of motivation was internal energy. We take a great deal of pain to understand our people and put them in the right place. Once you have people in the right places, you then have to let the managers do their jobs and manage. My job as the leader is to get obstacles out of the way and get the managers the resources they need.
I did pick a new technology management team after I was named CIO, and it's a totally integrated organization. In fact, three of my direct reports came from American Skandia.
I&T: What areas of technology are you looking at now that you are no longer focused on integration issues?
As I mentioned, we're a product-driven company. In the middle of the integration, it was very difficult to come out with new products. Now that we have an integrated platform, we can concentrate on new products.
Are we looking for new whiz-bang technology? Not really. We're somewhere in between leading-edge and bleeding-edge. We won't implement new technologies just to do it, but we will implement technologies for the right business reasons.
As an annuities company that is client-dependent, our focus is on providing intelligent solutions that make for an outstanding client experience. If we need to make an investment in leading-edge technologies, we will. But we will also make sure it fits in with our enterprise so we don't do anything that takes us too far off the main course.
I&T: Are there any technologies on the horizon that will have a big impact on the insurance industry?
Campanella: I'm not sure there is anything out there that is drastically going to change how we process business. We learned a long time ago that we don't make any money until the salesperson sells, so as technologists we need to enhance that process and make it easier for people to buy our products. Our greatest natural business resource is our data. I'm not sure we need to wait for the next newest technology to come out; instead, we have to get better at using some of the technologies we already have, such as data mining, knowledge management and business intelligence. We need to take those technologies to the next level. Anything we can do as technologists to better arm our sales force will help us overall as a company.
I&T: Are there any hardware or software products that are particularly important to your business?
Campanella: We have a large third-party distribution business that we acquired from American Skandia, so proprietary Web sites and online services that allow those parties to easily do business with us are absolutely critical. That software is a major part of this business and it has a good reputation among our clients. Is it perfect? No, but we will continually make it better.
I&T: What are your biggest challenges as CIO?
Campanella: We've doubled our size in one-and-a-half years - we went from being a medium-sized shop to being a pretty large shop. My challenges are to make sure that the technology is working properly, finish any residual integration and stabilize our platforms to support additional growth.
Nicholas Campanella, Vice President and CIO, Prudential Annuities
Education: Bachelors degree from St. Francis College.
Campanella also studied computer architecture and systems design at New York University.
First Job: Management trainee at U.S. Trust Company.
Hobbies: Spending time with his family, especially his 13-year-old daughter. You'll often find Campanella at the theater or rooting for his favorite baseball and football teams.
Greatest Career Accomplishment: In addition to remaining standing after the Prudential Annuities/American Skandia integration, Campanella is proud of the hard work that has allowed him to advance from management trainee to CIO.