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CNA Exec Recommends Military Values and Technology to I&T Summit Attendees

George Fay, executive VP of CNA and U.S. Army Major General (ret.) discussed the leader’s role in driving the values of an insurance organization and maximizing the potential of people and technology.

Companies need to focus and, equally importantly, actually believe in the right values to foster integrity and morale within their organizations, said George Fay, executive VP, Worldwide P&C Claim, CNA (Chicago) at Insurance & Technology’s 12 annual Executive Summit, held at the Boulders Resort and Spa in Carefree, Arizona. Fay, who gained national prominence as the chief investigator of abuses at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison and is a Major General (ret.) of the U.S. Army, delivered the keynote address, The Good Fight: Incorporating the Best of Technology and Military Values into Your Organization.

“Enron had a fantastic value statement, but a statement is just words,” Fay commented. Fay presented the Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. “They mean more than words,” he remarked.

Personal courage includes both physical and moral courage, and moral courage can sometimes be harder to achieve, Fay said, using the example of Abu Ghraib. Leaders must inculcate the responsibility to insist on appropriate moral conduct. “When you see something wrong, it’s your job to stand up and say that it’s not acceptable,” he said.

Leaders need to make sure that their people understand their value statement, both by using every opportunity to reinforce it in word, but especially in deed, Fay emphasized. “It is the role of the leader to be a role model of the values of whatever organization they are leading,” he said.

Fay drew on his military experience to talk about the opportunities presented by military analytical technology for the insurance industry. He discussed the application of link analysis for the detection of fraud rings and discussed text mining capabilities whereby 9,000 documents related to the Abu Ghraib scandal were collected, catalogued and archived. “These were documents in various formats, sizes and even languages,” Fay related. “We were able to ingest each of those and reference them [through text mining, and other techniques]. There was not a single question from Congress or the media that we were not able to answer.”

However important advanced technologies may be, Fay stressed that leaders must focus on people first and foremost. “You may have the best systems in the world, but it won’t make any difference if you don’t do this,” he said.

The right attention to people is actually necessary to bring out the best of technology, Fay suggested, using the example of CNA’s rollout of the latest version of Guidewire Software’s ClaimCenter. Fay alluded to insights within author Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” about the power of trend leaders that his team adapted to the ClaimCenter implementation. “We wanted to ensure that we had the right people involved in the rollout, so we went out to field offices and found the real trend-setters, the leaders of the informal organizations within the organizations,” he recalled. “We believed that if we could get them involved in design and rollout training exercises, we would have success.”

Fay discussed the role of vision in leadership, which he characterized as taking an organization from what it is to what it is going to be. “The essence of leadership is to have a vision, and that is something you should articulate as often as you can,” he said.

Fay also stressed the need to ensure that everyone in an organization understands the commander’s intent because it’s impossible to plan for every eventuality, owing to the phenomenon of “the fog of war,” which interrupts the chain of command requires decentralized, spontaneous decision-making.

Applying the principle to his claim leadership role at CNA, Fay said that his intent was to apply the maxim that “it is morally wrong to pay a fraudulent claim.”

“My hope is that the rest of the industry will stand up for this concept,” he said. The reason, he added, was that contesting claims involves exposure that many companies would rather avoid. “Companies find excuses not to pay claims, and so fraudulent claims continue to be out there for all of us to fight.”

Fay concluded with a reference to General Keith Alexander, the U.S. Army’s “Cyber Czar.” Alexander counsels, Fay related, “not to be satisfied with little improvements. Push your organization to be orders of magnitude better than what they are.”

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

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