Ten years ago this month I wrote my first editorial for Insurance & Technology. The column discussedthe insurance company insolvencies making headlines, when the failure and takeover of companies such as First Executive and Mutual Benefit Life had Congress debating the pros and cons of federal insurance regulationand technology managers scrambling to implement performance tracking and reporting systems, financial analysis tools, and other systems that would help insurers more effectively track, manage, assess and report their investments and financial activities.
While 1991 seems to be an ancient era in terms of technology management and strategy, the business developments that are on the minds of insurance executives today seem connected, somehow, to the shakeouts, restructurings and sometimes out-and-out failures of a previous decade. Back then, the shock was that well-established, seemingly healthy and successful organizations could fall victim to overly confident management, poor risk taking, and too-optimistic financial calculations. Is it much different today, as virtual insurance companies and dot-coms fall by the wayside when the venture capital funding that seemed unlimited stops short, rosy sales projections don't pan out and once-promising partnerships sour?
Although the failures of First Executive and MBL caused tremendous angst within the industry, as with many crises these debacles had a positive outcome in that companies today do much better jobs of risk management, analysis and reportingthanks in no small part to technology and tools such as modeling systems, data warehouse and database management tools, and enterprise resource planning and other information integration systems, not to mention document management tools and other technologies that have improved information organization, access and delivery.
Similarly, for every eCoverage that crashes and burnsand over the next few years there undoubtedly will be more virtual insurance ventures that end up in the dot-com graveyardthere will be a growing number of initiatives that do succeed and flourish. Some will come out of the failed ventures, some will be offshoots of established companies, and others will come out of nowhere. All the successes will learn from the experiences and mistakes of today's e-business pioneers. Again, technology will prove to be the differentiator and essential component of success (while also presenting one of the biggest potential risk factors).
As for whether or not I'll still be writing about this stuff in 2011...well, we'll need a state-of-the art forecasting system to figure that one out.
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