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Profiting By Putting Customers First

At I&T's Executive Summit 2001, industry leaders discussed profitable CRM strategies.

Nearly 100 top insurance technology executives and solutions providers gathered late last year for the third annual Executive Summit 2001, the annual networking event produced by Insurance & Technology. Participants learned how successful organizations such as Prudential, Aon, Chubb and The Hartford are using innovative technology strategies to build a more customer-centric business model. Additionally, they were able to share their own success stories, management concerns and tactical questions with peers from every segment of the insurance industry. The event took place at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix.

CIOs, CTOs, e-commerce directors and other technology executives from leading insurance organizations—including Nationwide, USAA, Aetna, The Hartford, Progressive, Allianz, Royal & SunAlliance, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Transamerica, and Manulife Financial—participated in the unique invitation-only event. Also in attendance were the heads of two key insurance technology associations: Greg Maciag, president/CEO of ACORD, and SAFECO's Jim Schmidt, current IASA president.

"The fact that such a high-level group of senior insurance technology decision-makers made the commitment to participate in this year's Executive Summit, despite the current tough business environment, is a testament to the focus and determination of the insurance industry's leadership, as well as the Executive Summit's outstanding reputation," noted Katherine Burger, editorial director of Insurance & Technology. Attendance at the 2001 event was up by more than 30 percent over last year's Summit.

A top roster of speakers and panelists from organizations such as Gomez Advisors, Humana and Northwestern Mutual addressed the need to forge a new kind of tech-enabled relationship with existing and future customers. Greg Davies, senior analyst, financial services, at Gomez, described the current "paradox" in insurance B2C e-commerce, noting there is a "lack of consumer behavior as compared to their interest in going online." Insurers will have to "balance business goals with consumer intentions," Davies stressed. For example, giving more consumers the ability to track claims status, rather than focusing strictly on online sales, "may be a better opportunity."

Building E-Commerce Trust

While Humana CIO Bruce Goodman discussed the importance of "getting customers' heads and 'skins' into the game" as part of the his firm's efforts to reinvent healthcare/health insurance delivery, AIG's Diane Sparks, SVP, e-commerce, noted, "Customer adoption of new mediums are dependent on four key elements: trust, convenience, value, usability. Successful deployments of companies on the Internet focus on building trust first and foremost."

At Hartford Financial Products, reported Craig Lowenthal, First VP and CIO, becoming customer-centric involves "building a customer-facing architecture that makes sense from a customer point of view." Meanwhile, as Northwestern Mutual transitions from being strictly "insurance to a full-service company," according to VP/IS Phil Zwieg, there's been a concurrent need to "exceed customer expectations and increase product density for existing customers. We have to continue move toward customer-centered view of data."

But there also was widespread concern amongst the insurance technology executives that a lack of broadly accepted data standards could drastically hamper the effort to achieve a customer-centric organization. According to Barbara Koster, SVP/CIO, individual life insurance/retail distribution at Prudential Financial, "Vendors and partners have to be working in the same way—and that's been a slow process. It all comes back to the data."

Executive Summit attendees also were able to take advantage of a series of customized, one-on-one meetings with some of the industry's leading technology providers. This year's Summit sponsors included CheckFree iSolutions. Deloitte Consulting, eFunds Corp., Infosys Technologies, Instranet, Rebus Systems, SeeBeyond, Selectica, Sherwood International, SilverStream Software, Solcorp, Sun Microsystems, and TATA Consultancy Services.

Another highlight of this year's event was the Elite 8 Awards Dinner, which celebrated eight insurance visionaries who were recognized and profiled in I&T's annual Elite 8 issue: Bob Walters, John Hancock; Barbara Koster, Prudential Financial; Chuck McCaig, Chubb & Son; June Drewry, Aon Corp.; Steve Yates, USAA Information Technology Co.; Mark Popolano, AIG; Ken Barger, The Hartford; Byrne Chapman American Family Mutual Insurance.

For information about I&T's Executive Summit 2002, as well as the magazine's new Leadership Forum Series, contact Katherine Burger, Editorial Director, [email protected], or visit the Insurance & Technology Web site at

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