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Vicki Gerson
Vicki Gerson
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Elite 8 Revisited: Where Are They Now?

Insurance & Technology catches up with Elite 8 2003 honorees.

Gauches Turns Consultant

After 35-plus years, executive vice president Joseph Gauches retired at the end of May from The Hartford's property and casualty company. Yet he isn't truly retired. In August, Gauches, along with Robert Lukas, a former CIO of the P&C company, formed a consulting company, Realistic Outcomes, based in Hartford.

"We are working with companies who have questions as to whether their current strategies with IT are realistic," the 2003 Elite 8 winner says. Gauches plans to speak at conferences and remain on the advisory boards of ACORD and the Darwin Systems of Boston.

Though he took time after he left The Hartford to enjoy a two-week vacation to England and Ireland and a short trip to Aruba, Gauches doesn't think he could ever completely retire. But, "I really don't want to work more than 10 days a month," he says. "There has to be enough time for me to play golf."


Fraley Raises Morale

Linda Fraley, VP and CIO of Lincoln National Life (Philadelphia), may have the same job title she held as a 2003 Elite 8 Award winner, but she surely has more responsibilities. Today, Fraley manages the technology environment for the company's two largest businesses: life insurance and annuities.

Fraley and the 180 employees who report to her have been busy meeting the demands of Sarbanes-Oxley. "We had to create new processes to support and standardize across our consolidated organization. This involved determining how work is tested, how work gets into production and how end-user validation takes place," she explains. As a result of downsizing in her department, "All the regulatory requirements have been put in place with less staff."

To build morale, Fraley tries to maintain a life/work balance, and staff parties aren't uncommon. "Sometimes you have to get to know people and build relationships internally by having some fun together," she notes.


Piroch Grows with Highmark Life

While maintaining the responsibilities - ranging from infrastructure management to database administration - that earned him Elite 8 recognition in 2003, Matthew Piroch has also been entrusted with the rollout of Highmark Life's (Pittsburgh) O.P.U.S. (Opportunity to Provide Unique Service) system, the carrier's replacement for its back-end legacy systems, and the development of new policies and procedures. The former VP of IT was promoted to SVP and CIO for Highmark Life & Casualty Group.

This year, Piroch has pursued two initiatives for the company's lead product, employer stop loss coverage. An e-bill initiative will enable clients to make membership changes and payments online. And an e-claims initiative for stop loss and workers' compensation has streamlined claims processing.

Additionally, Highmark is undertaking SAS-70 compliance. "Although we are not a publicly held company, we will be complying with SAS-70 for [self-insured] clients," Piroch says. The company will also seek to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. "Next year," he adds, "we will spend a significant amount of time on data warehousing and continued replacement of the back-end legacy applications."


Saul and Zurich Globalize IT

David Saul, the former CIO of Zurich North America (Schaumburg, Ill.) and a 2003 Elite 8 Award winner, has a new title - key account executive for general insurance - and new responsibilities. "In my new role, I am responsible for all IT delivery of commercial P&C insurance products and services worldwide," he relates.

"It's been a very busy year," Saul notes, as Zurich has evolved from a globally diversified business to a globally leveraged business, which means that local organizations have been set up as services providers, but all business is managed via the global model, he explains. Zurich's Group IT has aligned itself similarly, establishing leaner structures, standardizing processes and platforms, and overcoming legacy systems, Saul reports. To help staff cope with the globalization effort, the carrier instituted a change management program. "We developed and delivered transition management sessions for the staff and conducted transition planning sessions with our IT management team," he explains.

According to Saul, in 2005, IT will look to build on the changes achieved this year by utilizing the flexibility provided in the new business model and aligning resources globally to realize the best return on IT investments.


Tranter Adds to Responsibilities

Greg Tranter, VP and CIO for Allmerica Financial (Worcester, Mass.), the parent com-pany of The Hanover Insurance Co. and Citizens Insurance Co. of America, assumed responsibility in January for the Business Automation Strategic Development (BASD) group and its 160-employee team. "We are responsible for developing the specs, testing them to ensure quality of the product and managing the implementation of the technology," Tranter says.

Since being named a 2003 Elite 8 honoree, Tranter also led a companywide MIS initiative to leverage data across the company. "BASD and MIS share a common goal: to provide the enabling technology that will help our P&C companies meet their business plans."

In 2004, technology was introduced to support the P&C business, including an automated underwriting workstation for its commercial lines and a Web-based agency portal. Next year, Tranter says, his organization "will continue to enhance the agent experience through new and expanded technology capabilities; implement and institutionalize the business analysis and quality assurance practices; implement a tactical roadmap for the organization; and further enhance the practice centers for employees in software development, business analysis and quality assurance."


Scholten Formalizes IT Processes

This year, 2003 Elite 8 honoree Gary Scholten, senior vice president and CIO of the Principal Financial Group (Des Moines), has concentrated on maturing the company's formal IT governance. "We clarified what will happen to projects, portfolio management, infrastructure and investment, as well as architecture direction," he says.

In 2004, Scholten cut more than 10 percent of his department's IT expenses without cutting capacity within the IT governance process. His department also has helped businesses support growth strategies through the use of technology. "We are making sure that IT supports business opportunities and business needs," he says. Evidently, he is achieving his goals - a recent in-house customer service survey gave high marks to his IT department.

In July, the company divested its mortgage banking business, which was tightly integrated into the IT infrastructure. "It was a huge, time-sensitive effort for IT to respond to that challenge to separate that business from the infrastructure," Scholten relates. In 2005, IT will focus on creating value for the company's small- to medium-size businesses to help achieve growth. "IT is critical in helping them achieve that growth," Scholten asserts.

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