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EMPLOYERS CIO Rich Hallman Drives Transformation Program

The Nevada based workers' compensation carrier is renovating core systems and infrastructure to enable agile market response and greater self service for its independent agents.

Rich HallmanRich Hallman
Operational efficiency and improved self-service for agents will be key to competitive advantage in the workers' compensation insurance industry, and Rich Hallman, CIO of EMPLOYERS Holdings (Reno, Nev.) has embarked on an IT transformation to help his company achieve that advantage.

Hallman, who was named acting CIO in April 2010 and took on the title formally in June, says that his IT organization is focused on "low-touch, no-touch and anytime/anywhere capabilities that agents and policyholders are accustomed to in the personal lines space and increasingly expecting from workers comp carriers. Hallman joined the carrier as VP of IT Infrastructure and Operations in 2005.

"We need to provide self-service through things like e-delivery of documents, and giving agents and policyholders the ability to manage their profiles and billing online," Hallman comments. "IT is here to assist internal departments like our call center, but we are also focused on driving operational efficiencies through valued services for our customers including alternative ways for them to access their information anytime without having to call us."

EMPLOYERS' IT transformation features renovation of core systems, which began in January of 2009 with the implementation of Aon Solutions' (a division of Aon Corporation, Chicago) iVOS claims system. The transformation will proceed with the implementation of a new agent portal and CRM capabilities within 12 months, and new policy administration and rating systems over the next 12-24 months. EMPLOYERS is currently well into the selection process for the remaining core systems, according to Hallman.

Hallman's vision of transformation embraces not merely the implementation of new systems, but also the building of new skill sets within his organization to support newer technologies.

"Today several of our core systems are written in legacy programming languages which creates a staffing burden on the organization." Hallman explains. "When we align our internal skill-sets to the new core systems, we want to be sure our systems architecture selection is on technology that has a future for a minimum of a five-year horizon."

Hallman has also brought on board a new VP of IT Infrastructure and Operations -- his former role -- and a new IT governance manager to head a restructured governance and compliance program.

EMPLOYERS' IT organization's biggest initiative afoot today is its EZRate straight-through quoting. The capability was initially rolled out for the first time four years ago, but last summer EMPLOYERS drove a major expansion of EZRate, including states added as a result of the carrier's 2008 acquisition of North Palm Beach, Florida-based AmCOMP, which added the Southeast and Midwest regions of the country to EMPLOYERS' traditional focus on western states.

Togther, the AmCOMP acquisition and legacy technology environment account for a number of manual processes that can be addressed through the modernization, centralization and standardization of technology capabilities, Hallman relates. "We have ramped up a focus on innovation, challenging the status quo and asking what things we're currently doing manually that can be automated," Hallman elaborates. "We have IT staff working with core parts of the business to see where we can position automated technology solutions, either as one-off applications or, preferably, enterprise applications that can also impact other areas of the organization."

Hallman stresses the importance of senior management support of such efforts. He reports directly to EMPLOYERS CEO Douglas D. Dirks and participates in the board of directors' strategic planning meetings and operational leadership meetings. "Both the CEO and the senior management of the holding company support where we are going from an IT perspective," Hallman says.

Hallman earned the confidence of senior management during his six years as VP of Infrastructure and Operations, during which tenure he drove several key initiatives including virtualization of EMPLOYERS' server environment, a refocused IT security program, successful IT integration of the AmCOMP acquisition and brought the company's data centers in Reno and Henderson, Nev. up to world-class standards. Having built a dedicated and committed team of strong IT professionals that have a shared vision of the department and company goals was also key to his selection.

"Our availability numbers are extremely good by industry standards today, and our voice-of-the-customer surveys are between 95 and 98 percent satisfaction with service desk performance and IT support for the business," Hallman reports.

More recent infrastructure improvements driven by Hallman include a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) initiative that was completed for about half of the company by Dec. 2010 and will finish rolling out before the end of this year.

"VDI represents a huge opportunity — you're not replacing desktops in the environment, and users can go from one location to another while their desktop effectively follows them wherever they go," Hallman explains. "VDI provides ease of administration, lowered support costs and even better availability — you can leverage the benefits of a data center environment for your desktop environment."

The high degree of flexibility and availability of EMPLOYERS data delivery capabilities is a significant part of meeting the low-touch/no-touch expectations of the carrier's agent partners, which in turn will support the company's growth plans, according to Hallman.

"It helps us to be more efficient with the number of people we have, being able to bring on more business without having to bring on more staffing costs," he says. "Competition is moving so quickly right now you have to build an organization that is agile enough to be able to react, and build a technology foundation that allows you to move at the speed that our customers want us to move and where the industry is moving today."

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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