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Executive Summit 2007 Participants Grapple with Business and IT Implications of Web 2.0

At Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit 2007, insurance technology executives learned about the challenges of serving the younger Millennial customers and workers; the changing nature of globalization; speed to market; and the potential of Web 2.0 and social networking technologies to transform their businesses.

As they try to understand the needs and expectations of the 20-something and younger customers and employees of tomorrow, insurers would do well to heed the words of Executive Summit 2007 keynote speaker Todd Masonis, cofounder and VP of products at Plaxo, a Web 2.0 company that provides a free service to update and maintain online address books. "Today everyone is a nerd," Masonis told attendees at Insurance & Technology's 9th Annual Executive Summit, which took place last month at The Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz. "You need to have the right product for this customer base and tell them about it in their language."

Anthony O'donnell, Holly Morris and Felicia Aronov at the IST Executive Summit 2007

L to R: I&T's Anthony O'Donnell; Elite 8 '07 honoree Holly Morris, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; and Felicia Aronov, I&T.

Not only does this mean providing this information online, Masonis added, it probably needs to bypass human interaction entirely. In a further challenge to the insurance industry, he noted, "They are not susceptible to traditional means of reaching people."

Or, as Greg Matthews, director of consumer innovation at Humana, said, "Web 2.0 is really about putting the consumer in the center of the process."

This is one of the reasons Unitrin Direct Auto Insurance has created a presence in the virtual world of Second Life, reported Jeff Silver, director of marketing. "It's not a bad place to go in and get your brand recognized," he said.

Cathy Brune at the IST Executive Summit 2007

Education should be a political (and industry) priority, said Elite 8 '07 honoree Cathy Brune of Allstate during the closing session.

On the topic of speed to market, Robert J. Reynolds, director of life product management at Minnesota Life, noted, "It's critical that your culture be willing to make the necessary changes to take advantage of the new technology that is out there, or you will not get there."

At the same time, added Hartford Life's Michael Hicks, VP, U.S. wealth management operations, speed to market isn't just a technology issue; rather, it is a two-step process -- with invention and implementation stages.

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

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