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Making Met-Tech Magic

Catherine Rein, MetLife Auto & Home, takes an active roll in IT project prioritization.

An insurance CEO isn't the likeliest candidate for the job of Disney Imagineer. But, if Catherine Rein, president and CEO of Warwick, R.I.-based MetLife Auto & Home, a subsidiary of MetLife (New York, $350.2 billion in assets under management) ever decides to take a shot at fulfilling her wish of becoming one of the wizards responsible for dreaming up Disney attractions, her resume won't lack relevant experience. "When I became head of MetLife Auto & Home, Snoopy began reporting to me," enthuses Rein, whose appreciation for grandeur is evidenced in her love of Broadway and interior design.

Her awe of the fantastic may seem childlike, but make no mistake about the first woman ever to hold the coveted top spot at the carrier: Rein doesn't have her head in the clouds - just the ability to dream big.

The first member of her family to attend college, Rein graduated with a degree in labor management from Penn State before going on to graduate first in her class at NYU Law School.

Her early career included a general counsel role for the Continental Group. In 1985, Rein joined MetLife as the vice president in charge of human resources. She was named a senior vice president in 1988 and executive vice president a year later. In February 1998, she was promoted to senior executive vice president. And in 1999, Rein began her tenure in her current role, during which named her to its list of top American businesswomen.

A self-described IT illiterate five years ago, the fast learner gained her technology acumen at the agent-friendly carrier when she assumed her current role. "I have the privilege of herding highly technical calves," relates Rein of her direct reports in IT. "They were very generous in helping me to understand nuances of technology that enable me to support and advance the business today."

The education left her well poised for dealing with MetLife Auto & Home's acquisition of the standard personal P&C business of The St. Paul Companies (Saint Paul) in 2000. The deal resulted in 3,000 new agent relationships, and it didn't take long for the insurer to realize that its existing agent platform just wasn't going to cut it, concedes Rein. "We needed something that allowed agents to change policies and obtain information quickly and easily."

After successfully devising and implementing its common platform initiative, MetLife Auto & Home is better able to support its producers. "Our initiative has been developed from a service-oriented architecture following J2EE standards," explains Rein. "It's a server-based distributed application that's flexible, easily scalable and able to run on just about anything. It's currently operating on a Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows-based distributed platform."

If Rein sounds like she knows what she's talking about, it's because she does. She takes an active roll in technology decision-making and has used her influence to bring IT projects that she feels especially passionate about to the top of the priority list.

Rein describes the process: "First, we get the business strategy down, and then the IT officer helps us to understand what is possible." Next, the IT prioritization committee determines the order of importance for projects based on the business goals. "Depending on business priorities, we may or may not hitch projects up the ladder," says Rein.

The latest IT initiative that Rein brought to the top of the list was one involving the underwriter's PAKII product - an insurance package that covers all of the insured's vehicles. It was previously offered by the St. Paul Companies, but it was not put in place at MetLife Auto & Home until recently. "In order to sell it effectively we needed a stronger technology platform," relates Rein. "We kept putting it off, and I decided that it couldn't be put off any longer."

Catherine Rein, CEO, MetLife Auto & Home

TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION: A self-described technology illiterate five years ago, Catherine Rein gained her IT acumen through her direct reports in IT, who helped her "to understand nuances of technology."

TECHNOLOGY PHILOSOPHY: "Technology doesn't make business easier, it makes business possible."

HOBBIES/PASTIMES: "I love the theater, and I have a condo in New York where I spend my weekends. I'm also a pretty good cook and a diehard Penn State football fan. I also enjoy spending time in my Victorian home in Cape May, N.J."

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