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Management Strategies

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Catching Up With: Aflac CIO Julia Davis

The supplemental insurance CIO sees her company on the same path as many insurers in more traditional business lines.

Technology is shaking up traditional insurance lines like P&C and life, and the supplemental insurance provider Aflac isn't immune, either. In the year since Julia Davis joined the company as CIO, it's become clear that speed is a major selling point for customers and distributors.

"We've been on the same platform for more than 30 years, but there are things we have to face today that we didn't have to face 30 years ago," Davis says. "We have to look at the whole process from the initial point of enrollment all the way through to policy service, claims, and billing, for the whole gamut of products, modernize, and in some cases replace."

This isn't a new challenge for Davis, who had been CIO of American Safety, a specialty P&C provider. She believes there are lessons applicable from a modernization effort she completed in that position.

"The P&C industry took [legacy modernization] on a little earlier than other lines, and we can learn a lot from it," she says. "In life and health, [Aflac CEO] Dan Amos has said he's seen more go on in the past five years than the past 25 years before that from regulators and in the market."

Julia Davis, Aflac

Aflac and other insurers are being forced to break down silos between business units in order to deliver the customer experience needed for success, she says. Aflac is a recent entrant into the group market -- it acquired and rebranded Continental Insurance Co. in 2009 -- and the systems that back its group and individual products must speak to one another, so that a full view of a customer can be achieved.

"Obviously, our field force will sell individual and group products, but the policyholder wants the experience to be the same, so we have to build that kind of interface and capability between the two backend platforms to support that," Davis says. "What's driving our strategy there is 'Is there a product on the market that can support our complexity?'"

Looking down the road, the impact of technology on consumer attitudes will continue, especially with the expansion of the Internet of Things. "One area of study for us is in telematics, similar to what the P&C industry did with auto. With the proliferation of devices like Fitbit and Bodybugg, how we can leverage some of that to drive better underwriting for folks?"

That's why the business is fully on board with the replacement effort, Davis says. From the top down, the company wants to be seen as a leader in customer interaction and service.

"The passion people have for the brand blows me away," she says. "At some companies I've worked for, you don't see that same kind of of focus for the customer and focus on the brand. Transformation is not just being driven by IT, but it's being led by the business."

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Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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