There are several good reasons to go to Chicago next week, chief among them that I&T's Midwest IT Strategies Executive Roundtable will be meeting at the Westin to discuss enterprise "Meeting the Enterprise Compliance Challenge." Conseco executive Ellen Gudjonis will spark the discussion with a presentation about her company's efforts to implement an e-discovery program this year.
Among the other reasons for going to Chicago are that Chicago is a fascinating, beautiful city full of friendly Midwesterners and home to the Chicago Cubs (as well as some other team). Epicures will appreciate the fact that the city has come to its senses and repealed its prohibition of foie gras, reversing an ordinance passed in 2006. Also, this is one of the best times of year to be in Chicago, and from my personal perspective, the weather is a whole lot better than it has been where I live.Owing to some extremely unseasonable weather, Pacific Northwesterners have taken to referring to the current month as "Juneuary." How bad has it been? To give an idea, Oregonians scoff at news that Colorado's Aspen plans to reopen its slopes to skiers. According to this report, Aspen Skiing Company says that record winter snow fall has left behind an average of more than three feet of snow on the upper slopes. By comparison, at Oregon's Mt. Hood, there remain up to 12 feet of snow at the lower end of the slopes - and it is still snowing. Mt. Hood Meadows ski resort has closed, presumably because a base of nine feet of consolidated snow at the bottom of the lift just isn't worth it. But at the mountain's Timberline Lodge, where the temperature was 23 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, the season goes on.
This weekend local TV news programs showed incredulous tourists and skiers frolicking in nine inches of fresh snow over a base of 149 inches at the lodge (elevation 6,000 feet). Timberline's Web site reports that 855 inches of snow have fallen at the Lodge since the season started last September. Tuesday morning, the Oregon DOT's TripChek transit cameras showed snowy scenes on the Cascade Mountain passes East of Portland and Salem, as well as the Blue Mountains near La Grande and the Siskiyous near the California border. While the snow line has dropped as far as 2600 feet in the Mt. Hood/Columbia Gorge region, we haven't seen any at sea level - but that's normal for January as well.
Like the British, Oregonians reserve the right to complain about the weather. That's about all one can do, which brings me back to the issue of regulatory compliance. Regulatory compliance demands are as inexorable and less changeable than the weather. There is still debate over whether the earth's climate is getting colder or hotter, but there is no debate that the compliance climate is growing more, not less stringent. That being the case, as with the weather, one can make the complaint but has no choice but to be compliant.
We habitually refer to "compliance" as if it were a discrete, clearly limited thing, but insurance companies must comply with a staggering range of rules, regulations and standards for a wide array of functions overseen by a range of state and federal authorities. The complexity of compliance is long-standing in the industry, and yet compliance requirements continue to increase. The reasons are manifold, including subprime crunch-related public perception of the demand of greater oversight over financial services and the slow but inevitable migration to universal accounting and reporting standards.
"The quickly evolving global regulatory environment places the spotlight on insurance company business and compliance practices," asserts Rachel Alt-Simmons, a Connecticut-based analyst with TowerGroup. "Insurers must leverage technologies that increase business process transparency and facilitate the information gathering process."
Doing so will help insurers to avoid the sanctions of regulators, but the control of information it will precipitate will also yield important business benefits, Alt-Simmons implies. However, dealing with the multifarious and fractured nature of compliance demands makes taking an enterprise view of compliance management a daunting task.
Nevertheless, many insurers are moving toward a more unified approach, reports I&T's Nathan Conz.
"What's happened over the past couple of years - especially with Sarbanes-Oxley and with a lot of increased regulatory interests, large internal audit functions, etc. - is that a lot of companies are really struggling to handle this overload and these over-auditing situations," says of of the article's sources, Maurice DiMeo, Ernst & Young's insurance practice lead, technology and security risk services. "What companies are looking to do is converge their efforts, converge their resources. Many times there are many different constituencies involved in the risk management space; tehy're looking to streamline a lot of that and, oftentimes, the technology piece can be a way of converging some of those controls."Regulatory compliance demands are as inexorable and less changeable than the weather. There is still debate over whether the earth's climate is getting colder or hotter, but there is no debate that the compliance climate is growing more, not less stringent. That being the case, as with the weather, one can make the complaint but has no choice but to be compliant.
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