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Zurich’s Sagalow Pursues "Customer-Centric Innovation"

Former AIG executive Ty Sagalow has taken on the role of chief innovation officer for Zurich North America Commercial.

As an apostle of innovation, Ty Sagalow's career exemplifies the increasing importance of technology to business and to the insurance industry in particular. As chief operating officer of AIG's eBusiness Risk Solutions, Sagalow pioneered the underwriting of risks associated with the use of IT in business. In both his subsequent role as president of AIG Product Development and in his new role as chief innovation officer for Zurich North America Commercial, a member of Zurich Financial Services group ($59 billion in written premium; Zurich, Switzerland), Sagalow's professional trajectory manifests the importance of technology in supporting the creation of innovative products for all types of risk.

"Regardless of the industry you're in, innovation is the foundation of growth," says Sagalow. "One needs to respond to clients' needs with new solutions to new problems, and more than that become a thought-leader, anticipating problems before your clients are even aware of them."

Zurich calls that proactive ethos "customer-centric innovation," according to Sagalow. As the carrier's chief innovation officer, he will drive that ethos through his oversight of all Zurich North America Commercial's strategic product development initiatives in the United States and Canada, and his responsibility for the division's Proposition Development and Marketing Research departments. "Pioneering is one of our chief value propositions to our clients," Sagalow relates. "My job is to help sustain pioneering through daily innovation, and to bring it to new levels."

In fulfilling his responsibility for bringing innovative products to market in an efficient and timely fashion, Sagalow places great importance on his relationship with Zurich's North American IT organization. "Success will require a very close working relationship between Zurich Innovation, Zurich Proposition Development and the IT organization," he comments. "One of the most common errors in the product development process is to fail to have the CIO's office represented in the room from day-one."

Sagalow emphasizes the importance of technology throughout the insurance enterprise, whether applied to claims, underwriting or myriad other operational and back office functions. "Wherever you turn, you see technology as the cornerstone of maintaining long-term profitability." In the world of product innovation, this means not only introducing increasing efficiencies into an extremely complex process, but also matching speed-to-market to the velocity of today's business environment. "Often, response time is 'the' criterion for profitability," he says.

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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