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Innovation is the Key to Success

By Kim Jacques, CIO, Lombard International

Kim Jacques, CIO, Lombard International

What do you see as a big challenge in technology today? If you were to write down a wish list, what solutions are you looking forward to and what are your expectations from technology providers?

In my opinion, the biggest challenge we face involves innovation as it pertains to policy design and marketing approaches. In the face of increasing costs of operations, regulatory pressures, and inflexible technology infrastructure, our industry as a whole has to develop solutions to address competiveness, product evolution, evolving distributors, more efficient operations, and new capabilities.

"I never want IT to be the roadblock. I want IT to be an enabler"

The first thing on my wish list would be more in depth data analytics, enabling our business development team to target new customers and turn information into strategic assets.

Moving forward, I’d like to see technology providers strive to simplify the education process of products. As it stands, there are many point solutions for fund management, admin systems, knowledge management systems, illustration systems, CRMs, and e-signatures, but no end to end solution that covers the whole insurance process management—front office, middle office, and back office.

Also, I would like to see more technology providers embrace digital solutions. Digital technology will enable us to have high quality communications with the applicant and interactions that will improve sales and retention. Ease of use for our customers is key. Facilitating the digital transformation for our company will include developing mobile technologies for customer engagement, data mining and analysis, cyber security, socially enabled business processes and cloud computing.

Organizations have to integrate data across the enterprise to have a 360-degree view of the customer, but it’s not an easy task. What are your thoughts on getting this right?

To be effective at integrating data across the enterprise, organizations need to be highly customizable and fast to the market. By leveraging CRM systems, companies can lessen administrative workloads and speed up enterprise decision-making, leading to the best possible solutions for customers. In addition, organizations should aim to master data management as well as stay consistent with architecture and leverage cloud/SaaS where it makes sense.

What specific type of technology will give firms in your industry the competitive edge?

Organizations with competitive advantage typically have global enhanced business intelligence to target the areas that provide the most leverage. Specifically these organizations are seeking solutions to manage the submission, initiation, underwriting and financial case management as well as the integration and quality of data used for a ‘single-source-of-truth’ about the policyholder application—enabling continued cross-selling and value-based relationship management.

Despite the advancement in technology, there are several pain points within the enterprise for which solutions do not exist yet. Can you share a couple of things that keep you awake at night?

There are only a few insurance companies that only have one administration system,so maintaining multiple legacy systems can become expensive. A technology that has a common interface that leverages these systems for their calculation engines on the backend would make it much easier to leverage operational staff across product lines. Many vendors say they can do this, however, there have been many failed attempts and can get very pricey, making it harder to justify ROI.

One of my key challenges is how Lombard International’s growth places stress on the IT organization to expand, absorb and normalize added infrastructure while also maintaining security over data and business continuity for our expanding set of locations/sales offices. In order to address these challenges, we plan to expand our staff with the right skills set to stay ahead of the business needs. I never want IT to be the roadblock. I want IT to be an enabler.

There must several technology trends which you would be observing today. Can you share a few trends that will have significant impact on your business environment and your industry?

Big data and analytics are huge for our industry as it relates to marketing. Getting the right opportunity, to the right people, at the right time is critical. As our customers are global, we want them to have the ability to understand and act from anywhere in the world, ideally on a mobile platform. Also, simplifying the way people can buy life insurance is critical. Most will shy away from what they don’t understand;it’s our job to make it look simple on the front end, despite the complexities on the back end that technology handles.

How is the role of IT changing at your company, and with it, your role as a CIO?

At Lombard International, the role of IT had once been viewed as a back office operational department. More recently, our senior executive team recognizes how critical IT is to our business and therefore IT has been given a seat at the table with senior executives. When Lombard’s leadership team is talking about strategy, IT is involved at the beginning. We are not on the back end waiting for orders and executing. We are getting in at the front end strategizing and planning for the future, keeping IT aligned with the business. We are well aware that technology will differentiate us from our peers, therefore, IT is involved in every aspect of the business including: legal, sales, marketing, middle office, back office,HR, finance, and accounting.

If IT is working on something that does not tie back to our business goal,we re-evaluate the need, and will put projects that don’t align on hold and focus on our key priorities. Partnering with the business to define new processes and technology that will enable our growth is key to our success. We prioritize together to make sure we focus on a few top priorities,complete them quickly and celebrate success.

When it comes to security, how significant is the role of a CIO or CISO as an ombudsman between IT and business?

In this industry, having a dedicated CISO with the right credentials is critical. I do feel that this role best fits in IT to ensure technology strategy and security strategy are aligned. To me, IT and security go hand in hand.

Finally, what is your advice to a CIO starting out in your industry?

The insurance industry is a complex industry, and what you may have done to be successful in other industries, you may not be able to leverage in this industry because of regulatory, legal or security restraints. Innovation is key, reconsidering what’s possible in every situation.

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