July 01, 2008

Despite I&T cover stories on insurers and how they are embracing Web 2.0, I still often wonder just how important such technologies and concepts will be for the industry over the long-term. Even more, I wonder just how seriously insurance companies themselves take emerging Web 2.0 technologies like social networking. A recent appointment at Allstate though, has reaffirmed my faith on both counts.According to a June 26 press release, Allstate has appointed Desiree Rogers as president of social networking for the Northbrook, Ill.-based company's Allstate Financial business unit, which offers life insurance, supplemental accident and health insurance, annuity, banking and retirements products to individual, institutional and worksite customers.

from the release:

In her role, Rogers will be responsible for building a social network that connects middle-market consumers-often alienated and confused by a myriad of financial products and services-with other like-minded Americans to share experiences, insights, and wisdom. Social networks are a new approach to harness the collective experience of consumers through interactive communities, affinity groups and new external relationships.

It's expected that Rogers will begin in her new role this month and she's set to report to the Allstate Financial business unit's president and CEO, Jim Hohmann. Rogers has developed quite an impressive resume, as a former president of Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas and, prior to that, as director of the Illinois Lottery. She's also been named one of the 50 most powerful African-American women in business by Black Enterprise.

From the press release (we're hoping to speak with Rogers herself in the near future), it's difficult to tell just what kind of social networking-specific expertise Rogers has. Although, she did reportedly launch several strategic customer service and technology integration efforts at Peoples Gas and North Shore Gas. Further, is Allstate's definition of "social networking" consistent with what the term means to Facebook and Myspace users, or is the carrier defining the concept more broadly?

Undoubtedly though, it will interesting to see just what kind of role Rogers ultimately plays at Allstate and just what kind of social network she helps create. After all, president of social networking is not a well-established executive role within insurance companies (at least not yet). And for matter, there are not too many social networking projects underway or completed in the industry to use as blueprint. It stands to reason then, I think, that she'll largely get to write her own script.