September 27, 2012

Alok Mehta
Alok Mehta, CNA
Alok Mehta uses the word "serendipity" to describe the opportunity he took to become chief architect and CTO at CNA. He wasn't looking but he found a great match between his qualities and the ongoing technology-driven transformation at the Chicago-based commercial insurer.

"CNA is in the midst of a multi-year initiative with large technology investments, and that creates an interesting set of opportunities from a technology perspective for someone with my interests and background," comments Mehta. "CNA is upgrading its legacy systems platforms and optimizing its business processes to prepare for the future. There are many transformational activities underway that are aligned to company's longer term strategies in the areas of claims, underwriting, product manufacturing, analytics and sales."

Perhaps the most striking aspect to Mehta's background is that the 44-year-old is a racquetball world champion. He has won the International Racquetball Federation's singles championship two years in a row in the men's 35-and-over category — what Mehta modestly refers to as the "old age division" of that intensely competitive sport — and has been the mixed doubles champion three years in a row. "It's one of those hobbies that keeps me mentally and physically fit so I can focus at work and in my personal life."

Mehta has enjoyed a series of big wins in his professional life as well. His most recent role was as Allstate Financial's (Northbrook, Ill.) chief architect, which was preceded by several years as product manager at Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Insurance Technologies. Earlier he had developed administration and point-of-sale systems for corporate-owned and business-owned life insurance at American Financial Systems. Mehta also has a strong educational background in mathematics, which he sees as advantageous to his role in big data and grid computing initiatives at CNA, and he earned a Ph.D. on the evolution of legacy systems in 2003.

CNA presents a particular career opportunity to Mehta in as much his as two-decade career in insurance has been within the life and personal lines P&C sectors. "This opportunity allows me to focus on and learn the commercial business," he comments.

The new role matches well to his experience in areas relevant to the carrier's transformational work, including service-oriented architecture and data integration and analytics.

Mehta says his focus will be on analytics and he is looking forward to the impact of "Big Data" on commercial insurance. However, he says that in the near term work will concentrate on the extension of more conventional analytic applications.

"For now the focus is on pure analytics and preparing our analytics platform to start using technologies such as grid computing," he explains. "We're looking at several options and solutions to provide that to our modelers."

Mehta stresses that there are many commercial insurance uses for Big Data, through the use of technologies such as data mining and predictive analytics running algorithms in parallel at high speed. Applications of the technology include CAT modeling, claims analysis and rate modeling, he notes.

"We'll get that environment up and running, but that's not the end of the story," Mehta continues. "The use of Big Data will involve integration with external sources, e.g., weather patterns, geocoding data. Overlaying our predictive analytics on such external sources will be our version of Big Data."

In addition to his data expertise, Mehta trusts that his Ph.D. work on legacy systems will also add significant value to CNA. He quips: "Hopefully I can bring that experience to the task of evolving our own legacy systems, of which there is no shortage!"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 ...