October 24, 2011

Assessing and responding to new and changed regulation. Developing and attracting talent to the organization. Redefining customer service. Ensuring agent/distributor satisfaction. Until recently, these priorities were strictly the province of the CEO, marketing head or compliance chief. Today, however, these activities are among the most important responsibilities held by insurance industry chief information officers.

But unlike the CEO, the CMO or the other bigwigs in the C suite, the insurance CIO also has to lead core systems transformation efforts, enable thorough and reliable data security, assemble a flexible and cost-effective IT infrastructure, and efficiently manage a huge portfolio of applications, systems, vendors and partners, to name just a few items in the typical CIO job description. It's a complex, demanding and often thankless job that can be simultaneously high profile and unappreciated.

The executives represented on the roster of Insurance & Technology's 2011 Elite 8 honorees, however, embrace the role. Without playing down the challenges of performing in such a high-stakes environment, they are energized and motivated by these challenges. While recognizing that the role of the insurance IT organization (not to mention the CIO) is being redefined by changing sourcing models, technology consumerization, globalization of the workforce and new approaches to infrastructure, they also understand that technology has never been more important to the performance and success of insurance companies.

This year's Elite 8 executives will be honored at I&T's 13th Annual Executive Summit, taking place Nov. 6-9 at The Boulders Resort & Spa in Carefree, Ariz. The theme of the event, "The Leadership Challenge: Driving Growth and Optimizing Resources," is a concise description of the dilemma -- or opportunity -- that today's insurance technology executives must resolve if they (and their organizations) are to succeed.

To paraphrase the well-known advertising slogan, these are not your father's CIOs. As Harvey R. Koeppel, executive director of the Center for CIO Leadership, notes in his commentary on the changing role of the CIO, "The opportunities for CIOs to advance their role and increase their contributions by leveraging IT to create sustainable business value are bigger than ever before." The 2011 Elite 8 executives are capitalizing on these opportunities, creating business value for their companies at the same time they are reshaping the concept of technology leadership.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...