It seems like every day we read about announcements of new and interesting positions at insurance companies. New roles such as Chief Analytics Officer, Chief Innovation Officer, Customer Experience Executive, Data Scientist, Social Media Maven, and even Collaboration Manager are becoming more common across the industry. Is this just a fad or does this represent a fundamental change? Are these simply the titles du jour or will these new roles be permanent? And what does this new trend mean for insurance professionals?
These emerging roles represent three fundamental changes that are sweeping across the industry: innovation as a force for change, information as a key to competitive advantage, and next-gen technologies as the enabler of new opportunities. SMA research over the past several years indicates that innovation is becoming pervasive and will be a part of the insurance culture for years to come. The buzz and excitement over innovation may fade with time, but innovation is likely to become the modus operandi — the normal way of doing business — for successful insurers. There are likely to be more Chief Innovation Officers and innovation team members in the coming years.
Leveraging information for advantage is not new, but the breadth and depth of available data and the tools to gain more insights from that data are rapidly expanding. There are many buzzwords related to data and analytics, such as predictive analytics, big data, and analytics collaboration. But these are more than just buzzwords – insurers are investing for the long haul in these technologies to enhance vital areas of the business, such as market segmentation, risk selection and evaluation, fraud detection, and investment portfolio analysis. And the roles of data scientist, analytics officer, and others will only increase as universities introduce more programs and insurers guide more talented professionals toward these career paths.
Next-gen technologies such as mobile, cloud, social media, and collaboration are of high interest to insurers. Although these technologies have been around for a while and are in advanced usage at leading insurers and in other industries, they are still in the early stages of implementation for the majority of the insurance industry. SMA research indicates significant increases in spending for these technologies, and plans that stretch out several years to enable more and more new opportunities. New job titles and responsibilities will continue to evolve to capitalize on next-gen technologies, including emerging areas like telematics and collaboration.
These developments have resulted in the creation of many new roles. Because the initiatives for innovation, information, and next-gen technologies are strategic and long-term in nature, the new roles designed to drive the activity are also likely to become permanent, or at least to stick around for quite some time. There are two key implications for insurance professionals related to emerging roles:
First, the roles are an indication of the further blending of business and IT. Technology is fundamental to every part of the business, not just for efficient operations, but also for creating or supporting new ways of doing business. Innovation executives must have a deep understanding of business models, business processes, and culture, but they must also understand how to leverage new technologies to support innovation activities. Likewise for new roles supporting information and next-gen technologies – it takes a blend of business and technology expertise to excel in these areas.
The second implication of the new roles is that there are more career options available to IT professionals. There will still be a need for the traditional roles in application development, data management, etc., but now many new career opportunities are unfolding. Insurers are staffing enterprise-level business intelligence and analytics units with a combination of business and IT experts. IT professionals are becoming key contributors to innovation teams. Customer experience initiatives rely on individuals that understand the technology behind the customer interactions and have the ability to mine customer data for new insights.
It is an exciting time to be in the insurance industry. New opportunities to contribute are available for the young and ambitious as well as the more seasoned veterans. Insurers should investigate what their peers are doing in the areas of innovation, information, and next-gen technologies and make sure their organizations are focused – in many cases this will mean establishing some new positions to be catalysts for change. Insurance professionals should look beyond traditional career paths and consider new opportunities and new ways to advance their careers and contribute to business success.
About the author: Mark Breading, SMA partner, is a recognized expert in advanced technologies and their implications for the insurance industry. He has exceptional knowledge of data and analytics, customer communications in insurance, enterprise content management, and advanced technologies including mobile communications. Follow him at @BreadingSMA on Twitter.