At this week's I&T Executive Summit, Hurricane Sandy dominated the conversation — and not just among P&C insurers. Insurers in all lines of business shared business continuity strategies — including several Elite 8 winners.
Though Liberty International Underwriters' Ellen Fecteau, a 2012 honoree, is personally based in New Hampshire, much of her organization is in lower Manhattan — in a building that due to flooding might not be accessible until early next year. In a first-day panel discussion on business continuity strategies, she said that the company's strategy to only deploy one instance of a technology platform allows it to roll with the punches easily and get people in any location worldwide up and running to cover displaced employees.
"The core thing for us was making sure that we can re-route work to the other parts of the world," she said. "If you don't have people who can execute with those systems, you can't do that."
PURE Insurance's Stu Tainsky, a 2011 winner who still doesn't have power at his New York-area home, said that disasters highlight IT's core competency and value proposition. Even though he personally was hampered, it was still his duty to mobilize staff to address customer and business needs.
"This was a reminder like 9/11 of what our job is — and that is, No. 1, is to keep the lights on," he explained. "We talk about having a seat at the table, and the strategy aspect of things -- but you don't get that if the lights aren't on."
During day 2's 2012 Elite 8/vendor point/counterpoint session, two insurers who aren't based in the Northeast said that Sandy's effects still impacted them. Indiana Farm Bureau's Greg Clancy said that he was acutely aware that the size of the storm outstripped some of his peers' headquarters and backup systems at the same time.
"We've had events at our secondary data center in Chicago like ice storms," he noted. "It's a concern as to whether we need to make that secondary data source farther from the Midwest than it is."
Meanwhile, Jackson National Life's Mark Clark shared that the interconnectedness of financial institutions means that outages in one area of the world have far-reaching effects on companies located elsewhere
"We were surprised that the markets were closed as long as they were, and it did impact us," he said "Even though we're the life insurance business, these regional outages do cause problems. It's these little things that you have to prepare for."