May 29, 2012

Like the mobile channel itself, the bring-your-own-device model for enterprise mobility is nearing a maturation point of its own. No longer a scary mystery to CIOs, BYOD is seen by most insurance IT leaders as a logical, unavoidable extension of the consumerization of IT that carriers must embrace if they want to be able to attract the best employees.


The mobile channel has quickly become the top priority for many insurance companies, but are carriers realizing a return on their mobile investments? Does it really matter? Insurance & Technology's June digital issue reexamines the conventional wisdom around providing mobile financial services and reveals the cold, hard truth about insurers' mobile strategies.

Baltimore-based life insurer Transamerica ($1.2 billion of insurance in force as of Dec. 31, 2011) says allowing the company's network of producers to use their personal iPads in customer meetings is an important differentiator for the company. "They're getting their own iPads as independent salespeople — you see iPads up and running at the industry meetings," says Michael Babikian, CMO of Transamerica Brokerage, the carrier's distribution arm. "We want to get more resources in the hands of a producer closer to the sale."

And while mobile device management software allowing remote accesss to and wiping of handsets is a no-brainer for any enterprise, it's not the only way to combat the rising number of malware attacks on smartphone operating systems. Babikian says there are "several" offerings on the market to help prevent personal information from being compromised between transmission from the phone to the insurer.

"There are virus walls that are set up in applications so viruses can't jump from app to app," he says. "There are security protocols that are quite different on these devices. It's already being done in work environments with BYOD. In corporate settings there are a whole slew of applications that have that firewall built into the app itself."

Managing BYOD Costs

For companies whose internal employees are looking to use their personal devices for e-mail access and more, Cass Information Systems, a firm that grew up with wired telecom, offers one way to manage the costs associated with BYOD. The company worked with Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide Insurance on software that identifies an employee's business use of a personal device and reimburses the employee's wireless carrier directly rather than cutting a check to the employee.

"This is a component of a total telecom expense management solution we're doing for Nationwide," says Gary Langfitt, president of St. Louis-based Cass Expense Management Services. "We're also managing their wired and long distance [telecom service], and the whole idea of getting the cost centers correct is very important to Nationwide."

The Cass offering integrates with Nationwide's human resources information systems, allowing the insurer to track where any mobile device -- and its associated costs -- are within the organization. "As the employee is moving within the organization, the expenses associated with the employee are moving as well," notes Carl Friedholm, VP of IT for Cass. "We're automating that and integrating back into the Nationwide general ledger."

Cass's software also inventories corporate-liable devices, allowing Nationwide to easily find devices with corporate access that need to be deprovisioned or remote-killed. This is accomplished through an integration with the insurer's mobile-device management software from San Francisco-based Good Technology.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, ...