Getting the Right Data Governance and Data Integration Practice in Place

By Mary Kotch, EVP Global CIO, Validus Reinsurance

Mary Kotch, EVP Global CIO, Validus Reinsurance

Facing the Challenges

At a senior level, the organization will need the talent to build a mature architecture and data practice as well as talent with deep experience in global infrastructure and technology.

"It is important to understand that additional views of a customer will sometimes lead to conflicting information"

Putting together an effective Talent Management strategy is an important part of my overall IT Talent Structure. Much of my success today is contributed to my Human Resource partner Megan DeSheilds. She has developed an approach that is enriched with the following areas; Training and Development, Staffing and Recruiting, Talent Specialists for coaching and mentoring, Compensation which ensures proper reward and recognition planning is in place to incent the appropriate performance and behaviors.

Other needs for the organization will be the building out of new technology hubs that can house up-and-coming talent as they emerge from universities (e.g. developers, engineers, architects, etc). The ideal location for a hub is yet to be determined but should have lower cost structure and time-zone risk than some existing alternatives.

In my experience talented people seek out opportunities to grow, and will flock to organizations that provide those opportunities. Retention then becomes a non-issue. “Many people associate talent development with training programs. Formal training can help people develop a specific skill or knowledge set, but as the pace of how quickly IT changes it becomes increasingly difficult to predict what skills people will need, and the half-life of training gets shorter and shorter. Our approach combines, coaching and mentoring, trainings and consistent feedback from our employees and contractors on what is needed to assist with their career,” Megan Deshields

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Having 360 Degree View

A secured data digital customer plan is very central, it is in this area we will differentiate ourselves from other insurance companies.

The most important part of the plan is a getting the right data governance and data integration practice in place. It will be the basis for everything else. The data plan covers all the different points where the customers interact with us and how we assure them we are protecting their personal information. The goal is to make the customer experience as great as possible.

The road to a true 360-degree view of the customer begins with allowing many different models/views of customer. It is important to understand that additional views of a customer will sometimes lead to conflicting information. Executives must not be ‘too quick’ to limit views of a customer that conflict with current strategies. Rather, executives need to be comfortable with many (and possibly conflicting) views into the customer. Having a strong data governance plan will ultimately lead to this success.

Earning the Competitive Edge

The insurance and re-insurance industries have long lagged behind other areas of the financial sectors when it comes to technology. In 10 years, the leaders of the insurance and re-insurance industries will be the ones who best embrace the powers of existing and emerging technologies in the rest of the financial sector.

For instance, the ability to perform real-time analytics on large amounts of data is already considered critical in other banking and investment sectors. The ability to perform real-time analytics will be critical for highly customized products that are the future of every industry. In insurance that may mean the future ability to customize insurance to each individual in real-time will become increasingly prevalent.

Pain Points in the Enterprise

Integration of data systems across the enterprise is a constant challenge. While business users are perfectly reasonable in expecting to be able to analyze data across the enterprise, the technical hurdles to make that data available is a constant challenge.

What “keeps me up at night” is the idea that senior executives will ask very valid questions about our business and due to a poor data and integration strategy we are unable to immediately action their requests.

Trends Impacting the Environment

Big Data is a large area of opportunity for any company. In our industry, big data can be used for targeted products to consumers, more competitive pricing, and better marker positioning. Data scientists play a critical role in insurance companies today, digital data platforms are needed to consume, consolidate and report on unstructured and structured data. What’s more, the advent of cloud computing is critical to this science.

Our Data Science practice insurers far more than did historical data from policy administration systems, claims management applications and billing systems, and the mortality reports of yesteryear. Through a judicious analysis of big data, we have now been empowered to improve their pricing accuracy, create customized products and services, forge stronger customer relationships and facilitate more effective loss prevention.

The Internet of Things (IOT) is another area that will influence our marketplace. In a world where ships, cargo, people, trucks, and boxes can be monitored in real time, the business of insurance and re-insurance must be forced to adapt with innovative products.

Preferring Evolution Over Revolution

High expectations for digital platforms and strong vision and data governance suggest that the insurers should be leading the digital revolution. Yet, this is not the case for most insurance companies.

Generally, scores for engaging customers through social media and mobile are lower than average, suggesting that the combination of strong digital governance capabilities, regulatory worries, and a risk-averse culture could be an innovation-stifler.

As technologists, it is imperative to provide a strong High Performance Computing (HPC) backbone to meet the demands of our business. To this end, we are focusing on how Map Reduce, Columnar, and in-Memory solutions can be architected to deliver cutting edge performance. We are also addressing on how our information architecture can be modeled in a way that will reduce the complexity of our business questions.

Retuning the CIOs Role

In our company, we are faced with a legacy of separate divisions that creates barriers for cross-departmental services. The priorities of the CIO office are to lay the foundations for cross-departmental services while leaving custom services in place to keep in place current levels of support. Today the role of EVP Global CIO has a seat with the executive team and board of directors in driving our technology strategy.

Strategizing Talent Management

You have to start out with a solid foundation that builds credibility with the business. That includes stabilizing Core IT operations, implementing project discipline, and tracking costs, assets, and people. If you don’t have the foundation, how can you really succeed? Talent management, I’d spend a consider amount of my time and dedication throughout the years discussing with universities, consulting firms and business executives our talent shortage in IT, diversification, how to recruit and retain technology employees. “To drive next generation of solutions we need a good mix of experienced IT professionals and college hires who are forward-thinking and less resistant to change.”

Putting together an effective Talent Management strategy is critical. Partnering with your human resource team, design a program that will also lead to a succession and talent plan. “Talent Management” is the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention and deployment of those individuals who are of particular value to Validus, either because of future ‘high potential’ or because they are fulfilling immediately critical roles –Megan DeShields

The industry faces an IT shortage and corporate sigma challenge with baby boomers retiring, generation X entering the workforce and generation y taking on leadership management roles, managing legacy solutions that only the baby boomers managed and the challenge of managing a much younger, innovative talent pool called generation X.

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