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Technology Implementation Revolutionizing Insurance Sector

By Annabelle Bexiga, EVP & CIO, TIAA-CREF

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Annabelle Bexiga, EVP & CIO, TIAA-CREF

How has IT evolved in the past five years?  

Technology is an ever-changing medium. As never-before imagined concepts become feasible realities, the products and services that Information. Technology provides need to adapt as well. Five years ago, the emergence of smartphones and tablets into mainstream usage revolutionized online and mobile banking. In 2010, just 46 percent of adults utilized online banking and in 2011, only 18 percent of mobile phone owners were capitalizing on mobile banking services. However by 2014, those numbers underwent a dramatic transformation as 81 percent of households were now banking  online and mobile banking users soared to an astounding 90 percent. 

With users now having the daily convenience and accessibility of technology at their fingertips, they no longer praise stable technology, but expect it. It is no longer simply enough to maintain a working service platform. As products become more efficient, simpler and faster, they demand the same from IT. That is why it is crucial for Information Technology to move past just improving on the quality of existing technology to actually driving innovation.

Just as technology changes, the market itself evolves. To follow market evolution, companies should be focusing on how they can potentially shift their IT operating models to be true service providers—whether this is in the area of data or infrastructure. This shift potentially allows to scalability, in addition to the optimization of resources and systems.  

How is the role of CIO progressing?  

In an age of ever changing technology, the role of CIO has transformed into the primary leader in driving change through innovation. As organizations are becoming more focused on information and the digital sphere, the CIO is now considered one of the more important sources of decision making. Due to the growth and accessibility of technology at   the individual level, the vision and strategy that the CIO implements affects more than just the technology platforms, but the customer base as well. As users gravitate towards easy-to-use technologies, they no longer exhibit the patience to navigate through complicated platforms, and will seek out an organization that best fits their technological needs and speed.

It is through the proliferation of digitalization that the role of CIO has never been more important. As there is no foreseeable end to the growth and possibilities of technology, the importance of the CIO will only continue to grow as well.

Where is the focus in 2015?

Infusing innovation into the organization will continue to be a priority in 2015 for TIAA-CREF. Innovation provides Information Technology the opportunity to thrive in the current consumerization market. By taking the form of both individual contributions and enterprise initiatives, the company will be able to leverage their high-performing, delivery-oriented organizations to foster and drive innovation in Information Technology. 

"To follow market evolution, companies should be focusing on how they can potentially shift their IT operating models to be true service providers"

The successes of innovation in IT have far wider implications as well. Innovative products and services can improve user productivity and satisfaction, expand communications with customers and increase customer retention. And when properly integrated into the existing infrastructure, these innovations increase process efficiency and provide users with an easy to use, complementary platform.  

How to Foster Innovation in Insurance Companies?

Fostering innovation should be the job of every employee at the company. To foster innovation within IT, TIAA-CREF launched techSpark. It is an open monthly forum where employees give presentations on technologies that are trending. “The presentations are selected based on which topics receive the most “likes” on our nternal social media tool. TechSpark allows employees of all levels to spotlight technological trends,” says Annabelle   Bexiga, EVP & CIO, and TIAACREF. “At TIAA-CREF, we look to incorporate innovation into several areas within IT including big data, mobile computing and workplace of the future; but none more so than Cloud Computing,” claims Annabelle.  

What Technology Best Conceptualizes this Focus? 

In the realm of cloud computing, this past year TIAACREF launched the Carnegie Compute Cloud (C3), a hybrid  cloud capability that increases efficiency, enhances   the delivery model, reduces expenses and continues to stimulate innovation. C3  illustrates the true consumerization of  technology by enabling IT to run  as a business. “Through the aggressive automation of  our operations, we paired technology with the  continuous improvement methodology and tools to continue to develop a streamlined   and cost effective operational model,” she adds. The C3 platform provides their developers with a self-service server  platform with a predefined set of products, a clear cost model and the ability to identify the total cost of ownership. These achievements in cloud computing drew the recognition of VMWare, one of the leaders in virtualization and cloud infrastructure solutions, as they were awarded the 2014 Innovation Award for creating the Carnegie Compute Cloud. 

How to Handle Financial Information?

With an abundance of information at their fingertips, insurance companies often find that there are many untapped ways to leverage data to more effectively drive business decisions. To more effectively and proactively use data, TIAA-CREF, a national financial services organization,launched the TIAA-CREF Analytics Center of Excellence, featuring Big Data repositories, statistical modeling software, advanced visualization capabilities and  real-time analytics. The Center engages in a wide variety of technology and analytics pilots working together with business partners across the organization with the goal of nurturing a culture shift towards data-driven, pro-active and outcome-oriented decisions.

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