Electronic Chat: Arne Herenstein
Robert Regis Hyle | September 09, 2014
The Electronic Chat is a regular feature of ITA Pro magazine and the ITApro.org website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader and look for thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
This issue, we chat with Arne Herenstein, who has served as senior vice president and CIO of Harleysville Insurance for the last three years. Prior to joining Harleysville, Herenstein worked as a vice president of information technology with OneBeacon Insurance for 10 years. Earlier in his career, Herenstein served in IT leadership positions with at CIGNA, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Royal Insurance.
Herenstein holds a bachelor’s degree from The City College of New York and a master’s degree in business administration from St. John’s University.
What is the biggest leadership challenge you face in IT and how do you deal with it?
HERENSTEIN: My greatest leadership challenge is to develop and maintain a highly technically competent, as well as extremely business knowledgeable, IT team. The rate of technology change continues at a very rapid pace. More products are available via cloud/shared service than ever. Package products are becoming ready for use, particularly in commodity businesses. The challenge is to keep the team learning and growing while at the same time delivering products rapidly, with high quality, and in the right price range. Shifting from a custom build environment to package/cloud solutions is a challenge.
What technologies do you feel are under-used in the insurance industry today?
HERENSTEIN: Even though we are in the data business, I think we are under using the massive stores of information available today. So much data is collected and maintained about our markets, the insureds, properties, vehicles. We could make far greater use of that data for policy process functions, underwriting, claims, and other services we provide. Using public data to fill out forms and applications could reduce the administrative burden significantly.
How satisfied are you with the relationship between the business side and IT?
HERENSTEIN: I am very satisfied with the relationship with the business. We work as a team to provide an outstanding experience for our agents and policyholders. Our team works closely to identify the needs of the business, develops plans, budgets, and priorities, and designs and implements the solutions as a team. By maintaining this methodology, we find that we achieve a greater rate of success as we typically work on the things that have the greatest importance and/or impact.
What are your greatest concerns with the way the IT department currently operates?
HERENSTEIN: My greatest concern is transitioning from the old ways to the new ones as the rate of technological change continues at such a rapid pace. We have many platforms (and teams that support them) that were written years ago. This creates two problems of technical debt and it keeps some associates bound to older technologies. I do not think we move people in and out of these groups regularly enough to insure that we don’t end up with single person dependency or we exclude individuals from technical growth.
How will the operation of your IT department change over the next five years?
HERENSTEIN: Over the next five years I expect that the IT department will change to adjust to the increased use of cloud services, Software as a Service, package solutions, the Internet of Things, and increased cost pressures. We will begin to become expert more at configuration, integration and service layers than one-off development. We have progressed from binary programming to class libraries, to data translation. IT relies on this change to bring continuous improvement to their business partners
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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