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Electronic Chat: Gary H. Ouellette

Robert Regis Hyle | November 24, 2014

The Electronic Chat is a regular feature of ITA Pro magazine and itapro.org. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leaders looking for thought-provoking responses on important issue facing the insurance industry.

This month we chat with Gary H. Ouellette, senior vice president, operations, Union Mutual of Vermont Companies. He is the executive with responsibility for operations, information technology, enterprise risk management, and corporate strategic planning.


What is the biggest leadership challenge you face in IT and how do you deal with it?

OUELLETTE: Talent management, which includes both creating the best experience for and results from our current employees, along with finding and attracting excellent new talent or, as we say, “having the right people in the right positions, doing the right things” is top of mind for me. I believe we need to expend at least as much if not more energy on people management as we do on technology management. Anyone can buy great technology; very few can attract and maintain great employees and teams. Management by walking around is a key success factor for us.

What technologies do you feel are under-used in the insurance industry today?

OUELLETTE: While much growth is happening around data driven analytics I believe there are still far too few companies with mature analytical programs.  With the expansion of SaaS, I see analytics as a service becoming more prevalent for organizations that traditionally couldn’t afford the software and personnel to develop effective in-house analysis programs.  An organization without data driven decision making in today’s business climate risks missing emerging risks and won’t catch emerging trends and thus will lose out on valuable opportunities.   

How satisfied are you with your relationship with the business side and how could it be improved?

OUELLETTE: Very satisfied. It all stems from a philosophical change we made a few years back when we put a big part of the discretionary IT budget back into the business unit’s control. From there we empowered the business to have an active voice in what IT expends its energies on. Think of it as “real-time executive steering committee.”  It is effective and very responsive to changing business needs.

What are your greatest concerns for the future and how can technology help alleviate those concerns?

OUELLETTE: Staying relevant in a changing consumer insurance marketplace is my greatest concern. The very nature of insurance demands we create seamless, easy transactional experiences for our users and consumers. But the real winners will be those who combine that with truly educating the consumer on the products, thus empowering the consumer through knowledge, not the fluffy stuff we see on prime time television but truly educating the consumer so their expectations are directly in line with their eventual experiences. Technology is the perfect platform to serve this up in a very cost effective manner 7x24x365 in many forms to meet many different consumer styles.

What changes do you see taking place in IT over the course of the next five years?

OUELLETTE: Clouds on the horizon. The biggest change I see is we will no longer own hardware.  By that I mean we as an industry will no longer buy, lease or rent IT hardware beyond the absolute minimum required to access the Internet.  Beyond that SaaS and other Internet-based services will be the de facto standard across the insurance space.  I see our people as becoming much more focused on vendor and relationship management along with technology integration.  Lastly, as I tell my team we will need to be consultants and subject matter experts on how technology can improve the experience and results for the business and their clients.  It will be so much more than the traditional model of helpdesk and networking administration.  Much more enabling and architecting with deep understanding of technology application to real world business opportunities.


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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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