Electronic Chat: Ken Mitchel
Robert Regis Hyle | September 15, 2015
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 Ken Mitchel who, when not training for his next mountain climbing expedition, serves as the director of IT for Clements Worldwide, a multiline global MGA specializing in expatriate insurance and commercial risks in over 170 countries. At Clements, Mitchel is responsible for global IT infrastructure, enterprise systems and portals, and IT project management. Mitchel joined Clements Worldwide in 2007, and recently completed a core policy administration system replacement for the company. Prior to joining the Clements team, Mitchel served as the vice president of IT for a regional Mid-Atlantic auto carrier, where he successfully implemented a complete legacy systems replacement and served in both executive IT and insurance product management roles. Mitchel is also a member of the ITA advisory board.
ITA: What is the biggest leadership challenge you face in IT and how do you deal with it?
Mitchel: The biggest challenge we are facing in our business is rapid change. Working for a fast-growing international multi-line MGA, there is considerable multi-faceted change. Whether we are driving the change to exploit new market opportunities or the change is forced upon us by global regulation or carrier demands, we need to rapidly change systems to keep up. From a systems standpoint, we stay on pace by placing a premium on implementing systems that are flexible and configurable. From a cultural standpoint, the IT team mirrors the rest of the business and places an emphasis on collaboration and using an iterative approach to embrace change and develop solutions.
ITA: What technologies do you feel are under-used in the insurance industry today?
Mitchel: I would say that data mining technologies are under-used for most small to mid-size insurance entities, likely because it is such a large undertaking for small firms to consolidate data from multiple legacy platforms which is critical to make a data mining solution relevant.
ITA: How satisfied are you with the relationship between the business side and IT?
Mitchel: Very satisfied. Because we’re a fast-moving, collaborative, and entrepreneurial culture, we strive to have people in IT who are business people first and IT second. This helps considerably when working with the business because we are the business. It also helps that we have a flat leadership structure where all key partners have a “seat at the table” and problems are solved collaboratively.
ITA: What are your greatest concerns with the way the IT department currently operates?
Mitchel: My greatest concern is ensuring that we are able to move fast enough to keep up with business. This is becoming increasingly challenging with multiple platforms hosted in multiple countries with multiple partners, and new product and compliance initiatives moving ahead at warp speed. Additionally, we want to be able to move quickly while still maintaining the integrity, security, and upgradeability of our growing base of systems.
ITA: How will the operation of your IT department change over the course of the next five years?
Mitchel: I expect our IT department (and most corporate IT departments) to continue the evolution of becoming business-focused first, and increasingly outsourcing the heavy technical aspects of IT. Most corporate IT is already moving in this direction to varying degrees. In this vision, IT is bought like a utility so the business can focus on core competencies that create business value. To realize this vision, the future IT department will increasingly consist of highly-skilled problem solvers who can effectively collaborate with multiple technical and non-technical parties to craft solutions.
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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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