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Electronic Chat: Wade Rugenstein

Robert Regis Hyle | February 06, 2014

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.

This month’s Emil Chat is with Wade Rugenstein, vice president, CIO, and Chief Operations Officer for NTA Life, which he joined in 2012. He previously served as CIO of The Republic Group.

Other experience includes service as director of systems delivery for Greyhound Lines, and consulting services for Ernst & Young, LLP and Andersen Consulting.  He is a member of the Insurance Technology Association Advisory Board.

What is the biggest leadership challenge you face in IT and how are you dealing with it?

WR: Probably the biggest leadership challenge in IT is keeping emotions by all parties from getting in front of a successful outcome of projects.  I spend a lot of time trying to take emotion out of the interactions and decisions that are made, and continuing to have face to face communication to overcome any misunderstandings.  It is easy to lose focus on a project. A lot of behind the scenes effort to manage scope, expectations, and quality of the end deliverables is required.  

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

WR: Not sure that “all of it” is a proper answer, but I believe there are several areas that the insurance industry has under used or, better said, poorly implemented.  In other words, if they have adopted technology, they haven’t always adopted it to the levels needed to provide a positive experience for customers, agents, or employees.  One example is simply web technologies.  If you compare a website that a national bank or retailer has deployed vs. that of a national insurance carrier, there is a big gap in the quality of the experience.  You could say the same thing of business intelligence/analytic tools, mobility, and all the way through to the policy administration and back-office systems.  Insurance IT seems to be able to mess things up well before executing properly. 

What steps is your company taking to attract and prepare young IT workers for a career in insurance IT?

WR: Since the industry is starting to use standard technologies, it is easier to attract workers than it was 10 years ago.  The difficulty comes in properly retaining them or keeping them from getting bored.  Challenging them and letting them come up with ideas and solutions helps and certainly adds value to the insurance company.

Are you satisfied with the connection between the business side and IT? If not, what steps are being taken to improve this?

WR: I’m not sure an IT leader should ever be satisfied with the connection between their customers and the services that are offered.  Face to face communication, transparency, and being seen as a customer service unit helps greatly.  I feel IT leaders are always worried about having a “seat” at the table, but I believe we should always focus on properly serving the table while occasionally sitting down to offer any insights we can to the bottom line results of the company.

What is your greatest worry when you put your head on a pillow at night? 

WR: I have been asked this before, and jokingly always answer my daughter is approaching the age where boys are of interest.  Seriously, the outcome of large projects and making sure you are properly managing them is probably what I worry about the most.  I enjoy projects where several folks don’t think it is possible or determining how it can be done, but I try to keep a healthy worry to make sure all the angles are covered.





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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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