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Reflections of a Retired Insurance CIO

Wayne Umland | May 20, 2014

Glatfelter Insurance Group is one of the top 20 privately held brokerages in the country.  I had the pleasure of serving as the company’s first Chief Information Officer for over 16 years.  Today, Glatfelter is a major program manager and while an agency on paper, acts like any national primary carrier.  

Glatfelter has both retail and wholesale operations and is a well-respected major player in the program management arena.  The infrastructure has them well positioned to grow beyond the five national programs they manage today.

Let’s back up to 1997 when Glatfelter initiated a national search for a CIO. After several conversations with their search firm, and a day and a half of interviews with the senior management team and IT staff, I was offered the position. Glatfelter (GIG) was poised for the future, but they needed someone to move their technology forward. 

Two years earlier, GIG had changed its model and positioned itself to act more like a carrier than an agency. They formed an off-shore captive, assumed risk on their one major program at that time, and moved from their long-time primary carrier to a new carrier.  As part of this new model, they purchased a new AS/400 computer system along with a policy issue and rating system and a claims administration system.  They finally had a “modern” database and were ready for the future.  That was the position presented to me from which we would move forward.

When I walked in the door, the reality was a bit different. On my first day, our marketing executive vice president dropped a purchase order for a CRM system on my desk. There wasn’t one, but “we needed it.”   As the first few weeks and months unfolded, I realized that our new policy issue and rating system wasn’t completely implemented and was unable to systematically process endorsements; there was a backlog being tracked on a white board. 

The claims system was serving as our administration system of record because the policy database was proprietary and “closed” and we couldn’t get information out of it. Our month-end process was handled by our claims system and took days to run.  The time for the monthly close was growing each month because all transactions were simply appended to the system.  Oh, and by the way, that new AS/400 system was purchased without the capability to expand and we were running out of capacity—fast.

So, the reality of the situation was quite a bit different.  We had lots of issues and desperately needed strategic technology direction.  There was a clear lack of annual planning for technology and several new systems were needed that required additional staff and lots of money. 

Glatfelter was up to the task and I was given the flexibility and authority to take us to that new level.  We hired people with experience at other carriers and companies.  We developed our first five-year technology strategic plan in 1997 and built annual tactical plans to support it.  While that was happening, our business was growing and acquisitions were being made available to us.  Our facilities were expanding and our infrastructure needed to grow to accommodate all of that.  Consider the times. The late nineties was a period of phenomenal change in the technology arena. Networking was changing rapidly; technology manufacturers were evolving, merging, and new ones were forming (with great stories); and we had to completely redefine and reengineer our infrastructure. At the same time, we needed to find solutions for our applications.  We had no CRM solution.  Our billing system at the time was almost 20 years old.  The policy issuance system, though new, had to be replaced.  An old agency management system was serving as our corporate financial application…the list went on and on.  We were fortunate to have some talented folks working at GIG and we were able to recruit several other key people.  We built clear and focused plans supported by the business units; their world was about to change significantly. 

The first two years were what I would call an inventory phase.  We took stock of what we had, fixed what wasn’t working, got those endorsements processed, simplified the month-end process so we could breathe, expanded our network, leased new equipment and got the ball rolling.  And don’t forget that the “Y2K” fear was hanging over our heads too.

January 1, 2000 came and went without incident, so my team and I were able to get to work.  Over the next decade we worked to transform Glatfelter into the organization it is today, with an infrastructure and systems portfolio that any primary company would envy. We were early adopters of a data warehouse that we started exploring in 1999.  We looked at social communities for the emergency services community back in the late 1990s, although there wasn’t corporate support for it at the time.  Beyond that, though, we really did some amazing things.  I’ve highlighted the major ones below.

  • We produced a strategy and eliminated legacy and carrier solutions and replaced them with state-of-the art applications to improve speed to market and customer service, including policy admin and rating, corporate financials (GL, AP, purchasing, etc.), CRM, billing, agency management, imaging/workflow, enterprise documents, and corporate data warehouse.

  • A separate technology plan was developed for the infrastructure, moving from a few traditional legacy servers and an undersized AS/400 to one centralized data center for all operations with complete broadband connectivity supporting 11 regional offices and more than 20 in-home offices for sales executives.

  • Glatfelter became an early adopter of server virtualization with more than 80 percent of our 200+ servers virtualized.Recently, we implemented desktop virtualization in our Houston office and China outsourcing facility with full roll-out in 2014.

  • We implemented a storage area network to control storage costs, deploy virtual storage and create redundancy.

  • GIG canceled its contract with SunGard and implemented a disaster recovery and business continuity plan and procedures.We included a complete failover capability between our York, Pa. office and our Stockton, Ca. office, taking advantage of replication and mirroring and snapshots of data hourly throughout the day and overnight, eliminating the need for outsourced disaster recovery, tape transfer, etc.Similar recovery capability was implemented between our two retail agencies.

  • Glatfelter’s first data warehouse was built in 1999 to experiment and learn what information could be made available then and how the users might benefit from that information.The Data Warehouse was completely rewritten and re-architected several times to enable deeper drill-down capabilities, incorporation of productivity information from imaging, claims and policy administration systems, user control over reports and deep data analytics.

  • An Agents’ Technology Advisory Council was created and was made up of key independent agents and brokers from Glatfelter’s various programs to design and implement our agents’ portal with bi-directional electronic functionality based on the priorities established by the people who would be using it regularly.Products, forms, policies, policy/billing/claims information, renewal applications, endorsement requests, broker statements, et.al. are all available electronically through the portal.We recently introduced upload/download between their agency management systems and GIG’s back-end systems.

  • We implemented an enterprise document management system, automated workflow and paperless processing with ImageRight in underwriting and claims.This solution generated an immediate 20 percent productivity improvement.

  • As a result of GIG having no formal strategic or collaborative annual planning process, we implemented a process to align the IT division and its priorities with each business unit.Strategic, long-term plans were developed to put an infrastructure in place to support the future needs of agents, brokers, and business units.Tactical plans are now developed annually after meeting with each business unit to ensure that IT is focused on the priorities of the business.Open change-management processes including management from the business side were put in place to improve transparency and awareness of technology changes across the company.

  • IT designed and implemented a corporate governance committee and a process at the senior management level to ensure alignment of technology and business efforts and commitment to technology projects. In addition to setting priorities, the committee monitors results and measures and assesses success.

  • Glatfelter has implemented SaaS-Cloud solutions for three “non-differentiating” applications:Oracle Financials Suite, ADP Payroll processing, and Proofpoint’s firewall and spam filtering.

  • Given the concern over security and breaches, we created and implemented an incident response plan at GIG for handling and reporting any type of security breach.That plan was an outgrowth of our regular security audits and penetration tests conducted both internally and by external consultants.

  • With our marketing department, we designed and implemented a social media plan for our various programs and our corporate presence.We introduced a social media policy as a part of the plan.

  • In early 2013, GIG outfitted and implemented an innovation lab for use by IT department developers and business unit representatives to experiment with new technologies and to develop solutions to enhance business processes or to create new functionality for use by GIG in serving our customers.

     

    From a technology perspective, Glatfelter has successfully transformed from that traditional MGA with a single major program to a growing company with a national presence and an infrastructure to support any future acquisitions or organic growth.  The company is well positioned to do more and has built its application portfolio and infrastructure while keeping expenses under control and at a percentage of premium that beats the average. 

    I feel especially proud that I was able to steer the ship during the past 16-plus years and move the company to where it is today.  As stated in the beginning, GIG has an infrastructure and systems portfolio that any primary company of similar size would envy.

    Glatfelter Insurance Group is one of the top 20 privately held brokerages in the country.  I had the pleasure of serving as the company’s first Chief Information Officer for over 16 years.  Today, Glatfelter is a major program manager and while an agency on paper, acts like any national primary carrier.  

    Glatfelter has both retail and wholesale operations and is a well-respected major player in the program management arena.  The infrastructure has them well positioned to grow beyond the five national programs they manage today.

    Let’s back up to 1997 when Glatfelter initiated a national search for a CIO. After several conversations with their search firm, and a day and a half of interviews with the senior management team and IT staff, I was offered the position. Glatfelter (GIG) was poised for the future, but they needed someone to move their technology forward. 

    Two years earlier, GIG had changed its model and positioned itself to act more like a carrier than an agency. They formed an off-shore captive, assumed risk on their one major program at that time, and moved from their long-time primary carrier to a new carrier.  As part of this new model, they purchased a new AS/400 computer system along with a policy issue and rating system and a claims administration system.  They finally had a “modern” database and were ready for the future.  That was the position presented to me from which we would move forward.

    When I walked in the door, the reality was a bit different. On my first day, our marketing executive vice president dropped a purchase order for a CRM system on my desk. There wasn’t one, but “we needed it.”   As the first few weeks and months unfolded, I realized that our new policy issue and rating system wasn’t completely implemented and was unable to systematically process endorsements; there was a backlog being tracked on a white board. 

    The claims system was serving as our administration system of record because the policy database was proprietary and “closed” and we couldn’t get information out of it. Our month-end process was handled by our claims system and took days to run.  The time for the monthly close was growing each month because all transactions were simply appended to the system.  Oh, and by the way, that new AS/400 system was purchased without the capability to expand and we were running out of capacity—fast.

    So, the reality of the situation was quite a bit different.  We had lots of issues and desperately needed strategic technology direction.  There was a clear lack of annual planning for technology and several new systems were needed that required additional staff and lots of money. 

    Glatfelter was up to the task and I was given the flexibility and authority to take us to that new level.  We hired people with experience at other carriers and companies.  We developed our first five-year technology strategic plan in 1997 and built annual tactical plans to support it.  While that was happening, our business was growing and acquisitions were being made available to us.  Our facilities were expanding and our infrastructure needed to grow to accommodate all of that.  Consider the times. The late nineties was a period of phenomenal change in the technology arena. Networking was changing rapidly; technology manufacturers were evolving, merging, and new ones were forming (with great stories); and we had to completely redefine and reengineer our infrastructure. At the same time, we needed to find solutions for our applications.  We had no CRM solution.  Our billing system at the time was almost 20 years old.  The policy issuance system, though new, had to be replaced.  An old agency management system was serving as our corporate financial application…the list went on and on.  We were fortunate to have some talented folks working at GIG and we were able to recruit several other key people.  We built clear and focused plans supported by the business units; their world was about to change significantly. 

    The first two years were what I would call an inventory phase.  We took stock of what we had, fixed what wasn’t working, got those endorsements processed, simplified the month-end process so we could breathe, expanded our network, leased new equipment and got the ball rolling.  And don’t forget that the “Y2K” fear was hanging over our heads too.

    January 1, 2000 came and went without incident, so my team and I were able to get to work.  Over the next decade we worked to transform Glatfelter into the organization it is today, with an infrastructure and systems portfolio that any primary company would envy. We were early adopters of a data warehouse that we started exploring in 1999.  We looked at social communities for the emergency services community back in the late 1990s, although there wasn’t corporate support for it at the time.  Beyond that, though, we really did some amazing things.  I’ve highlighted the major ones below.

  • We produced a strategy and eliminated legacy and carrier solutions and replaced them with state-of-the art applications to improve speed to market and customer service, including policy admin and rating, corporate financials (GL, AP, purchasing, etc.), CRM, billing, agency management, imaging/workflow, enterprise documents, and corporate data warehouse.

  • A separate technology plan was developed for the infrastructure, moving from a few traditional legacy servers and an undersized AS/400 to one centralized data center for all operations with complete broadband connectivity supporting 11 regional offices and more than 20 in-home offices for sales executives.

  • Glatfelter became an early adopter of server virtualization with more than 80 percent of our 200+ servers virtualized.Recently, we implemented desktop virtualization in our Houston office and China outsourcing facility with full roll-out in 2014.

  • We implemented a storage area network to control storage costs, deploy virtual storage and create redundancy.

  • GIG canceled its contract with SunGard and implemented a disaster recovery and business continuity plan and procedures.We included a complete failover capability between our York, Pa. office and our Stockton, Ca. office, taking advantage of replication and mirroring and snapshots of data hourly throughout the day and overnight, eliminating the need for outsourced disaster recovery, tape transfer, etc.Similar recovery capability was implemented between our two retail agencies.

  • Glatfelter’s first data warehouse was built in 1999 to experiment and learn what information could be made available then and how the users might benefit from that information.The Data Warehouse was completely rewritten and re-architected several times to enable deeper drill-down capabilities, incorporation of productivity information from imaging, claims and policy administration systems, user control over reports and deep data analytics.

  • An Agents’ Technology Advisory Council was created and was made up of key independent agents and brokers from Glatfelter’s various programs to design and implement our agents’ portal with bi-directional electronic functionality based on the priorities established by the people who would be using it regularly.Products, forms, policies, policy/billing/claims information, renewal applications, endorsement requests, broker statements, et.al. are all available electronically through the portal.We recently introduced upload/download between their agency management systems and GIG’s back-end systems.

  • We implemented an enterprise document management system, automated workflow and paperless processing with ImageRight in underwriting and claims.This solution generated an immediate 20 percent productivity improvement.

  • As a result of GIG having no formal strategic or collaborative annual planning process, we implemented a process to align the IT division and its priorities with each business unit.Strategic, long-term plans were developed to put an infrastructure in place to support the future needs of agents, brokers, and business units.Tactical plans are now developed annually after meeting with each business unit to ensure that IT is focused on the priorities of the business.Open change-management processes including management from the business side were put in place to improve transparency and awareness of technology changes across the company.

  • IT designed and implemented a corporate governance committee and a process at the senior management level to ensure alignment of technology and business efforts and commitment to technology projects. In addition to setting priorities, the committee monitors results and measures and assesses success.

  • Glatfelter has implemented SaaS-Cloud solutions for three “non-differentiating” applications:Oracle Financials Suite, ADP Payroll processing, and Proofpoint’s firewall and spam filtering.

  • Given the concern over security and breaches, we created and implemented an incident response plan at GIG for handling and reporting any type of security breach.That plan was an outgrowth of our regular security audits and penetration tests conducted both internally and by external consultants.

  • With our marketing department, we designed and implemented a social media plan for our various programs and our corporate presence.We introduced a social media policy as a part of the plan.

  • In early 2013, GIG outfitted and implemented an innovation lab for use by IT department developers and business unit representatives to experiment with new technologies and to develop solutions to enhance business processes or to create new functionality for use by GIG in serving our customers.

     

    From a technology perspective, Glatfelter has successfully transformed from that traditional MGA with a single major program to a growing company with a national presence and an infrastructure to support any future acquisitions or organic growth.  The company is well positioned to do more and has built its application portfolio and infrastructure while keeping expenses under control and at a percentage of premium that beats the average. 

    I feel especially proud that I was able to steer the ship during the past 16-plus years and move the company to where it is today.  As stated in the beginning, GIG has an infrastructure and systems portfolio that any primary company of similar size would envy.

 

 

 


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