Electronic Chat with Larissa Tosch
Bill Sinn | February 20, 2019
Name: Larissa Tosch
Title: Chief Information Officer
Company: Glatfelter Insurance Group
Number of years in the insurance business? 20 years
Provide a little background on yourself. How did you get started in insurance?
Glatfelter was a local company with a strong reputation – they had an open COBOL developer position in 1999 to help the company prepare for Y2K. That was my introduction to the insurance industry, and it’s been a great adventure ever since.
What are the biggest challenges of running an IT operation at a large insurance broker?
I think that insurance is an interesting industry, as we have constantly changing risks, needs, and markets. Technology is obviously very dynamic, so Insurance IT has the unique privilege of being at the intersection of changing business and changing technology. The business will not stop while we upgrade servers, and our technology cannot go stale as we implement regulatory updates. This creates a need to remain agile to quickly pivot as necessary – the challenge is to balance that level of agility with governance and due diligence.
What has been your strategy for helping to make the Glatfelter business successful? What barriers have you had to overcome?
The Glatfelter IT strategy directly supports the Glatfelter business strategy. Even technology-driven initiatives tie back to the business. Example: while the business will (likely) never ask IT to implement an Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), they do ask for faster speed-to-market… which an ESB enables. That level of partnership takes time, trust, collaboration, and flexibility from both the business and IT. I would not consider that a barrier, but a critical success factor that we continue to develop.
What newer technologies have you implemented at Glatfelter to help build quality relationships with brokers?
We established a “Technology Advisory Committee” (TAC) to drive engagement between our brokers, technologists, and business teams. The key is not “cool technology”, but technology that directly enables ease-of-doing-business. Their advice is invaluable, and as a result we have built a download from our issuance system to their AMS systems (ACORD standards), and a portal in which they can receive electronic decs/invoices/reports, directly access data regarding their policies, claims, and accounts receivable, and engage with custom tools like our renewal questionnaires and summary of coverage.
What do you think Glatfelter does differently (or better) than other brokerages?
Organizationally, Glatfelter maintains a strong sense of integrity – from our underwriting practices to claims handling to community engagement, we strive to be fair and consistent. A wise mentor once told me that “it’s just not hard to do the right thing”, and I believe that Glatfelter does exactly that. We are a specialty lines provider, and as such have certain complexities to our products and services. We respond to those complexities by striving to be the industry leader in our niches in terms of both product and service.
Glatfelter has been named to the list of Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania for 14 straight years. What do you attribute that to?
We treat our employees as our greatest asset, providing them with the training and tools to do their jobs. We have a beautiful campus with a fitness center, walking tracks, sports courts, a masseuse, personal trainers, and an onsite cafeteria. We have a great benefits package and flexible working arrangements. Most importantly, I believe that our team knows that they make a difference – to our brokers, insureds, and claimants. Our specialty lines represent pillars in their communities, such as fire departments, municipalities, churches, schools, etc. – by helping to manage their risk and quickly respond to their needs, we help not only them but also their communities. I think that a big part of job satisfaction is knowing that your work matters, and ours does!
Has the insurtech revolution impacted your world in any way? If yes, how?
In certain ways, I think that it has had positive impact to our business and our insureds. For example, IoT sensors have been excellent ways to help mitigate risk for insureds that have buildings that are not occupied 24x7. In other ways, however, I think there’s a lot of hype and unfair comparisons to many of the incumbent vendors. In my opinion, organizations must be careful to select insurtech products, partners, and services that align with both the culture of their organization and with the needs of their brokers and insureds.
What major technology do you think will have the biggest impact to insurance over the next five years?
Automation and data science, I believe, will be tremendous drivers to the future successes of organizations. Across the insurance industry, we have a very large and experienced workforce retiring, and a smaller generation coming in behind them. We will need to use data to automate and streamline work to make this transition effectively. I believe that insurance is a relationship business, and that there is both an art and a science to much of what we do. We can automate the science, and use data to drive the art.
If you could change one thing in the insurance world today, what would it be?
The reputation of the industry as a whole. Through advertisements, lack of education/understanding, and surely some poor user experiences, there is a negative perception of the industry as a whole. This leads to a limited ability to attract good talent, both on the business side and on the technical side.
What is your passion outside of Glatfelter?
My husband and I have been together for 26 years (married for 22), and have two beautiful children: 19 and 15. For most of the past 19 years, the kids’ hobbies became our passions (volleyball, hockey, etc.). I love to be outdoors – we camp and boat with friends and family as much as possible. In today’s very busy world, it’s important to recharge.
Do you have any words of advice for today’s insurance IT/business leaders?
Be perpetually curious! In an industry that is designed to manage and mitigate risk, we can easily get stuck in “how we’ve always done it” – because we think it mitigates the risks associated with change and innovation. But it does not – the real risk is in doing nothing. Strive to understand the business, challenge the status quo, promote a stretch idea, accept that you will learn from failure (fail fast if you must), and encourage others to do the same. It is also that curiosity that will drive collaboration between IT and the business.
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