710: Neal Sample, former CIO of Northwestern Mutual, discusses his seasoned career as a technology executive across a variety of companies and how the role has evolved over the years. He explains both the enticing and challenging aspects of the CIO role and how it can translate into a broader set of responsibilities at a company. Neal also talks about his board-level experience and why companies, regardless of industry, should look to have a technologist on the board of directors. He looks ahead at his future career prospects, reflects on his pursuit of his Ph.D., provides advice for aspiring CIOs, and speaks to the trends in artificial intelligence and automation that he believes will become prominent in the years to come.

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678: Anil discusses the remarkable work he has done over his tenure and the ascent of technology at the company. Anil covers the work he and his team are doing to humanize the solutions Elevance Health provides and make technology more empathetic as the pandemic has accelerated people’s willingness to engage with technology. He also talks about the way Elevance Health is leveraging artificial intelligence and how it is helping to bring about experience personalization across a variety of different constituents. Finally, Anil touches on how he structures and facilitates collaboration across the large team he leads, what trends in technology are on his radar for Elevance Health’s future, and what he sees were the keys to his career success.

This episode was recorded before Anthem, Inc. rebranded to Elevance Health on June 28, 2022.

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670: In this interview, Willard discusses the topic of continuous modernization and innovation through co-creation. Will begins with an overview of The Hanover Insurance Group’s business model and the two sides of his purview. He shares his career journey through various roles in IT, operations, and other business lines; how they culminated in his current role in both IT and innovation; and how they have positioned him to better seize opportunities in innovation. Will also covers how his team is set up, its intersections across the rest of the business, and the role of IT in the agent, customer, and employee journeys. Finally, Will touches on the role of data and analytics at the company, his perspective on rising InsurTech players, future trends, and the keys to his career success.

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664: Puneet discusses the combination of business operations and technology in his career. Puneet begins with an overview of Unum Group and his purview as both CIO and CDO. He talks about the skill sets he looks for in talent when building his team and how they contribute to the company’s focus on creating value through platforms in addition to other areas of innovation at Unum. Puneet also shares his career experience in both operations and technology and covers the ways the CIO role translates into adjacent areas of influence in a company. Finally, Puneet gives his perspective on his pathway to board membership, trends in technology that are on his radar, and the keys to his success in his field.

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647: Bill discusses the expansion of the technology leader’s role and its growing impact on the company’s interactions with customers. Bill begins with what his joint responsibility consists of and the power it holds under one executive’s responsibilities. He explains how people are the most important asset of a company and MetLife’s investments in talent to retain its skilled workforce. Finally, Bill gives his perspective on being cognizant of customer experiences outside his industry to ensure he is providing the best service to his customers and the company’s natural coopetition with InsurTech companies in the space.

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This episode is sponsored by Cisco.

Dean Del Vecchio is the Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer, and Chief of Operations at Guardian Life, roughly 160-year-old mutual company with roughly $10.5 billion in annual revenue. He leads a team of about 4,500 employees. He is a major driver of innovation across the company, but he and his team hoped to open up innovation to the majority of colleagues rather than make it a purview of a single team at Guardian Life. In fact, he has even facilitated a method to engage outside partners and vendors in the process, as well.

Del Vecchio has defined three categories of innovation:

  • Core innovation
  • Adjacent innovation
  • Transformational innovation

Core innovation entails finding a better, a faster or a simpler way to perform everyday tasks of the company.

Adjacent innovation requires monitoring other companies, including innovative ideas driven in other industries and translating them back to Guardian Life. “If there is somebody else doing something out there, it does not have to be in our industry, our segment or our market,” said Del Vecchio. “If somebody is doing something interesting and differently than we are today, let’s copy it.”

Transformational innovation fosters the development of truly big and new ideas for the company to pursue. “It is rethinking a market segment, [for example],” said Del Vecchio. “It could be rethinking how we do work entirely. We have been quite innovative in the way we thought about operating in the cloud, for example. We have been operating in the cloud since 2018. We shut down our data center in 2018. We no longer have an owned operating data center.”

To foster the development of all three types of innovation, Del Vecchio has developed innovation challenges for the team. It involves posing a challenge question of the team and leveraging the wisdom of the crowd to develop creative answers to the question. “We have employees vote on [the ideas], and we have them do pairwise comparisons on [them],” noted Del Vecchio. “Then the good ideas that bubble up, we do a Shark Tank experience. We have people put forth their idea, present it to a group of people, we vote, and we challenge [them with] questions. If an idea gets thumbs up, we move it forward to a minimum viable product.”

In recognizing that the best ideas will come when the net is cast widely, Del Vecchio recognized that he had to grow more technical talent, which is especially a challenge these days when the war for talent is raging at a level not previously seen. He introduced a program called Code for Good, which identifies employees in non-traditional technology roles and trains them to become developers. “It is a six-month boot camp [including] programming and learning, and then they are out on the floor,” he said. “We make sure that there is a job for them and that they have an opportunity to participate in that.” He has had multiple cohorts go through this program, and the value derived from these newly minted programmers has been profound.

Del Vecchio is building on this success with the development of an Automation for Good program. This is geared at engaging employees who work on transaction-heavy processes and engaging them to help design automation to take the place of some of the most tedious and time-consuming tasks. “Employees could be adding much more value and dealing with much more complex issues if they had the time, but because they are dealing with all these transactional things,” he noted. “Why not allow them to be able to self-automate and identify those tasks that they wish they did not have to do in the first place, and then create a much more fulfilling job for themselves?”

There is a broader vision to this. Del Vecchio and his team are mapping out the customer experience journey to understand where there are opportunities to digitize, and where to introduce self-service capabilities. He and his team hope to automate to the point of facilitating proactive and predictive capabilities. “We are doing that in ways of a digital agent, for example,” said Del Vecchio. “We have installed, using AI and automation, the digital agent capability so you could chat with a digital agent and get claim status or get eligibility of benefits.”

Del Vecchio and his team have also focused on each aspect of the relationship and the journey, whether it is the initial onboarding piece or further along in their relationship with the company. “Can we help customers with decision tools to help them select the right products?” he asked. “Ultimately, when they are on board and they need services, can we provide them with all of those avenues?” A key is to serve clients as they wish to be served. If they want to interact with a chatbot, they can do so through their mobile device. If they prefer the web, they can do that. If they want a mobile app, Guardian Life provides that capability. “We are not there yet but that is how we are looking at it, and we are looking at it across all medium, as well as all segments of that lifecycle engagement,” said Del Vecchio. He and his team have the processes and the ideas to drive continued innovation through Guardian Life on behalf of its customers.

Peter High is President of  Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He has written two bestselling books, and his third, Getting to Nimble, was recently released. He also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

Amala Duggirala has joined USAA as executive vice president and enterprise chief information officer. Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to more than 13 million members of the U.S. military. USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations, with a headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. The company employs more than 37,000 people worldwide.

In her new role, Duggirala will lead a team of 6,000 colleagues, and her purview will include technology, data, security and third-party management. She will be a member of USAA’s executive council, and she will report to the company’s president and chief executive officer Wayne Peacock. USAA was founded in 1922, and Duggirala has been tasked to lead USAA’s technology transformation to strengthen the company for its second century in business.

“Amala is one of the leading strategists in technology, and we are thrilled to leverage her industry expertise and passion for developing people to lead USAA’s technology transformation,” said Peacock. “Her enthusiasm and innovative spirit are the perfect match for USAA as we continue to build innovative products and services for our members and teammates into our second century.”

“I’ve admired USAA for its accomplishments in technology throughout my career, and I look forward to maintaining its reputation as a technology and innovation leader in the financial services industry,” said Duggirala. “It’s my honor to serve the military community as well as our 37,000 employees worldwide.”

Duggirala spent her prior five years at Regions Bank. For the first two years, she was the chief information officer and chief technology officer of the company and for the last nearly three years, she expanded her responsibilities to include over operations as the chief operations and technology officer. In that expanded role, she and her teams had important responsibilities in driving Regions Bank’s fast response in serving communities through the Paycheck Protection Program, a lending program launched by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help entrepreneurs facing unprecedented financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to her time at Regions Bank, Duggirala led technology and product transformations in the fin-tech and telecom industries at companies including Kabbage, ACI Worldwide and British Telecommunications.

Duggirala holds a Master of Science from Columbia University in New York with a specialization in Business and Digital Transformation, as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a certification in Advanced Project Management from Stanford University. She earned her degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India.

Peter High is President of  Metis Strategy, a business and IT advisory firm. He has written two bestselling books, and his third, Getting to Nimble, was recently released. He also moderates the Technovation podcast series and speaks at conferences around the world. Follow him on Twitter @PeterAHigh.

631: In this interview, Amir and Dean discuss scaling artificial intelligence as a method of delivering innovative customer experiences. Amir begins by talking about how AI/ML creates value at the highest level at Discover and what the team structure looks like when bringing these innovations to market. Dean talks about how AI is used along the customer journey at Guardian Life and provides a few use cases of how automation is improving business results. Both executives then share insight into how they are integrating cross-functional product teams with the operations of the company.

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This episode is sponsored by Splunk and Cisco.

             

611: In this interview from our recent Metis Strategy Digital Symposium in September, Lisa Davis, SVP and CIO of Blue Shield of California, and Mike Shadler, SVP and CIO of Pacific Life, join Metis Strategy’s VP and West Coast Lead Chris Davis in a conversation about IT-led breakthroughs in the insurance industry. Lisa talks about how the pandemic has accelerated the digital business and customer experience at Blue Shield of California while Mike discusses the way Pacific Life has digitized its B2B business operations. Both leaders share insight into how their past experiences have shaped the way they lead and approach their current roles as CIOs of their respective companies. Mike gives examples of how Pacific Life is shifting and reshaping the employee experience and Lisa provides a look at how Blue Shield of California is sustaining its pace of innovation. Finally, Lisa and Mike look ahead at trends in technology that are on their radar and how they are setting the foundation for future plans at their companies.

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This episode is sponsored by Transmit Security.

599: In this interview, Dean Del Vecchio; Executive Vice President, Chief Information Officer, and Chief of Operations at Guardian Life; focuses on the expansion of the CIO role in company innovation, customer experience, and infrastructure modernization. Dean provides an overview of his responsibilities as CIO and Chief of Operations and how his responsibilities have expanded over the course of his career. He discusses the company’s Guardian on the Go Strategy as it relates to enabling employees for successful remote work and the future of remote and hybrid work environments. He gives his perspective on how remote work leveled the playing field for employees and how this might work in a hybrid work environment. Additionally, Dean talks about how culture plays a critical role in innovation and how to develop and upskill talent to foster innovation, and areas where innovation is crucial including the evolving customer digital experience. Finally, he shares how his team looks at modernizing the company’s IT Infrastructure, how ecosystems can benefit efforts in innovation, as well as trends in technology he has his eye on, among other topics.

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This episode is sponsored by Quickbase.

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