By Peter High, published on Forbes
Julia Davis began her career in information technology at the Air Force. She had attended college on a ROTC scholarship, and worked as a software engineer, rising to the rank of captain in the process. For the past 16 years, Davis has been a chief information officer beginning as a divisional CIO at General Electric and eventually becoming CIO of American Safety Insurance a decade ago. For the past four years, she has been the CIO of AFLAC. That depth and diversity of experience has served her well as she has helped transform that $22 billion supplemental health and life insurance company.
AFLAC is based in Columbus, Georgia, a location that can be challenging for hiring millennials. Recognizing that Atlanta is in driving distance, and a more attractive spot for recent college graduates to join, she has developed a robust intern program while also developing an innovation lab of sorts in the company’s Atlanta satellite office. She has also used the opportunity of rethinking that office in creating an “office of the future” concept there. She describes all of the above and more in this interview.
Peter High: Julia, you have been the Chief Information Officer of Aflac for four years. Before that, you were with American Safety Insurance for almost six years. Based on your decade of experience, what role does technology play in the insurance market, particularly from a customer experience perspective and what are some of the strategic ways your IT team brings value to Aflac?
Julia Davis: Insurance was one of the last holdouts to recognize the need to approach the customer in a different way. Historically, we relied heavily on our agent channels and direct customer interaction, which was either face-to-face or phone-to-phone. However, customers began to want to interact with us differently. Property & casualty was the first company in the insurance sector to embrace automation and to leverage technology to expand the opportunities for the customer. Currently, the health and life space is exploring how technology can improve the customer experience. We recognize that folks expect an Amazon-like experience; they want an easy way to do business with us. For Aflac, this means our customers expect their claims to be paid quickly, and want it to happen with limited direct interaction with a person. This is the basis of our One Day Pay initiative. Finding the best way to deliver claim money quickly to our clients drives our technology investment strategy.
High: From our past conversations, I know you put a lot of thought into developing your team. Please describe the apprenticeship program you developed at Aflac and the benefits it has provided the organization.