Where does this insurance CIO see enormous potential?

Where does this insurance CIO see enormous potential?

Image caption: John Bresney, copyright 2019 Peter Vidor

John Bresney (pictured) joined Selective Insurance in 1994, starting out as a corporate trainee within the company’s IT department. He remembers those days as a time when his computer knowledge was a novelty.

“I came right out of college to Select, so I had a level of expertise and a comfort with the technology that very few at the company at the time … had a lot of exposure to,” Bresney said.

Since then, he added, Selective “has come a long way.”

Bresney is Selective’s executive vice president and chief information officer, a position he’s held for nearly three years. In this role, he takes care of the technology needs for a New Jersey-based personal and commercial property casualty insurer that has roughly 2,400 employees and generated $3.2 billion in revenue through 2021.

Specifically, he focuses on introducing technology efficiencies into the organization and assisting with profitable growth initiatives.

Those were tasks he couldn’t get to right away, however. Within five months of becoming CIO, the coronavirus pandemic struck, so his initial focus was on maintaining services and infrastructure for customers and employees.

“While I had great aspirations for what I was wanting to do or areas I was going to focus on, it largely became more of a reactive-type role initially, in order to improve communication, collaboration and maintain continuity of our services,” Bresney said. “Most IT organizations really worked hard to make certain that operations were stabilized and introduced new technologies to support communication and collaboration in a remote environment.”

He returned his attention to original priorities within a matter of months.

“At Selective, like most other companies – the IT organization began to refocus on its previous agenda about six months after the pandemic began,” Bresney said.

Early priorities

Bresney said that Selective has made progress with some early technology initiatives under his tenure.

“I am certainly proud … to the extent that we’ve introduced efficiency in the software manufacturing process, whether it’s a DevOps transformation or a transformation to a scaled agile environment in the way that we work,” Bresney said. “Those are two accomplishments that are typically perceived as behind the curtain changes.”

Another big area of progress involves changing how the IT organization helps develop small business insurance products, he said.

“We’ve added a very effective commercialized policy and administration system that supports small business, middle market and large – one system supporting all three of those segments of our business and commercial lines,” Bresney said. “We felt that a more focused, simplified small business solution that is more consumer oriented in terms of ease of use and workflow would help our distribution partners process business more efficiently.”

Data, AI and automation

A few key technologies play an important role in Selective’s present and future, Bresney said.

“The use of data and artificial intelligence and machine learning are critical to Selective and every organization’s future, quite frankly, to automate decision making to empower our distribution partners to be able to process business on their own,” Bresney said. “We prove cycle times to our customers and our ability to turn around products and bind [and issue] policies very quickly.”

Workflow automation and remote process automation are two other areas of critical focus, as well as cloud-native products to support their implementation, Bresney said. He added that these advances are important for both employees and customers.

“Our employees are our most critical asset that we have in our organization, and it is important that we give them the tools to allow them to focus on the most important activities,” Bresney said. “The reaction has been very positive.”

Customers are a big driver of Selective’s ongoing technology modernization, Bresney noted, and he said they’ve welcomed automation and digitization efforts.

“We process business through our distribution partners as well as independent agents. Their reaction I would describe as very positive,” Bresney said, with automated and digitized services giving them access to more information, and empowering them to process transactions and make decisions on their own.

Going further, working with insurtechs

AI and workflow automation have been transformative, Bresney said, but he is hoping the company, and the insurance industry at large, uses more of it.

“I don’t think this is unique to Select, but [we’re just] scratching the surface in terms of how much those technologies and solutions can really help businesses achieve their goals and strategies … There’s just so much potential and opportunity.”

Another way Selective and other carriers stand to gain is working with insurtechs, Bresney said, because they have a lot of tools and unique perspective to aid rapid progress. In other words, they bring a fresh pair of eyes to the table.

“One of the greatest things that we see inside of our industry is the emergence of insurtechs who are really pushing the insurance industry to look at opportunities to accelerate our progress, our growth and our customer experience in the services we provide to our customers,” Bresney said. “We see the emergence of many new entrants – specifically insurtechs – who are really pushing us to move and transform the industry overall.”

Selective works with a number of insurtechs in expanding capabilities and services, Bresney said, and he’s been happy with the results.

“They think differently,” he said. “They focus on specific needs to solve problems [and develop] solutions, and I think we have a lot that we can learn from their approach to solving problems.”

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