An Interview with Ian Cook


Somers: What are the top three insurance technology trends in Asia, or abroad, that you’re keeping an eye on right now?



Cook: Growth, sustained focus on the bottom line, ease of doing business and agility across product and distribution all seem to be persistent drivers from a technology perspective for most insurance carriers; at least from a property and casualty perspective. These are global trends but especially relevant to the Asia Pacific market; particularly where automation and speed to market are concerned.



While policy administration system (PAS) providers have a role to play and trends certainly show the market as maturing, there are some other common themes we see in our industry. Most carriers have legacy systems and legacy data that are now viewed less negatively than perhaps in the past.  As such, I believe you will find SOA maturing as a technology and delivering some value in most insurance IT shops.  Componentisation and middleware becomes even more compelling when orchestrated through well conceived BPM/BPR projects.



The insurance value chain is fundamentally based upon transfer of information. The product is data and data becomes the very life blood of all insurance providers, intermediaries, re-insurers and their distribution partners.  This means that management information – or “business intelligence” as the vendors like to call it, continues to be crucial to the success of all players in the [insurance] supply chain.  The other data driven trend that we hear more about these days is with productive modeling.



As a “Tech Guy” I find this particularly interesting. One day in the not too distant future there will be not need for paper, booklets, or a lot of the other baggage that insurance companies have to deal with.  Managing data is something that IT should be able to cope with rather well; wouldn’t you agree?



Somers: What advice can you give IT executives on how to protect against the risk of reputational damage with the advent of social media supported products and services?



Cook: I don’t know. Is there something you know that I don’t about my social media presence?



Fact:  Social media is only just getting started and is here to stay. The business that ignores this does so at their own peril. Having said that – beware of the hype cycle.  We don’t want another .com bubble please.



We have been looking at this quite actively both externally and internally at Chubb. Internally, social media is a great tool for collaboration across the organisation, fostering innovation and getting cross-border project teams to work more effectively. In addition, the brand, reputational and marketing dimension that most organisations are looking at in this space. Consider the impact this is going to have on interactions along the supply chain; up to and including customer touch points. It’s all very exciting.



Somers: What are your key IT projects for the year ahead?



Cook: That would be telling, which I’m not going to do.  We’re busy supporting our business partners in their pursuit of sustainable profitable growth, keeping in step with the regulators and having as much fan as we can get away with.



Somers: Given Chubb Insurance Group of Companies (Chubb) has a strong worldwide presence, is there a global IT mandate; and how do you instill an adaptive and cohesive culture across the IT department?



Cook: From my perspective Chubb does a pretty effective job of dictating a cohesive largely centralised IT culture and mandate whilst recognising that in a global market place, one size does not necessarily fit all.



Jim Knight (Chubb Group CIO) says: “Chubb IT is the driving force for the highest valued technology and business solutions, delivered in a “BASIC” manner for our business partners.”  That is the mission of Chubb IT.”


B = Boundaryless
A = Agility
S = Strategic
I = Innovative
C = Collaborative


We’re big on enterprise architecture, PMO, governance enterprise, strict IT policies where it makes sense and so forth; but Chubb also recognises the need for some federation if IT is going to be the best business partner it can be in each of our business units. This is a constantly evolving balancing act but I think that Chubb is uncommonly experienced in this area and we do a pretty good job. 



Somers: Mobile banking has emerged as a customer channel of choice in Asia Pacific. Do you foresee a future where mobile technology penetrates the insurance market and why?



Cook: I have no doubt this will become increasingly important in the P&C sector. Insurance customers are the same folks who buy countless other goods and services. The generational issues are also the same.  So yes, it’s going to be increasingly important for all financial services companies.  How long will it be before all motor insurance customers expect to notify their insurer of an accident on their mobile phone? It’s a matter of “when” rather and “if”.



Somers: Cloud computing has been described as a key technology trend to watch in 2010. What are you views on this; and is there a place for cloud computing at Chubb?



Cook: Chubb already has some experience of implementing solutions in a multi-tenanted computing environment so there is already a place for this at Chubb today.



From my perspective, utility (or cloud) computing is a very interesting proposition and something we are bound to see more of going forward. However, it is also vital for companies to be mindful of the hype versus reality.  For a start, I’m not sure that ‘cloud’ computing is necessarily a new idea. Look at timeshare mainframe for example.  I do feel that technology trends have converged to make this a much more compelling and interesting value proposition today.



Will ‘cloud’ take over corporate computing [completely] in the way that some pundits had predicted? Personally I doubt it.  I guess one day it is conceivable that utility computing will make up the lion’s share of the consumer market but that it really not a prediction from me. There are experts out there that know a great deal more about this subject than I do.



My sense is this will become just another technology evolution tool that CIO’s can take out of their cupboard when offering solutions to business problems.



Somers: In your view, how close is the insurance sector to automating end-to-end claims online, i.e. from submission to facilitating online tracking to payout?



Cook: I’ve seen these solutions in a few places already. In one case (China) it also involves claims First Notification of Loss and customer claims notification of status (including payment) all from a mobile device.



Somers:  In an interview with FST Media last year, you cited “identifying, attracting, retaining and developing the best people we can” as a main priority. How is innovation playing a role in supporting this; and what are your views on the importance of attracting the Gen Y workforce?


Cook: From my perspective “identifying, attracting, retaining and developing the best people” is still the number one challenge for IT organisations across the whole of the Asia Pacific region.



To your question, of course, we want to attract young, energetic and talented people into our profession. I don’t know if your readers have noticed but Asia Pacific is growing in every direction.  I personally believe that lack of talented and experienced people is going to be a challenge for IT for some time to come (in APAC at least). One of the biggest issues going against us here is the relative lack of fresh graduates with engineering or IT background – or even a desire to join the profession. My prediction is that IT will become ‘sexy’ as a profession again soon.

I also like the idea of hiring outside the normal vocations.  Go hire a music graduate here or a marketing guru there.  Mix it up a bit.  



Somers: Every leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?



Cook: He didn’t out stay his welcome – like the last remaining dinner party guest that you just can’t seem to send home.