Tectonic shifts

By Anna Game-Lopata — ANZIIF Writer | 6 Sep 2017
  • General Insurance
  • Insurance Broking
  • Risk Management
  • Claims

When Ian Tavener (pictured right) was approached by Guidewire founder and former colleague, John Raguin, to consider a role starting the company’s operations in the Asia Pacific, it was his first opportunity to work with the general insurance industry.

Tavener had 25 years’ experience helping US-based software companies develop their businesses in a variety of industries and thought, ‘How hard can it be?’

Since joining Guidewire in 2004 as its first employee in the region, Tavener says he has been humbled many times by the depth of expertise required to serve this industry.

‘And I am still learning from our customers and my colleagues every day.’

Key to success

Guidewire delivers the software that general insurers need to adapt and succeed in this time of rapid industry change.

‘We combine three elements — core operations, data and analytics and digital engagement — into a technology platform that enhances insurers’ ability to engage and empower their customers and employees,’ Tavener says.

He says Guidewire customers, who number more than 300 general insurers around the world, aim to address the many technological trends causing industry disruption.

‘These include digital distribution, self-service capability, new data sources and analytical techniques, personalization and cloud,’ Tavener explains.

He is responsible for sales and go-to-market strategy and is a passionate advocate at Guidewire headquarters for the needs of insurance companies in the region.

‘I have led our efforts to build customer relationships and great teams throughout the region,’ Tavener says.

‘We now have offices in Sydney, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo, and our software is in use by insurers in most of the major economies.’

The joy of solving problems

Tavener says his engineering background is one of the main reasons he loves to see problems being solved in better ways.

‘The Guidewire InsurancePlatform™ software products have helped many insurers overcome the obstacles inherent in the industry’s previous generation of systems,’ he enthuses.

‘It’s exciting to bring these solutions to the market and be involved in these transformative projects.

‘I also enjoy advocating the unique needs of our customers in this region to my colleagues at Guidewire’s headquarters and seeing our products evolve to meet those needs.’

In Australia and New Zealand, Tavener says Guidewire has customers undertaking challenging initiatives such as deploying a complete insurance platform in the cloud and the rapid introduction of a new and innovative line of business.

‘We are supporting one customer to establish the use of machine learning techniques to improve pricing and risk selection; and for another, we are integrating new and existing digital channels,’ Tavener says.

‘We are excited to be supporting our customers in these transformative projects,’ he says.

Time to engage with customers

Tavener asserts tectonic shifts are underway in the general insurance industry.

‘While classic competencies still matter — establishing a quality brand, rigorous actuarial data analysis, underwriting and claims management discipline, considerate customer service and so on — they are no longer enough,’ he says.

‘Insurers must engage with their customers. Going forward, insurers need to provide the experiences and the journeys that customers expect.

‘To excel, insurers must change their appreciation and understanding of customers' needs; how they define the metrics of success; their marketing; how they design the users’ experience.’

Tavener adds that insurers must then reimagine how they use data.

‘Opportunities abound for how to use data to improve the insurance lifecycle,’ he says.

‘Examples include: market segmentation at a micro level, tailoring of products and experiences, and putting information into the hands of expert users when and where they need it to aid decision-making.’

Finally, insurers should improve the alliance between business and IT departments, reimagining what they can achieve with software.

‘If we can change the definition of systems from “back-office” to “weaponry for differentiation and strategic advantage”, we can unlock the potential of innovating fast, of failing and succeeding more quickly, and of being a winning insurer in a world where everything is technology-informed,’ he argues.

Advocate for insurers

As a platinum sponsor of the recently held Australian Insurance Industry Awards, Tavener says Guidewire values the work of insurance professionals and has always sought to support them.

‘We have tried to build software that removes the re-keying, manual processes, endless paper and other drudge work that has been required to overcome the limitations of the legacy systems environment,’ he says.

‘As a result, we believe that the insurance professional can focus on the work that creates value and professional fulfilment.’

He also says that insurance is vital for society and for business to function in a world of diverse risks.

‘To succeed in the war for talent, the insurance industry must create engaging and rewarding careers and develop great people.

‘ANZIIF is the standard-bearer in this battle and we are proud to support their mission both in the form of a sponsorship and, in our own way, by making the insurance workplace a better place to work.'

Winning edge

Tavener is quick to warmly congratulate Kimberley Johnsson of CHU Underwriting Agencies for winning the Young Insurance Professional of the Year, the category his company supports.

And his message to all awards participants is that it’s a great time to be working in insurance.

‘Each of us can contribute to the development of the industry at this time of rapid change,’ he says.

‘We are defining new business models, innovative products to confront new risks, new distribution strategies that better engage the customer, and refining the support for individuals and businesses in their time of need.

‘Therefore, each of us has the opportunity to create fulfilling and rewarding careers in this most vital of industries and, more than ever, the industry must employ young people to help drive the next chapter of change.’

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