I first heard this joke as it pertained to the global financial meltdown of 2008 and the insanity of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in the United States. A little closer to home, it rang true for me when about four months after starting Trisura, I sent an email to our 14 or so staff sending them home a few hours early on a Friday afternoon, or so I thought. In fact, I sent the email to about 3,000 Brookfield employees across North America. Have you ever felt sheer panic before??

One of the most challenging aspects of my job is trying to make strategic business decisions and bets around technology. Maybe it’s because I’m a “techno moron”, but trying to keep up with the rapidly and ever evolving world of technology is at best difficult, and at worst terrifying.

First, let me be clear. We have an excellent systems team headed and staffed by world class experts in their fields. But technology has become increasingly important to us and our operation absolutely depends on our systems. When our “systems go down” we have 90 people sitting around looking at one another.

Couple this with the incredible rate of change in technology and the costs associated with investing in or betting wrong, and the result is that systems discussions have emerged to become one of the most pressing and critical issues that our executive team faces on a daily basis. The reality is, most of us are insurance people, not systems people, and so we often find ourselves out of our depth.

In fact, I joke with Dragan Popovic, Vice President of Information Systems, that when we started Trisura the insurance company we didn’t realize we were in fact starting a tech company!!

Like everyone, we are looking for our systems to be reliable and to help our staff do their work quickly and efficiently. But for us it’s far more than that. We have innovated with our online portal in order to help our brokers and their clients save time and reduce costs. We have continued to push our developers and vendors to deliver world class underwriting platforms that enable our underwriting staff to become even better at doing what they do.

Technology has become one of our key competitive weapons and the advantage our technology gives us is ultimately going to be a major factor in our future success. I have to believe this is not only true of our competitors, but our broker partners as well.

We had the luxury of starting from scratch and so our decision making in the early days was often more clear than perhaps some of the companies struggling with archaic legacy systems and work flows. However, as we grow and start to develop legacy systems of our own, the choices and decisions around technology and what to do, and equally important, what not to do, becomes even less clear.

For insurance companies, making the right decisions in terms of technological strategy, including underwriting platforms, portals, clouds, CRM’s, cyber liability, architecture, vendors, and social media (the list is endless), has emerged as one of the most important challenges from both an opportunity and a risk standpoint.

I sure hope the refrain never becomes “to err is human, to really screw up an insurance company you need a technologically challenged CEO”….</strong class=green>

Mike George
President & CEO