Retiring technology debt in a highly-traditional industry

Retiring technology debt in a highly-traditional industry

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As a recent arrival at NN in Prague, I just finalized what I call our operational delivery plan. Now I’m focused on the entire IT architecture. Given all the legacy technology in insurance, you may not be surprised to read that we’re going to move to a public cloud. There is an excellent business case for us to go to the cloud, in part because of all the legacy data and systems and technology debt we’re carrying.

Ideally, we are using our new plan as an opportunity to clean up, simplify, tear down, and rationalize our technology. As we build that new strategy, we are focusing on the distribution channel and being more flexible and agile. As we attempt to stand out in our industry — risk protection and pensions in the Czech Republic and Slovakia — we have to focus on ease of use and ease of accessing information.

If I had a magic wand to wave away one piece of legacy technology, it would be our core policy administration application. Over the years, we put a lot of capabilities into that system that shouldn’t be there, such as financial tracking information, account management, expense management, hard-coded underwriting and pricing rules, even elements of HR. Re-pricing a product in this environment can take six to nine months. On average, you’re talking about $25 million to implement a new system, and the payback on that is incredibly long.

That’s why we’re slowly moving all of these applications to the cloud. Some will be hybrid, some will be public, and some will have elements of private cloud, but the goal is to create a hub-and-spoke architecture where data is no longer centralized into big data warehouses, but held in repositories for different kinds of analytics. Becoming more flexible and agile with our data is where we are going to meet the insurance market and advance it.

Houston Ross is Chief Operations Officer and Board Member for Czech Republic and Slovakia (formerly of Japan) at NN pojišťovna a penzijní společnost at NN Life Insurance, Ltd. Houston brings more than a decade of experience in the financial services industry with senior-level roles in insurance operations, investment banking and securities sectors.

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