In an industry generally known for slow adoption of technology, one insurance business discovered that the COVID-19 pandemic provided the catalyst it needed to prioritize digital transformation. Liz Ellis, Senior Application Developer Lead at Grange Insurance, is driving innovation in that company’s multichannel customer documents and communications.
We met with Liz—who’s an early adopter of technology herself—to discuss the challenges and changes she’s seeing in the insurance industry today.
Before we talk about the role of technology in insurance, how did you get into technology?
My dad was a high school science teacher, and he always encouraged me in science and math. That made a big difference in my life. I was also very fortunate to attend a high school—this was back in the ‘80s—that actually had computers and offered classes in programming. One of my math teachers encouraged me to try programming. I took her advice, and I just loved it!
What do you find most interesting about the insurance industry?
You might think that insurance is boring, but the challenges that the industry faces are really quite unique. When I started working at Grange Insurance, I discovered how exciting it was. I would never have dreamed there were so many moving parts to the business.
What is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry?
Before COVID-19, the insurance industry had been very conservative in the adoption of technology, although it was slowly starting to change. But now, since COVID, it seems that the industry as a whole really gets it—that we can’t be slow adopters of technology. We really have to push and be more at the front of the pack of innovation, versus hanging back.
Grange Insurance had already been starting down that path of trying to be more innovative, sooner and faster. But COVID has definitely solidified that. There’s just no time anymore to wait and see. We want to be the one that everybody else is watching, wondering what we’re going to do next. I’m excited about that.
What innovations and trends are you starting to see?
Knowing in real time where you are in the conversation with your customer is a critical thing that companies are paying attention to. This was impossible with older systems that performed batch processing overnight, but all our new systems are real time. Now, if a customer says they want a policy, we can bind that policy and create all the policy documents instantly. We can have a real-time view of what we are doing with the customer, and then we can continue to innovate with our communications. When a customer service rep or an agent is talking with their policyholder, they know where we are as a company in that customer’s journey so that they can provide the best possible care for that customer in that moment. To me, that is exciting.
You recently presented at the OpenText Women in Technology Customer Communication Management User Community. Thinking back to the female math teacher who encouraged you take computer programming in high school, why do you think something like this is important?
To me, the Women in Tech forum is a great opportunity for women to lift one another up and help one another to grow. I think it’s very important for women, especially in traditionally male-dominated fields, to have that opportunity to come together.