Centric Boston’s new Insurance Practice Lead Sean Sweeney shares his industry knowledge and insights

Centric Consulting’s Boston office recently brought on Sean Sweeney to lead its New England Insurance practice. Sean will be responsible for growing Centric’s insurance practice locally and working with clients to implement their business strategy and technology solutions.

Sean has over 30 years of experience in the Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance industry with key technology roles at Travelers Insurance, The Hartford, and Hanover Insurance. Prior to joining Centric, Sean was the CIO at MiddleOak, providing application development support and IT strategy to his business partners.

Throughout his career, Sean’s focus has been on enabling businesses to develop technology strategies and innovation. He’s also been focused on successfully delivering solutions to improve operations and customer value.

I recently had the opportunity to welcome Sean to the team and get his perspective on various topics and their impact on the P&C insurance industry.

Question #1: What things do you see carriers doing to improve their use of Data & Analytics?

Insurance carriers have realized that they are in the data business and that being able to access, analyze, and put context around their data is invaluable. In order to capitalize on this, carriers have created enterprise data warehouses with numerous data marts to dissect these large data volumes with predictive analytics and data modeling.

Whether a carrier is large or small, their data stores are a goldmine of information. Even small carriers can leverage the data they have available to improve their business. The key is to target a small set of business questions focused on driving profitability. Sometimes the answers are surprising.

Companies often have assumptions or anecdotal information on their customers, their products’ performance, or their processes that are not supported by data and are just not true.

From experience, I’ve seen companies have a certain anecdotal view of who their customers are and their profile. Once they have data available from business intelligence, those assumptions often have insightful nuances if not differing factual evidence. Having the facts clears the “smoke of businesses” and allows carriers to focus on true improvements.

Question #2: According to a recent study, 65 percent of insurers will be modernizing core legacy policies, claims and billing systems within the next five years.

How do think companies should approach this and what are some of the key challenges you see with investments in core systems modernization?

If you talk to any P&C carrier’s CIO, you will find that they are either planning for, in the process of, or have just completed modernizing some or all of their core legacy systems. It’s an onerous task and can preempt other innovative projects.

I agree these transformational projects are much needed, but the challenge is: How do you continue to innovate and add value while undertaking these large legacy system replacements?

I believe the winners will be the carriers that are able to deliver on contemporary systems, while still being able to innovate and look for ways to differentiate themselves.

Carriers should conduct system modernization initiatives in conjunction with business process improvements opportunities. Doing a “lift and shift” load from an antiquated system to a new one with the same business processes, may not provide all of the expected value.

In my experience, companies that are able do both concurrently, in an efficient strategic manner, are able to drive the most value from this transformation.

Question #3: What do you think the impact of InsureTech is on the insurance industry?

I see InsureTech as the convergence of technology solutions that optimize the insurance life-cycle. This can range from marketing tools that focus on developing a customer-centric effort to leveraging Internet of Things (IOT) home solutions to prevent or mitigate claims, such as internet-connected batteries in fire alarms that provide early online notification to tenants and property managers.

I believe InsureTech will evolve to be a major component of P&C insurance carriers going forward. It comes down to who will be the early adopters and gain market share over those who are merely followers. Carriers that leverage these capabilities will find themselves at the forefront of their peers.

Centric has identified this need by deploying technology that ensures agents are informed about their insured’s transactions. It also allows them to follow-up on services provided, and build a lasting relationship that results in retention and repeat business.

Question #4: Based on your experience in technology, how should insurance companies think about innovation?

Innovation should be constant. It’s difficult to instantaneously decide, “Okay, we need to be innovative.” It takes time to cultivate an innovative culture that both fosters new ideas and accepts failures.

Failing fast and cheaply is often just as good as getting the slow win. Let’s face it: P&C companies aren’t known for being innovative.

Companies should look to support innovation through some continuous investment, whether it is across the enterprise or in certain departments. Seed money, even small amounts that can be used for prototyping and fast wins, can make a significant impact.

Some companies look to allocate a certain percentage of their IT budget towards innovation. I like this approach as a way to keep innovation consistent and on the radar.

I worked in a company that invested 10% to 20% for innovation on an annual basis. I led one such experiment with independent agents that turned into the de-facto portal connection between the carrier and their agency plant.

Another option is to specifically support certain experimental projects to gain learnings. Having innovation on the agenda keeps it top of mind and can often yield worthwhile outcomes.

About the Authors

Marc Vander Elst is a management consultant with Centric Consulting’s Boston office with over 15 years of experience in strategic planning, process improvement, product and business development, and performance management with a focus in Financial Services and Healthcare.



Sean Sweeney is Centric Boston’s Insurance Practice Lead. He has more than 30 years of experience in the Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance industry with key technology roles at Travelers Insurance, The Hartford, and Hanover Insurance. Prior to joining Centric, Sean was the CIO at MiddleOak, providing application development support and IT strategy to his business partners.