Vendor Selection, Projects and Implementations
ISCS Observes 20th Anniversary; Scurto Predicts Major Changes Ahead
Two decades ago in the technology world is almost like reaching back to the Dark Ages compared to what is being done today by IT departments, but for Andy Scurto, president of ISCS, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, even more radical changes in the way technology enables insurance carriers will come in the next five years.
“Probably the biggest thing I`ve seen in my 20 years with the company is that IT has gone from the necessary evil that worked in the back room, number-crunched and [the business side] wished they didn`t have to have around to what is now a strategic part of a company,” says Scurto.
The CIO`s role has changed to that of a strategic partner within the executive team and IT is now viewed as both a critical and strategic function.
“It was always painful to operate as the necessary evil,” recalls Scurto. “To be considered a critical part of the company is so much more pleasant to work with.”
Change came slowly. Scurto believes it has been only in the last five years that carriers have reversed their attitude toward technology and the people that run IT departments.
“For many years I would tease our team that any time carriers could switch and do processes manually, they would and we would be gone,” he says. “It`s a lot more fun these last four or five years now that companies have determined IT is part of their vision and strategy.”
Back in 1994, ISCS` first customer was Midstate Mutual, which is now California Mutual. Midstate was a small company in California and Scurto did some consulting work to help Midstate deal with the system it had in place. The first big software deal for ISCS was with Sequoia Insurance, also in California. Then as now, relationships mattered.
“They got a new president and I knew him. He asked us to come in and put in a new system,” says Scurto.
Even though ISCS has been around for 20 years, Scurto explains it wasn`t that long ago when he finally realized his company was headed in the right direction.
ISCS is on its third generation platform. The first was mainframe-based and Scurto points out it was difficult to manage and maintain. The solution provider next moved to the Windows client/server environment. Finally, ISCS went into the Web arena with a Java-based system.
“That`s when we started to get real traction,” says Scurto. “It was probably only about five years ago when we said, ‘Now we`re running.` Our revenue took off at that point. We were ready to handle whatever came our way. We understood our vision and the market was out there for it.”
Scurto believes insurance carriers have ceded the responsibility for research and development to solution providers and ISCS enjoys the challenge.
“One of the things I`m most proud of is ISCS is more than core processing,” he says “There are a good number of vendors that do core processing well, but what differentiates us is we are more than that. We are trying to future-proof customers. We invest in R&D for mobile apps, analytics, and Google glasses. We know you can`t use some of that technology today, but you can build it into the future.”
Scurto recalls a recent conversation with an insurer about mobility and the carrier gave his opinion that mobility was still a long way from the mainstream.
“We asked how long ago was it when you didn`t think the Internet would be part of your strategy,” he says. “The rate of change is accelerating.”
Scurto likes to tell ISCS CTO, Doug Moore, “If you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough. That`s research. You have to try things,” he says. “Of course, you have to know when to stop, but we are looking at something we want to resurrect from four years ago because we believe there is a market for it today. I love the research aspects and others in the company also have that passion. At every level we push harder.”
From his vantage point, Scurto looks at insurance as an industry lacking in solid standards.
“We still struggle as an industry around standards—standard ways to define products, to move data back and forth,” he says. “From a software perspective, everything is configured differently company to company. There is nothing that is reusable. It`s an industry that sorely lacks consistency and a generic way of doing things.”
The industry must end the debate over sharing standards vs. proprietary knowledge, points out Scurto.
“There are entities in the industry that make a lot of money doing things in a proprietary manner,” he says. “When I started off we worked with standards bureaus and today they don`t look a lot different than they did 20 years ago. They have the same basic products and they deliver their products in the same basic ways. Look at the companies that are delivering ratings and aren`t using cloud technologies, SaaS or have the ability to use web service interfaces to get ratings from vendors. It`s appalling.”
Scurto points out other industries are where the insurance industry needs to be.
“We have a long way to go,” he says. “There are too many entities that consider their stuff proprietary. They are not letting us get to where the industry needs to be to truly concentrate on the business rather than on transactions.”
Scurto is excited about the future of both ISCS and the insurance industry. He believes technology is going to dramatically change the insurance world and feels it will happen in the next five years.
“We are looking at driverless cars, telematics, the Internet of Things, connected homes—massive things that could totally change the way we do insurance,” says Scurto. “Technology is going to play a bigger part.”
He believes the consumer of the future wants to be on a mobile app to conduct transactions.
“They want to do an inquiry and expect it to be done right away,” he says. “What will be fun is watching what this does to insurance products. If we move to driverless cars do we really need personal auto insurance anymore? That`s an extreme concept, but insurance is going to change a lot faster and more dramatically than it ever has in the past. It needs the push because we are so antiquated in the way we do insurance today.”