CT…Oh! Interesting Ideas from Sapiens’ CTO
Ben Shory, Sapiens’ CTO and head of the Digital division, drives innovation and new developments to commercialize digital solutions. In this interview, Ben touches upon an insurance paradigm shift and speaks about how he and his talented team are channeling Sapiens’ vision into a platform that is designed to change the way insurance business is defined, modeled and executed.
Sapiens: Ben, thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. We appreciate the opportunity to hear about what you do and some of the exciting innovations within the insurance industry and here at Sapiens. Before that, can you tell us a little about you?
Ben: Sure. I have a great wife and four small children, a very large dog, a cat and a turtle. It is never boring at our house!
Sapiens: Do you have any hobbies?
Ben: I began programming when I was six years old – my parents bought me my first computer, a Commodore 64. They also bought me a book to learn BASIC. Since then I’ve been interested in new technologies, but I’m also curious about different programming paradigms and software development methodologies, processes and philosophies.
Sapiens: Let’s turn our attention now to the insurance technology. What challenges are you seeing in the insurance industry regarding the pace of change in the IT landscape?
Ben: There is a lot of pressure on insurers to become digital. Not just to use some digital capabilities to solve a specific business problem, but to become holistically digital, from top to bottom. Insurers are switching gears and looking for innovation and change in different areas, mainly because of the new players in the market.
The emergence of insurtech tools and companies provide a strong technical foundation and expedited processes. This has enabled insurers to update their business models and become more customer-centric. Not just more customer-focused, actually, but completely customer-centric.
Sapiens: How is this different from the way insurers have done business in the past?
Ben: Insurers have always cared about their customers, but have also been heavily driven by business processes and revenue. To remain competitive today, insurers must innovate and align their business models to be centered around customers, while still servicing their actuaries, business people and sales.
Sapiens: That’s a big paradigm shift. How can insurers start evolving?
Ben: The first step in evolving is thinking differently. Today’s insurers have begun focusing on key customer demands: speed, seamlessness and personalization.
I won’t waste much time explaining that insureds now expect the speedy service they receive across all other industries, or that they want a customer journey that can seamlessly stretch from laptop to mobile to tablet.
Perhaps most importantly, insurance customers demand products tailored to them (as they’ve become used to via companies such as Amazon and Netflix). They want the insurer to understand them, including their lifestyle and hobbies, and to be knowledgeable about their current products and coverages. This way the insurer can complement its customers’ existing policies and products.
Sapiens: How is digital technology driving new opportunities for insurers?
Ben: For existing business, an insurer can use digital technology for service innovation, customer self-service, speed and connectivity, and collaboration with partners. Customers’ demand for speed provides cost-saving opportunities for insurers. The insurer can automate many of these service-oriented processes and eliminate paper-based processing, which also boosts productivity.
For new business, there are new channels and sources of revenue, such as partnership opportunities, to build an insurance ecosystem for specific insurance products or technologies that enable easier onboarding and new offerings. If the insurer looks inward, it can leverage data virtualization and analytics to gain a holistic view of the customer between business units and identify cross-selling, or up-selling opportunities.
Sapiens: How is Sapiens specifically encouraging, cultivating and executing upon new innovations and digital technologies?
Ben: For starters, Sapiens built a digital division. It serves as an incubator for new technologies and solutions. During this incubation stage, we are injecting digital capabilities, understanding and vision into Sapiens’ core solutions and into other Sapiens divisions. The digital division exists to create and infuse digital capabilities throughout Sapiens. This division serves as a focal point, or coordinator, for digital.
Sapiens has also built a cutting-edge digital platform. The Sapiens Digital Platform is comprised of Digital Engagement, Digital Acceleration and API Layer and Sapiens INTELLIGENCE.
The Digital Engagement pillar includes Sapiens’ customer and agent portals, and omni-channel capabilities. Through partnerships with insurtech firms and innovation, Digital Engagement encompasses machine learning, chatbots, the Internet of Things (IoT), etc. We have some pre-built reusable journeys: pre-engage, onboarding, servicing and claims.
The Digital Acceleration and API Layer contains API integration components, productivity tools and a set of micro-engines like the workflow engine, rules engine, rating engines, etc. We offer many tools that are preconfigured to work together, including pre-integrated APIs to our core products, an API catalog to external services and an integration layer to other complementing products that enables many kinds of digital solutions.
Sapiens INTELLIGENCE is our advanced analytics solution.
We also have an affiliation with an insurtech hub. This is a venture capital fund with a lot of channels and connections with insurtech start-ups. We evaluate the start-ups to determine which ones to select to introduce to our customers to support their innovation initiatives.
Sapiens is not merely an insurance digital solution provider, we are also an insurtech enabler and can act as a central platform to manage all digital business needs of the insurer in a unified way.
Sapiens: What is an example of how Sapiens might enable insurtech technologies or partnerships for our customers?
Ben: Sapiens has a deep understanding of the business of insurance, the insurance industry and markets, and the surrounding technology. We can guide our customers to solutions that are right for them. For example, we can recommend that a customer deploy cloud-based services and we can match these services to specific technologies. Sapiens can also work with different vendors on initiatives and consolidate them into one platform, alleviating the burden on the insurer’s IT department of managing multiple integrations. We can then address the cross-cutting concerns like security, regulations, gathering the data to for analytics, etc., using the same mechanism of logging them and adding them to our portfolio as part of the customer’s technological ecosystem.
Sapiens: How do you make decisions related to incorporating new digital technologies into Sapiens’ solutions?
Ben: We are privileged to have a great leadership team and partners. The CTO office includes Gil Maletski, CTO of the Sapiens Property and Casualty division, and Kumar Chinnappan, vice president of Property and Casualty architecture. The team will soon be enlarged with other technology experts at Sapiens.
We also work with business partners, such as Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and Oracle, and many start-ups, too. This panel decides where to invest and what to explore.
Our customer community also plays an important role in establishing our roadmaps. We think very carefully about how new features, products or initiatives will add value to our customers and what business challenges and problems they will solve.
Sapiens: How do you decide which innovation initiatives Sapiens launches and what are some of the initiatives currently underway?
Ben: The CTO Office works together with the product strategy team, which maintains a close relationship with our customers. We choose initiatives based on customer requests and market demand, and use these as our starting point to build the roadmap.
Some current initiatives include chatbots, artificial intelligence and machine learning, data lakes and big data. We also keep looking at blockchain applications. Predictive analytics is underway and we are launching PoCs with two of our customers, and constantly examining opportunities for innovation across our digital proposition.
This is an important and exciting period for Sapiens. We must adhere to the pressing need for new technologies and sophisticated additional capabilities in the form of digital solutions, while we enhance our core products to support this evolution. Sapiens possesses the business knowledge, work ethic, vision and the technological expertise to lead the market.
**End of Interview**