Insurance IT: invigorating a growing industry
“The IT leader of today has to be at the strategic table.” – Margaret Resce Milkint, the Jacobson Group
An aging workforce and growing industry-wide need make insurance a hotbed for fresh IT talent
By Dan Margherita
Senior Contributing Editor
'There’s explosive growth in the insurance sector. According to the Jacobson Group and Ward Group’s 2018 insurance labor market study, for the second year in a row and the second time in survey history, the demand for actuarial talent was surpassed by the demand for analytics talent,” says Margaret Resce Milkint, managing partner of the Jacobson Group (Chicago, IL). The Jacobson Group is a global provider of insurance talent. Milkint adds that the 2018 unemployment rate in the insurance sector (2.0 percent) was less than one-third that of the overall national rate (6.6 percent).
“We’re seeing an accelerated demand for technology talent in all segments of insurance,” Milkint says. “We believe 2018 will be a very robust year for tech hiring.”
She notes a push to bring in talent from outside the insurance industry. “As insurance continues to grow and invigorate its technology offerings, we can make IT the entrée to bringing in fresh talent,” believes Milkint.
This is significant, she says, because the insurance industry has the oldest workforce in corporate America. “The average age of the workforce is in the mid to late fifties. Our challenge is to bring in new talent to augment, supplement and invigorate; and to bring in fresh perspective and energy. Technology is the perfect place to do that.”
Milkint stresses that companies expect new employees to be innovators and leaders for change and innovation. “Companies have the executive sponsorship to make this happen.”
New employees must speak and understand the language of business, she adds. “The technical platform is just the point of entry. Organizations need someone who can be an advocate and an ambassador, who can work shoulder-to-shoulder with business leaders to achieve not just IT project initiatives but greater, impactful business initiatives.
“The days of the order taker are gone,” Milkint declares. “The IT leader of today has to be at the strategic table making business decisions and demonstrating the value of technology.”
SVP Rahul Samant leads tech functions and influences strategy at AIG
“I wear two hats,” explains Rahul Samant, who joined insurance giant AIG (New York, NY) late in 2012 as senior vice president. “That’s my corporate title,” he says, “but my functional title is head of global application development and management.
“One part of my job involves responsibility for internal corporate technology functions like HR technology, supply chain, marketing and other internal corporate functions. The other part of the job is to act as a catalyst and influencer across my team and five peer teams. I run strategies and transformational programs that influence the entire application development management organization at AIG.”
AIG offers property casualty insurance, life insurance, retirement services and mortgage guaranty services to more than 88 million customers around the world.
Samant’s corporate technology role gives him responsibility, accountability and authority; for example, he oversees the IT aspects of AIG’s website as well as the intranet that’s used by employees worldwide. His application development role provides responsibility and accountability. “We’re creating a strategy from the outside that we think will really help AIG be successful and get things done faster, cheaper and better. So, who better than my own team to try it out on? I like to say, here I eat my own cooking,” he smiles. “When we first brought in Lean Six Sigma, we also started within my corporate technology team.”
He oversees about 800 people in corporate technology. In January 2013 Samant took additional responsibility for a 1,100-person IT team in Manila, Philippines.
Making his way to the U.S.
Samant was born in Mumbai, India. He received his bachelors in electronics engineering from the University of Mumbai in 1987. “I trained to be a computer engineer. I always had an ambition to come to the United States and there were two ways to get here. You could come on a masters program, pay your way and, after two years, become assimilated into the workforce. Or, you could become a software developer in India, get employed by a company there, and come to the U.S. that way. I chose that second path.”
Samant got a job with Systime (now part of KPIT, Pune, India), and was on a four-member team that was sent to the U.K. He worked for four different clients on different projects in three years. Most of his experience was in implementing banking and financial systems on Unisys hardware. “It was a real learning experience and very formative,” Samant remembers.
Meanwhile, Samant’s cousin in Detroit was encouraging him to come to the United States. “He always said, ‘The U.S. is the land of opportunity. You’ll have a better life here.’ He was very persistent.”
Samant came to the United States in 1992. He got a six-month assignment with a company that needed his Unisys skills. Then he got a contract with Nations Bank (now Bank of America) in Dallas, TX. After six months, he was offered a permanent position and green card sponsorship in 1993. “I started there running a three-person programming team,” he says. “From there, I moved to the Charlotte, NC headquarters. For eight or nine years, I worked in the capital markets IT division.”
Samant moved into successive management positions in corporate treasury trading technology, fixed income securities back office technology, and finally all technology for sales and trading for fixed income.
During this time, he earned a 1998 MBA from Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, NC). “One of the projects was to write a paper about market entry into a foreign country. We had to think about our companies and our jobs and business cases. I decided to write about creating a Nations Bank software delivery center in India.”
Samant then spent the next two years going around the bank trying to sell the idea. “I was still doing my job,” he says, “but as time permitted, I would take the paper to senior leaders. They were all charitable. They’d give me thirty minutes and tell me it was a good idea but nothing came of it.”
Persistence pays off
In 2001, after two and a half years of pitching his idea, the head of the bank’s technology and operations green-lighted it and asked Samant to run it. Today it is known as Bank of America’s global delivery center of expertise, employing thousands of people in India.
Samant continued to progress at Bank of America. By 2011, he was head of global sourcing and also head of vendor management for the retail bank, leading enterprise-wide technology and operations sourcing as well as all international sourcing for the bank. He was asked to take over the entire supply chain management organization and lead the transformation to a distributed operating model.
“2009, 2010 and 2011 were bad patches for financial companies,” Samant says. “I didn’t want to change jobs after all those years, but things had changed. I decided to see how marketable I was. I interviewed with five different companies before I joined AIG.
“What clinched the decision for me was AIG’s work-life balance,” he says. “I didn’t want to relocate my family and they told me that wasn’t a problem.” Samant reports to the Manhattan headquarters while still living in North Carolina.
“It’s been great coming here,” Samant says, “adapting to a new company, and being able to deliver performance that allowed me to add things like the Manila center to my responsibility. It’s not about how big your empire is. It’s about the impact you are able to make. That’s why I came here, to maximize value.
“There may be another promotion at some point if I continue to do well,” he says with a smile, “but I have enough in my current role and room for expansion. I’m happy moving in a lateral direction. I prefer being in enterprise-influencing roles to being in a silo.”
Samant is co-chair of AIG’s divisional diversity and inclusion council. AIG sponsors several initiatives in the New York City area including the Development School for Youth and Prep for Prep. Samant is working to add a third organization, Year Up, to AIG’s roster. “Diversity and inclusion is a passion for me,” he says. “It’s something that I always put my hand up for no matter where I am.”
Ronnie Idowu oversees global IT infrastructure support at Allstate
“When I was growing up, IT wasn’t widely known in Nigeria,” Aderonke (Ronnie) Idowu explains, “and it was not considered a cool career for a woman. Young women were usually directed toward ‘female-friendly’ fields like medicine, accountancy, law and things like that.”
Today, Idowu is a network operation center (NOC) manager at Allstate Insurance (Northbrook, IL), accountable for round-the-clock, 365-day support of the company’s global IT network infrastructure.
Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, Idowu loved planes and dreamed of becoming an aeronautical engineer. Her father worked for an oil company and they travelled all over Nigeria. “I would see guys fixing planes and I thought, ‘I don’t want to fix them. I want to build them,’” she remembers.
Her father wanted her to graduate from college then move to the United States and build a career. Since no local university offered aeronautical engineering on the undergraduate level, she earned a BSc in applied physics and electronics at the University of Lagos. She graduated in 1994.
After graduation, Idowu was required by law to spend a year serving in Nigeria’s National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). NYSC was created by the Nigerian government in 1732 to help reconstruct and reconcile the country after its civil war in 1967. “The NYSC gives students exposure to different industries, sometimes out of your comfort zone. I worked at a law and IT consulting firm and it’s how I got into computers.”
In 1995, she came to the United States and settled in the Chicago area near family. “We had Motorola in Nigeria. When I came to Chicago, their main office was ten minutes from where I lived. I applied and reality sank in,” she says wryly. “When you come to America with a foreign degree, it isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”
For four years, she worked as a case manager and accounts analyst for Little City Foundation (Palatine, IL), a nonprofit organization that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She also became a Microsoft-certified system engineer (MCSE).
In 1998, Idowu worked pro bono at an IT training school to get more experience, and she finally got a job as a server/desktop consultant at Motorola. “I was only there for a year and a half. It wasn’t what I thought it would be,” she says candidly.
A new opportunity
In 2000 she heard about an Allstate-sponsored job fair from a friend who worked there. She attended and received an offer a week later. “Allstate was moving into Windows 2000 and I was already doing that,” she explains. She started as a network professional doing Windows support.
“What struck me about Allstate was the collaboration and interaction going on. Everyone was connected. It seemed like a family-oriented place. A lot of people had been with the company a long time. There was also a lot of cultural diversity and I thought, ‘This is looking good!’”
Over the years, Idowu’s responsibilities expanded into other support areas including network infrastructure, security appliances, voice infrastructure, VMware and protocol analysis.
In 2011 she earned her MBA in organizational behavior from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management (Lake Forest, IL). She spent the next few years in a variety of individual contributor roles in the Allstate NOC.
She was promoted to her current role of NOC manager in 2013. She’s responsible for the network platform and managing the analysts who work in that area. She has eight direct reports who are senior network consultants and technicians. “I am learning to listen and discovering how to motivate the team to succeed,” she reports. “We continually challenge each other, and there are leaders within the organization who coach and inspire people to put in their very best effort.”
Idowu would like to expand her skills in other business areas like claims, finance, or her particular interest, marketing.
At Allstate, she is a member of two groups: the African American working network and the Allstate women’s “I” network. Idowu is also a member of the Chicago Rotary Foundation alumni association. In 2010, she was chosen to participate in a Rotary group study exchange program with a Rotary district in Brazil.
“My background drives my personal and professional life,” Idowu says. “My dad was very loving but very principled and a strict disciplinarian. He challenged me, and still does, to stay focused and be aware of myself and my environment. He embedded in me that failure is not an option, and that’s what drives me every day.”
Amit Shah directs program and project management at Florida Blue
Amit Shah has spent more than fifteen years managing large-scale projects, directing technical teams, and providing development, analysis and IT solutions for several Blue Cross organizations in different parts of the United States. Currently, he is director of the business relationship management IT program and project management office at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (Florida Blue, Jacksonville).
“Business relationship management is an important part of IT,” he explains. “This division establishes and maintains good relationships between IT and our business units. We support three key areas: delivery systems for providers; claims processing, also called services; and enabling.” Enabling, he explains, involves IT projects for internal business units like human resources, legal, compliance and more. His direct reports are program and portfolio managers who manage projects in the business units.
Shah is from India where he attended the Bombay Institute of Technology (Mumbai) and earned a 1993 diploma in computer technology. “This is a very specific diploma,” Shah emphasizes, “focused on all aspects of computer hardware and software.”
He graduated in the top of his class and went on to study computer engineering at the Pune Institute of Computer Technology. In 1996, after an internship with a Pune water company, Shah earned his BS in computer engineering.
He considered several job options, then chose engineering and IT consulting company KPIT (Pune, India) to work on a project with a bank in the United Kingdom. Working through Mastek, an Indian IT consultancy, he held a range of IT development and analysis positions in the U.S.
He wound up at Xerox (Rochester, NY) in 1999. While at Xerox, he earned a 2003 masters in IT at Rochester Institute of Technology. In 2004, he was offered a fulltime position at EDS (Plano, TX), and soon became relationship manager between Xerox and EDS. He was responsible for ongoing projects along with day-to-day IT support.
Beginning at Blue Cross Blue Shield
In 2005, he joined Blue Cross Blue Shield of New York (Excellus BCBS) as a program manager. A year later he was promoted to senior program manager, managing the product launch of its Healthy Blue and Active Univera products.
In 2008, he was promoted to manager of program and project management. “I have a passion not only for technology but also process,” Shah says. “That really helped me as a manager.”
In 2009, he worked as the IT liaison and business relationship manager between Excellus and Univera Healthcare, a sister nonprofit healthcare organization serving almost two million customers in upstate New York.
In 2011, Shah was invited by former colleagues to join Blue Cross Blue Shield North Dakota (Noridian, Fargo, ND) and help create an enterprise program project management office. “My responsibility was to build a team with the right skill set to manage projects and programs, and build processes to govern and monitor the work for Noridian,” explains Shah.
His family was in Rochester, and unwilling to move to North Dakota. “My experience with Noridian was great, but I found myself with two options: I could come back to Rochester with Excellus or move to Florida Blue.”
Florida Blue it is
Shah joined Florida Blue in July 2013. “I’ve found what I like to do,” he says. “My goal for the next year or two is to support the PMO here at Florida Blue, mature the practice, and help the initiatives get done more effectively and efficiently.”
He’s also interested in diversity initiatives. “While I was at Excellus in 2008, I was asked to chair the South Asian diversity group,” he says. “I mentored and coached several individuals to help them grow into leaders. I’m passionate about this and hope to do the same thing here at Florida Blue.”
SVP Judith Henderson leads enterprise application info services at Mutual of Omaha
Judith Henderson is a senior vice president of information services for enterprise applications at Mutual of Omaha (Omaha, NE).
A native of San Antonio, TX, Henderson moved to Omaha in 2009. “I was an Air Force brat,” she says. “I graduated from high school when I was sixteen and decided I was too young to go to college. In 1982, I got a job at National Bank of Fort Sam Houston, working in the IRA department managing retirement accounts and qualified plans.”
In 1988, she moved to USAA Federal Savings Bank as a retirement accounts analyst.
In 1991, Henderson enrolled at Our Lady of the Lake University (San Antonio, TX). She attended school part time and worked full time at USAA. She got married during her sophomore year.
Henderson says her IT career really began in 1996. “I had several investment licenses and had worked in retirement plans. I was managing a larger team in USAA’s operations area and had just had my first child. I moved myself out of management and into an individual contributor role so I could figure out how to become a better mom without carrying the burdens of a large team.”
In 1999 she earned her BA in management. “My goal was to get the degree before the year 2000 and I did it, but the hard way,” she smiles. She became a project manager and got more familiar with the IT components at USAA. Then she had her second child. “When I came back, I moved into management, but more on the IT and enterprise business operations side.” By 2009, she was an AVP of enterprise business operations.
Mutual of Omaha: an intriguing prospect
A former colleague had joined Mutual of Omaha as CIO and recruited Henderson. “The company had a great reputation in the insurance industry. I was intrigued because they were looking to initiate some transformation efforts in their IT division. Lots of older systems had to be replaced, and talent management activities were underway.”
Henderson oversees about 160 employees and forty contractors. Her teams do project portfolio management and project execution for multiple business units. She also has responsibility for IT asset management, IT administration and enterprise application development. An IT director and three IT managers report directly to her.
On being a leader and a woman
“I’m pretty proud of my reputation and the recommendations I get in places like LinkedIn,” she says. “People describe me as ‘passionate,’ ‘genuine’ and ‘real.’ I’m not the most polished person, but I really care about other people. I would opt for doing the right things for the right reason over a promotion.”
Henderson earned her project management professional designation from the Project Management Institute (Newtown Square, PA). She belongs to all of Mutual of Omaha’s employee resource groups including Women in Leadership and Wealth of Wisdom, focused on employees with long tenure who are legacy-minded.
“It took two or three years before people trusted my experience and style,” she says. “I have five peers who are all men and our styles are radically different. We try to capitalize on that.”
Henderson says her conversations with professional women focus on building their careers. “My real value to these women is helping them understand self-awareness. It changes your career. That’s what I share: know what makes you effective without compromising who you are.”
Diversity: the right thing all around
“At Mutual of Omaha, we value diversity because it’s the right thing to do for people, and because it’s the right thing to do for our business,” says Dave Diamond, Mutual of Omaha CFO and chair of the diversity and inclusion action group. “Growing our business requires us to reach new and different markets, and we do that best with associates who are as diverse as the customers we’re trying to reach.”
He adds, “We also believe that to maximize the benefits of diversity, a company has to focus on inclusion, on fostering an environment where every associate feels he or she belongs. An engaged workforce is an effective workforce.”
IT manager Lafayette Smith is building a strong helpdesk at TMNA Services
“I have an affinity for helping others,” says Lafayette Smith. “My major job today is putting people in a position to succeed.”
Since mid-2013, Smith has been IT manager with TMNA Services, LLC, which provides value-added services to the companies of Tokio Marine North America. The group includes Philadelphia Insurance Companies (Bala Cynwyd, PA), First Insurance Company of Hawaii, Ltd (Honolulu, HI), Tokio Marine Management, Inc (New York, NY) and more.
“I’m responsible for service delivery for the IT level 1 service desk in Dallas, TX and level 2 support at Tokio Marine,” explains Smith.
“We work at the entry point of problems. From an IT perspective, this is anything that breaks,” he says. “Our service desk triages and tries to resolve the issue or escalates it to the proper group for resolution. My job is to own that problem from the beginning to the end and push it to resolution.”
Smith grew up in Philadelphia and attended Kutztown University (Kutztown, PA), majoring in special education. “I got homesick,” he admits. “I came back and enrolled at Temple University in 1981, where I changed my major to computer science.”
He also started working at General Accident Insurance Company (Philadelphia), then left Temple to work full time and start raising a family. He was at General Accident for eighteen years. “When I started, I used to go over to the computer center at lunchtime to hang out and help out. I realized this was the path I wanted to take.”
In 1998, he joined Inacom (Malvern, PA) as a program manager, responsible for onsite technical resources. When the company folded, he moved to pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (Philadelphia, PA) as a program manager responsible for service delivery, including the helpdesk, desktop support and asset management.
Breaking onto the helpdesk scene
In 2003, Smith got what he calls the “biggest break of my career,” joining Quest Diagnostics (West Norriton, PA) as its national helpdesk manager. “I was responsible for supporting 48,000 internal employees around the clock,” he remembers.
He eventually took on the additional responsibility of managing an external helpdesk that supported doctors’ offices, patient centers and hospitals. He had sixty people reporting to him including senior service desk agents and four supervisors.
In 2011 Quest outsourced its helpdesk services and Smith moved to Research Pharmaceutical Services (RPS, Fort Washington, PA) where he was global helpdesk manager. “I managed a team of six local people and six more in China, Europe and South America.”
Smith then came to TMNA Services in his current role, which he characterizes as “perfect for my skill set. We’re building a strong helpdesk,” he explains, “focused on supporting our sister companies.”
He is a member of the Help Desk Institute (Colorado Springs, CO).
“We’re continually developing our service delivery capabilities to meet our customer’s changing needs.”
Diversity: important to innovation
“Innovation is one of our core values at TMNA Services and diversity is an important aspect of our culture,” says Caryn Angelson, chief human resources and chief legal officer of TMNA. “If we are not considering a diverse group of candidates, we are leaving some of the best and brightest out of our candidate pool. Candidates with diverse backgrounds bring unique ideas and different vantage points to the table – all of which result in delivering a better, innovative service for our clients.”
Mark Tan: web system analyst at State Farm
Mark Tan holds five degrees, two from his native China and three earned in the United States. Tan is a web system analyst at State Farm Insurance Companies (Bloomington, IL), working in Phoenix, AZ.
He is working on the Life Quote application, one of the company’s flagship products that provides customers, service representatives and insurance agents with the capability to configure, quote, sell and purchase life insurance policies online.
“What really attracted me to State Farm was its integrated customer platform, the next generation of technology that is on the cutting edge of cloud computing,” says Tan.
“I grew up in a small town in southern China,” he says. He had a natural affinity for chemistry and got BS and MS degrees from Zhongshan University (Guangzhou, China). He came to the United States in 1994 and got his PhD in chemistry at Arizona State University (Tempe).
He added an MBA and an MS in information management in 2000.
“I wanted the business skills in case I went back to China and into either teaching or the private sector. The information technology track was pretty hot in the late 1990s.”
In 2000, Tan joined Avnet (Phoenix, AZ), a distributor of electronic components, computer products and embedded technology. He was a programmer analyst, performing research on portal technologies. He also did system performance tuning and remediation, and a variety of troubleshooting tasks.
“I worked on a lot of different projects and got good references from our chief technology officer,” he says with a smile. “In 2008, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen, Phoenix) contacted me. I joined them as a senior software engineer.” TGen is a nonprofit organization focused on turning research into products for human health. But his work there only lasted a couple of months because of funding problems.
State Farm: this is my home
Over the next five years, Tan moved through a variety of software engineering jobs in the Phoenix area. Last August, a senior IT architect at State Farm invited Tan to come aboard.
“I want to stay technical,” Tan says. “I’ve worked at lots of different companies but left them, not always by choice. State Farm is a company that has never seen a financial problem and won’t run out of good projects. So far, this is my home.”
Opportunities for diverse IT pros
“State Farm is committed to being an employer of choice,” says Eddie Toro, director of enterprise recruiting. “We know it’s essential that employees feel connected and share a sense of pride in the promise to our customers. We value the broad diversity of experiences, skills and backgrounds our associates bring in serving our customers.
“We’re looking for IT professionals in software development, including Java-based open source, plus business intelligence, security and infrastructure management.”
Stephanie Wu is a lead software developer at USAA
“When I was growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things,” remembers Stephanie Wu. “I wanted to be a really successful person doing something but I didn’t know exactly what.”
Wu is a lead software developer at USAA (San Antonio, TX). She works in its new IT shop based in Plano, TX. USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 10 million members of the U.S. military and their families.
Growing up near Dallas, TX, she enjoyed her math, science and English classes. “I gravitated toward analytical skills, reasoning and logic,” she says.
She attended the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, where she participated in its honors program. “Most students in the business school honors program have a double major. I knew MIS was a growing field that requires analytical thinking, so that’s what I chose as my second major.” Wu earned her honors BBA in business and MIS in 2002.
Wu interned at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Austin working on inventory management and merging address databases for the email system. She was offered a job in the organization.
Finding broad opportunities at USAA
“As graduation approached, a lot of students were scrambling to find jobs,” explains Wu. “I met USAA representatives at an on-campus recruiting fair.” Wu was offered a job in summer 2002.
Today she is lead developer on the claims project delivery team, working as an individual contributor. “My title is software developer but functionally, I’m a project tech lead,” explains Wu. “I work with our developers, looking at their analysis and design documentation and helping with those. I work with the IT architects to make sure we are putting out the right design to fulfill the business requirements, and I work with our project manager to make sure we are on task from a technical perspective.
“I just moved here to Plano, so I’m working with new developers, mentoring them and bringing them up to speed,” Wu adds.
Within the organization, Wu belongs to Aspire, an employee resource group focused on promoting diversity in IT, with a special focus on women.
After twelve years with USAA, Wu is looking toward IT architecture. “For the past few years, I’ve been shadowing some architects to see what they do. But,” she adds with a smile, “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.”
IT opportunities at USAA
USAA expects to have 150 positions in the Dallas/Ft Worth office filled by the end of this year and close to 700 by the end of 2018.
“As a financial services provider for the military community, USAA’s mission is to facilitate the financial security of its military members and their families,” explains Robert Lagoudis, executive director of IT business management, who oversees USAA’s IT recruiting efforts. “USAA IT supports that mission with a wide variety of technologies that requires a diverse and highly skilled workforce.
“One of our strategic priorities is to attract, develop and retain a diverse and agile workforce. We have strong college and experienced recruiting programs that focus on hiring employees for a career, not a job. Opportunities across the IT department include application developers, project managers, systems analysts and technical managers.”
Jermaine Henson is associate VP of IT applications at Nationwide
“To me, each day is an interview for the next day,” says Jermaine Henson, associate vice president of IT applications at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (Columbus, OH).
His father served in the U.S. Air Force and Henson moved around a lot until he was sixteen.
He was always interested in how things worked. And his older brother, also in the Air Force, specialized in IT and helped him get his first IT job after high school graduation.
“In 1995, I worked at a company called GLC Systems (Columbus),” Henson recalls. “I was working in the basement on custom-built PCs and learned a lot.”
He enrolled at DeVry University, majoring in EE and computer technology. He earned both an AS and BS in electronics computer technology in 2001.
While at DeVry, he started working with the Nationwide IT helpdesk in 1999. “I was working full time and going to school full time,” says Henson. “I didn’t have the traditional college experience but it paid off for me.”
A quick rise
Promotions came in rapid succession. In 2003 he was named IT infrastructure operations manager. “It was my first managerial role but I still had a lot of hands-on technical responsibilities.”
In 2006 he became IT business operations manager. “It was like a chief of staff for the vice president of IT,” Henson explains. “This prepared me to be an executive by allowing me to shadow an executive and understand the importance of technology in driving the business.”
A year later, he was named director of IT business operations, overseeing a team of 100 people responsible for round-the-clock monitoring of all business-critical processes. “I literally slept with my phone under my pillow,” he remembers.
He earned his MBA in 2009 from Ashland University (Ashland, OH). And in 2011, he was named director of applications development. “That was a pretty cool job,” he reports. “We were using cutting-edge predictive analytics to drive business growth and retention in our policies.”
In 2012, he assumed his current role. “As a business solutions area leader, I head a department of two hundred,” Henson explains. “We handle all the solutions that our IT professionals use in their jobs. We oversee services-oriented architecture, making sure systems can interact with each other despite different programming languages. And we oversee the enterprise integration engine.”
Proud part of Nationwide
At Nationwide, Henson belongs to Corporate Connections, a company group for African American leaders. He is also group mentor of the Asian resource group.
“I love being at Nationwide,” Henson says. “It’s a great company to work for, and I particularly like the investment they make in associate development and career opportunities. Most of the people I know have been here at least ten years. There’s a lot of incentive for associates to build long careers at Nationwide.
“In my career, I’ve focused on doing well in my jobs and networking across the organization. I believe that if you keep yourself open to opportunities, they’ll find you.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED INSURANCE FIRMS SEEKING IT PROS
Check website for current listings.
|Company and location
|AIG (New York, NY)
|Property casualty and life insurance, retirement
services, and mortgage guaranty services
|Allstate (Northbrook, IL)
|Auto, home, life and retirement services
|Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Florida
|Nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross
and Blue Shield Association
|The Hartford (Hartford, CT)
|Property and casualty insurance, group benefits,
|Health Care Service Corp (Chicago, IL)
|Health and life insurance products and related
services; operates Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in IL, MT, NM, OK and TX
|Liberty Mutual Insurance (Boston, MA)
|Personal, commercial and specialty insurance
products and services
|Mutual of Omaha (Omaha, NE)
|Full-service, multi-line insurance, banking and financial products
|Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co
|Vehicle, homeowners, pet, life, farm and commercial insurance; annuities, mortgages, mutual funds, pensions, long-term savings plans, specialty health services
|New York Life (New York, NY)
|Life insurance, retirement income, investments and long-term care insurance; institutional asset management and retirement plan
services; retail mutual funds
|The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies
(Mayfield Village, OH)
|Property and casualty insurance
|State Farm Insurance (Bloomington, IL)
|Auto, home, life and health policies
|TMNA Services, LLC (Bala Cynwyd, PA)
|Value added services for Tokio Marine North America companies
|USAA (San Antonio, TX)
|Insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services for U.S. military and their families
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