Grange Insurance Discusses the Increasing Speed of Infrastructure and Platform Innovation and the Need to Stay Up-To-Date
Tim Cunningham - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree
Founder and President
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CIO for Grange Insurance, Tim Cunningham, discusses the increasing speed of infrastructure and platform innovation and the need to stay up-to-date.
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BK: Good morning. We are here today with Tim Cunningham, who is the CIO at Grange Insurance. Grange Insurance is an organization based in Columbus, Ohio and focuses on property, casualty and life insurance. My name is Bryan Kaiser. I'm the Founder and President of Vernovis and also part of the executive host committee for comSpark, and I will be your guest moderator today. So, let's get started. Tim, thanks for your time.
TC: Thank you Bryan. It's a pleasure to be here.
BK: Appreciate it. So, you've been with Grange for about three years now. Um, and in a time where the CIOs generally last 18 to 24 months in a role, what do you attribute your longevity to in your role?
TC: I think it's a great question, Bryan. Um, in my case, uh, I was at JP Morgan Chase for 28 years previously, and I really came into this fabulous opportunity of switching industries, um, really understanding what the mission ahead looked like. Um, so number one, um, the organization was preparing itself for significant transformational change, which was really exciting to me. And, um, that mission is not a short-term mission, so the job isn't done in a short period of time. And so that's one of the contributing factors. Um, secondly, I think the executive team at Grange did an exceptional job of really being precise and explaining the need and the reason why it was so important, and so, I'm committed for the long term, because I think it's a great opportunity and the leadership team is committed to the long term vision. So, in my case, I think it was fortuitous timing and it was a great match.
BK: That's great. So, how do you want to improve Grange Insurance in the next three years?
TC: Well, um, you know, we are an insurance company that's been in business for over 80 years, and with that we've done a lot of terrific things. And part of that has been providing a great experience for our independent agents. But the underlying technology, um, at this point in time was in need of being refreshed, to deal with the new realities of a real-time digital experience that all of our customers and policyholders expect to have.
And our infrastructure and our platforms needed to be modernized. So, that's clearly one of the, uh, the areas that we're going to be focusing on, and had been focusing on for now, for a more than three years to modernize and replace legacy systems, bring new capabilities and experiences to our policy holders and agents, and um, those are the, you know, what I would say the primary objectives from a technology perspective. Clearly, we're business-driven, so we want to make sure that we're focused on meeting the needs of our policy holders on their terms and the meeting the needs of our independent agents who really have a tough job of explaining insurance and getting the right insurance for those policy holders.
So, um, you know, I'm inspired and excited about the three years ahead because we're on the right path, and we've got more to do.
BK: That's great. And I love how you talked about the mission, the longevity of some of the projects that you're getting into. So, what, what keeps you up at night?
TC: Um, the competition, number one isn't resting. And, you know, we're partnering with Ensuretax, we're driving a culture of innovation, because we want to be a certain thriving survivor. And as such, um, one activity is, are we going fast enough? That’s one thing that I think about. The second thing is that, because of my particular unique background of having been at JP Morgan Chase for a long time, it was a really high security attack target for bad actors. And so, um, the cyber threat is real and, um, I think that that is something that you can never underestimate. And so, that's something that I'm always trying to make sure are we doing enough in that area to, um, be a protecting our policy holders, our agents and our employees from, uh, from harm? And the, uh, the cyber villains are, um, they're pretty well equipped and they're pretty savvy. So it's a constant area of focus for us. And so that's something that I also think a bit about.
BK: Yeah, I think you hit a lot of a critical points right now and in the technology space, cyber being one of those and, and certainly, part of it's the wild, wild west right now. No one knows what to do with it and, uh, we're all trying to figure it out. So, thanks for your comments there. So, what, what is your favorite part of working in Central Ohio and in the Columbus area?
TC: Well, I'm, uh, an Ohio state buckeye graduate. And um, the culture, the midwestern culture is extremely attractive. You've got, uh, people that genuinely care about people first, and there's a pride of a work-life balance at Grange that is really, really important. So, there's a family orientation, there is, uh, you know, respect for the time that you give at the office is, is equally important to the time that you're spending in the community and with your family and other interests. And I think that's really, really something that is a valuable asset in Columbus.
Secondly, the collaboration in the community. It is outstanding. I mean, the, the leadership and the willingness to share techniques, ideas, to partner is very, very strong, and I think that ties back to that midwestern values and approach. Um, and then it's so easy to get to any other location in the, in the U.S. very simply. We've got a great airport, we've got a great infrastructure, we got a great school system. We've got um, you know, just so many positives for Columbus that, once I graduated from Ohio State, I never moved back home. And um, when I worked at JP Morgan Chase, I had employees globally. And by choice, I was fortunate that I was able to remain in Columbus and, um, that's been something that I'm really pleased that I did.
BK: It is interesting. I mean, one of the first comments you said, Tim, was about the competition isn't going away. I mean, it's there, it's fierce. It's, it's right for the taking there. But at the same time, you guys are such a collaborative, uh, market. So it's kinda like a “coopertition.” So you're cooperative with one another, but you're also competing with one another. Tell me a little bit, unpack that a little bit. That's a very interesting concept.
TC: Yeah. And I think you're absolutely right. It is very interesting. And how I dissect it is that, there's a lot of um, co-collaboration across industry. So like, cyber, you know, we're all in it to win it, right? And if you have, if you have a breach there, it's bad for all the academy. So, no matter who gets breached, it's bad for business. So let's, let's not worry about sharing anything in who's doing it better or worse, share that because that's good for us. It's good for people to have secure systems and trust in the infrastructure and the capabilities of commerce and business and your personal information. When it comes to direct competitors, there is a level of, um, I've gone down this path, and I will kind of share information that would be valuable to you, and there's a quid pro quo. And um, when you think about insurance, it’s a very noble, uh, area to, uh, I think, to really contribute a part of, um, your professional experience to. If we didn't have any insurance in society, when bad things happen and you don't have a safety net of insurance, then it's really bad for the whole community. It's, it's bad for humanity. So, it is something that, that helped the cooperation.
It’s also, I think, uh, fermented because there's regulatory laws that ensure that, you know, fair pricing and what the products and the level of funding behind that that insurers have that naturally protect you from, uh, perhaps thinking that it's a cutthroat industry. And if I share something of value to a competitor that I'm taking, um, you know, something out of my own pocket, when, in fact, you know, we're, uh, and I'm learning this because I'm new to insurance. Um, you know, as a society, we are under insured. And so, um, and if we had more efficiency in our products and our capabilities, then we could have lower prices. We could have more people have the protection of insurance, because you want to be able to get through those life unexpected events that are outside of your control that certainly do happen. If you don't have that insurance safety net, then it falls into the goodwill of the community or people fall through the cracks, and that's just not good for people. Right? And good for society in general. So, I think that that is where there's an interesting play of that cooperation and collaboration that is effectively intertwined, and it just makes sense when you think about, it's a noble, valuable purpose to have insurance.
BK: Love that. So, uh, I'm going to wrap this up with kind of a curve ball question here – professionally, what makes you the most happy?
TC: Well, you know what makes me the most happy is um, two things – solving problems, because I like the satisfaction of having a result and an outcome, but even more importantly is seeing the growth and development of individuals that I have, the honor and the pleasure of working with closely. And, um, I have felt, throughout my career, that I had been given opportunities to, kind of really work hard and, and take new assignments that were uncertain, unproven, um, and figuring it out and getting help along the way. And I'm sure that, that, uh, mentors and individuals who took a chance on me felt pretty good that they saw that outcome, and I'm seeing the exact same thing now. I take great pleasure in seeing the growth and development of just tremendous associates at Grange and seeing them grow and develop and for the past two and a half years, it's been phenomenal in terms of the growth and the successes. Um, so that's really, really a proud, uh, you know, very proud memory that I have and I hope to continue to make more of those and see more of those down the road.
BK: Well, that's very noble. I mean, I think it's all about people. It's all about relationships. I like how you focus on growth and helping, helping people get to the next level. That's great. So folks, this is Bryan Kaiser and Tim Cunningham. Uh, thank you for your time, Tim. And, uh, to learn more about us, please visit comspark.tech. And uh, we'll talk to you soon. Thank you.
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