Build­ing out from the core

Digital Insurance - - CONTENTS - By Anne Raw­land Gabriel

With four decades in the in­dus­try, Barb Furr is no stranger to core con­ver­sions. Her first ex­pe­ri­ence in­volved trans­lat­ing a com­pletely paper-based process into com­puter code dur­ing the early 1980s, for the St. Paul Com­pa­nies. Af­ter land­ing an un­der­writ­ing depart­ment job in the mid-70's, Furr iden­ti­fied sig­nif­i­cant ca­reer po­ten­tial in tech­nol­ogy. “I was strong at math and logic,” re­calls the VP for prod­uct op­er­a­tions for MetLife Auto & Home. “So I took some com­puter pro­gram­ming cour­ses, which re­sulted in an en­try level IT po­si­tion.” Even­tu­ally St. Paul's per­sonal in­sur­ance bus­ness was ac­quired by MetLife, and Furr was tapped to help lead the in­surer's in­au­gu­ral foray into com­put­er­iz­ing pol­icy ad­min. “We cre­ated a new plat­form that in­tro­duced new tech­nol­ogy for its time,” she says. “It was very dif­fer­ent than the trans­for­ma­tion to dig­i­tal we're un­der­go­ing to­day.” Now, Furr is tasked with lead­ing Met360. This ac­cel­er­ated, multi-year ini­tia­tive in­volves tran­si­tion­ing to Guidewire's hosted suite, re­plac­ing nu­mer­ous sys­tems dat­ing back decades, to be­come en­tirely Guidewire Cloud-based. “We're re-plat­form­ing our en­tire tech­nol­ogy stack to elim­i­nate our legacy sys­tems,” she says. “We started in early last year and we ex­pect to tran­si­tion all pol­i­cy­hold­ers by 2022.” Al­though the abil­ity to steer such a mas­sive ef­fort stems from Furr's suc­ces­sively more ad­vanced lead­er­ship po­si­tions, a for­ma­tive one stands out. At the turn of the mil­len­nium she moved out of IT to head a re­gional busi­ness unit. “Lead­ing the 200-as­so­ciate re­gional sales, un­der­writ­ing and ser­vic­ing unit changed my think­ing around how to man­age many lev­els of peo­ple while im­prov­ing our re­gional re­sults,” she says. “For the first time, I had to think about tak­ing the busi­ness mul­ti­ple years into the fu­ture and what we needed to do each year to get us there.” To­day, Furr is re­spon­si­ble for nearly 170 em­ploy­ees and roots her lead­er­ship in flex­i­bil­ity. This en­ables her to par­tic­i­pate or man­age as the sit­u­a­tion re­quires. “For any given ini­tia­tive, it de­pends on what the team needs, how ex­pe­ri­enced they are at de­ci­sion-mak­ing and the ur­gency of the project,” she says. With Met360, this means creat­ing a strong vi­sion and pro­vid­ing guid­ance for the var­i­ous teams to ex­e­cute. “As it's too large a project for one per­son to con­trol it all, my role is over­sight and gov­er­nance,” she says. An­other re­cent project was just the op­po­site. When Hyundai Cap­i­tal ap­proached MetLife Auto & Home about bundling in­sur­ance prod­ucts with au­to­mo­bile leases, Furr was hands-on for the provider's role in Hyundai Plus. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing a strate­gic vi­sion, she ap­plied her ex­per­tise to struc­tur­ing the pro­gram, meet­ing state com­pli­ance re­quire­ments, es­tab­lish­ing a pric­ing strat­egy, stand­ing up the of­fer­ing in­ter­nally and over­see­ing the de­vel­op­ment of a mo­bile app for leas­ing cus­tomers. Other Furr wins in­clude the 2015 launch of MetLife MyDirect Auto, which made MetLife Auto & Home the first U.S. P&C in­surer to of­fer a com­plete dig­i­tal ex­pe­ri­ence, from quotes to claims. Within 14 months, MyDirect's avail­abil­ity ex­panded to 25 states. “MyDirect not only ad­dresses cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence ex­pec­ta­tions but also served as a Met360 en­try project,” she says. Hav­ing ben­e­fit­ted from mul­ti­ple men­tors, Furr has a strong for­mal and in­for­mal men­tor­ing record her­self. A few of her for­mal ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude MetLife's Global Learn­ing and De­vel­op­ment Pro­gram, IN­ROADs in­terns, De­vel­op­ing Women's Ca­reer Ex­pe­ri­ence and the Women's Busi­ness Net­work. When con­sid­er­ing all of her own men­tors, she says the most im­por­tant one as­sisted her with be­com­ing an ef­fec­tive change agent. “He helped me see that peo­ple grow mas­ter­ful at their work, which makes it psy­cho­log­i­cally hard to do things dif­fer­ently,” she says. “He showed me that it's crit­i­cal to spend time car­ing about what a change means in peo­ple's daily ac­tiv­i­ties – whether it's pro­cesses, pro­ce­dures or tech­nol­ogy – and then help­ing them un­der­stand the “what” and the “why” rather than just “how” you want things done.” As Furr's con­sid­er­able tal­ents could've led her away from in­sur­ance years ago, she cred­its the in­dus­try's “noble pur­pose” with in­spir­ing her to stay. “Very few other types of in­dus­tries op­er­ate in with spirit of help­ing peo­ple put their lives back to­gether again, she ex­plains.

Barb Furr VP, Prod­uct Op­er­a­tions, MetLife Auto and Home

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