Mak­ing seats at the ta­ble

Digital Insurance - - CONTENTS - By Nathan Go­lia

As the tech­nol­ogy leader be­hind MassMu­tual's $80 bil­lion in­sti­tu­tional so­lu­tions group, Tara Long has built an en­thu­si­as­tic, ef­fec­tive and di­verse team that is de­liv­er­ing re­sults for the grow­ing busi­ness seg­ment. In­sti­tu­tional So­lu­tions com­prises a range of prod­ucts aimed at in­sti­tu­tions' fi­nan­cial and risk man­age­ment needs: in­sti­tu­tional in­sur­ance, de­fined ben­e­fit, pen­sion risk trans­fer, DC in­vest­ment only, medium term notes and mu­nic­i­pal guar­an­teed in­ter­est con­tracts. Long says: “There are a lot of legacy en­vi­ron­ments at a com­pany that is more than 165 years old, so we are con­tin­u­ally aim­ing to mod­ern­ize the sys­tems and create even more scale. But on the other hand, some of the busi­nesses are fairly new and we are im­ple­ment­ing new tech­nol­ogy ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the mar­ket that they need. As some of these ar­eas con­tinue to rapidly ex­pand, we've cre­ated ad­di­tional new sys­tems and ca­pa­bil­i­ties to help au­to­mate and stream­line to meet the growth.” How­ever, she has been able to re­duce the unit's ap­pli­ca­tion foot­print while mak­ing her or­ga­ni­za­tion a leader in tap­ping into many of MassMu­tual's cor­po­rate in­no­va­tion ini­tia­tives, in­clud­ing an in­creased fo­cus on data sci­ence and cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence. “We want to make sure that we have more than sim­ply mar­ket par­ity. We need to ex­ceed it in por­tals, dig­i­tal and an­a­lyt­ics ca­pa­bil­i­ties so we can sup­port team en­able­ment, busi­ness and risk man­age­ment de­ci­sions, and pro­vide an ex­cep­tional cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence,” Long says. “We de­vel­oped a data mart and are deeply in­volved with data an­a­lyt­ics. What used to take days or a week now only takes hours.” For the data mart, Long says that her group part­nered with MassMu­tual's cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and data sci­ence or­ga­ni­za­tion “very closely.” “The power is in that data. It's def­i­nitely a mar­ket need across ev­ery sin­gle chan­nel,” she says. Long also sup­ports those groups' ef­forts to in­crease the pres­ence of women in data sci­ence po­si­tions. MassMu­tual has part­nered with the women's col­leges Mount Holyoke and Smith, which are lo­cated near its head­quar­ters in Spring­field, Mass., to en­cour­age fe­male stu­dents to en­ter the an­a­lyt­ics pro­fes­sion. She serves as chair of the com­pany's Tech­nol­ogy and Ad­min­is­tra­tion Di­ver­sity and In­clu­sion Com­mit­tee, which has yielded more di­verse in­ter­view pan­els and can­di­date pools un­der her watch. And Long doesn't only look to in­crease the pro­file of women. She is a con­trib­u­tor to groups that help raise the pro­file for other un­der-rep­re­sented pop­u­la­tions, in­clud­ing the His­panic IT Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil and the In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Se­nior Man­age­ment Fo­rum, which fo­cuses on black IT pro­fes­sion­als. “Di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion is a strate­gic im­per­a­tive for us — we have met­rics at the en­ter­prise level that we're mea­sur­ing,” she says. “One of the things that we did was stand up a com­mit­tee spe­cific to the tech or­ga­ni­za­tion. We've made a lot of sig­nif­i­cant and dif­fer­ent pos­i­tive changes — for in­stance, we re­cently held a fire­side chat with a UMASS pro­fes­sor whose re­search spe­cial­izes in un­con­scious bias and how it im­pedes the ex­pe­ri­ences of women and peo­ple of color in STEM de­grees and fields.” But creat­ing a more di­verse tech or­ga­ni­za­tion takes sev­eral dif­fer­ent forms, Long adds. It's not just di­ver­sity from a gen­der and race per­spec­tive, but also in­volves bring­ing peo­ple in from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and gain­ing new ap­proaches to dig­i­tal chal­lenges. “We're hir­ing non-tra­di­tional tech folks, com­ing from the busi­ness side,” she says. “Tech­nol­ogy skills can be taught. I'm look­ing for some­one that wants to be a con­tin­u­ous learner — push them­selves and learn some­thing new.” And within the tech­nol­ogy or­ga­ni­za­tion, Long en­cour­ages her staff to explore new ideas and take the time to con­tin­u­ously learn new tech­nol­ogy. For ex­am­ple, many of the de­vel­op­ers on her team have started learn­ing to de­velop in newer tech lan­guages and re­cently one of the main­frame de­vel­op­ers is ex­cited about learn­ing Python. “The tech­nol­ogy is con­stantly evolv­ing. We need to have some­one who's a quick study and wants to get into and learn that skill set to sup­port the evolv­ing tech,” she says. “We want communication and ex­e­cu­tion skills and ac­count­abil­ity. An in­clu­sive team that can put all the dif­fer­ent ideas to­gether on the ta­ble and come to the best in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions.”

Tara Long CIO, In­sti­tu­tional So­lu­tions, MassMu­tual

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