Gallagher Bassett CIO discusses the role of innovation in insurance

Gallagher Bassett CIO discusses the role of innovation in insurance | Insurance Business

Gallagher Bassett CIO discusses the role of innovation in insurance

Nathan Pilgrim (pictured), chief information officer at Gallagher Bassett (GB), who was named on the 2019 CIO50 list, recently spoke with Insurance Business to discuss in greater depth the award and his work. The list recognised those Australian executives who have driven significant technology-led innovations that are having a positive impact on the way that their organisations operate. Notably, Pilgrim was the only technology and digital chief in the insurance industry named on the most recently published list.

“I’m honoured to be recognised as one of Australia’s Top 50 CIOs,” Pilgrim said. “It’s a testament to the calibre of the wider GB technology team, in recognition of the initiatives we’ve delivered to support our internal business and customers.”

Insurance Business sat down with Pilgrim recently to discuss the shortlisting and his insight into his work and the topic of innovation and leadership.

“The CIO50 is quite a broad list,” he said. “It’s not really looking at who’s got the biggest or best project.” Rather, it considers numerous facets within the broad umbrellas of innovation and leadership to determine who is best to include on it.

Pilgrim, who has only been at GB since August 2018, was nominated by colleague, principal architect, James Gan. 

“Nathan’s people-centric style of management has influenced his approach to diversity and inclusion, where staff-driven initiatives are pushed to the forefront, with the understanding that diversity can enhance Gallagher Bassett’s ability to respond to its customers’ needs,” Gan explained. “He is quick to identify and mitigate risks while delivering a service-led engagement model, building on people and technology assets.”

However, when word reached Pilgrim that he had been shortlisted and asked to come to the ceremony, he had to ask Gan just what exactly he had been nominated for.

“A couple of months had passed and out of the blue a call got through congratulating me and asking me to come to the event,” Pilgrim remembered. “I had to ask James – can you send me the submission because I’m not actually sure what I’ve been nominated for!”

Pilgrim explained to Insurance Business some of the work he and his team have been doing – for example, a project in conjunction with the Tasmanian government that tried to improve the mental wellbeing of emergency responders. “We released a health and wellbeing product into the market to align and support the work of the Tasmanian government,” Pilgrim explained.

The project and product complimented an existing survey the government had carried out with emergency workers and first responders, and, with the material gathered, GB sought to use that information within a technology solution that would assist its existing work. The product was called MyPulse, a free purpose-built program that aimed to facilitate positive behavioural change and increase the health and wellbeing literacy of Tasmanians employed in the emergency service industry. It was just one of the notable projects led by Pilgrim and his GB team.

As chief information officer, Pilgrim is acutely aware of the advantages of technology and digitization – illustrated by the MyPulse initiative. But he also understands that innovation does not just refer to technology, but rather it is about joining things together with human elements to the benefit of the customer.

“MyPulse was a technology solution, coupled with a human and a personal element to develop practical solutions to help those emergency service responders,” Pilgrim explained.

This can also be seen in the work Pilgrim and GB do in the automation field where there is a concerted effort to use automation to not just make the process simpler and better, but also to free up time where the human element can spend longer properly engaging with a client.

“We’ve tended to use automation at the back-end of processing, but we’re now bringing that into the front-end claims process,” he said. “We’re trying to make the process as responsive as possible for a person during the claims process.” By speeding up the process, tearing down obstacles to interaction, GB has tried to increase that important face-to-face time.

This spreads to complex claims management – and when asked by a client how best he and his team approach it, his answer was unequivocal.

“Complex claims management is 100% a human interaction between people,” he explained. “Digitalisation and technological solutions should free up the process to allow as much of that human element and interaction within the stages as possible.”

With the list noting those industry leaders that have excelled in ‘business innovation’, Pilgrim is clear that innovation is not one or the other, but an attempt to couple together contrasting ideas and processes to expediate and improve the customer experience.