Gallagher Bassett exec reveals key to strategy

There are a host of elements driving its evolution

Gallagher Bassett exec reveals key to strategy


By Mark Hollmer

If five years is a lifetime in technology, Russ Pass (pictured) has been through more than two in his 11-plus years as chief information officer at Gallagher Bassett, a unit of global insurance brokerage and risk management services firm Arthur J. Gallagher. Looking back, he said, the company has always adapted well in terms of technological evolution.

“We’ve been able to deliver benefits, whether it’s improved document management, improved security, decision support tools – a variety of things. [The company has been] able to deliver that modularly … year after year over the last 10 or 11 years,” Pass said. “That’ something we’re very proud of.”

Gallagher Bassett is a global provider of risk and claims management services, with more than 6,000 employees who help it serve customers including industrial companies, carriers, captives and public entities. Pass’s job is central to keeping everything functioning in terms of technology, and also guiding development of current and future technology strategy for products and services.

“I spend the lion’s share of my time working with our clients and leaders across the company to make sure we are making the best use of our technology investment resources, very much focused on the investments we should make to satisfy our clients’ needs and advance our strategy,” Pass said.

He admits his ongoing stint at Gallagher Bassett is “a fairly long tenure” for CIOs. With that said, many things have kept him engaged and interested.

“Preventing people from getting hurt and then making people whole when they’ve been hurt or had some property damage of some sort is very meaningful work,” he said.

The corresponding draw, he said, is working with cutting-edge technology that helps the company improve how it helps customers.

“From a technology perspective, a lot of the most interesting and exciting technologies have a very direct applicability to our business,” Pass said.

That includes artificial intelligence and machine learning, and also technologies that help boost security and privacy.

Priority technologies

For Pass, priority technologies for Gallagher Bassett are those that revolve around analytics and decision support.

“Where we can make the greatest difference for our customers is making really good decisions on that handful of claims, those handful of situations where we can have a real impact,” Pass said. “That’s all about digging into our data, applying the latest data analysis, data science, tools and techniques to inform the decisions we make.”

That focus is on both prevention and then management of claims situations when they happen.

It’s also critical for Gallagher Bassett to be able to integrate its technology with customers, Pass said.

“With the risk management companies that we work with, we have to function seamlessly as part of their business,” Pass explained.

APIs and JSON data interchange technologies have been key to making this happen.

“The APIs in particular, they allow our vendor partners [and] our clients, to, in a safe and secure manner, reach in and pull the information that they need from us into their systems in whatever way works best for that,” he said. “That’s a highly flexible way for us to exchange information. With clients and carriers that have the same capability, we would leverage their APIs as well.”

An investment in data security has also been crucial, Pass said, something that “has been growing dramatically” over time.

Change and transformation

Eleven years ago, Pass said, Gallagher Bassett was more narrowly focused on US workers’ compensation. While the sector is still a big part of the company’s business, it has since expanded into other types of claims, including medical and professional malpractice, and to public entities and carriers. With that expansion, technology usage and approach has changed in kind.

“We were largely functioning on a legacy claims management system that served our [workers’ comp/general liability] business and served it well for a long time,” he said. “Now, what we have are a whole array of tools that we put in the hands of our client service managers, as well as our clients, that enable them to sort of slice and dice the data and learn all that can be learned from that in terms of improving results going forward.”

The company also relies on decision support machine learning tools that weren’t around 11 years ago.

“We’ve got a catalog of machine learning applications for purposes like preserving clinical intervention, preventing litigation – a whole variety of additional things,” Pass said.

Additionally, as Gallagher Bassett has expanded into other lines of coverage, it has added claims systems specific to those new lines around the world.

“That’s why integration is so important because what we really need is for all these systems to operate seamlessly in a plug and play manner so our clients and professional staff don’t have to deal with that complexity.”

Staying current

Through it all, Pass said he stays current, in part, by relying on the experts who are part of his team.

“My role is to make sure that the conditions for success are in place. Clear goals, the right level of business and IT involvement,” he said. “But it’s really to attract and develop the best possible talent, and that’s where we’ve been very fortunate.”

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