John Kellington (pictured), chief information officer for The Cincinnati Insurance Companies, views technology as a puzzle to solve.
“Its … like trying to figure something out and then all of a sudden, you’re there and you get it,” Kellington said. “You’re building it and it works, and I’ll tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than implementing something that is really effective for business” once that puzzle is solved.
Kellington has served for 12 years now as CIO for Cincinnati Insurance, a carrier that produced $6.8 billion in net written premium in 2021. The company employs close to 5,200 people and is active in 46 states. It offers business, home, auto and life insurance coverage, as well as reinsurance and its Lloyd’s operations.
Kellington’s job as head of technology involves anything related to information systems and technology platforms the company uses with its agents. Internally, he also oversees the department’s infrastructure security and functioning.
Over 12 years, he said, the job has changed considerably as technology has become increasingly important for keeping the insurer growing and thriving.
“Technology in general … is the factory of the insurance company,” he said. “It’s the environment that creates the things we sell – the policies that are written, the claims that we service – it’s technology that is the underpinning of that.”
Kellington’s perspective was shaped, in part by his previous job. He was senior vice president of ACORD, responsible for developing industry standards in areas including information technology.
A wide portfolio of applications
Kellington explained that Cincinnati Insurance uses major core systems to address separate functions such as policies, billing, claims and data warehousing. Beyond that, Kellington and his team make technology choices, in part, based on the needs of the company’s independent agent base – roughly 1,848 throughout the United States.
“We look for a lot of ways to service our agencies and one of the ways that we’ve been doing it is through some artificial intelligence and machine learning,” Kellington said.
Those technologies kick in, for example, when an agent sends an email requests a change to an auto policy.
“We have software that can read email and gather the intent of that email, pull data of the email … and then launch robotic steps to process the transaction for them,” Kellington said. “It’s probably one of the simplest things an agent can do.”
Using machine learning and AI-based natural language processing for agent transactions made sense, Kellington said, because the technology was already available in multiple cloud platforms.
“We thought this might be a unique way of implementing it. We piloted it and we have [had it in] production now for a while,” he added.
Cincinnati Insurance started using the technologies for both drivers and vehicles.
“You can move on to more common requests, to add or change a vehicle or change drivers on a commercial [policy],” he said. “We have a lot of these transactions automatically.”
Long term use of the technology could reach far wider in Cincinnati Insurance’s operations.
“Right now, we’re doing changes to policies, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t quote with it or [apply it] to issuing,” Kellington said.
The technology advancements under Kellington’s tenure run the gamut.
Kellington said he and his team have more than 60 projects on their “enterprise dashboard,” the top of which is the company’s small business platform now being rolled out across the country. There’s also the launch of a person lines excess and surplus lines product, and the implementation of a new claims system.
In addition, Kellington and the tech team continue to focus on simplifying enterprise systems. Also, Cincinnati Insurance now has an operational data store, now the underpinning of its CRM product, that is used to drive agency downloads and easy portals. The company’s technologists’ broader focus remains on leveraging the company’s respective tech advances in multiple ways.
“I don’t know of many organizations that have a more talented technical team than we have. It’s unbelievably impressive,” Kellington said. “You just kind of take the shackles off them and let them build things where they should build them. It’s proven so effective.”
Fun and likeable?
Insurance systems are often quite complex, but, Kellington said, the challenge of improving technology that propels the industry is worth the effort. It can be a challenging but fun puzzle to solve, he said.
“We have the ability to invest in it and make it effective and right, so it is an opportunity for the software engineers or anybody who is in the technology field that wants to join an insurance company,” he said. “It’s a pretty fabulous environment to work in.”
Of course, information technology engineers must consider customer use of technology, and Kellington said there is an important nuance involved. Customers and technology users may not like technology per se, but they like what it produces, and it’s up to insurance technology experts to make their experience as trouble-free and pleasant as possible.
“We serve independent agents, right? They’re not technology experts and they have no interest in being technology experts. They want to service policyholders, so they want an environment that’s as frictionless as possible … in how to get the correct, accurate data in the most seamless and effective way,” Kellington said. “That’s why we’re trying to build solutions to have that.”