Liberty Mutual is a 110-year-old company with thousands of IT systems and the processes to match.
“You don’t transform that overnight,” Monica Caldas, the company’s EVP and global CIO, said in an interview with CIO Dive.
In addition to more than 5,000 technologists, the company has a worldwide workforce topping 50,000. The transformation Caldas has in mind reaches beyond core and customer-facing technologies and gets at the heart of the business — the company’s human assets.
“We are spending enormous amounts of energy in making sure that we have the skills that we need for today, but also for tomorrow,” Caldas said. “I’m thinking about how we can leverage the digital IQ of all our employees to augment the 5,000 who are hands-on-keyboard working in technology.”
Caldas rose to the top CIO position at the sixth-largest global property and casualty insurer in January, after serving as deputy CIO under her predecessor, James McGlennon, for just under a year. She’d spent 17 years at General Electric before Liberty Mutual tapped her to lead IT for its global retail markets division in 2018.
As the economy has slowed, the insurance industry — like many large, consumer-oriented businesses — hasn’t cut tech spend, according to a January report by analyst firm Gartner.
Instead, insurance companies have prioritized migration from legacy systems to cloud, expanding analytics capabilities and improving CX technologies to maintain revenues and protect their current customer base.
Coupling customer service needs with aggressive modernization is akin to upgrading an airliner mid-flight, Caldas said. “The airplane isn’t taking off — it’s flying,” she said. "And we have to make sure that we deliver for customers, but also modernize and develop new capabilities.”
Liberty Mutual got a head start in digital transformation, having shifted nearly three-quarters of its workloads and trimming 20% of expected cloud costs through FinOps strategies, Angela “AJ” Wasserman, product owner of cloud financial operations at Liberty Mutual, told CIO Dive in November.
Workforce upskilling isn’t new to the company either. The company instituted an in-house coding program under McGlennon in 2016 and Caldas shepherded a digital literacy initiative for executive leadership in her former role.
When executives have a better understanding of technology, discussions about IT priorities and investments are inherently more robust and productive, Caldas said.
“I think back 20 years to the days when you’d have a leader in front of a room with a clicker saying ‘I don't know how to use technology,’ and those days are over,” Caldas said. “If that’s still representative of your company, you're in trouble in a big way.”
On the IT side, Liberty Mutual has doubled down on engineering, data and cyber skills, according to Caldas. The shift aligns with industry trends.
Two-thirds of insurers plan to increase spending on security in 2023 and nearly half are investing in cloud to reduce their legacy footprint, Gartner’s report said.
“If you don't have secure, stable systems, you don't get to do the fun things,” Caldas said.