Pacific Life Insurance Names New Tech Chief From USAA

Pacific Life Insurance Co. named its first chief information and digital officer as it aims to expand its technology capabilities in an industry that has rapidly evolved through the adoption of artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

Mary Beth Eckert, most recently chief information officer for corporate and insurance services at USAA, will step into the role in December, the company said in a statement.

She replaces Mike Shadler, who has served as CIO since 2018 and plans to retire at the end of the year, said a spokesperson for the life insurance company.

Ms. Eckert’s role is newly expanded to include both CIO and digital responsibilities, and will focus on unifying the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm’s technology and data strategies. She will report to Pacific Life Chief Executive Darryl Button.

At USAA, Ms. Eckert oversaw system modernization with an IT organization of over 1,800 employees and 6,000 contractors. The financial-services company, which is known for working with military families, last year began using a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform to help customers estimate repair costs based on photos of their damaged vehicles.

She has also held a senior IT management role at Travelers Cos., and was a vice president at Zurich Financial Services Group.

Mr. Button, who became CEO of Pacific Life in April, said in the statement that Ms. Eckert will “play a critical role as we continue to grow our digital capabilities” and described her experience as key in helping the company remain competitive.

The insurance industry is one of many high-regulated sectors that have begun to more quickly move to the cloud and take advantage of artificial intelligence.

Still, many life insurers aren’t meeting customer expectations in terms of speed of service and method of communication, said Ted Epps, Global Life Insurance Technology Leader at Ernst & Young.

Insurance technology is “the convergence of modern digital experiences and advice with proven products,” Mr. Eps said. “Smart insurers are investing in leadership to make this convergence a reality.”

Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America launched an AI-based “digital agent” in 2020, in part because the pandemic forced more customers to engage with companies online. A spokesperson said the company has continued the pace of its digital transformation since then, noting it now has “instant” underwriting for certain policies and increased digital self-service capabilities for policyholders.

Anthem Inc.

CIO Anil Bhatt in May said the company was building a synthetic data platform to help the health insurance company better detect fraud and offer personalized care to its members. The company will use algorithms and statistical models to generate about 1.5 to 2 petabytes of synthetic data. Bhatt said.

Using the cloud can also help insurers cut costs, which have been under greater scrutiny in a tougher economic climate. Prudential Financial Inc.

is using more digital and cloud-based tools for managing expenses and financial planning, chief financial officer Ken Tanji told The Wall Street Journal in February. The Newark, NJ-based company said it achieved $635 million in savings by the end of 2021, largely through new technology.

Write to Belle Lin at [email protected]

Corrections & Amplifications
Darryl Button joined Pacific Life Insurance Co. in 2017 and became chief executive in April. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Mr. Button joined the company in April. (Corrected on Nov. 17)

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