August 29, 2014

Insurance and Cyber Crime: Should You Be Concerned?

It's a lockA piece on the Corporate Board Member Magazine site raises an issue that’s growing more relevant to the insurance industry: cyber crime. The mass digitization of data for processing and storage purposes and the rise of  “cloud computing” models open organizations to some of the threats that come with operating in cyberspace. It’s easy to feel separated from, say, the Chinese hacker ring that launched a sophisticated attack on Google servers in late 2009, or the groups that targeted the 2011 G20 summit in Paris. But data security is no less important when it fails to make headlines.

Most insurance companies don’t make for obvious targets. Hackers are more likely to aim for industry kingpins like Google or nationwide health organizations that store the names and Social Security numbers of millions of Americans in their databases. Still, any company that files confidential client information in a form accessible via the web (like those using Salesforce and other “cloud” software) will be subject to heightened security risks. Individuals with dubious motives will not hesitate to steal valuable information from your clients.

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The (Very Simple) Google Guide to Management

The fine people at Google are the kings of rounding up strings of data and telling us what it all means. The company is, by all accounts, the absolute leader in driving the transformation of classic business models into digital numbers games. Based on this reputation, you’d expect the release of Google’s internal Project Oxygen audit and its “eight habits of highly efficient managers” memo to be a game-changer filled with complex stats and charts, but the most striking thing about its conclusions is just how traditional they are. Instead of hyping the conversion of all office minutiae into productivity metrics, the report states that the most important aspects of management are, in fact, little more than basic people skills that come from maintaining respectful communication with every member of your team.

Google worked from a conclusion that is hardly controversial but deserves to be noted: relations with management have a greater impact on employee performance and satisfaction levels than any other factor. Essentially, if you don’t like your boss, chances are fairly good that you won’t like your job either, and most employees will (under)perform accordingly. The process that guided this drawn-out survey was downright medieval: Google simply conducted a series of extended interviews, reviewed the notes from each, and drew conclusions. Of course Google is a data company, so parts of the project did come back to the sort of thing they do best, like using code to search for statistical patterns in the language of 10,000 employees describing their managers.

The complaints and the solutions that arose from Project Oxygen will sound very familiar to anyone who has worked in an office at some point over the last 50 years. Some sample phrases used to describe an unpopular manager: “…bossy, arrogant, political, secretive. [His employees] wanted to quit his team.” Among the eight habits that Google recommends for all managers lay these gems: “Have a clear vision and strategy for the team.” “Don’t be a sissy. Be productive and results-oriented.” The list goes on. And yet, we would be doing ourselves a disservice by downplaying the validity of this work; it’s actually refreshing to think that the secrets of successful management boil down to “give clear and direct feedback to the people [you] serve.”

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A Conversation on the U.S. and China

ReSource Pro Founder and COO offers his thoughts on two co-dependent superpowers

ReSource Pro COO Matt Bruno Matthew Bruno rose from a position teaching English in urban China to become Managing Director of ReSource Pro’s operations in Qingdao and Jinan in a few short years. He didn’t just found a company in China – he has spent almost 10 years living there, speaking the language and absorbing the culture. This experience gives him a unique perspective from which to comment on sea changes in Chinese society and the ways in which China and the United States will grow even more interconnected with time.

A number of thought leaders have mentioned the fact that there’s a big generational gap within the insurance industry and that companies must appeal to younger demographics in order to succeed in the market of the future. How is China similar to the US in this way?

I think the generational gaps in China are just as big, if not bigger, than they are in the US. Young college grads have high expectations regarding their own value in the market and they’re very focused on career development, but they have relatively few tangible skills after school. They’re concerned about money but also very interested in seeking personal fulfillment.

In these ways they’re very similar to young Americans, but Chinese society is also more traditional in the sense that young people are closer to their families and they live in a more uncertain environment in terms of safety nets, health, and dramatic events. They value stability and they want to be close to their families, but they also want to be stimulated just like young Americans. They want to feel motivated and excited by the fact that they’re learning new things every day.

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The State of the Outsourcing Industry

In a few short years, outsourcing has changed from a practice focused on call centers and IT departments to a crucial cross-industry tool for businesses looking to gain competitive advantage. Companies within the industry have gradually transformed from simple service providers to consultants and advisers.

In 2005, Thomas Friedman published The World Is Flat, his bestselling history of globalization and its dramatic effects on the worldwide economy. At the time, he noted that “Companies and individuals can now source so much more easily whatever knowledge, production, innovation, research, or advice they need.” This statement has only grown more relevant as the outsourcing industry expands and a competitive environment requires providers to offer their clients more services and greater flexibility.

When ReSource Pro’s Patrick Armstrong recently spoke at the 2011 Peak Performance Insurance Ski Conference in Snowmass, Colorado, he discussed how outsourcing has become a necessary component of a successful business model, especially in hyper-competitive industries like insurance. The business is here to stay, and the companies that learn to use it most effectively will eventually fare better in the marketplace. [Read more...]