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Groundhog Day


Ken Toffolo

Over the past three decades, I managed numerous projects to provide common front office access to multiple life insurance administration systems. Each was trying to simplify access for field and home office staff. Each required the integration of one or more mainframe legacy systems (some clones of the same platform) and the development of a messaging infrastructure to allow for the sharing of data and transactions across systems. Three of these projects are highlighted below. Note that they were for different carriers, spanned 30 years, and essentially were solving the same problem.

In the ‘80s, I worked on a mainframe project where a separate region was established that would present common “green screens” to connect to two other CICS regions. The challenge was the use of new technology from IBM that provided inter-region communication between all three environments. At the time, messaging software was non-existent.

In the late ‘00s, I drove an initiative to connect five mainframe administration systems to provide front and back office customer support. While some of the integration tools that were developed in the ‘80s and ‘90s for similar projects were available, the challenge was to repurpose those into an industry standard, service-oriented architecture that could be accessed using newly developed portal technology.

Finally, as recently as last year, I managed a program that connected three mainframe and client/server-based administration systems with telephony, workflow, and transactional capabilities to provide call centers with a single dashboard. The new technology wrinkle here was cognitive integration to anticipate the reason for calls and use chatbots to provide complex product information relevant to the service request.

In all cases, the access to the existing systems utilized native (mostly green screen) UIs and involved new, emerging technology that required complex integration to get it to work with the existing legacy systems. They all had a familiar feel to them and provided significant benefits to the service operation.

As I talk to my new colleagues at Novarica about some of the issues they’re seeing at our life and annuity clients, especially around the potential uses of RPA and AI to improve servicing and other processes, I have a feeling I’ll be seeing those green screens again in many places, particularly given the long-tail liabilities associated with these contracts. Hopefully, some of the current burst of technology investment by insurers will break the cycle as we get ready for an increasingly competitive and dynamic future.

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About Ken Toffolo

Ken Toffolo, CLU ChFC, is a Vice President of Research and Consulting at Novarica. He is an expert in insurance technology transformation with more than three decades of experience. His recent experience includes serving as Vice President of Application Development at New York Life. During his tenure at New York Life, he led both domestic and international programs in life/annuity core systems, business technology strategy and architecture, and distribution systems. His other experience includes roles at IBM, DXC, and CSC. Ken began his career at Home Life Insurance Company. He holds an MBA from NYU Stern School of Business and a BS in Computer Science magna cum laude from Saint John’s University, as well as various industry certifications including Chartered Life Underwriter and Chartered Financial Consultant. He can be reached directly at