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Liz Tluchowski has been a CIO for over 35 years, specializing in insurance. She’s currently the CIO and CSO of World Insurance Associates, and has seen the company through rapid expansion in the last four years.

The company, which deals in both the wholesale and retail sides of insurance, is always integrating new acquisitions and keeping her on her toes. In fact, she began her role at a time when the startup was acquiring several agencies a month. “I had said I do not want to be bored. So be careful what you wish for,” she jokes.

Having created a solid tech foundation for a growing business, here are three areas she’s taken under the purview that have helped make World Insurance the thriving company it is today.

Rapid—but sustainable—scaling

Since Tluchowski started four years ago as employee 51, World Insurance has shot to 1,700 people and counting—not to mention the companies and technologies they’ve acquired in that time that needed to be integrated. A big part of how it all came together so seamlessly was because she worked to build the right systems from the ground up.

One of the things I’m most proud of is just building the IT department and infrastructure to support the aggressive growth of the company,” she says. “It’s important to remember that one size doesn’t always fit all—sometimes you have to be able to zig or zag to do what's best for the organization.

Taking an individualized approach to acquisitions has enabled Tluchowski and her team to stay on top of an ambitious integration tempo that has served the organization well. “Our cadence is a 90-day integration model where we take all the technology that we've acquired from the acquisition and we integrate it into World's technology,” she says.

“The business decision there was to have a central point of information, data, client information, one network, one security program.” Compliance also plays a role in their speedy work, as many of the companies they acquire don’t have cyber programs, so integration is a race against the clock.

That environment of quick work and decision making also means that Tluchowski isn’t afraid to cut the fat when necessary. “I ask myself, will this make sense for the entire organization? If it does, we will enlist it. If it does not, we will eliminate it.”

Security that’s everyone’s responsibility

With years of experience behind her, Tluchowski knew better than to wait until the company had scaled to put a solid security plan in place. “One thing that is on my mind 24/7 is that everyone's a target. It doesn't matter what size the company is,” she says.

Her security ethos is that because security affects everyone, the job of maintaining security belongs to everyone. “Without a doubt that’s everyone's job. It's not just an IT function,” she says. “This is one of the things that I try so desperately to train people on—everybody has a responsibility in the game.”

Education has therefore become an integral part of her method, and as both CISO and CIO, she takes that component seriously, and provides failsafe measures to mitigate error.

From a security perspective, I really try to help teams understand that it's a function for everyone within the organization,” she says. “At the same time, we need to put in every measure possible, because people will fail at some point.

Part of integrating many new companies and team members into the World Insurance family means making sure everyone gets up to speed on how things are done—and especially how they can contribute to cyber security. “Not everyone’s taken a security course before. Some folks had access to Gmail and they could go on Facebook, so that was a huge change for them when we brought them on.”

The potential of AI in insurance

Since establishing a well-oiled machine, Tluchowski has had time to think to the future about the kinds of technologies that will help her insurance business continue to grow and thrive. Taking into account the duties of a CIO and CISO, she sees multiple potential uses for AI-enabled software.

From a transactional perspective, but also on the security side, how can we identify situations before they happen? Maybe artificial intelligence, bots—technology, that definitely will take us to another level."

Working in insurance, there are a fair amount of repetitive tasks required for every business transaction, and Tluchowski sees AI as a way to automate those processes so salespeople can better focus their time and attention. “You look at some of the things people identify in their workflow and you say to yourself, ‘Wow, this has taken up too much time. We really need to focus more on getting the client in and servicing them better.’”

Where some fear AI will make human jobs redundant, Tluchowski is more focused on the potential it has to make people more effective and productive in their work. “We know no one ever wants to eliminate people, but the elimination may be in some of the backend processes to allow the front-end folks to sell more business, bring in more clients, surface the clients that we have better because they're not bogged down with minutia. I think that's exciting to just think about what that would look like.”

That kind of vision for the future—one that’s human-centered, but rooted in business growth—is what makes Tluchowski stand out in her field. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and just to see how this has all evolved, it has just been incredible,” she says. “It's all about the ease of doing business. That’s where you want to drive your business, to make life easier for people.”

She uses technology and systems to make things easier for her colleagues, and their clients, because she knows the importance of the role of technology. “IT goes beyond just getting systems up and running and fully functional. Here, every vision, every goal that everybody has, will always be supported by technology.”

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