How did you get involved in the insurance industry? It’s a question many people ask, and the answers are often quite similar.
‘I fell into it by chance or circumstance.’
‘Other people in my family work in the business and encouraged me to get involved.’
And depending on the insurance role – this will be different for consumer-facing brokers compared to number-crunching actuaries – ‘I enjoyed studying math and business at college and thought my skills fit the industry.’
For Lester Pierre, the new chief technology officer / chief information security officer at Protecdiv, a US-based property/casualty insurance and reinsurance broker, the answer is innovation. Over 28-years in the business, it is innovation, technology and transformation that has piqued Pierre’s interest and resulted in a highly successful career.
During his senior year at New York University, Pierre interned with a firm called U.S. Trust, where he worked on programming and support in the data center. There he learned programming language for the IBM mainframes and the Pick operating system – skills that soon landed him an opportunity at Aetna, where they were looking to develop an agency automation system. He joined a team of around 200 people tasked with designing, programming and building this system, which the health insurance giant hoped would increase speed, efficiency and accuracy for its agent partners.
After that, Pierre worked stints with multiple top financial services firms, such as Citibank and Prudential, always with an eye towards innovation. He most recently spent 11 years as vice president and chief information officer at the reinsurance broker Holborn Corporation, where he was responsible for critical business application support, service delivery, and the development of client facing technology solutions.
“Every opportunity at every insurance firm I’ve worked with has been based around innovation. They were all trying to do something innovative and trying to leverage technology to transact business in a more efficient manner. That has been the key theme throughout my career,” said Pierre. “When I first started out, technology was just being introduced on a broader scale, with the introduction of PCs and so on. So, I’ve grown up with technology from the very beginning, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to learn how the insurance industry makes the most of innovation.”
The latest chapter in Pierre’s career is with Protecdiv, a tier-one minority-led insurance and reinsurance broker, with a focus on large publicly-traded and privately-held companies, as well as government and government-sponsored entities. As Protecdiv’s technology leader, Pierre has overall responsibility for the development, maintenance, and deployment of all mission critical IT applications, analytics and infrastructure at the brokerage.
“When it comes to technology, you don’t throw out everything that was done in the past because you’ve created or found something new. Rather, you incorporate it,” Pierre told Insurance Business. “Kael Coleman and Paul Little [the co-founders of Protecdiv] first approached me on a consulting basis to help them launch some new technologies in their business. Since it was 2019, I pitched the idea of being cloud-based and supporting a teleworker or a virtual company. So many industries have leveraged cloud capabilities today and they can have a huge impact on business.
“With all the clichés buzzing around the tech industry, it’s refreshing to have the support from Kael and Paul to incorporate innovation into our processes. We’re going to use the latest and greatest technology if it fits with our business goals, and we’re going to do things to be innovative without changing the fundamentals of insurance. In reinsurance, for example, we still have to get the treaty, and service the cedent and the reinsureds. But if we can find ways to use new tools like the cloud to enable greater efficiency and collaboration, let’s embrace that and let’s make that a differentiator. That’s what attracted me to Protecdiv – the fact that I have this blank canvas to create innovation.”