Dennis Barnes, CEO, RGAX

Show Notes:

Like many industries, reinsurers face rising customer expectations and a dizzying pace of digital disruption. To contend with this, the Reinsurance Group of America (RGA) created RGAX, a wholly owned subsidiary dedicated to transformative innovation in the life insurance ecosystem. RGAX CEO Dennis Barnes discusses how the company has organized itself for successful innovation.

Many firms attempt to bolt on innovation. They set up a siloed innovation team . . . the team throws things at the core business, but nothing sticks. They buy a startup . . . but haven’t properly planned how to fold it in to the core business. Other firms keep their innovation teams on too short of a leash or let them wander off track and get tangled up in too many moonshots.

In these perilous waters, RGAX has figured out how to sail smoothly by planning team structures and talent mixes so that innovation flows easily into the core business and doesn’t get jammed up by silos or mismatched priorities.

Teams are a combination of core business talent (like actuaries) and digital workers (like data scientists). By having these groups work as one from the beginning, innovations move quickly and efficiently from RGAX back into the core business. Employees can also flow between RGA and RGAX, so neither entity gets too far from the other.

Portability of talent is key. To help RGAX maintain internal focus, employees also transfer between the three main business areas: long-term R&D projects, tackling the core business’ more immediate needs, and running scale-ups as service businesses.