Tech-savvy leaders are responsible for transformative technological changes in every industry. Their proficient knowledge about modern technology gives them an advantageous edge in the given volatile insurance market. Rao Tadepalli is one such leader who has a proven history of success in the insurance industry as an experienced Chief Information Officer. He is an advisor and mentor for several Silicon Valley Startups. He is also a speaker and author of several industry articles.
Journey So Far
After completing graduation in Computer Science, Rao Tadepalli started his journey as a Management Trainee with Tata Consultancy Services in India. Early in his career, Rao worked in Australia, Malaysia, and Europe before coming to the United States. Initially, Rao worked for consulting companies and helped many clients successfully implement systems.
After spending few years in middle Management, Rao became CIO and Sr. Vice President with in 2007. Rao successfully navigated the challenges of seamlessly moving from technical roles to executive roles by focusing on executive communication and people skills.
Rao is an award-winning CIO who drives innovation throughout the entire value chain by combining the deep insurance industry with technology expertise to improve efficiencies, cost savings, customer experience, and competitive advantage. He is reputed for propelling profitability by implementing best-in-class technology solutions and delivering superior project execution with a relentless focus on managing stakeholder collaboration and communication. He can leverage vast knowledge of the InsurTech ecosystem to capitalize on digital transformation and value creation opportunities. Rao is a recognized leader in the insurance industry, a thought leader, visionary, and a sought-after speaker.
Rao is known for aligning IT with business to lockstep with business strategy, reducing Combined Operating Ratio (COR) by implementing technology solutions that focus on increasing premiums, reducing losses, and lowering expenses. He cultivates relationships to uncover areas for improvement, then building the business case to secure executive buy-in for change and the optimal teams to execute solutions.
Rao is an expert in managing tight IT budgets by leveraging business savvy and strong financial acumen to contain costs and negotiate favorable contracts. He makes the tough decisions necessary to integrate complex projects across ongoing business operations, consistently delivering them on time and under budget. He also creates a transformational impact by proactively solving problems with a clear vision and a collaborative approach.
Awards, Accomplishments & Accolades
- Implemented full suite of Guidewire Products including Policy Center, Claims Center, and Billing Center on time or ahead of schedule, realizing implementation cost savings of 20% against budget.
- Increased new business submissions by 20% by implementing an AI and ML-driven electronic quoting system that provided agents with real-time information and enabled Straight Thru Processing (STP).
- Eliminated $600K in monthly IT vendor expenses and improved user experience by accelerating the implementation of a previously lagging Policy, Billing, and Digital Portals project by managing scope and simplifying the technology infrastructure environment.
- Drove a 25% increase in productivity in one year through various business process improvements, strengthening customer satisfaction and competitive advantage.
- Propelled customer retention levels to 85% within one year by deploying digital portals with Analytics and Omnichannel capabilities that dramatically enhanced user experience.
- Consistently delivered IT operating cost savings and actuals significantly below budget through effective contract negotiations, vendor management, and volume discounts.
- Enabled senior management to make critical business decisions by establishing data management systems and processes that kept operational and reporting data in sync.
- Chosen to be part of the US delegation that attended GES2017 led by Ms. Ivanka Trump in India.
- As a CIO, Rao won the Celent Model Insurer award for successful transformation.
Changing with Time
Rao recommends creative adoption of Insurers striving to become smarter project managers should be flexible and be open to ideas from other industries.
Having worked with a company close to Hollywood, Rao has been able to take inspiration from television production procedures in the form of a “runner” role. Rao explained, “A runner is someone who does most of the odd jobs,” In large projects, teams tend to act as silos and neglect things that don’t belong neatly within their responsibilities. To close the gaps, Rao applied the runner concept to keep projects on track.
Rao believes a CIO needs the following four skills, among others. Traditional IT skills, Subject area expertise in the specific industry, Financial acumen, including budget preparation and innovation.
Rao’s advice to be successful as a CIO:
- Tailor Communications to Styles and Needs of Business Owners.
- Set and Manage Expectations Up-Front.
- Learn to Live with Ambiguity.
- Emphasize Talent along with the Process.
- Users Must own the projects and must be Involved Throughout the Project.
Rao’s advice to Insurtech experts is that a clear message of the value proposition is critical. The carriers are looking at three things, either increase the premium or decrease the losses or lower the expenses. So, making sure there is a clear value proposition and at least the value proposition should focus on one of these three things.
Rao says, “If you can do all three, fantastic, but at least one of them should be there. And then assembling a diversified leadership team is extremely critical. That should be multi-generational, and the team should have challengers and enablers with networking connections to the industries. Also, don’t underestimate the capital needed. Finally, one has to understand emotion and not always the reason that drives most decision-making.”
Rao calls it two EC’s; they stand for Economic Connection and Emotional Connection. These are extremely important. “If you don’t have a story, someone else will make up a story, and that could be your competitors,” he concludes.