It is the age of digitization. And looking at how advantageous it has turned out to be, it is only evitable for everyone to comply. Owing to the many digital trends, there have emerged many new kinds of insurance organizations. And what is important is they have kept a close watch on the customer needs and crafted their services accordingly. Led by President Chris Belle, Insurance Technology Services is one such organization.
In this interview with Mr. Chris, let’s find out more about Insurance Technology Services (ITS).
Tell us about the company.
Founded in 1988, ITS (Insurance Technology Services) is a Dallas-based insurance consulting and services firm specializing in the design, implementation, and utilization of technology to optimize critical business processes and achieve exceptional results.
Which was the point that triggered the growth of the company?
Our initial growth was triggered by the need for system consultants with deep insurance experience. This service standard continues to be the hallmark of ITS. Our current growth is a result of expanding our business model to include strategic partnerships and managed services. Early on, ITS focused on providing expert resources to help our carrier clients with their technology projects. The insurance software vendors we worked with on those projects recognized our expertise and sought our services as well. We began partnering with select vendors which led us to develop managed services that combine our people with proprietary tools and methodologies that deliver turnkey solutions.
An entrepreneur has to be able to recognize the need for a particular product or service, anticipate the changing dynamics of the industry they’re serving, and be willing and able to take calculated risks.
What is the reason behind your company’s long-standing success?
ITS is known for our integrity and people-first approach. Instead of maximizing output and profitability, ITS focuses on quality and customer service. One of our founding principles is that by taking the best possible care of our people, they will serve our clients well which has led to our growth and long-term success.
What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?
Our primary focus is helping insurance companies implement core insurance systems. Our service areas include project management, business analysis, testing, data migration, and end-user training with a 100% onshore delivery model. We are constantly innovating our tools and methodologies to accelerate these services includingour two flagship products: ITAP (ITS Test Automation Platform) and IDMP (ITS Data Migration Platform). These platforms are delivered under a cloud-based, subscription model and designed specifically for the insurance industry.
What sets ITS apart starts with our people – they really know insurance. Our consultants come from insurance software, consulting, and carrier companies, which provides ITS with a wide and deep pool of insurance knowledge and experience that is critical to successfully delivering our services and products.
How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?
Before ITS considers a new opportunity, we look for one fundamental characteristic: will our deep understanding of the insurance industry make a difference in how well we can deliver the service?The second criterion is that we must first be excellent at what we currently do before we expand our service portfolio in a specific area. Only after ensuring this willweinitiate a new product or service.
Is there any new addition to the list of products/services? Anything exciting you would like to share?
The latest release of our test automation platform (ITAP) includes a new front-end configuration tool called ITAP Studio that makes development and maintenance ofautomated test suites even easier. Similarly, v2 of our data migration platform (IDMP) employs an architectural concept we call Object Oriented Configuration, resulting in a fourfold decrease in development times on our data migration projects.
What do you think are the responsibilities of an entrepreneur?
An entrepreneur has to be able to recognize the need for a particular product or service, anticipate the changing dynamics of the industry they’re serving, and be willing and able to take calculated risks. Then they must bring together and lead an expert team that can successfully deliver that new product or service, all while making a reasonable profit.
I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.Thomas Edison
Can you please brief us about your professional experience?
After receiving my engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin, I started my career with Andersen Consulting (NKA Accenture). This job fast-tracked my technical and supervisory experience while teaching me the value of standardized methodologies. My entrepreneurial spirit was sparked when I first joined ITS. After successfully managing a large system implementation project, I moved into a role as the company’s first dedicated salesperson where I worked for several years helping develop new markets. I left consulting to work for a couple of insurance companies including as CIO for a regional insurance group. This period in my career provided me valuable insight into the carrier perspective making me much more effective upon my return to ITS. After leading our service teams for several years, I became president in 2016. I also served as a volunteer for 20+ years with the Insurance Accounting & Systems Association (IASA) including as president of the Texas chapter in 2008.
What are the key achievements of your entrepreneurial journey?
I’m most proud of the achievements accomplished by the teams I’ve worked with and the people whom I’ve mentored and whose careers I’ve helped. Personal development and growth are important to both me and ITS. I started as a programmer and,today,I continually challenge myself to excel at all aspects of our business including marketing, sales, human resources, as well asfinancial and strategic planning. Along the way, I’ve also become a certified insurance geek!
How do you look after your employees? What makes your team unique?
ITS practices a servant leadership style – as president, I work for everyone else in the company. We seek input from our small, laser-focused teams where everyone contributes equally in order to achieve continuous improvement in our services and methodologies. Instead of micromanaging our consultants, we focus on their results. Leaving it to the individual to focus on the how and when is one way we accommodate the needs of our employees and practice the concept of work-life balance. As a services company, our people are our product, and recruiting is the lifeblood of our organization. One testament to our community of satisfied employees is that much of our recruiting is accomplished through referrals from our employees who tell their business associates to come work for us.
Is there any special experience with your clients you would like to highlight?
One of my favorite things is to hear from our clients about how much they appreciate and enjoy working with us. Our website’s testimonial page highlights many of our great client experiences. Achieving positive client feedback is more than just a marketing concept; it is the culmination of great service and an important component of our job satisfaction.
Can you tell us which your favorite book is? And your favorite part of the book?
My favorite novel is the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve heard it’s a story one should read as a young adult, during middle age, and again after retirement because it offers new insights at each stage in life. The recurring themes I enjoy are camaraderie, friendship, and loyalty. One favorite scene is at the beginning of the second book when Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn decide to go after Marry and Pippen who have been taken captive by orcs. At this point the Fellowship is broken and they can no longer help destroy the ring. In the midst of all the peril, hopelessness, and doom they decide the best thing they can do is to save their friends.
One person who you admire the most?
I owe much to my parents and the opportunities they provided me in life. During a recent Father’s Day celebration with my own family, I decided to watch a recorded interview that my, now deceased, father gave where he talked about his early life. My father, Frits Belle, was a quiet, unassuming man who took care of his family by providing us all the basics according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. For many of us, it’s easy to take those for granted as we focus on the top layer, the need for self-actualization, development, and creativity. However, as the oldest child born and raised in the Dutch East Indies (NKA Indonesia), my father experienced the horrors of WWII as a civilian POW. Separated from their father, he and his mother led his siblings through a harrowing experience where every basic need was stripped away with starvation a constant companion. After losing several years of his childhood he survived, went on to earn an engineering degree, and immigrated to the US to start a family. Watching that old recording reminded me how much I admire who he was, what he endured and accomplished, and how he helped me become who I am today.
In the midst of all the peril, hopelessness, and doom they decide the best thing they can do is to save their friends.
Whose business story do you find the most inspiring?
The founder of our company, John Vana, is one of the most influential mentors in my career. He started ITS over 30 years ago based on a set of values that has never wavered. He continues to lead our parent company and, together with his son, Mike, they serve as the bedrock of the company. 30 years is a long time in this industry and it’s my hope that 30 years from now, my legacy leaves behind a company that will continue to serve the needs our people and clients for many years to come.
Constant vigilance- a need or a strategy? Please share your views.
In my view, if you start with the right fundamentals, things have the best chance of working out without the need for constant vigilance.
It’s a rat-race out there. How do you cope with that?
Take care of your family and yourself and serve society the best way you can.