World Insurance Associates, an employee benefits and insurance brokerage firm, is on the move. The Tinton Falls, New Jersey-based company has been acquiring agencies across the U.S., and now has over 100 offices.
The growth is a special challenge for World Insurance’s CIO/CISO Liz Tluchowski, who handles everything from integrating disparate security systems to onboarding new employees. We talked with Tluchowski about her dual roles, how growth has impacted her work and what keeps her excited about the job.
Tell me about your dual roles of overseeing an expanding organization on the corporate side, as well as the integration of the many small insurance agencies that your firm has acquired—including their patchwork of data security efforts.
My dual responsibilities as CIO/CISO here at World Insurance Associates is an exciting mixture of two roles. From a CIO perspective, that includes providing a technology platform secure and suitable to support operations and provide client satisfaction, as well as an environment built to accommodate the substantial and aggressive growth of the organization. From a CISO perspective, it means the continuous need to understand what we are facing in terms of possible disruptions both internal and external as well as what our growing state requirements are as we enter other geographic locations. It also requires putting systems and processes in place to protect our clients’ data and provide a secure platform for our organization to provide customer service and satisfaction.
As a growing organization we are in constant motion, integrating various technology platforms, adding locations throughout the U.S. and onboarding new employees on a regular basis. The integration process is our “normal” in terms of our day-to-day IT departmental functions. I have spent the last four years growing the IT team from three people to 27 people, to handle the various needs of 110 offices throughout the U.S.
What’s it like to function as both the CIO of a large corporation and CISO of a collection of 100-plus small businesses around the country?
It is extremely busy, challenging at times and yet the most rewarding experience of my 30-year career. When I was asked to join World Insurance as the CIO/CISO back in 2017 I really did not know what to expect. Here I am four years later, and I can honestly say that regardless of what a day may bring, I feel fortunate to be here.
The busy days remind you that you are a part of a growing company that has various technical needs and that I am here to support the company in whatever capacity needed and no matter what that may take.
The support of our management leadership, particularly our CEO Rich Eknoian and Phil Nisbet, director of mergers and acquisitions—two of the four original founding partners of World Insurance—has provided the oversight needed to succeed in my dual roles.
Being a CIO of a large and growing company requires a lot of looking forward and outward. This includes creating value through technology, always having an ear to the ground on what is next and understanding the vision and direction the company is going. We also must keep on the forefront how to provide excellent customer service through technology, and remain ahead of our competitors. One of the biggest differences with World Insurance has been the IT acquisition integration cadence for newly acquired agencies that requires a layer of technology to assist in the integration to keep up with the changing landscape and timing.
With my dual role as CISO, it is a constant in terms of understanding and executing what is needed to protect the organization and maintain the integrity of our clients’ data. Since our business model is to integrate all technology from our acquired agencies, regardless of acquisition and location, our security for all locations falls under the master umbrella and is the most critical aspect of integration.
So the challenge is to think strategically on multiple levels.
The challenge is staying on top of the growth and technical innovation. We also face several variables that come with adding multiple locations and regions spread across various time zones. In terms of strategic thinking, we need to accelerate technology as our customer needs change, as well as stay in front of our competitors that share a common business model.
We are in a constant re-organization mode within our internal IT team to adjust all levels of support as needed to accommodate our growth and the requirements of our clients. This includes integrating acquisitions’ various technology platforms into the World Insurance platforms while still maintaining day-to-day operations.
What can other CIO/CISOs in similar corporate structures take away from your experiences, no matter their industry?
Have a passion for what you do because every day will bring new challenges. Work for a company with leadership that supports you. Have a solid, strong supportive IT team that can meet the various organizational demands.