Emergent Holdings: agility, innovation and diversity

Emergent Holdings: agility, innovation and diversity

Michael Hicks, CIO of Emergent Holdings, tells us about the importance of customer centricity, culture and innovation

Emergent Holdings is a remarkably diverse business, operating in multiple industry verticals, including property casualty and healthcare insurance, as well as software and services through its Advantasure arm. 

Its healthcare vertical is focused on Medicare Advantage, aimed at the senior market and individuals who are moving into retirement and seeking supplemental healthcare benefits. Emergent Holdings manages one of the premier Medicare Advantage plans in the US. 

Despite the variety and size of Emergent Holdings, Senior Vice President and CIO Michael Hicks says they essentially have a startup culture, focused on profitable growth and diversification. "We're constantly looking at new product offerings and new business ventures" he says. "Our vision is to be the leading national provider of innovative solutions that improve health and safety outcomes. Everything we do is centered around improving the well-being of our members and insureds."

"We want to be the best at what we do through leveraging our collective strength, industry expertise and focused strategies. Innovation, business agility, and customer centricity are differentiators that enable us to be very quick in adjusting to opportunities in the market" he adds. 

Data is at the core of all their operations, which is crucial to delivering personalized services and experiences for their customers. "There's a big shift happening in healthcare with the transition to value-based care" Hicks says. "We're delivering care to individuals with chronic conditions in their homes and at their convenience, leveraging communities to deliver a comprehensive set of services such as transportation and providing wellness education to improve health outcomes. Our technology powered by data is crucial to delivering these services while providing the best member experience possible." 

As a customer-centric organization, Hicks explains that their employees must have a customer-first mindset. "We embrace diversity, business agility, and collaboration to deliver the best products and services to the marketplace. That's at the core of what a great digital company is all about – embracing the voice of the customer and empowering your workforce to create innovative solutions with the least amount of friction possible." 

Over the last few years Emergent Holdings has invested in modernizing their core operating platforms to increase speed and agility. This includes a major focus in their property casualty business of completing a multi-year migration to the Guidewire platform. "Legacy technologies are a major challenge in insurance, but we have continued to invest in our core processing systems, reduce technical debt and transition our application hosting from on-premise data centers to the cloud. We're excited about the possibilities because as we emerge from COVID-19, our core platforms will enable us to deliver differentiating digital customer experiences and be much more responsive to the market." 

Having a very strong partner ecosystem has been key to Emergent Holdings’ success. "Our primary strategic sourcing partner, HCL, has played a major role in enabling us to scale our IT operations and helping us create the headroom for our employees to innovate." Emergent Holdings also has a close relationship with Microsoft, and in 2020 attained Microsoft Gold Partner status in Data Analytics. 

Equally important is partnering with startups, and Emergent Holdings has acquired several startup ventures to expand their product offering. In 2019 they acquired Symphony, a Silicon Valley-developed cloud-native health management solution designed by physicians and care management experts to solve the complex issue of value-based care and plan/provider coordination. Following this, Emergent Holdings opened a small office in San Francisco. "It provides us with a presence in one of the epicenters of innovation in the United States" Hicks says. 

More recently they acquired DecisionUR, a cloud-based solution that supports their workers' compensation vertical by accelerating the workers’ compensation claim review process which enables highly responsive care planning for those injured on the job. 

Another forthcoming new product is an AI and machine learning-based platform leveraging behavioral science to influence customer actions. "It allows us to create influencing campaigns, leveraging digital channels such as social media to gently nudge a prospect into making better Medicare coverage choices. The opportunities for expanding the application of this data-driven platform to various parts of the healthcare continuum are endless.”

“This is our version of Amazon or Google-level personalization based on deep learning and behavioral science.” They're aiming to take the new product to market in 2021. 

As well as developing new solutions, Emergent Holdings has been digitally transforming many of their existing services. One example is the digital expansion of Advantasure’s provider engagement solution which has been enhanced to seamlessly integrate with electronic medical record (EMR) systems, using automation and actionable insights that are unique to each patient at the point of care. The outcome is better management of risk through enhancing the quality of care for members and improving the quality of claims data. "We've created a comprehensive digital solution that leverages EMR data and has integrated our processes into the EMR desktop, which provides an improved and more efficient experience for the providers we work with.”

Working remotely as a result of the pandemic has helped Emergent Holdings better understand their customers, Hicks says. "Working remotely during COVID-19 has really given us a strong sense of empathy for our customers and how it feels to navigate complex systems and processes. That empathy powered by design thinking will allow us to develop better products and services in the future." 

Their plans for the future are to continue to focus on profitable growth, diversification, and innovation through empowering employees and leveraging their partner ecosystem. "I'm a major proponent of democratizing innovation as the best innovation happens closest to the customer. We will continue to embrace customer centricity and not lose sight of our vision of improving health and safety outcomes." 

Another major factor of Emergent Holdings’ success is incorporating diversity into their workforce. "Diversity and inclusion is such an important part of who we are as an organization. I am the executive sponsor of our LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Network and am a proponent of allowing all of our employees to bring their authentic selves to work every day.” Additionally, they have implemented a comprehensive early career development program and are investing in developing a strong pipeline of STEM talent through partnering with organizations such as Girls Who Code and Black Girls Code. “We are continually focused on building a stronger and more diverse team, as diversity is what drives innovation.

Michael Hicks