CNA is one of the largest U.S. commercial property and casualty insurance companies. Founded in 1897, it is backed by more than 120 years of experience. Carol Castelloni, who leads the Transformation Office for CNA, talks about her role at the organization where she first started her career before rejoining them in 2019. “My career started with CNA, so it has been exciting to come back to where my insurance journey began.” In this role, Carol is responsible for driving enterprise-wide strategic initiatives. Her team delivers value through collaborative execution with cross-functional stakeholders to optimize business performance, enhance operating models and lead CNA through modernization.
Carol has served the P&C insurance industry in a variety of leadership and advisory roles for more than 20 years. At CNA, she is tasked with overseeing a wide range of initiatives, and no two days are alike, much to her preference. With driving the continuous evolution of CNA as her top objective, Carol operates as a multi-dimensional thought partner for senior business leaders across core functions like underwriting, operations and distribution. Describing herself as a collaborative, accountable and empowering leader, she says “My team and I function as a nucleus for shaping and driving large-scale programs that are focused on maximizing efficiency, modernization, and growth.” In collaboration with CNA’s business stakeholders, Carol and her team analyze opportunities for improvement to design solutions and shape future roadmaps that deliver measurable value.
CNA’s strategic priorities influence transformations taking place across the organization. These include their commitment to deliver top quartile underwriting performance through industry specialization, technical excellence, optimized distribution, operational efficiency, and talent development. Carol and her team are constantly challenging the status quo by re-examining current ways of doing work across the spectrum of process, people, and technology to drive valuable impacts. Interestingly, transformation at CNA is not always a technology-first approach. Instead, it starts by looking through the lens of the customers and distributors to assess opportunities for optimizing efficiency and effectiveness. Since joining CNA, Carol and her team introduced a new ‘learn-by-doing’ approach to quickly pilot ideas and opportunities, referred to as the Model Office. When asked about this method of innovating and executing, she says “We start small and adjust based on insights from people, and supporting metrics, doing the work in a new way. Then, we scale fast to achieve a broad impact.”
The Model Office framework applies business resources to new workflows while gathering qualitative and quantitative impacts, such as service, time and quality. Subsequently, Carol works with CNA’s Technology team to identify ways that digital enablers can expand and/or accelerate the desired outcomes. This has led CNA to embark on a digital transformation using artificial intelligence and machine learning to collect, organize, and analyze inbound documentations, such as submissions, loss runs, and supplemental forms, from agents and brokers. This significantly reduces time-consuming manual workflows and improves the speed and accuracy of CNA’s processes. Looking downstream, the digitized data can be leveraged for analytics and modeling purposes. The Model Office has been successfully embraced at CNA as an accelerator to process design and execution for Underwriting, Operations, and Analytics.
CNA is also employing a number of digital solutions to transform their processes and workflow. To respond to common challenges with information veracity (trusting the data) and velocity (speed of data), CNA deployed ThoughtSpot. This tool provides socially-enabled search capabilities and recognizes patterns that can also plug into AI/ML models. CNA’s business leaders and underwriters leverage this tool so they can quickly ask and answer questions pertaining to revenue, profits, and quality of business. Harnessing the power of the Cloud in real-time is a big advantage to support digital transformation at CNA, so they’ve selected Google Cloud as its primary platform.
When it comes to fostering the culture at CNA, Carol believes that people are CNA’s greatest asset and they should be empowered to think creatively and problem-solve. “I actively seek out perspectives from my team and our business stakeholders because I believe their holistic input drives better outcomes, performance, and energy.” Carol is a naturally charismatic and motivational leader, with a keen focus on collaborative accountability. To this point, she goes above and beyond to articulate shared goals, support action-oriented progress, and recognize accomplishments. Given her industry and leadership acumen, Carol also invests time to coach her team and mentor other resources as a way to continually cultivate talent at CNA. “For me, mentorship is a two-way learning opportunity because I gain so much from the wide range of lively conversations,” she says. One of her biggest mantras for a positive culture within her team is to keep it fun, as Carol believes that it is important to laugh and learn through shared experiences.
CNA is actively involved in the industry, serving on the Board of The Institutes and as an active member of RiskStream Collaborative, which is an industry-led consortium collaborating to unlock the potential of blockchain across the insurance industry. The company also supports IICF, APCIA, ACORD, Big I and PLUS, to name a few. It is important for CNA to be involved in these associations, as they bring together leaders to discuss and help solve some of the challenges facing the insurance industry today as well as plan for the future.
CNA relies on a combination of its own thought leadership as well as the latest technology from industry experts to help solve its clients’ challenges. CNA values companies with a strong understanding of the P&C insurance industry as it relates to the company’s overall strategic objectives and functional capabilities. This synergy is important because it provides an ‘outside-in’ perspective on how CNA thinks about leveraging innovation. These experts also need to pivot quickly based on evolving business priorities, which enables CNA to accelerate momentum, increase capacity, and deliver value faster. Lastly, joint accountability towards outcomes as well as working with a company to define what success looks like up front and track progress over time are equally important. CNA has a very successful connection with SLK to provide high-quality automation solutions that support technology and business objectives. Carol adds, “SLK’s Avo Discover tool accelerates how we can document workflow processes, measure impacts on enhancements, and identifies future automation opportunities.” This allows CNA resources more time to focus on creative problem-solving for future designs. Accenture is a long-standing relationship with a multi-functional, deep understanding of CNA’s business and technology environment. They provide thought leadership to support the company’s strategic needs and drive execution for specific priorities. Accenture has a proven track record for helping CNA address complex problems with innovative solutions that drive change across the organization.
Carol keeps a close pulse on market news and trends as a seasoned leader and shares her thoughts on the insurance industry’s approach to transformation, saying “The insurance industry is undergoing remarkable demands to enhance digital capabilities required to support the changing nature of risk, new product lines, and different distribution channels. It’s a critical time for insurers to focus on foundational priorities and build a dynamic path that can flex to address emerging needs.” When asked if she has any words of advice for her peers, she said “Transformation does not need to be over-engineered and feel overwhelming. It can start with rapid experimentation and scale over time with incremental learning. When you run into challenges, embrace them as learning moments and continually get better over time. Harness the power of change management and communication strategies to navigate organizational impacts along the way.”
As a closing note, CNA's Chief Operations Officer Michael Costonis shares Carol’s enthusiasm, “At CNA we are not afraid to take transformation to the heart of our business processes. We do not believe in innovation on the fringes, but the best way to achieve our outcomes is to go right to the core and make a difference.”
- Carol Castelloni