ESI Interviews

Ep 38: AI and the Future of Insurance with Travelers EVP and Chief Technology & Operations Officer Mojgan Lefebvre

Guest Michael Keithley
Mojgan Lefebvre
April 10, 2024
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Ep 38: AI and the Future of Insurance with Travelers EVP and Chief Technology & Operations Officer Mojgan Lefebvre
ESI Interviews
April 10, 2024

Ep 38: AI and the Future of Insurance with Travelers EVP and Chief Technology & Operations Officer Mojgan Lefebvre

On the 38th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, Mojgan Lefebvre, EVP and Chief Technology & Operations Officer at Travelers, joins the show to share her perspective on integrating emerging technology into enterprise operations, prioritizing the customer experience through data-driven insights, and the importance of culture for successful AI adoption.

On the 38th episode of Enterprise Software Innovators, hosts Evan Reiser (Abnormal Security) and Saam Motamedi (Greylock Partners) talk with Mojgan Lefebvre, EVP and Chief Technology & Operations Officer of Travelers. Travelers is a Fortune 500 insurance company offering a range of insurance products to customers across the globe. With over $41 billion in revenue and over 32,000 employees, Travelers is the second-largest writer of U.S. commercial property casualty insurance and the sixth-largest writer of U.S. personal insurance through independent agents. In this conversation, Mojgan joins the show to share her perspective on integrating emerging technology into enterprise operations, prioritizing the customer experience through data-driven insights, and the importance of culture for successful AI adoption.

Quick hits from Mojgan:

On what makes the insurance industry different from other businesses: “We don't manufacture anything and have no physical goods. Everything we do is based on data and information. And so insurance companies have had data in those systems for years, and how you leverage technology to get insights from that data is really core to how we do business.”

On the advantage of leveraging datasets with enterprise AI: “We think that [AI] can be huge for us, as a company that has so much data, so much of which is curated, whether it's our claim documents that we use to train our claim professionals or our underwriting standard operating procedures. The ability to bring all of that together and to leverage a technology that can go through that so quickly and put it at the fingertips of your employees [is powerful].”

On understanding business processes to create impact with AI: “It's very important how you ask questions and how you prompt your AI. It's going to become even more important for your IT organization to truly understand your business and your business processes and have the ability to think of where these technologies will actually make a difference. You can't really do that without understanding the business process and where you can inject the technology."

Recent Book Recommendation: Radical Candor by Kim Scott

Episode Transcript

Evan: Hi there, and welcome to Enterprise Software Innovators, a show where top tech executives share how they innovate at scale. In each episode, enterprise CIOs share how they've applied exciting new technologies, and what they've learned along the way. I'm Evan Reiser, the CEO and founder of Abnormal Security.

Saam: I'm Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners.

Evan: Today on the show, we’re bringing you a conversation with Mojgan Lefebvre, Chief Technology and Operations Officer at Travelers. Travelers is a Fortune 500 insurance company, with over $41 billion in revenue and over 32,000 employees. 

In this conversation, Mojgan shares her thoughts on successfully integrating AI into enterprise operations, prioritizing the customer experience through data-driven insights, and building a culture of AI innovation. 

Mojgan, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I know Saam and I are really looking forward to this episode. Maybe to start, do you mind giving our audience a bit of background about your career up until this point? 

Mojgan: Absolutely. So I'm chief technology and operations officer at Travelers insurance.

I've been here for about six years now. Prior to this, I was at Liberty mutual, CIO of the commercial business. I was there for about eight years. Before that, I actually have a different kind of mix of experiences while I started out as a software engineer and worked for a couple of years, I decided to go to business school to get away from IT, but now, you know, clearly have ended back up here.

Right out of business school, I joined Bain Strategy Consulting. Did that for a few years, and then got back into the world of technology at a startup. We're doing M&A and strategy stuff. But then I ended up mixing both my consulting background and my IT background and started my own small IT shop, got recruited by one of my customers to start their offshore development, which I did in Argentina, was promoted to their international CIO.

And that kind of started me back into the CIO role, which is really, I would say a business leadership role, leveraging technology heavily, obviously. So I became CIO at the company I was at, which was Teletech. From there I was recruited to join a French healthcare company, BioMérieux, which was in France. And so I was going back and forth for about four years, got really tired of that, that commute, and then got recruited into Liberty Mutual, which was local to Boston, which is where I'm from. 

Evan: Maybe for, um, some of the people on our, on our, on the show, or some of our listeners that may not be as familiar with, um, Travelers, do you mind sharing a little bit about the business and what you guys do for your customers?

Mojgan: Yeah, absolutely. So, we've been around for over 165 years. We're an insurance company. P&C, property and casualty insurance. We're a top 10 property and casualty insurer. We're the only P&C insurer that's on the Dow Jones. We have over 40 billion, this year we broke 40 billion in revenues, have over 120 billion of assets in our ownership. We've got over 32, 000 employees and number two P&C commercial insurer. Uh, we're the, we're in the top 10 personal insurance and we're the number one workers comp insurance company. 

Evan: When a lot of people think about insurance organizations, they probably don't think of them as being kind of technology first, but I know there's a lot of kind of technology behind the scenes, probably most people wouldn't appreciate.

Do you mind sharing kind of maybe some of the ways that, you know, Travelers using technology in ways that, you know, the average. person or maybe even average customer might not fully understand or fully appreciate it. 

Mojgan: Why is technology important? Well, you know, we don't manufacture anything. We have no physical goods. Everything we do is really based on data and information. And so insurance companies have had systems and therefore data in those systems for, for years, and really how you leverage technology to get insights from that data is really core to how we do business.

We write risk all the time, and so we've got to make decisions and our ability to make those decisions in an informed a way as possible is really critical and our ability to predict as much as we can to segment the risk to price it as accurately as we can. So that that means we have to be able to store data. Make sure that the quality of our data is as good as possible. And then the ability to really take value out of that. 

And then, of course, in today's world and the consumer based economy that we live in, really everything from customer experience all the way through making sure that we're providing, You know, good pricing and quality to our customers is key.

So you can actually use your mobile phone to do everything from getting a quote for your insurance, looking at your policy, downloading it, looking at it. If you're in an accident, uh, in an auto accident, you know, taking a picture and really doing everything online and that first notice of loss that you give.

So there's a lot of digital capability embedded in that. That's kind of like one area of focus for, from a technology perspective. Secondly, in that risk arena that I talked about, of course, there's, there's a huge amount, in terms of underwriting and claim and triage of that claim and, and assigning it and evaluating the severity of it.

So there, there are many, many different areas across the entire value chain of insurance from acquisition all the way through claim and servicing that we use technology every step of the way.

Evan: You know, I feel like we're on the cusp of many new kind of technology trends, you know, from your perspective as CTO, like what, what do you see as kind of the most exciting, interesting kind of technology shift that's happening, that's having an impact on, you know, the business or the customer experience?

Mojgan: As you said, insurance companies are probably one of the first, if not the first big data company. And so the ability of AI to leverage data and if done right, it can truly transform a lot of things. So, we think that this can be huge for us, a company that has so much data, so much of which is curated, uh, whether it's our claim documents that we have that we use to train our claim professionals or our underwriting standard operating procedures, or, you know, all of that knowledge now, the ability to bring all of that together and to leverage a technology that can go through that so quickly and, and put it at the fingertips of your employees to ask any questions.

And really, get that knowledge directly and easily and as fast as, as you know, one, one can imagine as opposed to having to, you know, see through, like go through multiple documents. So I think that's just the tip of the iceberg for us and we see huge opportunity and that's why we're very, very excited. I'm very focused, certainly on AI and generative AI. 

Saam: As you pointed out, it's really hard to be sitting here in 2024 and not be talking about AI as kind of the core technology wave, but one of the reasons I've been so excited to have you on the show is because, as Evan pointed out, and then you talked about, the insurance space is a space that's really benefited from data science, machine learning, AI for a long time.

And so while for some of our listeners, when they think of AI, they might just be thinking of the post ChatGPT world. Obviously, the three of us know, like, there's decades prior of innovation. And so, I'd d be curious, like, as you've led technology teams through these different periods and through these different technology waves, when you look at the current one we're in, and the generative AI wave, where are we in the generative AI wave?

You know, if you think about the hype cycle, like, where do you think there's real impact to be had? And maybe where are some of the areas that are overhyped from a generative AI perspective? 

Mojgan: Just going back to the first principle of saying anytime there's a technology, like it's, we shouldn't be saying, okay, let me go look for a problem and starting with, you know, what's the business that we're trying to solve?

What's the objective we're starting with? And then does AI come into play? And, you know, then thinking of the technology tools that are at our fingertips and AI, and generative AI being one of them, very, a very vast field, but, but, you know, just one of the many that you can use, and then implementing. 

I think that's how you can really get to where it's going to be real. And I think that it can have huge impact. And making sure you don't fall prey to just saying, you know, I'm gonna roll microsoft copilot to everyone, and I'm sure that we're going to have this much productivity come out. It just doesn't really happen that way. Being thoughtful, being selective. 

We've come up with a thousand use cases, you know, doing a lot of workshops across our entire enterprise. But it's, there's probably less than 10 that we're focused on because we want to make sure we're focusing on the ones that are really going to make a business difference that we can scale. There are, there are some where we're saying, you know, we're doing this for learning and, and of course, you know, everything is new.

So obviously you're going to make mistakes, but you want to make sure you make them the right way. You make this, you know, you fail the right way and learn from it and then continue to iterate of course. And unless you start experimenting and doing and being thoughtful about the business outcomes you're focused on, you won't really get there. 

Saam: What are some of the use cases you're most excited about and you think have the highest potential for kind of immediate impact? 

Mojgan: Sure. I think I shared one of the more basic ones, which sounds basic, but again, it's got the potential to save hours and, and really make, take away the drudgery out of the work that a lot of your employees have to do.

And that's where, you know, wherever you've got knowledge and document documented, curated knowledge, that's in the form of many, many unstructured documents, the ability of, you know, that's like a base, a base, and I think that's. A lot of companies are really working on that.

As I look at the specific use cases that right now we're investing in and, and building, one of them is our interaction with our distribution partners. So agents and brokers, especially I would say in the world of commercial insurance, but for us also on the personal insurance side, play a huge role, and they're really the interface between us and our customers upfront.

We actually believe that there's huge opportunity there to really cut down The time that it takes to go from where all of these information comes in and to get the right ones in the hand of the right underwriters. So really, that submission triage up front is, is absolutely one key area. 

Then I'd say in the world of claim, certainly there's, there's huge opportunity as well. Again, You know, when, when an accident happens and if there's, you know, an impression that potentially there might be fraud and also in fraud detection, I would say there's certainly an area where then you send your investigators to investigate and they've got to again, go through dozens of, of documentation and things like, and research that they have to do. And so again. The ability to bring all of that together, have your computer, your AI do all of that work for you up front. It again, cuts down the amount of time that you have to do up front to get to that fraud detection, which, you know, frankly, every, every minute and every hour and every day that you save in that really makes a difference.

And then, you know, last but certainly not least, I'd say personalization and, and the customer experience. So really again, our customers expect for us to know them and provide service to them the way they want and where they want it.

So again, leveraging AI, not necessarily just generative AI, but, but leveraging AI and AI assisted service to make sure that we have all of the information about who they are, their preferences, everything that we can, by the way, glean from already existing materials without having to ask them the question, like all of that is really important.

So, for example, when you want to get insurance for your home and, if the agent asks you, what's the shape of your roof? Most, like most people wouldn't know that. And, and this is information that actually, either exists out there or, you know, we've built the capability along with geospatial, some geospatial capabilities to actually know what the shape of your roof is. So, you know, these are the type of questions that can be pre filled and, and people don't have to even ask. So it's really impacts, again, every part of our, our value chain. 

Evan: Help us dream a little bit like longer in the future, right? Like when it's five, 10 years down the road and this kind of wave of AI has, you know, the kind of the hype has fizzled out and the, but the real impact has been delivered.

How do you think that changes, you know, how, how you guys run the business with the customer experiences or to unlock new, kind of, services or offerings that may not be possible in 2024? Like what does the future look like, right? As these technologies come into kind of their full impact. 

Mojgan: Insurance is such a different business in terms of like the interaction that you have with the customer. A lot of that interaction is actually in moments that, you know, aren't necessarily the best moments of life. And so to the extent that we can make those moments, I guess, less hectic with, you know, the least amount of anxiety and as seamless as possible, you know, that that's really where we want to take it to. And so we're very focused on seeing where we can really have everything be done in an automated way and in the easiest possible way.

So, you know, as we think about it, we think about the fact that, you know, if we think of the claim experience, how can that be as straight through as possible so that it's as digital as it can be. But we also have to make sure that we provide the ability for the customer to call a human and have the human be there because, you know, you want to make sure again that it's an omni channel experience that you, that, that, that choice is made by the customer and it's not us.

And then, you know, in turn, what that will do, of course, over time is to really make you efficient as an organization, how you run internally and the more automation and intelligence that you're using to get a lot of these things done, then the more you can have your people, you know, you can have people where it matters. It's those human elements that AI may, you know, hopefully never have that, that are the areas of focus from a skills perspective that you need to focus on your, your ability to have empathy and really be kind to people and, and these kinds of things.

Saam: Mojgan, one of the areas around this AI theme I'd love to discuss is just how the workforce is going to change because of generative AI. And from my vantage point, when we go through these major technology waves, there's also a lot of reengineering that happens inside the business in terms of people's roles, etc. And I'm curious, what, if any, impact do you think generative AI will have on the IT organization? 

So, for example, do you think new roles will get created? Will there be a, you know, GPT knowledge manager, uh, inside companies like Travelers. Like what's the right way to think about that? 

Mojgan: One thing is, while I think there will be huge impact over time, I don't think it's right around the corner because I think until, and you said it, like, until people start reimagining processes and the way they work, and then leveraging technology towards it, like they won't really get the full value out of it. And I think that's not something that you can do overnight. 

And then, as you said, you certainly will need more people who know how to, maybe not necessarily create AI, because again, there are companies that are very focused on that, that understand how to leverage it already.

But we do know that, of course, it's very important how you ask questions, and, and how you really prompt your AI. I think there's actually, you know, a whole series of probably roles that get created there. And I actually think it's going to continue to be as important or more and more important, as it is now, but it's going to become even more important for your IT organization to truly understand your business and your business processes and have the ability to think of, you know, where will these technologies actually make a difference? And you can't really do that without understanding the. The business process and where you can inject the technology. 

Evan: So one follow up question, uh, maybe related to that, but kind of on the cultural side, right? To, to kind of get to those results, right? It requires a culture of, you know, kind of curiosity and like interest in the business, right?

Along with innovation and open mindedness about new technologies or maybe process transformation. You know, are the things that you've done that have helped foster that culture of innovation? I imagine there must be, right? Love to hear, kind of, how you lead the team or how your leaders kind of build that culture of. You know, kind of internal customer obsession and empathy and innovation.

Mojgan: We're lucky that we have a CEO who is, you know, very forward thinking and uses the saying that, you know, at the point where the pace of change outside of your company is faster than the inside, then you know that the, you know, the future won't exist. And looking at that and, you know, the impact on like the changing technology, the importance of data and analytics, all of the forces of change that are important in our industry, the impact that that has on our distribution, which again, as I said, our distribution partners are a big, big part of our value chain and, and very important.

So he understands that. And so with that, while we've always focused on our performance and the return on equity and the return to shareholders, which we very openly say that's critical and important to us. We've also established our innovation priorities and we, we, and it's very simple. And I bet you that every single one of our 32, 000 employees can say what they are.

It's about great experiences, advancing our advantage in risk expertise, and then thirdly, creating productivity and efficiency. So these are our innovation priorities. That's why everything we do, we've got to have the ability to attribute it to these three. 

And so this, this in itself, first of all, makes it easy for each employee to know where we're going as a company and why, what we do is important. And then how their work relates back to that and gives them the, the right to say, well, what can I do in my job to really change it. And then some of the things that, you know we've done in the technology organization is really try to see how we can really make this real. And we've done things that are both bottom up and, and top down.

And so what, while we consciously as the leadership of the technology organization decided that we would continue to make sure everybody understands what our business objectives are and thinks about that first and foremost, and that I open every single town hall that we do on a quarterly basis with, you know, starting with those business objectives and then drive down to, well, how does technology really impact that?

The other thing when I joined was, there was also a tendency for each area to want to create their own solution. And so I knew that really coming in and ensuring that, you know, for where it makes sense for us to build platforms, reusable platforms that, and components that, that can really be leveraged across the board and that everybody doesn't have to build their own thing.

So the motto that we've created, which again, is not only used in the technology organization but across the board, is common as possible, unique as necessary. And that's really become the way we operate. So, you know, where are the horizontals that you can do common? And then of course you've got your verticals where you can be as specific as you need to be in a world where everybody expects personalization, right?

And then, you know, on an annual basis, we have an innovation jam, what we call an innovation jam across the entire business.

It's not a hackathon just for tech, but it's the entire business does it, and we allow anyone to participate, form teams, they come up with ideas that, you know, are always aligned to any one of the business objectives that we have. And this year, what we did was, we made Gen AI available, and it was incredible. Like the majority of the ideas that came out were absolutely leveraging Gen AI. 

So so those are just a few things, Evan. But then maybe also let me say, you know, you've got to kind of model the way, like the idea of like, be open, be there, be inclusive. If those are just words that people don't believe it, but you know, just earlier before, this morning I did one of my monthly coffee chats that I do with our kind of new people who joined the organization.

And so making sure that you're continuously talking to people regardless of where they sit in the organization and that they all feel that they're part of the overall traveler's mission and, and the fact that we, we help people live safer lives and, and really deliver on the promise that we make to them becomes part of their DNA.

Evan: So, uh, we, we have about 10 minutes left at the end of every episode we like to do a bit of a lightning round. We're looking for more like the shorter, kind of punchier, almost like one tweet answers. Um, so maybe we'll, maybe we'll kind of kick that off. And some of these, I, I, I'll acknowledge are not easy questions to do the one tweet version of. They're a little, maybe too deep, but, uh, Saam, do you want to kick us off, kick it off for us?

Saam: Absolutely. Mojgan, maybe to start, how do you think companies should measure the success of a CTO? 

Mojgan: Business outcome. 

Evan: What's one piece of advice you wish someone told you when you first became a CTO or CIO? 

Mojgan: I think every job is all about relationships. If you get everything else right, but don't have the right relationships and, and, you know, the, the right connections, you won't really succeed in your work. 

Saam: How do you think CTO should position themselves to best collaborate with the rest of the C suite? 

Mojgan: A business leader, make sure you understand their business. Make sure that everything you do about your technology investments start with their business objectives in mind and the rest will come. 

Evan: Maybe switching gears to the more, the more personal side. Um, what, what's a book that you've read that's had a big impact on you? 

Mojgan: Radical Candor by Kim Scott. It's about, you know, how you behave towards your employees and how you are as a leader, how, what kind of a leader manager you are. And she's got four quadrants and, she really highlights the fact that the only way to be a good leader is making sure that you're developing people and doing it in a way where you're giving them very candid feedback. Both positive and if needed, you know, constructive, but doing the constructive in a kind way. And when, you know, it's just alone, but doing it in the moment. And that's kind of one of the hardest things for any manager to do. 

So it, it, she just truly highlights the criticality of, of the role of a leader in, you know, making you develop as an individual and she just does it in such an amazing way. So love that book. 

Saam: Maybe staying on the personal side, um, what's an upcoming new technology, and it doesn't have to be related to AI, that you're personally most excited about? 

Mojgan: I have yet to buy the Aura, which is, you know, the ring that kind of tells you how much you sleep and all that. I, I meant to do it, but then we were going on a trip to Africa where we were going to be away for a few weeks. And I was like, Oh, it's going to arrive just as we're not there.

So I'm very excited about it because Our CEO actually instilled in the entire company, I would say, how important it is to sleep and the book, Why We Sleep, and actually in our senior leadership meeting this year, he had the author of that book come and talk to us. He's a scientist, the writer of this book, and it's all very scientific based.

So I'm, I'm excited about that technology and hope that it'll help me sleep better and give me a better health, so to speak. 

Evan: Well, Mojgan, thank you so much for making time to speak with us today. Really enjoyed the conversation. Looking forward to chatting again soon. 

Mojgan: Great to meet you both. And thank you.

Evan: That was Mojgan Lefebvre, Chief Technology and Operations Officer at Travelers

Saam: Thanks for listening to the Enterprise Software Innovators podcast. I’m Saam Motamedi, a general partner at Greylock Partners.

Evan: And I’m Evan Reiser, the CEO and founder of Abnormal Security. Please be sure to subscribe, so you never miss an episode. You can find more great lessons from technology leaders and other enterprise software experts at

Saam: This show is produced by Luke Reiser and Josh Meer. See you next time!