Nolan Perspectives

Getting Hit From All Sides

In 2007 Nassim Taleb published his landmark book, "The Black Swan." He defined a black swan as a rare, unpredictable event that has severe consequences and will later be claimed to be obvious in hindsight.

An Interview with Gary Hallgren, President, Arity

The unabridged version of this interview originally appeared in the Summer 2018 Edition of IASA’s Interpreter. It is the 44th in a series of interviews conducted for the publication by Nolan’s Executive Director, Dennis Sullivan.

An Interview with Lisa Corless, President, AF Group

The unabridged version of this interview originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2017 Edition of IASA’s Interpreter. It is the 42nd in a series of interviews conducted for the publication by Nolan’s Managing Director, Steve Discher.

Loss Control – Hidden Opportunity

Some time ago I was interviewing an underwriting officer, and I asked him for his perspective on the Loss Control or Risk Management function. His response has stayed with me for a long time.

FinTechs are Reshaping Banking — Is Anyone Listening?

The transformation of customer needs has largely outpaced the systems banks have in place to support them. Those customer shifts have been driven by innovations in connectivity, social media, and devices such as smartphones and tablets.

The Fundamentals and Customer Experience

It’s 2017 – time for a new round of prognostications from today’s “business thought leaders.” Beware! Whether it’s business school journals, white papers, or trade magazines, new management “philosophies” are everywhere.

Insurers' Growth Strategy — It's All About Results

Insurance companies today are all targeting profitable growth. There’s a buzz in today’s marketplace that one can shoot in any direction and hit their target. It’s not that easy because real growth opportunities are not everywhere.

Commercial Auto — An Old Dog Up To New Tricks
The Promise — and Challenges — of Digital insurance

The insurance industry is going through an unprecedented shift in terms of buyer behavior, marketplace dynamics, and technology. As a result, integrating core insurance functions with innovative technology has never been more important – or impactful.

The InsurTech Effect

Paul Revere never said, “The British Are Coming.” But if he were here today, he might be yelling, “The InsurTechs are HERE!” Or maybe he’d tweet it. Either way, it would be good news because the InsurTechs are bringing innovative concepts to the insurance world and beyond.

The Steady-State Imperative

Achieving steady-state operations may not be the most glitzy goal for a business leader, but it is a very necessary step towards competitiveness – and often a very challenging one.

Rebooting Customer Experience

Insurance, at its core, is a service industry. Good customer service has always been an industry imperative. Given that backdrop, what is driving today's hyperfocus on customer experience?

EOC Validation Helps Avoid Costly Errors

Many payers have been expanding their business through additions of new lines of business (e.g. Marketplace, Medicaid, Medicare) and/or new geographies. They often find themselves driving towards very aggressive dates and, in some cases, with unfamiliar products. 

Ancillary Benefits and Persistency

Product Portfolio Management is enhanced by understanding how different benefit packages interact with Persistency of the main offering. Health Plans who are or are considering offering ancillary benefits gain from knowing the lift provided or not provided by ancillary benefits.

Four Keys to Getting Governance Right

Insurance organizations are pursuing a variety of strategic initiatives – advanced analytics, digital insurance, core system replacement, customer experience, direct distribution, self-service, omni-channel, etc.

A Blast from the Past

We all receive too much junk email. But once in a great while, something hits a nerve and I open it. Last week I received one such article.

The King Has Been Promoted

One of the more well-worn clichés in the business world is, “The Customer Is King.” I’m sorry to break the news, but that phrase is like Miami Vice and fax’s so ‘80s. The customer has in fact been promoted to Supreme Intergalactic Commander.

Speak Softly and Carry Big Data

The past few years have made clear that political organizations have become much more sophisticated in terms of leveraging “big data” and executing real-time, data-driven campaigns.

Getting Claim Costs Under Control

The P&C industry is undergoing significant challenges with increased claim severity in liability and physical damage claims. These increases are outpacing inflation and rate adequacy.

Reinventing the Bank Customer Experience

For banks, the imperative of sustaining new business growth in both the retail and commercial sectors has more variables to manage than ever before.

Branch Channel Effectiveness: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A recent BAI report indicates that the future in branching favors banks with a dense footprint and large market share. There are also studies suggesting that branch profitability is more strategic when achieving density in markets with a growing population and increasing household income.

Strategy is not a Wish List

In the National Football League it is often said, “If you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any.”  In business, sometimes we see companies with 15 or 20 strategic objectives built into an annual plan.  How any company can focus on more than three to five critical objectives is beyond me.  Tha

The Times They Are A-changin’

Thirty-plus years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh at an Apple shareholders meeting by reciting lyrics from the song, The Times They Are A-Changin’. It was great theater, and it turns out he wasn’t exaggerating; personal computers have dramatically changed the world.

Thomas Edison and Henry Ford: Analytics Titans?

As an analytics practitioner, I am struck by the essential practices used by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. These titans of industry undertook major initiatives, launched from the confines of their 21-acre winter estate in Ft.

Protecting Your Blind Side

Recently I worked with a client to analyze and solve some significant underwriting problems. Initially the company’s CEO was concerned because its loss ratios were higher than its peers’ loss ratios.

The Power of Persistency

Health Plans are Gaining Competitive Advantage with Portfolio Management and Persistency Modeling

Strategy: Be Quick, but Don't Hurry!

I am a fan of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden’s books and his “Pyramid of Success” philosophy. In particular, I have found the book Be Quick—But Don’t Hurry to be an especially handy and useful reference.

Tackling the Next Wave of Mobile

Insurers are encountering a new level of sophistication with mobile users and technologies. Much like the rapid maturity of web technologies years ago, mobile technology is rapidly evolving today. Perhaps you are tacking a Mobile 2.0 strategy, or maybe you are just getting started with mobile.

Show Me the Money

I recently watched the Tom Cruise classic, Jerry Maguire. When Cuba Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, had Jerry yelling “Show Me the Money!” he was really talking about results. Jerry had all sorts of promises, but Rod wanted results, and results meant a new, fat, big-dollar contract.

Hands On

During a recent business trip to New York City, I found myself looking for a Starbucks on a surprisingly peaceful Saturday morning. Of course, I had my choice of four Starbucks within a two-block radius. I chose one at random and found a few patrons there enjoying a quiet morning.

Take Back Your Community Bank

As the consolidation trend continues among larger financial institutions, smaller local and regional banks are finding it harder and harder to remain profitable. Here’s how community bankers can win clients over with a simpler, more personal style of banking.

Efficiency and Productivity: Sorting Out the Stigma from the Benefits

Efficient, effective, and productive are terms that are often used to define banks that manage their customer experience at the right cost. Reactions vary when those terms are mentioned in regard to high-performing banks or in describing a performance improvement effort.

Mega-Projects Don't Have to Be Massive Problems

As a CIO, I deliberately avoided multi-year projects. But when a mega-project was inevitable, I worked to make it painless.

Outsourcing IT: Whom to Ask Before You Make the Call

Since the dawn of the Information Age, IT leaders have wrestled with where, how, and even why to outsource services. Even today, a wealth of data seems to prove that businesses are still struggling to find balance.

Recharging: A Best Practice for Every Employee

Have you ever walked past one of those airport charging kiosks for phones and thought, “Man, I wish there was one for me”? Well, I have, and in July I decided to recharge by taking a two-week vacation. For the first time in my 30-plus years with The Nolan Company, I stayed home.

The Great Exchange: Health Insurance Approaches a Tipping Point

The health insurance industry is on the verge of a major shift — one that promises to change how insurance coverage is marketed, sold, and consumed. Here’s our perspective on how the Exchanges will transform the industry — and what health insurers can do to compete.

Is Growth Overshadowing Resilience?

While the economy improves and business opportunities abound, it’s easy to forget what we all went through starting in 2008 with the economic meltdown. As we help clients hammer out business, operations, and technology strategies, we are finding many are almost hyper-focused on growth. Why not?

Opportunity to Improve Profits in a Compressing Bank Marketplace

The downward trend in the number of U.S. banks—now down to 6,805—has continued in 2014. There has been a steady decline over the past 11 years from a total of 8,108 in 2003.

Bold Claims: Unlocking the Potential in Predictive Analytics

Big data is now ubiquitous in the insurance industry, but most insurers are merely scratching the surface when it comes to effectively harnessing its value. In fact, a recent study revealed that 60% of claims data is still unstructured, and that 16% of high-risk claims are still neglected.

At Your Service: How I.T. Can Deliver Real Value

I had dinner with a couple of health plan CFOs recently, and they both voiced the same concerns about their IT spends.

Don’t Take Lean Too Lightly

Like other contemporary management models, Lean can be a powerful tool for affecting positive change. And like other theories, it has taken time for Lean to catch on — especially in organizations outside of manufacturing.

Nolan BPS: A First Step Toward Improved Profitability Views

We have yet to work with a bank or credit union client who has mastered the art and science of establishing clear, accurate, multidimensional views of cost and profitability. Most organizations strive for it but never fully achieve it.

Two Great Men with Similar Views on Leadership

In 2008 I had the honor to meet Colin Powell and introduce him as a keynote speaker. In preparation I read Oren Harari’s book, The Powell Principles. It is a no-nonsense guide to leadership.

A Healthy Plan for Member Engagement

In the age of Affordable Care, individuals are playing a more active role in their own health.

Who Says Great Service Really Matters?

Recently I was on a Friday flight from Austin to Dallas, and I decided to stand by for an earlier flight. Standbys are usually a hopeless cause on Fridays, but this time it was a delightful service experience.

New Healthcare Models Are Driving Increased Administrative Expense

Over the past 20 years, health plans have made significant progress in reducing admin expenses, but new healthcare models are requiring health plans to implement new capabilities, which is driving costs back up.

Stepping Back: A True Leadership Skill

Each year, The Nolan Company conducts industry surveys to gauge the pulse of a specific industry, be it banking, healthcare, or insurance. Some are comprehensive, others are just flash surveys.

Analytics Positions Banks for Market Change

“JPMorgan Chase plans 8,000 layoffs”
“Bank of America announces another round of layoffs” 
“Barclays to cut up to 12,000 jobs”
“Wells Fargo announces 6,400 layoffs” 

Underwriting Rigor: More Important Than Ever

Emerging trends in the insurance industry, combined with an expectation of relatively flat market conditions, are spurring executives to embrace new initiatives to maintain their market share and create new means of growth in trying times.

Package Enabled Redesign: Greater ROI–Revisited

Times have changed, but the need for change hasn’t. More than fifteen years ago, I authored an article that highlighted the differences between a traditional “reengineering” effort (the popular term at the time) and one which is driven by a system conversion.

Improving the Health and Financial Performance of Your Claims Organization

An annual personal health check (whether you think you need it or not) is a good discipline that can keep you healthy, help detect and treat problems and provide unexpected benefits. The same principle applies for the health of your claims organization, its processes and infrastructure.

Forward Thinking

2014 is shaping up to be a critical year with significant industry changes ahead. And they are coming at a much faster pace than ever before.

Staying Effective in an Efficient World

The pace of business today and the realities of the current economy have resulted in changes and adjustments throughout the business world. With cost pressures, businesses have stressed the impact on service.

Risks Abound, Now Manage Them

The heart of Risk Management consists of identifying and analyzing exposures and then taking the necessary steps to minimize risk.

Retail Transition—How Much, How Soon, How Prepared Are You?

Retail counter traffic in banks is already in steep decline. Changing customer behaviors, including the increasing use of mobile banking, electronic payments, direct deposit and ATMs are altering the way banking is done in the today’s world.

Familiar Claims Objectives Require New Solutions

Everyone agrees on the primary claims management issues. What are they doing about them?

Bank Performance Trends: The Value of an End-to-End Perspective in Consumer Lending

Nolan’s Bank Performance Study provides insight into the business of banking and changes over recent years that can have potential impacts on the future. We look for significant upward and downward trends in Key Ratios at the line-of-business or functional level.

Here and Now

It's common practice for business leaders to assemble their teams annually to review and renew company strategy.  Every company should have a clear strategy that is revised as business conditions and market factors evolve. And every company leader should be able to articulate that strategy.

Nolan’s P&C Executive Survey: A Close Look at Emerging Trends

There is no better way to learn about the trends in an industry than from the executives who live it every day. Most of the senior industry leaders who participated in Nolan’s P&C Executive Survey told us they are cautiously optimistic about the near future.

Trends Captivate but Principles Endure

As trusted advisors to our clients, we must always be at the top of our game particularly when it comes to business, technology, and industry trends.

Excellence Requires Passion and Execution

There is an old saying that everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die.

Who’s in the Driver’s Seat for Business Analytics Value?

I recently wrote an article concerning the need to extract business value from Business Analytics.  A reader then sent me the following question and comment: “Who should be charged with making sure this happens – is it the responsibility of the CIO, line-of-business heads, data scientist (where t

Achieving High Performance Underwriting Results

Comprehensive risk assessment – the accurate selection, assessment and rating of risk – rests at the heart of sustainable profitability.  Underwriting involves far more than simply matching premium to coverage consistently.

Nolan Bank Performance Study Trends: The Human Resources Value Proposition

The Nolan Company’s Bank Performance Study analyzes the business of banking, how things have changed over the past years and what changes may be looming on the horizon. As the results of the latest study are compiled, some compelling trends are emerging from the raw numbers.

Alarming Trends for Community Bank Productivity and Personnel Cost

The Nolan Company recently completed an analysis of a six-year trend in bank productivity and personnel cost.

First, Know What is IN the Box!

“We’ve got to think outside the box!”  While this is a great mantra to encourage creative problem solving, I recently heard someone wisely say, “First, you’ve got to know what is IN the box.”  Understanding how things work in our industry today is always a pre-requisite to effectively address and

Your Costs and Profits May Not be What You Think

Knowing the cost to produce, deliver and service a product and its relative profitability is critical for every business.

Benefits of Maturity in Business Analytics

A recent ComputerWeekly article presents some startling figures concerning the amount of money businesses are investing in business analytics. The article1 reports that business intelligence software and services will reach $143 billion in 2016, with two-thirds of that being on services.

Separate the Saying from the Doing: High-quality Customer Service

It’s all but impossible to find a bank that doesn’t claim to deliver high-quality customer service. Take just a few minutes to check the websites of every community, regional and national bank in your marketplace and see what each of them says about their commitment to customer service.

Solving Complex Business Problems: Harnessing vs. Adding Horsepower

Business leaders have categorized the problems confronting them as “complex” since the phrase “business problem” was coined. And those problems are getting more complex. The pace of technology, new competitive landscapes (e.g.

Nolan’s P&C Executive Survey: A Summary of Significant Priorities

The insights and comments provided by insurance industry leaders in the Nolan P&C Executive Survey signal the priorities and strategies that will drive their companies’ actions during these unprecedented times.

An Interview with Jack Salzwedel, Chairman & CEO, American Family Insurance

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2013 Edition of IASA’s Interpreter. It is the 30th in a series of interviews conducted for the publication by Dennis Sullivan.

Insurance Game Changers: Big Data Analytics

Fiscal policy uncertainty, changing economic direction, and even election results are perennial concerns that must be considered now more than ever as leaders maintain their focus on competitive advantage and sustainable profitability.

40 Years and Counting

There are many companies that have achieved the milestone of 40 years in business. We are proud and thankful that Nolan is now among them. On the occasion of our anniversary, we reflect on an interesting journey…

Branch Viability in Today's Banking World

One of the key trends in banking in recent years is the steady decline of branch transaction levels. As more customers have begun to take advantage of the convenience afforded them by such simple things as direct deposit and online banking, fewer customers make their way to their local branch.

Leadership Changes with the Times

If it’s lonely at the top, perhaps it shouldn’t be.
Leading an organization in an ever-changing business world is never easy for those in the C-Suite. It seems that every time you think you have a solution to a new problem or a new social trend, something else changes and you are back at the drawing board, adjusting to yet another new variable.

Efficiency Versus Effectiveness

“Effective use of technology and data can improve the quality of care and make our health-care system more efficient,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Hidden in Plain View: Operating Efficiency Opportunities Not Explored

When bankers search for ways to improve operating efficiency, often those efforts are directed at increasing revenue or redesigning the major new business and servicing processes that generate revenue.

Health Insurance: Change in an Uncertain Market

 Earlier this year, the Nolan Company conducted a market scan of the health insurance industry through targeted interviews and reviews of public information. The purpose of the scan was to develop a qualitative understanding of what health insurers will focus on over the next few years.

Healthcare Exchanges: Change and Evolution

With its beautiful foliage and cooler temperatures, fall is a time of reflection on the achievements of the current year and preparation for the upcoming year. Reflecting on 2012, it has been a year of significant change and uncertainty in the healthcare industry.

Thin Margins, Lower Fees, and Channel Shifts

Ben Bernanke is on record as saying that the Federal Reserve will keep rates low until mid-2013, and there is speculation from large money managers that it will likely last until the end of 2014. This will continue to fuel retail mortgage refinancing churn.

The Cost of Quality

As I write this, near-term predictions are multiplying for improvement in leading indicators; however, the pressure on cost containment remains strong. How should quality play into this cost reduction discussion? That question is likely to evoke strong opinions.

Compliance Provides Opportunities for Financial Organizations of $2-10 Billion

The last few years of uncertainty in the economy, both nationally and globally, have led to the creation of new, far-reaching reforms that carry with them additional burdens for the banking industry.

Healthcare Change is at Historic Highs - How will Your Organization Adapt?

Adapt or die. So Charles Darwin wrote, and any shrewd businessperson knows it applies to companies as surely as it does to plants and animals.

Compliance Driven Change: An Opportunity for Optimization

Delivering shareholder returns in today’s low interest rate economy requires a great deal more than strong leadership, good products, focused marketing and continuous operations improvements.  Innovation has become a prevalent theme, as has transformation, with industry pundits proclaiming the ne

Study: Replacing ICD-9-CM with ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS

Replacing ICD-9-CM with ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS Challenges, Estimated Costs and Potential Benefits
Nolan conducted a study for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association that assesses the costs, operational challenges, and potential benefits of migrating to ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS. 

Use Expense and Revenue Insights to Improve Your Efficiency Ratio

Our recent work with banking clients and Nolan Bank Performance Study (BPS) participants is revealing a recurring theme: Optimism has increased relative to the financial crisis finally on its way to being behind us.

The Perfect Storm: Mobile Banking, Customer Capabilities

My daughter is 33, and her husband 34. My son is 27, as is his wife. All are using mobile banking and can’t imagine why they would travel to a branch to transact business.

P&C Claims Technology: An Evolution

Claims technology in the P&C insurance industry has significantly changed over the last 20 years and continues to evolve rapidly.

What Cooking has Taught Me About Operational Changes

I am an amateur cook. I’ve learned to cook as amateurs do: by watching my father, Boy Scouts, talking with friends who cook, and reading about food and recipes. But, most important, by breaking eggs and giving it a try!

Initiating a Predictive Analytics Project

Just reading the words “predictive analytics” can make executives break out in a cold sweat. Unless you have an actuarial background or are a Mensa-level data modeler, the concept of predictive analytics can be extremely intimidating.

Is Your Organization Ready for Healthcare Insurance Exchanges?

Whether you're ready for it or not, the implementation date for Health Insurance Exchange is coming.

Analytics in Action: Medical Loss Ratio

Many health plans are making investments in analytics that are becoming solutions in search of a problem.  If executives don’t engage their analytic staffs on critical issues, the result can be “analytic drift.” The analytic staff is adrift when they are spending their talents—and the plan’s mone

Developing an Analytics Culture: Moving from More Reporting to More Action

It is generally accepted in many industries that the next frontier in competition will revolve around analytics. Companies that figure out how to leverage analytics will improve business performance by reducing costs, improving customer satisfaction, and understanding more clearly who their customers are and what they want to buy.

Disruptive Innovation in Banking

The banking industry is experiencing dramatic technological change and disruptive innovation. The questions are: how many executive teams have recognized it; what is their strategy; and what will it take to manage in the new environment?

Mobile Technology: Bank of the Unexpected

As technology continues to evolve at the speed of light, mobile technology is an incredibly hot topic.

A Framework for Managing Mobile Technologies

 While it may be too early to say mobile technology will be as disruptive as the Web, there are many similarities. Consistent with the early days of the Internet, demand is coming at IT organizations very quickly and requests for deployment have outgrown infrastructure in many organizations.

Is Your Operation Ready for Mobile?

What opportunities are you leaving on the table with your mobile investments?

Acquisition Integration: A Hindsight Look

In last year’s fourth-quarter Nolan Newsletter, Steve Discher discussed the fact that M&A activity is likely to remain a hot topic in the insurance and financial services industry.

Balancing the Next Great Ideas vs. Exceptional Execution

At a business breakfast recently, two clients and I had a roundtable discussion sharing our thoughts about the latest and greatest ideas and experiences in insurance industry technologies, organizational constructs, sourcing options, and other topics.

Business Transformation: It's Not Just a Vision

“The last thing IBM needs right now is a vision.”

That now-famous quote was uttered at a press conference when new CEO Lou Gerstner was being pressed for an outline of his plans for the beleaguered company.

It's all About the Customer Experience

An article titled “Branding in the Digital Age” (Harvard Business Review) described how purchasing decisions are changing for products and services. The buying process used to be thought of as a funnel, where buyers narrow their choices from many down to one.

The Impact of Dodd-Frank on Community Banks

Community bankers are dealing with the immediate issues presented by the new financial reform act and are anticipating what the impact will be as other provisions are ironed out over the next two years.

The Operations Behind the Brand

The days of marketing and operations co-existing in a contentious relationship have gone the way of payphones and paper applications. This sea change in the industry is occurring because young adults (that is, today's new customers) demand it.

Kicking the Can and Operating Model Complexity

Most of us saw it coming: massive restructuring as the U.S. Postal Service recently announced that it will close one in ten of its 32,000 offices. Efforts are under way to evaluate selling major operating locations across the United States, a move expected to save over $3 billion annually.

Defining Process Architecture: Why It Matters to Health Plan Operations

Productivity in many administrative functions in health plans has increased four- to five-fold over the last 20 years.

Operating Efficiencies: Redesigning Service Delivery for Current Customer Needs

Retail banking customers are changing the way they use and obtain banking services. Mounting evidence has reinforced a need to think carefully about redesigning delivery systems to make the continuing shift seamless.

Will "Process" Trump "Project" in PMO?

We don’t actually expect “Process” to replace “Project” in “PMO,” but given the pervasive changes in health care, we do believe that the process management office is becoming essential. The health care industry is undergoing change of a scope and pace unlike anything we’ve seen.

Survive and Thrive (Part II)

In our previous article, “Survive,” we laid out the case that when a financial organization’s survival is at stake, surgical cost-cutting is the best of the least-desirable approaches. This article highlights seven critical areas for surviving organizations to focus on in order to thrive.

The Impact of Regulation: Rush to Limit Risk or Capture Opportunity?

On the question of how to react to the most recent regulatory changes with regard to the Dodd-Frank Act and the Durbin Amendment, it is interesting that a wait-and-see attitude prevails in the banking industry.

Managed Medicaid Rated a "Strong Buy"

If we were rating managed Medicaid as a stock, it would be a “strong buy.” Why? Read on.

There will be sustained enrollment growth in managed Medicaid. It is estimated that the number of people eligible for Medicaid will grow by 16 million over the next 10 years.

The Customer Is in Charge

Nolan’s recent industry survey revealed that most companies are only dabbling in social media. However, although companies are not quite ready to engage their customers in one-on-one communications, they are in social media anyway because their customers have put them there.

Designing Processes to Address Changing Customer Behaviors

Customer preferences and behaviors are changing at an increasing rate, and it will impact banks’ service delivery significantly over the next two years. New research from Nielson (third quarter of 2010) finds that 53.4 million U.S.

Survive and Thrive (Part I)

As we learned in graduate school, the primary goal of any organization—above profitability and customer satisfaction—is survival. Over the past three years, 304 banks have failed. This number is especially stunning when compared to the previous eight years, when only 27 banks failed.

Beyond Data: From Analytics to Action (Part II)

In Part I of this article, I defined “business analytics” and provided an example of how one organization successfully applied the concepts to achieve a significant impact on profitability.

Lessons to Remember as Merger and Acquisition Activity Increases

There have been countless acquisitions in the insurance and financial services industry already this year. Slow organic growth, unpredictable investment earnings, failed institutions, and attractive acquisition targets are escalating M&A priorities on the executive agenda.

The Basis of Competition is Changing-Are You Ready?

Understanding the impact of reform is a bit like watching mountains emerge from the rain and fog: you don’t see the mountain all at once.

Beyond Data: Getting the Most From Business Analytics (Part I)

Do you remember Buzz Lightyear, the character from the movie “Toy Story”? He was the space action figure who believed he was not a toy, but the defender of the galaxies sent to save the universe from the evil Emperor Zurg. His favorite line was “to infinity . . .

The Rebirth of Common Sense

We are emerging from a period where consumer confidence in the banking sector reached new lows.

A Shared Wrong View

In his book The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo notes an observation by a Nobel Prize winner that “big science”—multibillion-dollar science programs—almost never produce meaningful discoveries.

Elegant Design Speaks for Itself

Anyone who has studied computer science is likely to be familiar with the unique connotation of “elegant” in the vernacular of technologists. It does not connote luxury or glamour or lavishness.

Characteristics of Successful Companies

At the recent Society of Actuaries Annual Conference in Boston, we were asked to present our findings on the characteristics of success for companies in the mid-market space.

Will Health Care Be Reformed

Will there be health care legislation? At the time of this writing, there is a House bill and a Senate bill. The bills are lengthy; running approximately 2000 pages. Reading the entirety of the proposed bills is a chore, to say the least.

Knowing: It's a 'Magical View'

Recently, a friend gave my family a debut CD of a local singer, and our enjoyment of the music prompted us to attend her performance. I offered to buy the CD for our children in advance of the concert—our daughter accepted but our son said he wanted to experience the music “fresh.”

Can You Compete on the New Basis?

As I’m writing, C-SPAN is in the background with a discussion about the bewildering set of potential laws that we are arguing over as part of health care reform.

That Doesn't Work Anymore

At a recent retirement party for an old friend who was a senior executive of a large insurance company, he made some interesting points worth sharing…

We Have a Wicked Problem on Our Hands

We are in a historic debate about how and whether to reform the national health system. Of course, ‘reform’ is in the eye of the beholder.

Measures That Matter: Insights to Process Improvement

Thirty years ago, when I joined the Nolan Company, we were known as an organization that measured performance. As the saying goes, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it”—and, certainly, you cannot evaluate the need for improvement.

Strategy is Not a Project

Do you remember, not too many years ago, that a hot topic in the industry was the high failure rate of major projects? Blown budgets and timelines, missed requirements and functionality, and failure to deliver the expected results had become the norm.

Characteristics of Successful Mid-Size Insurers: Part 2

In the third quarter 2008 edition of The Nolan Newsletter, we published part one of a two-part discussion around characteristics of successful mid-size insurers.

Process Innovation is the Lower-Cost Growth Engine

The current economic conditions have made many banks and credit unions pause to make sure they do not misstep, but the truly innovative organizations are finding an environment to focus more clearly on their goals.

Not Just "All or None"

With most of the increases in health care costs of the last 10 years shifted to the employee, there has been little incentive for health insurers to pursue the focused, effective management of health care resources.

Insights From This Year's Nolan Efficiency Ratio Performance Study

The findings of the recently completed Nolan Annual Efficiency Ratio Performance Study reveal what we have been seeing in the industry. The pressure on revenue is making itself felt in both the bank operating ratios and in the stock market. The Dow Jones U.S.

Negotiation: Not "What Can You Do for Me?"

Recently, while developing a negotiation unit for a health insurance client, we were prompted to think about what makes an effective negotiation program. We were also reminded of the elements critical to the success of such a program.

Culture and the Changes in Bank Services Delivery Systems

This past month, my wife Nancy and I saw a play, A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room, which uses the vehicle of the dining room in a series of vignettes to depict changes in upper-class family culture during the 20th century.

Today's War Over Talent and What To Do About It

If there’s ever been a time when we were all painfully aware of the war over talent, it’s now. Nearly every client we work with faces the same challenge: that of attracting and holding on to their most precious resource—people.

The $2000 Trebuchet: Flying Pumpkins and Process Design

There is a book that is truly dangerous, and I will not name it in the interest of protecting you from yourself and me from the author’s lawyers. But it has a title something like Backyard Trebuchets. If you see it, do not touch it. Run away.

Higher Costs in Growth-Oriented Organizations: Are They Needed?

Operating costs are higher in some banks that are growing both organically and by merger, but when are the ongoing costs too high?

Overdraft Fees: Where Will Banks Look for Bottom Line Relief?

Two major studies are being conducted to examine overdraft practices in the banking industry—one by the FDIC and one by the General Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm. Federal legislation (H.R.946) introduced by Rep.

Health Insurance: Opportunity Knocks; Who Will Answer?

As health care expenditures continue to rise from the current level of more than 16 percent of the GDP, the increasing cost of health care benefits will result in many employers declining to offer health insurance to their workers.

The Most Common IVR Design Error for Health Plans

Nearly every claim, member service, or health service project we do involves an interactive voice response problem. So we have a lot of practical experience with IVRs—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Quality Healthcare: What Is It and How Do We Know?

As insurers, employers, and employees, we tend to focus on the cost of healthcare. But given the data on the quality of care delivered in the United States, should we also be giving at least equal time to the quality side of the equation?

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Flattery, Even in Banking—But Does It Lead to Success?

There is debate over imitation. Is it in fact flattery or thievery?

The Gap Continues to Widen Between the Improving and the Overly Complex

Why are the “too busy” not seeing the waterfalls ahead? Just this past month I witnessed an auto lease transaction that required the lessee to sign or initial 14 documents in a total of 23 places.

Deposit Growth: The Struggle for Market Share

Quarterly headlines tell part of what’s happening in banking today: “Wells Fargo Bank reports continued strong growth in core deposits and checking accounts in 2006” (10% deposit growth); “Deposits were up 9% from a year ago” (Webster Bank); “Frost National Bank records asset and deposit growth”

It's Elementary, My Dear Watson

In Sherlock Holmes stories, “it’s elementary” came to express how the great sleuth would discern the key facts of a case from the background noise, solving what baffled others. The resolution of Holmes’ mysteries always hinged on a few causal facts. The same is true in business.

What Were You Thinking?

It was second down, late in the fourth quarter, and the score was tied in a high school football game between cross-town rivals. The home team was deep in its own territory when the second-string quarterback, who had replaced the injured starter, was also injured.

Smart Use of Business-side Resources Optimizes Technology ROI

While working with one of our insurance clients recently, we were involved in a discussion of their 2004 business plan. The items listed in the plan were almost exclusively technology projects.