Workday Podcast: Helping Insurance Firms Accelerate to the Cloud

Insurance companies must innovate and transform their finance, human resources, and planning operations to adapt to a changing world. Dave Zager from Deloitte and Jay Rabinowitz from Workday talk about the trends impacting companies, embracing tech to fuel growth, and how Workday’s Industry Accelerator for Insurance can help.

Audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Insurance organizations are dealing with rapid change, as evolving regulatory requirements and updated accounting requirements stress outdated legacy systems and inefficient processes. Dave Zager, a partner in the Workday financials practice at Deloitte, explains that insurance companies must first solve their issues around data to deal with these demands. 

“Over the past couple of years, a lot of the technologies and capabilities in the market have been enhanced to focus on data and how to harness it to drive value for the organization,” Zager says. 

Zager also cites the need to erase technical debt by building architectures of the future and attracting and retaining talent—two trends that Jay Rabinowitz, vice president of financial services and insurance at Workday, believes are intertwined. 

“Young technologists don’t want to deal with legacy infrastructure,” says Rabinowitz. “They want an opportunity to be part of something new that’s innovative and which gives them an opportunity to really enhance their skill sets and, frankly, their resumes.”

To help build a more nimble insurance organization that addresses these evolving issues, trends, and more, Workday has created an Industry Accelerator for Insurance. We partner with Accenture, Deloitte, KPMG, and PwC to uniquely combine industry practices, proven solutions, and ecosystem connectors with Workday Enterprise Management Cloud to transform from the start business processes for customers.

In this episode of the Workday Podcast, Caroline Heckathorn, senior manager of insurance marketing at Workday, talks to Zager and Rabinowitz about how this program will benefit insurance providers. Here are a few highlights from the conversation, edited for clarity. You can also find our other podcast episodes here

  • “We’ve partnered with Deloitte and we’ve given them the opportunity to look at use cases and build capabilities for our customers. And that’s super important. We also have a set of external software vendors that we’re partnering with. We’re opening up our ecosystem and they’re doing the same, and we’re going to combine together and create value faster.” —Jay Rabinowitz

  • “Having many years of working in the insurance industry, understanding not only the trends but also the regulatory environment, we see that the forces occurring inside this industry can be solved through technology. It’s up to us to really bring that to the table.” —Dave Zager

  • “What cloud software and Workday do for you is give you the capability to be independent from IT, drive your own processes, and manage your own work. And that independence is really liberating for folks who have been on legacy software for a long time.” —Jay Rabinowitz

Caroline Heckathorn: Hello, and welcome to today's insurance industry accelerator podcast. My name is Caroline Heckathorn. I'm the senior manager of insurance marketing here at Workday. Insurance organizations today are dealing with rapid change, and they're looking to technology to help them adapt. Recently, Workday launched an Industry Accelerator program. And today we'll talk through the new program and how it will drive and accelerate value for insurance providers. I'm joined by Jay Rabinowitz from Workday. And Dave Zager from Deloitte. Thanks for joining me, Jay and Dave.

So first, Jay and Dave, tell me a little bit about yourselves and your work at Workday and Deloitte.

Jay Rabinowitz: I'm Jay Rabinowitz. I'm the vice president of industries focused on financial services, which is banking, capital markets, and insurance. I've been with Workday for just about four months now. Prior to that, I actually started my career back at Deloitte with Dave a long time ago. We’re old buds. And then I spent 10 years at Goldman, where I was the CFO of global operations and the head of finance transformation. And then the last half of my career before Workday was at Wells Fargo, where I was the CFO for corporate functions focused on the non-producing sides of the business.

Dave Zager: Yeah, and I'm Dave Zager. Great to be with you, Jay. I've been with Deloitte for almost 18 years now. I'm a partner in our Workday Financials practice, and I lead all of our financial services for our partnership with Workday Financials. And I'm really happy to be here.

Heckathorn: Well, thank you again for joining us. Can you set the stage for us and share some of the trends you're seeing in the insurance industry?

Zager: Sure. There are quite a few different trends happening in this sector, but there are three that come to mind. For a lot of insurance companies across P&C, life, and reinsurance, the first issue that we're really trying to solve is all around data. And over the past couple of years a lot of the technologies and the capabilities in the market have been enhanced to start focusing on that data, harnessing it, and driving value for the organization. I'd say that's the first. The second, which is probably systemic for many organizations but definitely in insurance, is the focus on talent. And the skills that are required not only in the functional areas of finance, but also within the IT space, to really drive data insights, predictive knowledge, as well as being agile in the organization. It requires a very new skill set. And the third area is just around the architecture itself. And that is tied to technical debt, which is very systemic in the sector. How does a 100 plus year-old insurance company get to this architecture of the future in a way that will drive value faster for their organization, but in a stepped approach that they can really target the key areas of that architecture.

Rabinowitz: And I'll pick up on just one more thing, and it kind of hits what Dave said, which is just around talent. And I think that obviously the economy has been really interesting with COVID and interest rates rising, and we've all faced people leaving the firm. And I'll tie it back to young engineers or young technologists. They don't want to deal with legacy infrastructure. They want the opportunity to be a part of something new that's innovative, that gives them an opportunity to really enhance their skill set and, frankly, their resumes. That is really pushing them to leave their companies and resign and look for other opportunities. 

Heckathorn: Yeah, that's interesting. If you had a minute or two in an elevator to explain what the industry accelerator from Workday is for insurance organizations, how would you explain it and why does it matter to this industry at this moment in time?

Rabinowitz: Sure. There are three things. One is really talking about our businesses, our insurance through the use cases and through the processes that our insurance companies use. So that's really the first thing. And leading with those use cases is so critical for us to represent our product efficiently. The second is really opening up the ecosystem. Dave's a great example of that. We've partnered with Deloitte. And what we've done is we've given them the opportunity to look at those use cases, and build capabilities for our customers. And that's super important. We also have a set of external software vendors as well that we're partnering with. We're opening up our ecosystem and they're doing the same, and we're going to combine together and create value faster. And that's really one of the drivers. And then the last thing, and probably the thing that really brought me to Workday, is this idea that we're opening up the ecosystem to our customers as well. So not only customer innovation, but more customer councils, more work with customers, better insight, and really helping them to shape where we're headed. And that'll be through the enhancement of the use cases and then driving the development of our application.

Heckathorn: And, Dave, talk a little bit about Deloitte’s role.

Zager: Sure. You know, one of the reasons the Deloitte and Workday partnership is so strong is Workday is providing the technology and the systems around enabling a lot of the enhancements to some of the trends I mentioned before. There are two areas that we focus on in this partnership. One is the deep industry expertise, and more specifically within that industry, the sector, and sub sector knowledge. So having many years of working in the insurance industry, understanding not only the trends, but the regulatory environment, the forces that are occurring inside this industry that can be solved through technology. It's up to us to really bring that to the table. And then the second piece is really everything to do with the finance transformation aspects. So really taking an organization on a journey that will focus on their strategy, what their value metrics are, and getting them there is really the partnership between those three areas.

Heckathorn: Thank you. So, let's talk about the cloud for a minute. Why are insurance providers moving to the cloud? And why is there such a need to optimize their cloud ecosystem?

Rabinowitz: I'll start and Dave will probably have a bunch to say. But I'll kind of hit on two topics. So one, Dave touched on this, is the total cost of ownership. When you have legacy infrastructure, you've built up technical debt. In the environment that we're in, where interest rates are rising and every dollar matters, you're probably not going to spend more on that legacy infrastructure. And you want to get as much value out of the dollars that you spend as possible. Leaving that technical debt, moving to the cloud, and reducing our cost of ownership—is a great opportunity. And now's the time to move to the cloud. The other thing that I think is really important about moving to the cloud, and thinking about Workday, is the independence of the user. What Workday does for you as a user is it gives you the capability to be really independent from IT, really drive your own processes, and manage your own work. And that independence is really liberating for folks who have been on legacy software for a really long time.

Zager: Yeah, great points, Jay. And I would just add, when I think of cloud, the immediate word that comes to mind is just being agile. And what we see in the market now is the marketplace is changing, and it's changing at a pace that's hard to keep up with. And you need to have a supporting technology underneath what you're looking to achieve that allows you to do it quickly, even in a prototype type of manner. To prove it out, enhance it, and get it to the market. Long gone are the days where we would spend a year focusing on one use case and rolling it out. It needs to be quite quick.

Heckathorn: Dave, do you have an example of a customer who has benefited from your work with Workday, and maybe you can tell us a little bit about that?

Zager: Sure, I'm happy to say we have a lot of customers, but one comes to mind when thinking of the insurance space. We worked with quite a few last year that went live. One of these customers, they were in a situation, especially going through COVID, where they were quite short staffed. They needed a solution rather quickly. They had selected Workday to be that solution. But they needed it live because they needed to start getting that value early. So what we were able to do was come to that client with a pre-configured tenant. And this pre-configured tenant was really around Workday Finance and HCM. And they also went live with the Accounting Center and then Workday Adaptive Planning. So as part of bringing that to the table, not only did it allow the volume of decision making that is typical on a project when you're starting from scratch, but we were also able to reduce that quite significantly and take them live in a shorter time frame. And we were also able to de-risk part of the engagement due to that. And one of the main reasons we're able to do that is having the knowledge of taking many, many insurers live on Workday. We've been able to leverage all of the capabilities we've learned over time, be it through the accounting center and the way we allocate in the software itself. And bring that to the table and really get a starting point that insurers can understand and digest that is very specific to that sector.  I look at that one. It was a highly successful program. We have many, but it was done in a rapid way that was proven and like I said, at a lower risk profile.

Heckathorn: And that makes sense. And in speaking about risk, insurers tend to be risk averse. So are you finding that this sort of solution mitigates that?

Zager: Yeah, so I've been focused in this area for the better part of 20 years now. And even when I think back to my first Rising conference, and insurers were starting to come on board being risk averse, but it was slow and steady. The difference now is this is a sector that has adopted a lot of these new technologies. And now when insurers are thinking about cloud software and going through transformation, they have a lot of different companies they can speak to. And they can talk about not only the implementation itself, but more importantly, once they go live, how they're continuing to enhance the software, how their business is changing, be it through M&A, legal rules, and regulation, and how they're operating as a company post implementation. So it is a risk averse sector. However, I think the fact that there are a lot of quals in the market now is helping to de-risk companies moving forward in this space.

Heckathorn: So Jay, and Dave, any closing comments for our listeners?

Rabinowitz: When I think about the accelerator program, I think it's really about time to value. And as we progress on this journey, it's going to be an evolution. We're going to continue to learn more. We're going to continue to identify use cases to partner with Deloitte on, and really drive value faster for our customers. And our customers need to be a part of that journey. We're not going to be successful if they're not. So it's an exciting time as we pause and look at where we are and where we're about to go. It's really motivating.

Zager: I would just say, seeing is believing. And we're at a point now where, for insurers that are thinking about going through some sort of a transformation in the finance space, they can actually see what we've done using the accelerator with many references. It's no longer a concept in thin air on a PowerPoint deck. They can actually feel it and they can touch it very early on. So for those companies that are thinking about going down this journey, there's zero harm in starting to engage the likes of Deloitte and Workday together to see how this could potentially work and align to your future.

Heckathorn: Well, thank you so much both for joining us today. We've been talking about the Insurance Industry Accelerator with Jay Rabinowitz from Workday and Dave Zager from Deloitte. Don't forget to follow us wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. And remember, you can find our entire podcast catalog at I'm your host, Caroline Heckathorn. And I hope you have a great work day.

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