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Pacific Life Insurance Names New Tech Chief From USAA

Pacific Life Insurance Co. has named its first chief information and digital officer as it aims to expand its technology capabilities in an industry that has rapidly evolved through the adoption of artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

Mary Beth Eckert, most recently chief information officer for corporate and insurance services at USAA, will step into the role in December, the company said in a statement.

She replaces Mike Shadler, who has served as CIO since 2018 and plans to retire at the end of the year, a spokeswoman for the life insurance company said.

Ms. Eckert’s role has been newly expanded to include both CIO and digital responsibilities, and will focus on unifying the Newport Beach, Calif.-based firm’s technology and data strategies. She will report directly to Pacific Life CEO Darryl Button.

At USAA, Ms. Eckert oversaw system modernization with an IT organization of more than 1,800 employees and 6,000 contractors. The financial services company, known for working with military families, started using a cloud-based artificial intelligence platform last year to help customers estimate repair costs based on photos of their damaged vehicles.

She also held a senior IT management role at Travelers Cos. held, and was a vice president at Zurich Financial Services Group.

Mr. Button, who joined Pacific Life in April, said in the statement that Ms. Eckert “will play a critical role as we continue to expand our digital capabilities” and describes her experience as key to helping the company remain competitive.

The insurance industry is one of many highly regulated sectors that are beginning to move faster to the cloud and benefit from artificial intelligence.

Yet many life insurers do not meet customer expectations in terms of speed of service and method of communication, says Ted Epps, Global Life Insurance Technology Leader at Ernst & Young.

Insurance technology is “the convergence of modern digital experiences and advice with proven products,” Mr. Epps said. “Smart insurers are investing in leadership to make this convergence a reality.”

Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America introduced an AI-based “digital agent” in 2020, in part because the pandemic forced more customers to engage with companies online. A spokesperson said the company has continued the pace of its digital transformation since then, noting that it now has “instant” underwriting for certain policies and increased digital self-service capabilities for policyholders.

National anthem Inc.

CIO Anil Bhatt said in May that the company is building a synthetic data platform to help the health insurer better detect fraud and provide personalized care to its members. The company will use algorithms and statistical models to generate about 1.5 to 2 petabytes of synthetic data, Mr. Bhatt said.

Using the cloud can also help insurers cut costs, which have come under greater scrutiny in a tougher economic climate. Prudential Financial Inc.

are using more digital and cloud-based tools for managing expenses and financial planning, Chief Financial Officer Ken Tanji told The Wall Street Journal in February. The Newark, NJ-based company said it has achieved $635 million in savings by the end of 2021, largely through new technology.

Write to Belle Lin at belle.lin@wsj.com

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