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Ashley Pettit, CIO & Sr. VP, State Farm

Ashley Pettit, CIO & Sr. VP, State Farm

As the CIO and Sr. VP of State Farm, Ashley Pettit is responsible for formulating and directing strategy for IT infrastructure, operations, solution architecture, software engineering, and data and analytic solutions enterprise-wide. She also supports IT governance, risk and compliance, supplier management, workforce strategies, R&D and technology innovation, as well as overarching governance and accountability frameworks. Ashley co-leads State Farm’s enterprise technology department with Chief Digital Officer and Sr. VP, Fawad Ahmad, and they oversee more than6,500 employees.

She is also a member of the diversity and inclusion steering group and supports the chief diversity officer in moving in the right direction. Ashley serves as executive sponsor for State Farm’s women in technology employee resource group and coaches females in the STEM community. She is also a member of the senior executive council that enables her to drive the technology agenda, working in collaboration with leaders who lead the various business and operational areas for the company. Ashley is dedicated to transforming the way business and technology align to enable State Farm to help more customers by scaling, rapidly adjust to changing markets and reducing costs, inefficiencies, and redundancies. 

How has advancement in technology transformed the insurance space?

As technology continues to change rapidly, the digital evolution is impacting how we live, work, and interact with each other. CIOs across all industries are trying to drive their organizations to keep pace with the change, especially in the last two years, when companies had to shift to remote and hybrid work environments. We are using leading-edge technology solutions to simplify and strengthen human connections. The ability to complement human connection with digital capabilities helps in delivering the greatest customer experience.

“The ability to complement human connection with digital capabilities helps in delivering the greatest customer experience”

By focusing on customer needs and ensuring proper communication with them on their preferred channel, we can allow them to switch seamlessly between interaction methods while engaging with us. Considering the evolving and changing needs of customers, we constantly try to effectively use new technologies to adapt to that change.

The use of AI has rapidly expanded, with the AI-enabled devices becoming common in homes and offices around the world. Could you tell us how this prevalent and accessible technology be leveraged by the insurance industry?

AI covers a broad, continually evolving range of technologies that leverage machine learning and software engineering to solve business problems. The advanced AI solutions in the form of advanced analytics, computer vision, or the ability to leverage natural language processing can be used to solve complex business issues. However, it is often used to simply automate business rules and augment human-led processes. For example, at State Farm, we harness AI to improve the efficiencies of our business operations and enhance the customer experience. Using AI to automate redundant tasks, we enable our employees and agents to focus on customer interactions.

We use AI to identify patterns in data and predict outcomes to provide both customers and employees with insight on what their next action should be, enabling them to make real-time adjustments. It complements the human skills—such as creativity to problem-solving, personal response, and empathy that agents or claims associates provide to a customer at the time of a loss—by feeding information that allows employees to pivot in real-time amidst a customer interaction.

What would be a piece of advice for your fellow peers and colleagues?

During my 31 years tenure at State Farm, I have realized that history brings tremendous pride and confidence. The factors that have influenced my personal success and contributed to State Farm’s success are my willingness to try new approaches and methods and bring an outside perspective to topics and projects. I believe looking at things from a new perspective or angle helps in exploring new possibilities and opportunities to contribute to an organization’s growth and longevity in impactful ways. I encourage people to bring in outside perspective and find that source of inspiration for them within their organization. 

My advice, especially for female CIOs, is to keep pushing your limits and continually explore and take on new opportunities within your organization. Surround yourself with a supportive network of friends, family, and colleagues. Having a solid support system around us helps us navigate challenging situations that CIO’s job brings.

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