Prudential’s CFO on transformation, automation, and community
An enterprise-wide transformation is underway at Prudential Financial, says EVP and CFO Ken Tanji. But with 146 years in business, this isn’t the first time the company has evolved. “We’ve adapted over time, and we continue to be consistent with delivering on our purpose,” Tanji says.
The Fortune 100 insurance giant headquartered in Newark, N.J. has approximately 40,000 employees and sales associates worldwide. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in revenues falling about 12% in 2020 compared to 2019. But in the first quarter of 2021, Prudential reported a record adjusted operating income of $1.665 billion, fueled by its global investment management business, PGIM, and retirement business. A key component of its transformation is to reallocate $5 billion to $10 billion in capital toward higher growth and less market-sensitive businesses over the next three years, according to the company.
In its digital transformation, Prudential is implementing A.I., cloud technologies, and advanced analytics to enhance customer experience, Tanji says. An example is the automated claims process that has been particularly useful during the pandemic, “a time when it was important to our customers,” he says. The company is also focused on enhancing mobile apps, chatbots, and the use of digital signatures, he says.
The pandemic has both accelerated Prudential’s capabilities in using automation in underwriting life insurance policies and has made consumers less wary of the technology, Tanji says. “Probably less than 20% of our underwriting or new policy approval process was automated, to now, over 80%,” he says. Insurance hasn’t been known for being progressive in technology, but that’s changing as customers become more comfortable sending and receiving information electronically, he says.
Internally, finance is “looking at cloud applications, particularly for forecasting, to make it nimbler and faster and have a better turnaround time,” Tanji says. There’s opportunity to digitize “pretty much across the board with reporting, actuarial forecasting, investment, and risk management,” he says.
As CFO, he is involved in Prudential’s weekly transformation meetings. “We have a dedicated transformation finance leader who also oversees the whole effort,” he says. “It’s then supported by what we call our transformation finance team.” In addition, Tanji says he partners with Prudential’s CIO Stacey Goodman.
He began at Prudential almost 30 years ago, working in several financial leadership positions, and was appointed EVP and CFO in 2018. An important skill Tanji brings to the table is the ability to relate to a wide range of people and align them around common objectives, he says. Tanji learned the value of diversity through the lessons of his father, who was Japanese and a social worker in inner-city Minneapolis. “He exposed me to a lot of people from different walks of life,” Tanji says. “I now serve as a treasurer and trustee for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.”
He aspires for a sense of unity within his finance team. “The name of our department is not the finance department: it’s called the global finance community,” he says. “We want it to be a community that supports each other.”
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