Peter Worth Jr is the CISO and VP of Operations for American Benefits Consulting (ABC), a division of Alliant Insurance Services Inc. (Alliant). which focuses on Employee Benefits exclusively in the Enterprise (Fortune 1000) market. ABC was originally founded by Peter Worth Sr in the late 80s and was acquired by Alliant in 2015. Peter currently leads the ABC information security and infrastructure operations team and joined ABC in 2010 from Aria Systems, one of the world’s leading SaaS Billing software companies, in order to facilitate the growth, scalability, security and reliability of ABC’s technology infrastructure, one of its key differentiators in the enterprise benefits market.
Peter’s involvement with ABC goes back to the mid-90s when there were only a handful of employees serving 5 or 6 Clients from the Fortune 100, the firm being mainly focused on the design and administration of Executive Benefit plans at the time. In that small of a company of course, everyone was expected to pitch in and help on all fronts with the firm and its people being hyper focused on Client delivery, quality and success, laying the groundwork for the cultural and ethical foundations which persist to this day. In the early years of the company for example, each quarter the team would print out detailed benefit statements that were generated by custom software, validate each and every statement and then put the statements in envelopes that were sent directly to the executives that were members in the plan, each with a cover letter that explained the plan, the statement as well as how to reach out to us in the event they had any questions or any of the information was incorrect.
While the firm has grown well beyond Executive Benefit plan design and administration now, with deep offerings in the Group, Voluntary Benefits, International, Disability and Leave Management domains, and the ability to partner with other groups in the Alliant family to delivery solutions in Health, Cyber, 401k, Speciality and other corporate Risk Management areas, nonetheless the custom design, implementation and administration of benefit plans, which in some cases still entails the printing and mailing of benefit statements to plan members, remains both a core competency of the firm as well as a sort of rite of passage for team members in the benefit administration teams. The foundation of the company’s culture was built on this kind of high-touch service model and this is something the firm still takes great pride in bringing to each and every one of its client engagements to this day.
Peter’s role has evolved as the firm has grown and as the technology and (information) security landscape has gotten increasingly complex of course, but in essence – as he puts it – boils down to “keeping the lights on and the bad guys out”, both aspects of his role that have grown increasingly challenging as the technology, InfoSec and Privacy landscapes have all shifted and become radically more sophisticated in the last few years. Part of what ABC brings to the table with each of its client engagements is not just the ability to integrate its systems and solutions into the large (and in many cases legacy) enterprise system architecture, but also provide best in class systems and resources to tackle these highly complex and now business critical challenges in Information Security.
The day to day focus of Peter and his team – in their close collaboration with the product development teams run by ABC’s CIO Jay Koppisety, who has also been with the firm for more than twenty years, as well as in partnership with the Alliant Corporate IT teams led by Ryan Skadberg (CTO) and Steve Sampiere (CIO) – is to ensure the highest standards of availability and performance of ABC’s benefit systems platform and applications, and to ensure that the network, and the underlying systems and data, remains secure. In addition, Peter also works closely with ABC’s Principals and Practice Leaders – Eric Levy, Craig Giuffre, Jeff Jones and Kristine Blanco to name a few – to ensure that Clients are getting the consulting brokerage services that are unmatched in the industry.
Persisting the Legacy
ABC was founded in the late 80s by Peter’s father (Peter Worth Sr), a renowned Insurance Executive in his own right, building upon his own experience in the individual life business and expanding into the corporate executive benefits space by putting together highly sophisticated and custom tailored executive benefit plans for some of the largest telecommunications and financial services companies in the US, many of which are still with ABC even after all these years, speaking to ABC’s commitment to innovation and excellence. It was in these early years that Peter learned to code, working under the tutelage of Mike Grippo (Executive Benefits), one of the founders of ABC’s Executive Benefits practice, developing data processing and reporting applications using Borland’s Object Pascal and Paradox. It was these applications in fact, and their successors which Jay Koppisety (CIO) developed with Christina Johnson (Voluntary Benefits), Ann Marie Large (Marketing and Communications), that came to form the foundation of ABC’s market leading Benefits Administration Platform.
Since its inception, well before it was fashionable to do so, ABC invested in technology as a source of competitive advantage and product innovation, facilitating both the creation of new products in conjunction with insurance carriers, as well as the development of the technology infrastructure to support said products, all of which that needed to be implemented and supported in highly complex, and in many cases legacy, technology environments that are the hallmark of the Fortune 100 market place. ABC’s ability to integrate into these technology architectures, minimizing both systems and business process disruption, represents one of the key differentiators of ABC’s, and now Alliant’s, Client focused engagements.
After his introduction into programming at ABC, Peter pursued his Master’s in Computer Science from NYU (Courant Institute of Mathematical Science), after which he spent well over a decade at a variety of Software and Consulting firms. ABC always remained close to his heart however, and after several consulting and special project assignments for ABC over the years, he rejoined full time in 2010 to help take the technology infrastructure to the next level and support ABC’s transition from a boutique benefits brokerage and consulting firm to one of the industry leaders in the Employee Benefits marketplace.
Challenges as Opportunities
In conversation with Peter, he describes his role evolution at ABC as running parallel with the growth of the firm itself. ABC can be seen as an organization that was born out of the identification, and solving, of challenges in the benefits domain for our clients that other firms struggled with due to the level of complexity and skill required to solve for such problems. Our Executive Benefits business, and then our Group Consulting and Voluntary Benefits practices, emerged out of this process of essentially solving complex benefits problems for our clients that our brokerage and consulting firms struggled mightily with. This commitment to the use of both technology innovation combined with deep expertise in insurance and banefits was reflected in the first Deferred Comp, Split Dollar and Bonus plans that ABC designed, sold and implemented, many of which are still in place and managed by ABC today, by some of the same people who designed and implemented said plans.
This same pursuit of hard problems, and the perspective of identifying them as business challenges and opportunities, has really been the cornerstone of ABC’s success over the years and as such our team members, and most certainly our leadership, has been sort of self-selected to reflect this mindset. The Security and infrastructure team that Peter manages is no exception to this, and they are constantly looking at ways to be innovative and not only stay ahead of the competition, but as a great Canadian executive at one of Peter’s former employers used to say, to skate where the puck is going, a skill which requires a certain level of vision and next level understanding of market (and technology) forces that facilitates good day to day, as well as medium term, decision making. Combined of course with the development of a culture that not only does not shy away from hard problems but actively looks for them and takes them on.
For it is a core part of the ABC culture, the ABC mindset, that every challenge, every obstacle—be it technical, business-related, or even personal in nature—represents an opportunity for growth and the strengthening of relationships. This is a core management principle of both ABC as well as its parent company, Alliant, helping fuel their growth into one of the largest privately held insurance brokerage firms in the world. This perspective on challenges as opportunities translates into a core management principle for not just the firm at large but its technology teams across the board, which support its consulting and administration practices as well as its clients, providing for a sound technological foundation to underpin growth and success.
Addressing Complexity with Expertise, Diligence and Persistence
The insurance industry still remains ripe for innovation, opportunities that arise from the sheer scale and technical inertia that the large brokerage houses and insurance carriers must maintain to support their current and historical books of business. This creates extremely difficult technical obstacles when launching new product offerings, and in particular, once again in the Fortune 500 market, integration difficulties with numerous HRIS, billing, and payment management systems for both clients and carriers that sit together in a complex, interconnected ecosystem that must be transgressed in order to get the right products into the right consumers hands at the right time. This area of complexity, at the very top of the Enterprise Benefits marketplace, is where ABC shines as it brings to bear some of the best minds and technological infrastructure, as well as a wealth of experience, to help Clients solve such problems and ultimately serve their constituents, their greatest asset – their employees – better. Peter’s team helps to add value to this supply chain by ensuring that Client data, and generally the application infrastructure that supports it, is managed with the utmost care and investment, reflecting the core principals of the firm which seeks to serve our clients in the most professional, dedicated and cost effective manner possible given the task at hand.
ABC’s technology, consulting and administrative teams represent some of the best minds in the insurance industry and bring their deep levels of professional experience and dedication to each and every engagement, matching the increasing complexity of benefits and insurance landscape with skilled professionals who do the bulk of the heavy lifting for our Clients so that they can focus on strategic issues related to how to serve their constituents better, leaving the plan design and implementation, as well as the management of the insurance carriers themselves, to ABC who has the experience, tools and platforms to do this as effectively, if not more effectively, than any other brokerage and consulting firm that operates at the very top end of the Employee Benefits marketplace.
Final Thoughts, Good Things in Due Time
The road ahead for ABC and more broadly Alliant is to persist in doing what they have been doing for years now, helping Clients solve some of their most complex problems in the Employee Benefits arena by bringing together smart, experienced, dedicated professionals whose professional lives are dedicated to doing just that, helping Clients navigate an ibcreasingly complex world so that they can bing some of the most innovative and highest quality benefits to their employees in the most efficient and effective way possible for them. The focus on this Client delivery has historically been the very driving principle of the firm and underpins its culture and is the driving force behind ABC;’s commitment to innovation both from a technology as well as Insurance perspective. To paraphrase a longstanding dictum from leadership, “let’s just keep doing what we’re doing because it seems to be working.”
Peter’s message to aspiring leaders is to take the time to do what’s right, do it well, and let your work speak for itself. “Those who you serve, over time, will recognize and appreciate this, and if you’re fortunate enough to be at a good company that is growing, opportunities will present themselves to you naturally over time.” He also adds, “And perhaps most of all, try to be patient, and grant your colleagues and others that you work with the respect and benefit of the doubt that you would want them to grant to you, such is the foundation of great teams, which form the foundations of all great products and services and ultimately great companies.”