Hippo CIO shapes tech use as partner

Hippo CIO shapes tech use as partner

Her mission then was to help the California-based company improve its systems and security before going public, and to be ready for rapid growth. That job description remains, Marenitch said.

“Hippo was a start-up and now it is a public company and we are experiencing significant growth,” she explained. “My mandate is to make sure that our enterprise, our associates, our employees, our systems are ready for that growth, and whether [focused on] omni-channel distribution or more [regulatory] compliance, that’s where we started.”

The goal, Marenitch said, was that the company, as it hit the public markets, could hit the ground running with “sales growth, claims growth and just general enterprise good practices and good, good ways of doing business.”

She’s at a company with more than 620 employees, spread across locations in Austin and Dallas, Texas; Palo Alto, Calif., Bedminster, N.J. and Tel Aviv.

CIO tasks

Marenitch said she’s focused on a number of areas, such as helping improve the productivity of fellow colleagues and employees.

“We just rolled out a next-generation claims system that focuses not just on the claims or the policy but really looks at the customer, and how we benefit the customer … or an adjuster to [help them] be very productive, efficient and take away all of the minutiae – all of the tasks that could be automated and make them focus on being a great partner to a customer in need,” Marenitch said.

As CIO, Marenitch has also turned to boosting financial controls and processes required for Hippo as a public company.

“As a start-up, you’re not a public company …. You don’t really have a lot of controls in your finances, right? … As we were getting ready to go public, we have stocks, and all of the other financial controls that have to be ready,” Merenitch recalled. “For a while, I worked very closely with our finance team, and we established a security team to make sure that all of the compliance things were ready in time for us to go public [and] we could pass all the audits. That’s a big piece of going public.”

Her other tasks focused on bringing routine systems, such as ADP to handle payroll and the company’s HR systems, and enterprise management processes for the company’s finance and HR teams. There’s also a doubling down on establishing solid and secure privacy practices.

“Whether it’s how we manage our data, on the cloud or third-party data exchange, having those security controls is really critical,” she said. “It gives us confidence as a business. It gives our customers confidence that their data is secure.”

The role of technology

From Marenitch’s perspective as CIO, technology should focus on what she terms as the company’s “internal customer,” or its associates and employees. In Hippo’s case, that would be sales teams, claims teams or actuaries.

“I am their partner to ensure that the processes that they’re building are successful,” Marenitch said. “How we do that: by leveraging technology, whether it is build or buy, we are designing processes that remove useless tasks.”

Hippo has focused on automation from the very beginning, she said, enabling decision-making to be data-driven. That is close to mind as Marenitch helps guide incorporation of technology where it is most needed and best used.

“We’re giving them the tools to make the right decision [and] offer the right product, and that’s the role of the CIO,” Marenitch said.

Some of the right tools are cloud-enabled technologies. Others are from outside ventures, such as Salesforce.

“We brought in Salesforce, for example, as our key cornerstone for our CRM,” she said. “We are in the process right now of upgrading our lifecycle marketing system, and we’re in the process of selecting the technology.”

A software-as-a-service (SaaS) approach is behind the decision-making, she said.

CIO as partner

Ultimately, Marenitch said, she sees a CIO as a partner.

“I am the partner to the business, making sure that everything they need to do to be successful …. that they are able to do – fast, efficient and with high productivity,” she said. “We work together to create the processes and operations of each of the departments.”

The other goal as CIO, she said, is to help make employees happier so customers are happier as well.

“You’ can’t have a happy customer if you have an unhappy employee,” she said. “They have to work a lot with a lot of data. How can I make it easier? … there’s a business objective but there is a human objective to this too. I want them to come to work and have all the tools ready, all the data at their fingertips, so they do what they do best, servicing our customers.”