With AI at the Forefront, CNA Takes an Innovative Approach To Insurtech

Learn how the company’s new automated billing solution reflects ongoing efforts to drive industrywide transformation.

Written by Olivia McClure
Published on Dec. 20, 2023
With AI at the Forefront, CNA Takes an Innovative Approach To Insurtech
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Many people recognize that the pandemic catalyzed the evolution of technology, igniting growth in sectors such as e-commerce and healthtech. But did you know that the insurance industry was also deeply impacted?

According to a recent survey of insurance CEOs conducted by KPMG International, 85 percent of participants believe the pandemic accelerated the digitization of their operations and the creation of next-generation operating models, while 78 percent said it fueled the development of a seamless digital customer experience. 

Commercial property and casualty insurance company CNA has both witnessed and guided this ongoing digital transformation. While the company has always been dedicated to developing innovative solutions for use across the industry, it has spent the past couple of years ramping up its efforts to deliver high-quality products to market quickly while embracing the latest advancements in technology. 

So what are the key elements driving these efforts? If you guessed AI, you would be right. AI forms the backbone of many of the company’s newest solutions — but that’s not the only force fueling the organization’s tech endeavors. 

According to VP of Business Relationship Management and Innovation Colleen Thomas, the company’s tech organization decided to shift to the use of a scaled agile framework, evolving the way in which it delivers tech changes. 

Having worked at CNA for the past 18 years, Thomas can attest to the company’s continuous focus on driving progress through the adoption of new processes and tools. These initiatives directly impact her day-to-day work, as she plays a pivotal role in aligning technology with the needs of specific business areas. 

Last year, one of these business needs took the form of an exciting new product. Recognizing the manual work that goes into the billing process at law firms, the company embarked on its Bill Review project, which culminated in the creation of an AI solution that automates this labor-intensive system. 

For VP of Claims Litigation Management Bob McDade, the Bill Review project reflects a wider focus on pushing the boundaries when it comes to the adoption and implementation of emerging technologies. 

“The focus on innovation, multiplied by an embedded testing and learning culture, empowers CNA to lead the way in leveraging these cutting-edge technologies,” he said. 

Relying on a SAFe framework and the use of AI, the company’s technologists have the resources and support they need to tackle large-scale, impactful initiatives, such as the Bill Review project, therefore deepening the organization’s digital transformation efforts. 


CNA offers a broad range of insurance products and services for businesses and professionals across North America and Europe. These solutions address a variety of areas, from cyber insurance to management and professional liability insurance. 


A SAFe Approach

As the tech industry rapidly evolves, tech teams are expected to keep up by delivering a continuous flow of value to customers. 

But as any technologist knows, this requires sound practices, a strong vision, steady alignment and a culture of continuous learning. The SAFe framework is designed to provide all of these things and more, offering a dynamic foundation upon which teams can pursue cutting-edge projects. 

Given these factors, it’s unsurprising that CNA has leaned into this approach. Thomas believes that the company’s decision to embrace SAFe has rendered many benefits, especially when it comes to creating cohesion. 

“It allows for closer collaboration between tech and business teams,” she said. “Unlike traditional methods in which the tech department works in isolation, the SAFe framework fosters continuous testing and learning throughout the development process.”

Unlike traditional methods in which the tech department works in isolation, the SAFe framework fosters continuous testing and learning throughout the development process.”


To maintain successful collaboration, teams rely on frequent, clear communication. Thomas explained that teams take part in daily touchpoint meetings, fostering alignment while ensuring issues are resolved quickly and robust working relationships are in place. Overall, this continuous teamwork has made the company’s tech organization a more collaborative business partner. 

“By leveraging existing business relationships, the tech organization is empowered to easily ideate on new and innovative projects based on needs, wants, what’s happening in the market and more,” she said. 

Thomas believes this empowerment has unlocked greater freedom for the company’s technologists. The SAFe framework enables them to test, learn and, most importantly, welcome failure as a part of the product development process.  

“Doing so allows CNA to focus on the things that truly work for its business partners and teams,” Thomas said. 


CNA office patio space with downtown Chicago skyline view at dusk



Automation Unlocks Opportunity 

There are many outdated business practices in need of a technological makeover, and the billing process at law firms is one of them. 

Law firms have historically relied on a manual workflow to manage the billing process, starting from the submission of invoices to the issuance of payments. Besides that, law firms are also required to undergo a thorough manual review for billing compliance purposes.

According to Thomas, the Bill Review solution was designed to be a more effective, reliable alternative to this tedious process. 

“Through the integration of AI, CNA sought to achieve increased accuracy, improved collaboration across departments, significant time savings, cost reductions and enhanced support for clients,” she said. 

Relying on cross-functional collaboration and technological expertise, the company’s tech organization brought the solution to life. And in McDade’s mind, these efforts have been proven successful by the product’s continuous growth. 

“The model’s performance continues to improve with each input of data, demonstrating its potential to revolutionize the bill review process,” he said. 


A Future Filled with Potential

CNA’s Bill Review solution is simply one example of a companywide focus on harnessing the latest advancements in AI and machine learning. 

McDade believes that generative AI in particular has the potential to unlock additional opportunities for the organization, as it has revolutionized how tasks are performed. 

“While careful examination is essential before widespread adoption, the prospects for enhanced efficiency and effectiveness are exciting,” he said. 

At CNA, technology doesn’t simply streamline processes — it opens doors to more sophisticated solutions. McDade added that this impact is multiplied by a culture that encourages continuous testing and learning, which ultimately enables the company to lead the industry in its use of technology. 

At CNA, technology doesn’t simply streamline processes — it opens doors to more sophisticated solutions.”


So what does all of this mean for technologists who join the organization? According to McDade, this focus on driving progress in tech, data-driven decision-making and client services offers tech team members the chance to pursue a career with tremendous impact. 

He added, “CNA’s investment in technology and its value-driven approach makes it an exciting place to work, offering a unique opportunity to contribute to the future of technology in the insurance industry.”



Responses have been edited for length and clarity. Images provided by CNA.

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