Marsh USA on Bringing the Back-Office Up to Speed

Gustavo Diaz is pushing boundaries with a number of new initiatives increasing efficiency for Marsh's US operations

Gustavo Diaz was born in Cali, Colombia, and immigrated to the United States with his parents and sisters in the early 1970s. His family focused on values and pushed for higher education. “My parents instilled the mind-set that a college degree can open numerous doors,” Diaz says. “That’s exactly what happened in my career.”

The very qualities that scare many away from the financial-services industry are the ones that drew Gustavo Diaz to it: the pressure of knowing what you do impacts the stock market, the many daily challenges, the fast-paced environment in which every day is different, the work that tests all of your capabilities. Diaz loved every ounce of it when he took his first job in the industry out of college. Today, as senior vice president of business relationships and manager of risk practices for Marsh USA (a division of Marsh & McLennan Companies), Diaz brings a wealth of knowledge to his role from his time at Ernst & Young. It was at Ernst & Young when Diaz made one of his biggest career splashes, helping NationsBank (now Bank of America) launch its first web-based banking platform in 1997, a platform that’s still in use today. Now, Diaz is creating cutting-edge solutions for Marsh, the world’s leading insurance broker and risk adviser.

1. From Decentralized to Centralized

Big changes don’t occur without a little pushback, and when the operations organization initially pitched the idea of implementing a back-office service center in Marsh USA’s Austin facility that would be integrated with Siebel CRM Systems—essentially transitioning the company’s certificate-issuance model from a decentralized into a centralized model—there was a bit of apprehension. “There was concern from colleagues in the US over losing the autonomy of issuing certificates of insurance, so we had to overcome the ownership challenges,” Diaz says.

“This project was my first leadership role in the company in 2004, and it was a solution that proved tremendous efficiency gains to the organization and sparked additional consolidation initiatives.”

2. Innovation in Health Care

Diaz led the charge on the creation of Marsh USA’s insurance-management system, which enables hospital organizations to administer the insurance coverage for their physicians. Diaz says it’s a hybrid model that provides a technology platform directly to a hospital, one that’s complemented with Marsh USA’s business risk-management-consulting services. “It’s software as a service offering,” Diaz says.
The challenge to implementing the system, Diaz says, was all internal. Our technology group had to be restructured and re-skilled in order to ensure Marsh had the proper organizational support model. “With the system, it meant that we weren’t only supporting the needs of Marsh; we had to scale the group through offshore partnerships to establish the proper support for our clients,” Diaz says. “It was a challenge, but one we were able to meet successfully.”

3. Streamlining the System

Diaz was also responsible for implementing a streamlined policy administering system for Marsh USA’s Small Commercial Insurance business unit. This required moving the business unit from an antiquated system and training employees for the new end-to-end policy-administering system. “This was important because it enabled our commercial business unit to achieve more cost-savings,” Diaz says. “Rather than having several support teams for each platform, it was consolidated into one more efficient system.”

The project, completed in 2007, initially required some tweaking, because training wasn’t budgeted for, but once Marsh USA invested in the training process, the system provided a major return on investment.

4. Simple Solutions Group

In late 2012, Diaz noticed there was a high demand for business-driven investments in operations and technology, but the funding was tied to other, higher-priority initiatives. In the absence of investment, Diaz believed that creating what’s become known as Marsh USA’s Simple Solutions Group would be the best solution, enabling the company to leverage existing staff and basic technology platforms to develop tactical, short-term systems solutions for business units.

“The team has been exceptional,” Diaz says. “And the recognition from businesses has been overwhelmingly positive. Our request funnel is overflowing.”

Up Close & Personal with Gustavo Diaz

What is your happiest memory?  The birth of my two children: Zachary, in 2000, and Alexandra, in 2003.

What is one of the most important lessons your parents taught you?  To be humble and never compromise my integrity.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?  Family time is incredibly important to me, and it can take shape in different ways, like coaching my son’s baseball team and my daughter’s soccer team. I also enjoy golfing, fishing, and reading.

What is your favorite vacation spot?  It’s actually a spot my wife showed me: St. Petersburg, Florida. She’d been going since she was a child. She took me there for the first time about 15 years ago, and we’ve been going there as a family ever since.

What one piece of advice would you give a young person interested in pursuing a career in your field?  Be dedicated and, if you can, find a mentor. Early in my career I was fortunate enough to have a mentor who guided me, showed me the ropes, and enforced a business mentality of being honest, upfront, and direct.