After coming to the US from India to study computer science following a year as a high school exchange student, and later graduating with a double major in computer science and computer graphics from Dominican University, Varun Parekh was in for a wakeup call. In college, he was a vocal leader on campus but his early experiences in the workforce as a computer programmer were much different.
“In school, I took leadership very seriously. I was a resident assistant. I was part of the student budget committee. I started a computer club, a digital radio station, and helped to start an Indian student association,” he reflects. “When I got my first job out of college, I really liked programming, but back then it was ‘you tell me what you want, and I go do it,’ and I don’t have a say in what we do. I was able to add value to the business, but I knew I wanted to be in a role where I had more access to strategy.”
Parekh later attained his executive MBA, leveraging business theory with real-life application. Throughout his career, Parekh walked a path across many aspects of integrating technology as a business discipline into marketing, customer service, and operations. In each position, he approached assignments asking, ‘What does success look like to the end user?’ Critical to this focus is elevating user experience, voice of the customer, and integrating best practices into a clear and measurable strategy. Likewise, each role allowed him to drive customer-centered digital transformation initiatives.
Parekh has over twenty years of experience in the insurance and financial services industries. In 2018, he came to Sammons Financial Group, where he currently serves as vice president of life information technology (IT). He credits much of his success to the ability to “see the world through the customers’ eyes.”
“I like to think of customer in terms of ‘big C’ and ‘little c’ customers. Big ‘C’ customers in an insurance company are policy owners who buy your product and the ‘little c’ customers—who in some ways are more important—are the agents who sells your product,” he says. “I won’t have a customer to buy if I don’t have an agent to sell. You need to think about both those perspectives.”
Varun Parekh on His Parents’ Role in His Tech Career
“My parents built their own company and growing up, I watched them evolve it quite a bit. From an early age, I had a love affair with the idea of transforming business through technology, strategic clarity, and aligned execution. My parents excelled in this area and their experience inspired me to see the power of using tech as a differentiator. Anchoring on the idea that anything you do should be explained and understood in terms of how it’s adding value to customers and users.”
As vice president of life IT, that mindset has framed the way Parekh and his colleagues approach the company’s business and technology modernization program, a multiyear effort resulting in a new policy administration system. The effort aims to redefine the way the company will sell and service its products by allowing the business to get products to market quicker while improving the user experience.
Looking ahead, Parekh is excited to continue to partner with the business and to work collaboratively to reach company goals together.
Care in the Community
Every Christmas, Varun Parekh and his family volunteer at St. Anthony Hospital, a low-income hospital on the West Side of Chicago. He not only has friends and colleagues there, but the organization is a proud partner to Sammons Financial Group. The financial services firm has helped fund ER beds, COVID-19 testing, respirators, and recently, an ultrasound machine. Parekh believes that “if we are fortunate to do well, it is important that we do good.”
“I always tell my team that, at the end of the day, we are one team. Just because we’re in IT doesn’t mean we’re not part of the business,” he says. “Some IT leaders talk about the business like they’re not a part of it. I describe myself as a business guy in an IT body. Together the business and IT make thoughtful decisions together for a common outcome.
“It’s not possible for large initiatives to succeed if the business wins while IT loses and vice versa. We aim to move as one and win as one,” he continues. “I like to spend time building relationships with my business partners, understanding their problems, and empower my talented technology colleagues to more quickly deliver that value.”
Coforge highly appreciates the strategic partnership we have with Sammons Financial Group. We take great pride in our contribution towards Sammons’ mission of safeguarding the future of families and businesses, enabling them to fully embrace and cherish the present moments. Our collaboration spans across various facets of Sammons’ operations, as we spearhead transformative projects and strategic initiatives that underscore our deep understanding of their business, technology, and corporate culture. Coforge’s seamless delivery of programs is always aligned with Sammons’ vision and objectives. Sammons Financial Group confidently embraces life’s significant milestones, placing their trust in Coforge’s steadfast support allowing their customers to prioritize what truly matters in their lives.