Breaking new ground: Financial Services & Insurance SAS Users Group


Unlike any other software vendor, SAS has one of the most vibrant and engaged user communities in the world.

SAS User Groups (SUG), communities formed and managed by SAS users, are in place all over the world. In the US alone we have regional and local SUGs as well as the giant SAS Global Forum – the international SUG – and many businesses have organized their own internal SUGs as well. The benefits of SUGs are well known:

  • Increased efficiency and productivity through increased exposure to new techniques and applications.
  • Opportunities to polish your interpersonal, writing, presentation and leadership skills.
  • Enhanced understanding of SAS’s software and services.
  • Networking and idea sharing with other SAS software professionals.

Throughout my career as a SAS professional, I took advantage of the local, regional and national SUGs in my area (HASUG, NESUG and SGF). In fact, I was so impressed by the quality of the education and networking, when I began my role at my last insurance company, I founded an internal SUG that was very successful (see my post on "Feeling Lonely? Hug a SUG!"). So when Joanne Filipone of our Customer Loyalty team started drumming up interest in organizing a special interest SUG for financial services and insurance (FS&I), I was thrilled to sign up.

Over the past few months, Joanne, in her work with financial service institutions, began to see a need and desire from the FS&I community for a group that could directly address challenges and opportunities FS&Is are facing with business analytics. She organized a special evening session at this year’s SAS Global Forum, which was well attended by 60 members of FS&I organizations (in fact, I was excited to see that the audience was evenly divided between banking and insurance).

The session kicked off with John Bentley, Vice President at Wells Fargo, discussing the benefits of an FSI-SUG. We followed with a panel session facilitated by Kathy Pinola, Industry Principal (SAS) and several industry and SAS experts. Topics for the panel included a diverse range of business intelligence and analytic questions facing the industry today, including:

  • Effective sharing of information is essential in our businesses. What are the data sharing issues that challenge our industry?
  • How do you see SAS analytics evolving within the financial services industry? Are organizations embracing solutions or are we still stuck with home grown code?
  • Given the increased pressures of regulatory oversight and a sluggish economy, has the definition of “business intelligence” changed? What are the new things we need to know?
  • What are financial service organizations doing to harness social media?

We had a great discussion and an actively engaged audience. Even better, six intrepid souls from FS&Is signed up to take a leadership role in scoping out the formalization of this SUG. If you’re interested in more information or would like to join up, please contact Joanne: joanne[dot]filipone[at]sas[dot]com.


About Author

Rachel Alt-Simmons

Business Transformation Lead - Customer Intelligence Practice

Rachel Alt-Simmons is a business transformation practitioner whose expertise extends to operationalizing analytic capabilities vertically and horizontally through organizations. As the Business Transformation Lead for customer analytics at SAS Institute, she is responsible for redesign and optimization of operational analytic workflow, business process redesign, training/knowledge transfer, and change management strategies for customers. Prior to SAS, Rachel served as Assistant Vice President, Center of Excellence, Enterprise Business Intelligence & Analytics at Travelers, and as Director, BI & Analytics, Global Wealth Management at The Hartford. Rachel Alt-Simmons is a certified Project Management Professional, certified Agile Practitioner, Six Sigma Black Belt, certified Lean Master, and holds a post as adjunct professor of computer science at Boston University’s Metropolitan College. She received her master’s degree in Computer Information Systems from Boston University.

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