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Delve Talks: Dan Murray, SafetyNet

August 18, 2019

Delve Talks is a podcast that digs into the challenges around design, product development, leadership and innovation. Our first season focuses on what it takes to create a corporate culture that supports innovation.


Dave Franchino: Thank you very much for joining us today. Our guest is Dan Murray, who's the Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer of SafetyNet, and I'm probably going to let Dan dive in a little bit to explain that. One of the reasons. I'm really excited about this conversation and is because I think SafetyNet represents a really good test case for what it takes to create a culture of innovation within an established, mature company and there's different ways to approach that. I think it'll be really interesting for our listeners to hear how you chose to approach that at CUNA Mutual and what your experience has been. I think there will be some things to learn, but maybe could start by just telling our listeners a little bit about yourself and your background.

Dan Murray: Sure, Dave. Thank you, and I'm really happy to be here with you today. So, I started out as an entrepreneur. I came from an entrepreneurial family and started three businesses right out of college and then have worked in corporations since then in a variety of leadership roles. And now at CUNA Mutual Group, I'm in this unique position of being able to bring those two things together by leveraging my entrepreneurial experience to start new businesses for CUNA Mutual Group

Dave Franchino:So, tell me a little bit more about those entrepreneurial experiences. I think it's really intriguing because you work for what's arguably a large company. It might be stereotypical to think of people sort of either following an entrepreneur track or following a track at a larger company. You found a way to blend those. Tell us about the entrepreneurial experiences. And then what it was like to decide to work for a larger organization?

Dan Murray: So, the first business was a materials business and I studied engineering in college and when I left college I saw opportunity in environmentally friendly building materials, and so with a couple of colleagues I started the business and we built that to a certain size and we sold it and that was a wonderful learning experience because there was so much we didn't know about business and about making payroll and managing the ins and outs of a business. So, it was a wonderful experience. I caught the bug and the second company I started was right at the birth of the world wide web and started out as a product company. We were going to provide a web product for small businesses and quickly figured out that they didn't want to buy that, but they wanted to buy a consulting service from us. So, we pivoted and that became a web consulting business that we ran for about five years and then sold to Deloitte Consulting and at that point I went to work for Deloitte for about a year and got a view into the corporate world.

Dave Franchino:And then what transpired to take you into the insurance world?

Dan Murray: So, in that interim period I spent time in federal government contracting and we were essentially working on issues in civilian agencies to help working people. So, my attraction to the insurance industry was actually to the financial services industry and at the front end of this wave of innovation in financial services to be to help CUNA Mutual Group design products for working people and design brand new financial services products.

Dave Franchino:So how long were you with CUNA before kind of leaping over into starting SafetyNet?

Dan Murray: About seven years.

Dave Franchino: Tell me a little bit that about what it was like to enter a larger company culturally as an entrepreneur. What did you find that experience to be like? What were some of the benefits of working for a larger firm? And, you know, what did you find, perhaps, I won't use the word stifling, but maybe surprising about working larger company coming from an entrepreneurial background?

Dan Murray: There are a lot of benefits large companies have, resources, and they have specialists who take care of lots of functions that the entrepreneur may not have experience with. And so, a lot of things just get handled, things like legal and regulatory and stuff that are not necessarily in my bailiwick. And so, it's wonderful to have those resources around you. One of the downsides is that large organizations are typically built to eliminate risky things and new businesses and entrepreneurial ventures are risky things. So, a company like CUNA Mutual Group has a lot of process in place, has a lot of risk management in place, to eliminate risks. What we're doing in the entrepreneurial side of things is introducing controlled risks, measured risks. And so, you have to communicate a lot about that because you don't want those antibodies of the organization to crush the innovation.

Headshot of Dan Murray from SafetyNet
Dan Murray, COO & CIO, SafetyNet

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Delve has merged with Bresslergroup. Learn more →