The CIO as the ultimate insider

The CIO as the ultimate insider

Kevin Angland, CIO of IAG New Zealand, has the distinctive experience of working across most areas of the insurance industry.

Kevin Angland, CIO of IAG New Zealand, has the distinctive experience of working across most areas of the insurance industry.

"I am an insurance professional first and I have grown my career across to the IT path of the organisation," says Angland, who became CIO of New Zealand's largest insurer five months ago.

His early jobs included a stint in sales, an experience he finds useful today.

"When the business comes to us with an opportunity, an issue or a concern, I don't find it too hard to immediately connect with what they are talking about, having had some exposure to that in past roles in the industry."

Angland says part of his CIO role is making sure his staff "really understand what drives this business" and how they can add value.

"We put a customer lens in everything we do,"says Angland. "If this is not going to help the customers or provide value to the customers, we do have to ask the question, why are we doing this?"

Watch IAG New Zealand CIO Kevin Angland talks about building a customer centric ICT team

Across the enterprise

Angland was appointed CIO following over a year as head of software solutions and three years as head of business systems at IAG. He succeeded Allan Dornan, now chief operating officer.

Before IAG, he had worked at Tower and as a project management consultant.

IAG is number 34 in this year's MIS100, the annual report on the largest IT user organisations in New Zealand.

The latest report says IAG has 297 staff managing 5187 screens. Angland says this figure includes the 80- to 100-strong technology team from AMI, the insurance company IAG acquired this year.

Angland first joined IAG while working on the Endeavour project, a $50 million IT undertaking to build a single customer account management application for IAG's two local subsidiaries. The project was canned but Angland, who was then a contractor for systems integrator CGNZ, says one thing stayed on his mind -- that IAG was "great environment to work in".

He came back the following year as a consultant to an organisational change programme and was invited to head the Project Management Office.

"It was quite an easy decision to make to come on board," says Angland, who had already made some friends among the staff. "So seven or eight years later, I am still here."

From the PMO, he moved to the IT side of the business, as head of business systems. In September 2011, he moved into a "pure IT role" as head of software solutions.

Angland says that for a while one of his biggest concerns was that if ever he wanted to become a CIO, he would have to leave IAG. But the CIO role opened up when Allan Dornan stepped up to become chief operating officer. So when Angland became CIO, he continued to report to the same boss.

He has come to grips with one of the realities of the role -- managing constant technology changes. "That is just life in the IT world -- that technology change is so rapid it becomes second nature."

Angland says a technology decision is very much a business driven strategy, and he is cognisant customers are asking for more options. "For IAG as an insurer it is not one or the other," he says. "If a customer starts a conversation over the phone, and decides to do something online, we have to deliver all of those and do it seamlessly."

And if this customer walks into one of their retail sites, they should be able to connect all of those interactions irrespective of the channels, he says. "This customer should not feel that this is the third time they are giving the information."

"A lot of the foundation work we are doing now will be about rationalising and consolidating the backend IT platform to make it much easier to deliver that online service offering. There will be elements of it that we will deliver within the year and will continue to build on top of that.

"It will be a phased approach. Where we have already identified distinct things customers interact with us about would be quite easy to do online, that is phase one. Put some of those high volume low value touch points online. And give customers a choice of saying now there is another option for you to do this."

"A lot of work needs to be done to turn what is codified data in the backend system" into something that is simple and easy for customers to understand and serve it on the web. "We have got to be 100 percent certain when the time comes to deliver or provide service online."

This observation resonates with his CIO colleagues as more customers engage across various channels. "If you were starting today knowing about the world of the internet and where mobile technology is going, you would design things differently," he says.

"We have got systems that are 20 years old that were designed based on people's frame of reference at that time. A lot of what we are doing now is building that surface layer between those back end systems so we can serve up business processes to customers online."

Critical data

Data is a critical part of their success. "Given the changing nature of the New Zealand insurance market as a result of the earthquake data, and access to data has a great role to play," he says, both for IAG and their customers.

Read more: CIOs need to build a business-savvy bench

For the latter, it is about making it easy for customers to access publicly available data, from Statistics New Zealand for example, and information on buildings. He says while this information helps them internally in understanding risk and pricing products, it will also educate customers around the cover that is available and make it easier for them to write the information they need when they insure their properties.

He says there are pockets of information management and business intelligence projects ongoing across the business.

"It is a priority from an IT perspective because we are bringing AMI and IAG businesses together," says Angland. "We need to bring those data sets together as well to ensure we have got a good view of all our customers."

"The approach we have taken, not just to the technology but the integration of the two organisations, is to take the best of both so it is not AMI simply doing the things the way IAG did."

Angland says IT was represented early on in the acquisition, during the due diligence and business case. "We have gone in with our eyes open, there isn't too much in the way of a surprise post acquisition of AMI. Most of what we are finding, most of what we have seen we knew already. All that information was available to us during the diligence process."

What eased the process was the "complementary cultures" of the two organisations around delivering to customers. "That was the crucial piece," he says.

The Christchurch earthquake, meanwhile, has contributed to the team's "greater level of resilience and flexibility".

"Our IT team in Christchurch had to relocate three to four times to temporary premises," he says. The last time was over two months ago when they were given a day's notice to leave the building because it did not meet the earthquake standards for IAG employees. "They are a bit more flexible to some of the things that have come as a result of the earthquake that are now beneficial to us," as they work through the integration.

Portfolio management prioritisation is a big part of what they do. Though there would be "flavours" of project management, Angland says that having the training and experience in the discipline of project management is a fundamental requirement for those working across the sector. "By nature a lot of work we do is delivered in project format so to have some understanding and have some experience in it is just invaluable."

On track

Angland says having a long-term experience in a single sector has its advantages.

"Having worked in the business and understanding the customer value proposition and the processes in the business gives you afar better insight into how IT can help deliver value," says Angland. "It is not IT for IT's sake."

Recently, he addressed some of the new staff who joined IAG's graduate recruitment programme. He told them that joining an organisation like IAG means they will have a lot of choices on the areas they can work on, including legal, IT and other professional services. "A corporate organisation can offer a lot of scope, so you don't necessarily have to leave the organisation."

Gaining new skills is a key theme in Angland's career, whether within or outside the organisation.

Read more: How I became a CIO: Jason Millett and Kevin Angland share their journey

In the mid-1990s, Angland felt that he had spent a large part of his career in one organisation, and made the critical decision to take up a master's in business administration. "It was partly driven by a learning desire, partly driven by a desire to network outside the organisation."

He enrolled at the University of Auckland and found himself joining a "broad blend" of professionals including those from finance and accounting, medicine, law, operations and transport.

It gave me that certain breadth of experience and breadth of exposure that I felt was missing, having worked in most of my career inside one organisation," he says. "That breadth of exposure gave you different perspectives."

Having a "very accommodating CEO" allowed him to work full-time while finishing his degree. Every fortnight, he spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday on the course, and this went on for nearly two years.

He says IAG also provides this type of support for people who would like to go on a similar executive education. He says some members of his IT team are preparing to do an MBA and IAG is providing support by "creating the capacity for people to take time out" for study.

He found it advantageous to continue working while completing his MBA. "Continuing to work through that gave you good context for the study that you were doing, so when it came to write case studies or to present, you had real life examples going on in the workplace at the same time, you didn't lose that connection."

Juggling multiple commitments during those years also prepared him as he took on more senior roles. "I probably couldn't see myself doing it another way," he says on not cutting back work commitments while studying. "It enriches the learning experience, to have to deal with work, home and study" that he says is being faced by executives.

"You are always being asked to balance your commitments so creating capacity to do that during an MBA is preparing you to deal with those multiple demands."

"Part of the MBA philosophy is working as a group, and trusting your peers and colleagues. I can't imagine in this organisation as a CIO if you couldn't work like that you would just drown, you would absolutely drown. There is too much happening."

Cycle of leadership

For the past three years, Angland has been wearing another hat at IAG. He is part of an internal coaching programme, having received training and certification to coach staff across the organisation.

He says it is similar to a mentoring programme, but the preference is to work with someone in another business unit.

"We meet every fortnight," he says. "It is very much a model to seek to understand what is the outcome you are trying to achieve and get them to do it themselves because it is a much powerful way of learning."

"It takes me out of my day-to-day job," says Angland. "Your attention is 100 percent focused on helping them with problems they may be facing at home or work; or identifying goals they are looking to achieve and setting them up to succeed in those goals.

Read more: The rise of the digital suggestion box

"It is quite an empowering feeling to get the feedback that the work you do has helped them," he says. "At the end of the day, the growth of that individual is providing impetus to the organisation as well to help achieve its goals." Photography by Tony Nyberg

Related:How I became a CIO: Jason Millett and Kevin Angland share their journey

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