Chief Information Officer/Chief Technology Officer of the Year is the blue riband accolade of the night at the annual Insurance Times Tech & Innovation Awards. Here we look at some of the recent recipients of this prestigious award.
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2015 winner: Angela Morrison, Direct Line Group
At the height of the financial crisis in 2008-09, it would have seemed ridiculous that a Chief Information Officer of the Year would emerge from the ashes of the taxpayer bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland so soon.
But Angela Morrison (pictured above) was tasked with building new technology for Direct Line Group, spun-out of RBS in 2012, two years after she joined from supermarket giant J Sainsbury. The Churchill-to-Green Flag group migrated systems out of RBS in three years, a tight schedule that Morrison’s 500-strong team met handily.
Designing and completing the new IT infrastructure was finished by October 2013, and she told Computer Weekly that year: “We needed to tune with the new world because clearly what we have in the bank’s infrastructure isn’t available today in the modern world.
“We recognise that we have to be a digitally enabled business and we need to really understand what that looks like and how it affects us - making sure that our customer has a fully digitally enabled experience while enabling our colleagues internally.”
On winning the award last year, Morrison emphasised it was a win for her staff and beamed of how “proud” she was of them.
She said: “It’s not about me it’s about the team who enabled me to get here we worked tirelessly over the last three-and-a-half years to get all of our systems out of the bank.”
Sadly, though, there was no big celebration. Morrison was due to drive to Reading at 7:00 am the following morning. Being a “risk averse” insurer, she was not going to risk getting busted for drinking and driving.
2014 winner: Tim Jones, Moneysupermarket.com
Tim Jones was “incredibly surprised” by his win, but said his media background – he joined only a year earlier from Autotrader.co.uk, which he co-founded in 1996 – helped him win the award. In that role he had worked on big data, which he said helped him understand “what helps UK households save money”.
More importantly, Jones said he hoped the award would “give the rest of the team some conviction, some confidence, and some reward” for their efforts.
Jones was certainly a big catch for moneysupermarket.com, given he had transformed Auto Trader’s digital arm into a £220m business from a revenue of just £900 in its first year. In an interview towards the end of his time as CIO at parent company Trader Media Group, he said: “That’s the transformation over the last 15 to 16 years, from being a very large magazine publisher into a digital business that also produces magazines.”
Jones also pointed to the sheer volume of traffic at the site, making him an ideal fit later for one of the country’s best-known internet search brands. “We handle about 4,000 to 5,000 searches a second on Auto Trader, and we pretty much know based on those searches what people are searching for, and where, and how often they search. This is all de-personalised, so we don’t know anything about the individual and we would never pinpoint down to an individual from a data protection standpoint.”
Arguably he is now the key figure in Moneysupermarket.com’s stated ambition to help British households save £2bn in bills in 2017.
2013 winner: Kevin Murray, AXA
Kevin Murray might have moved into the insurance industry from the big, brash world of 1980s New York banking at JP Morgan, but he was humble over his victory.
“We’re a large company, so the company got behind it – besides that, I’m not quite sure [why he won],” laughed Murray.
But he did pay tribute to British innovation. “Coming from the US, I thought we were strong in the US, but I’m really impressed with what’s been done here… impressed with the technology around the digital channel.”
Asked to summarise the win, Murray stated: “Good for the team.”
Murray’s work was impressive. He said: “We have four primary businesses: a healthcare business, a wealth business called AXA Wealth, and two P&C lines of business - personal and commercial.
“All four of them are pretty mature along the digital distribution sites. We’ve spent a lot of effort, time and money on technology, to make sure we have one landing page for all four of our businesses, in terms of getting a quote and being able to purchase the insurance or financial product that we are selling.”
Since then, Murray has been focused on the “need to leverage more of the unstructured data: where you live, what social media apps you use, the good and bad things you’ve said about AXA online”.
That might sound a little Orwellian, but he believes that these fears will subside when customers realise this will help them get cheaper car insurance. He pointed to US insurers Progressive and Geico, who let drivers turn off their telematics boxes provided they met data thresholds to satisfy the underwriters. “That alleviated a lot of fears about Big Brother keeping watch on people,” he said.
2012: Paul Heybourne, Aviva
The award was then known as ‘Technology Champion of the Year’. Paul Heybourne was “thrilled” by what was, in fact, a double win in 2012: he also collected the Insurer Innovation of the Year gong.
Heybourne believes the world is “in the middle of a digital revolution”. Last year, he blogged: “Remember it’s within living memory that banks closed at 3.30, there were no cashpoints, you did all your shopping locally – and in many towns shops had an early closing day, shutting up at lunchtime on one weekday. It seems like another world.
“There’s no sign of the technological revolution slowing up.”
He has been mildly critical of the insurance industry being “a bit behind” others in terms of making the most out of digital, but pointed out that the MyAviva app had more than one million users. His ambition, essentially, is to turn insurance into a paperless industry, with policies accessed by laptop or mobile phone.
He has also encouraged the industry to understand how to take advantage of social media, pointing out that more than 60% of SMEs have a presence on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. He points out that social media means that the industry can “reach out to customers at crucial moments in time, showing you’re there to support them”.
Heybourne was technology innovation manager when he picked up the award four years ago. This is his second stint at Aviva: he was Norwich Union Insurance call centre manager for a year before a four year sojourn at AXA, where he was an operations manager in claims.
Since June last year, Heybourne has been head of digital innovation and new business, splitting his time between London and Singapore.