Charles Brooks was named SVP and CIO of P&C insurer Kemper in April. He last was global operations officer for ACE Group. In his new position, he will be based in Chicago and report to Kemper president and CEO Joseph Lacher, who he worked for as CIO of Travelers Personal Insurance. Brooks spoke to INN about his short- and long-term plans for the IT organization at Kemper.
INN: What attracted you to the CIO job at Kemper?
Charles Brooks: I’m excited to reunite with Joe Lacher, the CEO. He appreciates IT, and the rapport we have streamlines communication. I’m looking forward to executing the playbook that we did before at Travelers.
INN: What have you taken on so far?
CB: Being new here, the first goal was to get to know the company and people and our systems. You come in with some assumptions, but don’t want to make too many. We have two major projects, one in flight and one just underway, that predate me. So the intermediate goal is to ensure our strategy and related software development meets consumer demand. When we articulate where we want to go, want to make sure that agents and consumers are there as well. I’ve gotten pretty excited about my business colleagues and their desire to do new things.
INN: How would you describe what you want Kemper to look like going forward?
CB: I’m a big proponent of user experience. A lot of what we do is try to make commercial software look like consumer software. But being a pragmatist, what’s more important is that we execute on our core business first. We need to modernize, distribute in a different way, interact with customers in a way they want to interact with. It’s hard for me to talk about three to four years down the road before I focus on the next few months.
INN: What are some of the technologies you’re planning to leverage to meet that goal?
CB: All of the buzzwords out there, internet of things, big data, are on my radar screen. But in the short term I’m looking at everything as a service – not just software. That’s infrastructure, everything. We will evaluate everything and ask: Could this be a service? Whether we decide to rent or own infrastructure, that’s a conscious decision.
INN: Why do you think the service model is so important?
CB: Well, the question is, do we want to pay for things by the drink or own it as much as we can. We’re looking for the ability to scale, in both directions, up or down if we need to. Cloud, the way it’s been advertised, it’s been about the cost savings. There may be some savings for people, but the real utility is flexibility, speed and agility.
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