Just what does it take to be a successful insurance CIO? Members of a CIO panel were given the chance to answer that question yesterday at Celent’s 2012 Insurance Innovation and Insight Day in Boston.

Classifying the tenets of a winning CIO was one of several topics the panel members, Bill Ball, AVP, Inforce Operations and Financial Control at John Hancock; Tsukasa Makino, manager, IT Planning Department & Corporate Planning Department, Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co.; Dan Greteman, SVP, CIO-Allied Commercial and Specialty, Nationwide Insurance and Celent CEO Craig Weber tackled during the session. The CIO panel was moderated by Celent Senior Vice President-Europe Catherine Stagg-Macey, who brought various Celent colleagues up to the podium to introduce a number of different interactive topics.

Celent Senior Analyst Mike Fitzgerald explained that the new world of the CIO could be thought of as being based on three separate types of focus/management: operational, strategic and disruptive, topics that arose out of Celent’s recent research.

Fizgerald noted that the personality of a CIO who functions in an operational environment was that of a technician. “In any other industry this person would function as more of a production manager,” he said.

The strategic CIO is a change agent, and his/her behavior is adaptable, flexible, added Fitzgerald. “A good example away from insurance would be someone who functioned as an air traffic controller.”

The CIO who falls into the disruptive category exemplifies behavior that includes exerting influence without authority, being extremely focused, taking charge and managing his/her area as a professional risk. “This is the classic visionary,” Fitzgerald said, “and in any industry would be considered a true entrepreneur."

Acknowledging that the three “types” were being offered as points of discussion and not necessarily as hard-and-fast proven classifications, Fitzgerald told the group that the goal is to think about the next CIO in the insurance organization, and the succession plan that will be formulated around that role. Then he challenged the members of the panel to find their own “center” and tell the audience what makes the best fit.

Ball responded first, stating “you need all three of these roles. The operations side is the table stakes, playing to the strategy and disruptive roles. If you can’t deliver on your systems and do your operations well, no one will talk to you about the other two. It’s an evolution of these roles more than moving from one to another.”

Nationwide’s Greteman agreed. “I think of it as if it’s one person, and they spent 75 percent of time in operations, 20 percent and 5 percent of their time doing disruptive activities,” he said, adding in joking fashion, “I also look at it in the context of if these were types of CIOs: What would their job security be? So the operational person might have 10-plus years, the strategic person would have 5 years, and the disruptive is less than 2 years. I say this because there are two forces at play, if you make a bad bet you get fired, if you make a good bet you get hired at a new level by someone else. It makes for an interesting structure.”

Tokio Marine’s Mikino clarified that although he does not hold the title of CIO, his organization has been operating in a disruptive fashion for some time. “We support autonomy and free thinking,” he said.

Weber clarified that the kinds of behaviors that position a person for success are not necessarily all from the disruptive category. “You have to have very strong executive support above you,” he told the attendees.

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