The five-minute CIO: Monique Shivanandan, Aviva

6 May 2016

Aviva's group CIO Monique Shivanandan tells how the 320-year-old insurance giant has digital ambitions to become the 'tech' in fintech

“The biggest thing for Aviva is about simplifying the technology estate so that we can meet our digital ambitions and become the ‘tech’ of the fintech,” said Monique Shivanandan, group CIO of global insurance giant Aviva, which has a 320-year legacy.

Shivanandan joined Aviva in April 2014 as its CIO and a member of the group executive of Aviva.

Before that, she was CIO for Capital One in the US, where she was responsible for establishing the company’s technical vision.

Prior to her financial services experience, she worked in the telecommunications industry and was the managing director and CIO for the retail division of BT.

While at BT she was responsible for its IT network and new product introductions supporting the company’s retail businesses.

Before joining BT in 2006, she was an executive at Bellsouth Corporation, with roles including chief security officer and vice-president for IT strategy and the CIO for the consumer side of the business.

Shivanandan started her career at American Management Systems (AMS), where she held a variety of positions, including leadership of complex systems implementations for clients from a wide range of industries, such as government, military, colleges and universities, healthcare and financial services.

She is also a board member of JP Morgan Securities.

Early-stage investor NDRC and Aviva Insurance have partnered up to host Ireland’s first-ever InsurTech Bootcamp from 20 to 23 May this year. The weekend-long event will explore ways to digitise the insurance industry, to enhance the customer experience, and to achieve efficiencies that will result in lower premiums. Fraud; the internet of things; health, wealth and privacy are among the themes the start-up teams will be exploring throughout the weekend. Participants will be supported by NDRC Venture leaders and Aviva insurance experts.

‘We can’t become a fintech company without getting the ‘tech’ bit right – so we’re focused on improving the technology across our global markets’

Can you outline the breadth and scope of the technology rollout across your organisation and what improvements it will bring to the company?

You will have heard Mark Wilson, our CEO, talk about his vision that Aviva, a 320-year-old insurance company, becomes a fintech player. We can’t become a fintech company without getting the ‘tech’ bit right – so we’re focused on improving the technology across our global markets. We have defined target systems for each core aspect of the company and are moving towards those targets, as well as simplifying the technology estate that has been created throughout our long history of mergers and acquisitions – so, as well as rolling out new tech, we’re just as focused on removing the old tech, which can slow down our speed of change and, therefore, responsiveness to our customers.

What are the main points of your company’s IT strategy?

  • Simplifying the technology estate
  • Moving to cloud
  • Developing big data analytics
  • Protecting our estate from cyberattacks.

Can you give a snapshot of how extensive your IT infrastructure is?

Our infrastructure is vast and is different in each market, we’re standardising the global infrastructure where it makes sense to do so – shared service infrastructure is easier to maintain, service and cheaper to run.

In terms of managing IT budgets, what are your key thoughts on how CIOs/heads of technology should achieve their goals?

  • Deliver change efficiently using Agile – cuts waste out of development time and ensures that only the minimum viable product is delivered
  • Standardise where it makes sense to do so
  • Move to cloud where it makes sense to do so
  • Recruit and retain great IT talent and nurture your engineers.

How complex is the infrastructure, are you taking steps to simplify it?

Our infrastructure is complex as a result over 300 years of growth, mergers and acquisitions, and it is different across the global markets. We’re simplifying the infrastructure but that takes time and has to be carefully balanced against business growth and moving quickly towards digital

Do you have a large in-house IT team, or do you look to strategically outsource where possible?

We have a right-sized IT team, supplemented through outsourcing and partnerships, where we need specific expertise.

What are some of the main responsibilities of your own role, and how much of it is spent on deep technical issues compared to the management and business side?

My role is to run IT on a global basis, so it’s a fairly equal balance of being with the engineers and teams looking at deep technical issues, setting the strategy, managing the operations and working closely with my business peers to ensure that IT works in partnership with them to meet their business goals. IT has to be seen as an equal partner to the business – we’re not a supplier, we’re part of the team setting the business strategy

What are the big trends and challenges in your sector, and how do you plan to use IT to address them?

The big challenge is customer expectation – today’s customers expect 24/7 availability, they expect to be able to do what they need to do easily on any device. They expect speed, responsive screens and they expect their data to be 100pc secure – you can’t meet those expectations without great IT.

What metrics or measurement tools do you use to gauge how well IT is performing?

We use a variety of measures to monitor service performance, rate and quality of change, cost of IT, security performance and customer satisfaction (both internal and external).

Are there any areas you’ve identified where IT can improve, and what are they?

IT can always improve, as can any area of a business. The biggest thing for Aviva is about simplifying the technology estate so that we can meet our digital ambitions and become the ‘tech’ of the fintech.

What other projects do you have lined up for the year, and what will they contribute to the business?

Our focus at the moment is on moving to cloud, simplifying our global technology estate, identifying innovation that can help us meet our ambition and enabling our business to service the customer 24/7.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years