CIO Profile: LV='s Richard Warner is first among equals

Before you even meet Richard Warner, CIO of insurance group LV= your attention is drawn to the clarity in communications in his emails.

At the foot of the email is not only a signature, but a very definite mission statement about his and his department’s role. Interestingly, both he and his department wear the moniker ‘CIO’.

The LV= group is 170 years old and can trace its history to its founding as a burial service in the late 1800s under the name Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society.

Today, with its lime green heart logo and funky name, LV= is better known for life and general insurance products.

“It has become an attractive challenger brand in the last five years,” says Warner. And in those five years it has grown from 1500 UK staff to 5000 mostly at its two main sites in Bournemouth and Croydon.

On the day we met Warner, other members of the insurance services community were not celebrating as their businesses and workforces contracted.

But, LV= remains buoyant and Warner says the company only grows at a manageable pace. There have been some acquisitions, car specialist Frizzel for example, but much of the growth for the mutual company has been organic.

Some CIOs with experience of the mutual business model have expressed frustration that expansion and new projects can be slow when compared to the world of the plc. But Warner doesn’t find that the case at LV=.

Being mutual gives you more flexibility to look at the values and the medium- and long-term plans for the organisation.

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“One of the risks of being mutual is there is less pressure, so we create the pressure. The C-level here is all new, which balances against any inertia and we have all come from big transformational companies," he says.

"We are not a growth-for-growth’s-sake agenda; we are looking for sustainable growth. We will be as big as we need to be as a company.”

With business growth, especially in the insurance world, comes an increase in staff and scale.

“You get more growth in the number of claims and the support you offer to a larger customer base,” Warner explains.

If your job can define you, that is certainly the case for Warner. His CIO department at LV= has the neat mission statement “Change, Innovation, Operations” and is responsible for not only technology, but also procurement and operational essentials like the very buildings LV= operates from.

“The function was formed when I came in. We wanted to create an identity that was broad and not just about IT. As a department we are tasked with providing the capabilities to enable growth. We saw the name change as an opportunity to refresh and rebrand,” he explains.

“We have done a lot of restructuring around what is the logical flow of activities and making the right teams.”

The team now consists of strategy, change delivery, solution delivery, service delivery, sourcing & facilities; information security, planning performance functions.