Insurance specialists Hiscox is increasingly moving towards transacting directly with customers over the internet, and Group CIO Andrew Turner has also been managing a rationalisation and transformation of the IT infrastructure within Hiscox to enable the company to move to a direct business model.

Turner has a long-term vision that this will allow Hiscox to replace components with ease, not only for the technology team, but also the business. The component architecture is also designed to be modular to enable the continued expansion of the organisation. When Hiscox launched its US business, the IT foundations of the internet insurance service were those that underpin the UK business.

“Now it is about what the business is trying to do, whether it is on the web or being more efficient. IT has to demonstrate value and must be more responsive. Developing large applications might be the right thing to do but if it takes two or three years you must have patient customers. Incremental delivery and building on that is more scalable,” Turner told CIO.

My role is to have a real ability to drive the business. I sit on a number of committees, so I feel the heartbeat of the organisation. I love the day-to-day stuff and still enjoy talking with the infrastructure guys and technology is still of great interest.

“The role of the CIO is like the conductor of an orchestra. You have an embedded knowledge of every instrument, but cannot play them all – you have to pull them together. Hiring smart people is a mantra of mine, as long as you can lead and inspire them. Being the leader of an orchestra is about setting the tempo and tone; and inspiring people to give their best. When you have a wood or brass section that is struggling, you get involved with helping them. What really matters is what IT does overall for the customer.

“I’ve learnt from meetings that we need to make IT exciting, not in a glib sense, but as a way of unlocking potential. So I try to mix it up a little bit and talk about the hotspots and highlights. We spend too much time in meetings. And to get an open dialogue you need to get the concerns out on the table and resolve them.”

Turner’s main suppliers are infrastructure and BPO specialists Cognizant and Logicalis and Datasolve for application support. With a virtualised estate and adoption of SOA, it is unsurprising that Turner is a believer in the business benefits of cloud computing.

“Cloud is going to become very significant. For me components and SOA means I can consider parts of cloud and bring them in. We have created a mini-cloud in Hiscox, when there was the heavy snow last year we had very good access to the systems from home.

Richard Sykes says of Turner, “He seems to really understand where the industry is going. His SOA plans have focused on re-use and the eponymous Mr Hiscox is quite technology literate, which suggests Turner has good levels of influence. The move to SOA and standardization means they can respond rapidly to business change.”

Ade McCormack added, “He wouldn’t last long there if he was not entrepreneurial.” While Mike Altendorf suggested, “there is not an IT driven change agenda at Hiscox, but he sits on a lot of committees and they have really invested in information management and the US launch of Hiscox Direct was an impressive project.

Although Turner is stepping aside at Hiscox, the panel agreed that his achievements in the last 12 month merited his position in the CIO 100.

Read the CIO interview:

CIO Profile: Andrew Turner of Hiscox on enabling growth through a component architecture