Kevin Murray has completely restructured AXA's data management capability, moving from a business silo approach to one that sees data mastered, enriched and accessible from a single source by all the organisation's businesses.
Name and job title
Kevin Murray, Group Chief Information Officer, AXA UK and Ireland.
How are you influencing the products, experience and services your organisation offers to its customers?
AXA views its IT function as an integral part of business and this is why I report directly to the group CEO and why IT is now consistently present at the table at the beginning of the product and service development cycle rather than brought in during the later stages after the ideas have been generated and selected. This gives IT a much better chance of successfully influencing our business to effectively select the right near-term and long-term IT solutions rather than being viewed as blocker to business growth because we have to tell business that what they want is not feasible at this time.
To achieve this successful partnership has taken, and will continue to take, a lot of effort by IT to develop the right roles skills and behaviours to be able to offer value at an earlier stage in the development lifecycle. I take personal responsibility for ensuring IT has the right skills and behaviours at every level of the organisation. The approach to partnering has allowed IT to improve business awareness of the power of product, distribution and service rules engines, powered by 360-degree views of the customer.
IT is also regularly included in face-to-face meetings with customers, brokers and partners to offer advice and collect customer insight to support the development lifecycle. I, too, meet personally with customers as I find there is no better way to understand how our products and services impact them in both positive and less positive ways. The insight our customers provide is powerful in helping us understand how emerging technology could benefit them and their friends and families, and this is useful to bring back to the development table.
How as CIO have you driven cultural and behaviour change in your organisation, and to what extent?
The main source of employee feedback is generated through our annual employee satisfaction survey. It is one of the most critical moments of truth in my year and one I look forward to immensely. Not because I keep my fingers crossed that I have managed to keep my employees engaged and my internal customers satisfied (although it is always nice to hear that I have!) but because of the richness of the feedback this survey provides to help me drive forward our plans for making AXA a better place to work.
For many years, my IT colleagues told us they were frustrated that they were never included in the development of the business strategy and were always expected to deliver the business requirements some way down the line – only then to find that the requirements were impossible to deliver in the format presented. My business colleagues were also frustrated as IT were seen as a function that slowed progress down, stifled innovation and were anti-entrepreneurship. I changed that by demonstrating how IT can bring value to business growth by being part of the strategic planning process at a much earlier stage and how business can add value to IT transformation by describing their vision at a much earlier stage. This change in culture was enabled by:
- leading by example and working with my executive colleagues at a much earlier stage
- creating a vision and strategy for the type of people we needed in IT to enable a much closer working relationship with our business
- bringing business people into my team to help us better understand and communicate with business
- embedding frameworks that promote better design, easier communication and business agility – ie business architecture and lean.
The resulting feedback from the business validates the value IT brings to business innovation, development and growth, and the pressure my colleagues put me under to lend them the resources to make their own business areas more effective speaks volumes for how far we have come – it's certainly something that was hard to imagine just five years ago.
Define the key business outcomes that you have delivered over the past 12 months and their impact on your organisation's performance
The focus over the last 12 months has been to deliver three business outcomes: use data as an asset, become truly customer-centric and develop new ways of working.
Our data as an asset programme recognised the value of completely revolutionising our data management infrastructure and processes to provide a number of business benefits such as:
- Enriched 360 views of the each customer for personalised marketing, sales and service.
- Powerful data analytics capabilities.
- Enhanced data governance capabilities.
- Creating a 'tribe' view – linking customers together into tribes that allow AXA to offer greater offer across the tribe, not just the individual (great for new customers, who can leverage the loyalty and value of customers who have been with us longer).
- Greater cross-sell and upsell opportunities to support business growth.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
IT is working in collaboration with business to build a customer-centric business. Under this programme IT is leading in the following areas:
- Development of a single digital customer portal for all lines of business powered by a MyAXA single view of customer.
- Creation of a bimodal IT operating model including the building of a platform that will act as digital and API foundry, reference library and resource hub.
- Leadership of the digital agenda.
Our new ways of working programme is a combined business, HR and IT programme that will revolutionise the way we work in the UK and Ireland. I am sponsoring a programme to refit our working spaces to provide superfast Wi-Fi, agile working spaces, better use of break-out spaces, equipping meeting spaces with the technology needed for better collaborative meetings (interactive white boards, VDI, video and audio conference technology).
Describe how you have used organisational and third-party information to provide insight that has benefited your organisation, its customers and products or services
AXA is has completely restructured its data management capability at a country and global level, moving from a business silo approach to data management to one that sees our data mastered, enriched and accessible from a single source by all of our businesses. This was achieved following significant investment in new data management technology and by leveraging the resources of our global data innovation lab. IT and the business have been working very closely from the very early design stages so that the business vision could help inform the technical design. This enhanced data capability has benefitted our customers in the following ways:
- It allowed us to better understand our customers' preferences across multiple business lines.
- It let us tailor offers across multiple business lines.
- It improved our communication to customers who have multiple relationships with us.
- It let us link customers into tribes of families and friends, and create valuable offers for the whole tribe based on customer loyalty of tribe members.
This personalised and efficient way of engaging with our customers will deliver growth and brand loyalty. Our retail business is the first to leverage this new technology by creating automated personalised campaign management capability using an enriched single view of the customer interfaced with software to deliver personalised emails to customers who had obtained a quote but not yet purchased. The design and architecture will be re-used to deploy single view across the remaining AXA UK and Ireland businesses.
Describe how you organise and operate IT and how this aligns effectively with business strategy and operations
We operate a 'federated' business model comprising five autonomous operating companies supported by a central function. IT has in the main been decentralised to enable a culture where IT is viewed as business partner not a centralised commodity service. When developing strategy, AXA UK and Ireland sets an overall strategy which incorporates high-level strategic IT and digital initiatives. The individual UK and Ireland businesses create their own strategic objectives aligned to this overall strategy, again in partnership with IT.
Describe your role in the development of digital strategy in your organisation
My role is to create and lead an IT organisation that partners effectively with the business so that we create the digital strategy together. The emphasis is very much on recognising and playing to everyone's strengths. The relationship with business is such that business is becoming much more aware of technology and of how IT adds vital value to the business, whereas IT is becoming much more aware of what business really needs at a much earlier stage to create the compelling products our customers demand, and can adapt its organisation and skills to deliver those in a timely fashion. Hence business leads the development of the digital strategy but relies heavily on my team to provide the technical and innovative input to ensure good business outcomes can be spun up quickly and less valuable ones can be identified for a test and learn approach or shelved as appropriate.
Describe how you use and promote technology to redesign the processes, services and structures of your organisation to enable it to become more efficient and customer-focused
This begins with our partnership with the business, which is underpinned with our strong foundations in business architecture and lean. Collectively we all recognise at AXA that business services and value are delivered by a combination of our people, processes and technology. It is a waste of valuable time and resources to try and consider each of these domains in isolation as when it is time to bring them together again there is, inevitably, some conflict that results in some rework. Now that IT has a better awareness of business with the right skills and behaviours to better engage with them, we are able to bring the technology agenda to the table with valuable insight into how changes in technology will impact our people and processes informing both the customer and employee experience.
How do you engage regularly with your organisation about your team and the role of technology in the organisation, and what impact is this having?
I recognise good communication as one of the top skills any leader should master and it's even more imperative that a CIO masters this as they have to translate an often complex and dry topic into a common language all of business not only understands but feels motivated by. In recognition of its importance, I have made communication a priority development for myself and my teams since I became CIO. I take personal responsibility for delivering the best quality communication across all of my teams. This is why I adopt a number of communication mediums:
- Weekly one-to-ones with the group and business CEOs to discuss both business strategy but also the day-to-day frustrations they have that IT can help solve.
- Internal social networks using our global intranet system ONE.
- Regular blogs where interesting and emerging themes and topics are digested with a view to creating debate around them.
- A monthly newsletter, communicating messages and social news items.
- Weekly stand-up meetings with my senior team that help me get a sense of whether we are in a reactive or proactive mode (with a requirement that this is repeated across their teams).
- Very active on external social media, again seeding topics that I hope provoke lively discussion and debate.
- Scheduled site visits at least monthly where I speak to an audience (who, by the way, set most of the agenda), but also schedule one-to-ones with whoever would like one.
- Twice annual, offsite meetings to communicate big strategic themes and discuss our plans – where business colleagues are invited to join us to listen and contribute.
- An open offer to speak to anybody in the business outside of IT or any of our external customers or partners.
How do you use social networks to engage in conversations across the industry about the opportunities and challenges technology is creating?
I am active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, World 50 and AXA's internal social network (ONE). AXA has formed a strategic partnership with LinkedIn which is a particularly valuable source for connecting to groups that I would normally be associated with and ones that I wouldn't. I like to post blogs, white papers and comment on those that I come across. I am also very active on ONE. This global tool allows me to reach out to and engage with all 130,000 of my colleagues around the AXA group.
How do you bring the organisation together to explore and discuss technology and its challenges and to develop stronger alignment of the technology function with the full business?
There are a number of mediums I use to ensure technology is fully integrated into the business. I chair our group COO leadership team monthly meeting where business as usual and strategic technology themes are discussed. This is an IT lead meeting but with very heavy business involvement, often with external guests presenting on topics of interest to business such as smart data, internet of things, social media, automated marketing, security. I also invite talented individuals along to present and observe on key topics of the moment. I recognise that this is good for their personal development and their exposure to more senior members of the team.
I also make sure IT gets together twice yearly, offsite, to focus on our achievements to date and to remind ourselves of our future commitments. Invitations to this meeting are extended to everyone in my team and business colleagues, who are invited to talk about or listen to a topic of interest. These meetings are great opportunity to reconnect as a function, to reconnect with the business, and to remind ourselves what we are capable of and what we have committed to.
Other key forums that I attend include:
- The digital customer experience board.
- The customer-centricity and data board.
- The global IT board.
- The AXA UK and Ireland executive committee.
Describe how you keep up to date with developments in technology and IT management
The main sources of information for me are:
- World 50.
- Seminars and symposiums – the best ones are Gartner, IBM, Salesforce and Adobe.
- I and my business architecture team also have a very broad network, particularly with business strategy, innovation and digital colleagues, which provides huge value when it comes to staying up to date.
- Plenty of travel and weekend reading!
Provide an example of how you have developed the diversity and improved the culture of your team
Having a diverse team is an incredibly important and personal thing for me. This is why I am one of the executive sponsors of AXA UK and Ireland's diversity programme and a global sponsor of diversity in IT. I am enormously proud that my team leads the way in employing women in IT. I am currently at a 40/60 ratio, so not quite at my 50/50 vision but we're heading in the right direction. I am enormously encouraged by the fact that we seem to be attracting such a diverse group to our graduate and apprenticeship programmes with about equal applications for women and men, and with diverse international backgrounds.
Describe how you collaborate and influence the organisation and its leadership team
Collaboration and influence requires different approaches to be tailored to your audience. I therefore ensure I understand who I am collaborating with and the most effective ways to influence the organisation, such as:
- The writing of strategic context papers that firmly link the approach to technology transformation to the long-term business strategy.
- Running technology roadshows that showcase the skills and value proposition of my function and technology generally.
- Organising technology demonstrations that showcase how technology can solve business problems.
- Activity on social media to begin and contribute to the technology debate.
- Weekly meetings with the group's senior leaders to showcase what technology can offer and what AXA UK and Ireland IT is doing to add value to our business.
Tell us how you have developed your own management, leadership and personal skills
I have been fortunate enough to have been a senior leader in technology for financial services companies in both the US and the UK, allowing me to access to many good (and bad) leaders. I like to take a little bit from every good leader I encounter. Specifically much of my development comes from:
- Being a director of a number of executive boards.
- Creating an engaged workforce that has absolutely no hang-ups about giving me developmental feedback.
- Mentoring and reverse mentoring.
- Belonging to leadership groups on LinkedIn, where the very best leaders often post the most valuable insight into why they are so effective.
- Studying the styles of a very diverse list of the world's 50 greatest leaders, according to Fortune.
What new technologies are you investigating, tracking or experimenting with?
As part of our data as an asset programme, we are delivering the tools that will enable the business to leverage its data. A fundamental element of this is the enablement of predictive and prescriptive analytics through tools such as R, Python, IBM SPSS and IBM Watson. We are actively experimenting with how these tools can improve decisions the business makes related to customer management and product/pricing development.
Trials are taking place within our healthcare company, AXA PPP healthcare, to assess how the use of wearable tech can enhance and improve the health of its customers. On internet of things we have had vehicle telematics in place for some time, and are about to commence a trial on integrating a connected home 'hub' to a home insurance product, with the aim of helping our customers make proactive decisions on how to avoid loss or damage. We are also about to launch a sharing economy product with BlaBlaCar.
How do you decide where to apply the best technological approach?
In the rapidly changing digital environment and with the need to anticipate rapidly changing customer demands, it is imperative to decide on a technology approach quickly and effectively. We ultimately select technology options based on what provides the optimal mix of solution quality and speed to market balanced against an acceptable level of risk and cost of ownership for AXA. This is why I have implemented a bi-modal IT approach that allows us to decide the optimal approach for the two speeds of IT that we call fast IT and core IT.
Fast IT is about the fast-paced, highly consumable front-end of IT that includes digital and user experience. We adopt the mantra of 'If it isn't mobile, it isn't working'. As speed of development and to market and scalability are key, we have a very clear policy for using cloud services where it is right to do so.
Core IT, as the name suggests, is about providing the platforms and services that drive the digital experiences. Investment here is heavy and long term to ensure we have the resilience, stability and security our business and customers demand. This means many of our services remain on-premise although we will introduce IaaS and PaaS for proven technologies. We are also investing a lot of effort in improving our containerisation strategy to ensure we gain the optimal balance between performance and cost.
Our architecture and IT governance processes (for fast and core IT) ensure that changes to technology adhere to a well-defined set of principles. Each individual technology decision is treated and discussed on its own merits, but viewed against whether it moves to the business towards the target reference architecture and provides a clear business rationale that can be clearly traced back to a desired business outcome. This guarantees that the approach to selecting technical solutions is clearly business outcome-driven but balances agility with cost, risk management and durability.
Do you give yourself and your team time each month to assess or learn about technology vendors outside of the established providers?
It is vital for our business to stay ahead of technology evolution and that we align the right suppliers with the right solutions to outcomes the business needs. This is why I have organised IT to ensure that business architecture, solution architecture and procurement directly report to me. I encourage my teams, through my own behaviours, to remain open minded to existing and new suppliers and to always assess them in a strategic way.
Suppliers that have always been known for certain 'core' products continue to reinvent themselves to meet the needs of new markets. We have seen this with Amazon, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe, Salesforce, Oracle, Google, Facebook and many others.
In addition to the established providers there are many new developments from startups and smaller vendors that we cannot afford to ignore. To ensure that we do not miss the developments of established and new vendors in the market, I ensure that we continue to analyse the market and, at least monthly, discuss strategic technology development at a business capability, solution and supplier level across three time horizons: deploy today, medium and long-term deployment.
I also provide funding for some of my team to travel to the centres of technology innovation in San Francisco, Paris and London, once or twice a year, to discuss technology innovation with new and established vendors and to report their findings along with thoughts on potential use cases for us and our customers.
Describe your sourcing strategy and your strategic suppliers
Effective strategic sourcing and supplier management begins with alignment to the long-term business strategy but remains mindful of the broader strategic context of changing customer needs, technology innovations and industry disruption. Against this background, strategic suppliers are categorised based on their offer, business value and materiality (a mix of risk and innovation or disruption potential) and the right ones are sourced to deliver the long-term business capability that we need. Flexibility is built into the sourcing strategy as some strategic themes are still emerging and to reflect the disruption that is being created by both established vendors and startups.
Our sourcing strategy naturally reflects our long-term strategic themes of building smart data, digital innovation, creating an entrepreneurial culture, delivering customer-centricity and trust, driving business efficiency. This is why AXA UK and Ireland has created a strategy that leverages the scale of the group, but also recognises when it is sometimes right to purchase services from small local vendors and startups. The selection of the right supplier is always determined through the lenses of strategic, financial and operational due diligence.
Describe the technology innovations that you have introduced in the past year and what they have enabled
I am enormously proud to be working for one of the top 25 global innovative companies (Boston Consulting Group ranks AXA 22nd most innovative company globally and first among our industry peers). I am equally proud that AXA UK and Ireland leads the way in generating and delivering innovative ideas amongst our global peer group.
AXA UK and Ireland IT not only generates the ideas, but is pivotal in delivering upon those ideas as well. Our most innovative deliveries in the past 12 months have been
- the creation of a new data capability incorporating advanced data management and analytics capabilities consuming data stored in a 'data lake', which allows all AXA UK and Ireland businesses to access rich structured and unstructured data for better product innovation, better offer targeting and superior servicing.
- Creation of strategic relationships with Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- The creation of a model office for new ways of working, incorporating super-fast Wi-Fi for staff and guests, and collaborative CYOD workspaces that are all kitted out with the latest virtualised technology to allow staff to work collaboratively.
- Working with the business to design, test and deploy health, connected home, travel and motor apps incorporating telematics, smart home hubs and wearable devices.
What strategic technology deals have been struck and with whom? What uniquely do they bring?
Three strategic deals secured in the past 12 months will deliver significant business value over the long term and are unique because they each create something innovative for our business. The first is our data as an asset strategic programme, supported by IBM and Entity (a consulting firm). This multimillion-pound deal includes a broad range of tools covering capabilities for big data insight management (structured and unstructured), data governance and business intelligence as well as the professional services to configure the tools. This is strategic because of the scope of potential business value it can deliver. For instance, everything from supporting marketing in understanding a single view of a customer to ensuring we meet our customer trust objectives of data security and governance.
The business intelligence capability we now have moves us from data analysis (a given these days) to developing rich and real-time insight on customers – smart data – which can be used to drive real top and bottom-line value. The deal is unique as we have created one end-to-end data value chain for data management for all of our UK and Ireland businesses, providing us with a single 360-degree view of the customer across all lines of business.
The second deal is our print transformation programme, supported by Communisis. This deal was done to support our digital and paperless office programme and is unique as it was in contrast to a common approach to simply realise bottom-line print savings. Communisis was selected as it provided exactly the right blend of traditional print capability but with a clear strategic pathway to supporting a paperless strategy. This is a key point of differentiation for AXA as we are able to better meet the communication and engagement preferences of our customers.
The third deal is one to replace all of our P and C legacy claims systems with a single one supplied by Guidewire. This deal is unique as we have been able to leverage the considerable resources of the AXA group to secure the best deal for our customers and also to reuse many of the unique AXA-owned intellectual property assets created for similar claims transformation programmes globally. It will also integrate with our enhanced data management capability, and digital and paperless strategy, to deliver an extremely powerful automated rules-based claims process that leverages a very rich knowledge of each customer. It will cut down handling time for a significant proportion of claims to minutes.
Rate how important your sources of innovative technology suppliers are
- Always referred to: analyst houses, media.
- Often use: consultants, CIO peers, industry body.
How is cyber-security led and discussed by senior management?
AXA takes a global approach to managing information security risk, although accountability for deploying the controls and monitoring their effectiveness rests with each local business. To manage this model I have employed a head of information security who reports directly to me and is given a significant budget each year to test and improve the controls we have.
Cyber security risk is one of the key risks recorded and monitored at a global and local level. It receives air time at monthly information security meetings, IT board meetings and the executive risk committee. We also employ information and data security officers across all of our AXA UK and Ireland businesses, each of whom has a dotted reporting line into my head of security. We also invest significantly in external auditing and testing of our information security controls, the results of which feed directly back into our information security strategy on a plan, do, check, act basis.
Finally, as a major part of the global AXA group, we contribute significantly to global efforts to understand, identify and control security risks at both an AXA level and an industry level. I am extremely confident in our ability to protect our customers' data, and that confidence was justified when we successfully detected and prevented a cyber-attack in 2015. But I will not rest on my laurels: cyber risk is about the most dynamic thing I have to contend with and I will continue to invest heavily in this area both financially and with the industry's best talent.
When did you start your current role?
What is your reporting line?
Are you a member of the board of directors?
What is the annual IT budget?
How much of your IT budget is capital and how much revenue?
All of my budget is capital.
What is your budget's IT operational/development split?
How many users does your department supply services to?
Are you finding it difficult to recruit the talent you need to drive transformation?
Has recruitment and retention risen up your agenda as a CIO?
Does your IT organisation operate an apprenticeship scheme?
How many employees are there in your IT team?
811 across the AXA UK and Ireland Group.
Are you increasing your headcount to bring skills and the ability to react to needs in-house?
What is the split between in-house/outsourced staff?
Approximately 90%/10% (in-house/outsourced).