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Nathan Golia
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Silos Breaking Down in the C-Suite, PEMCO CMO Says

It's not just the CIO and CMO who are becoming fast friends. PEMCO CMO Rod Brooks tells Insurance & Technology that business units are being integrated across the enterprise.

Following InformationWeek's recent Global CIO survey, editor Chris Murphy came up with a list of "15 New Rules for IT to Live By." No. 12 on that list: " Make the CMO IT's new BFF [best friend forever]."

In an accompanying editorial, Murphy explained the genesis of that rule:

This disconnect between CMOs and CIOs risks impeding the hard work companies are doing to improve their digital marketing. And for IT departments, it risks pushing them to irrelevancy in digital marketing, one of the most important and fastest-growing forces in business today.

Rod Brooks, the CMO of Seattle-based P&C regional PEMCO, and the company's CIO, Jeff Weeks, have always had a close working relationship — both of them shared innovation and execution responsibilities for the company's social media efforts, which I reported about a year ago. I reached out to Brooks and asked him what he thought of the statement, "The CIO and CMO should be best friends."

"I don't think it's ever been more true than it is now," he says. "What it really means is that the IT CIOs have to be versed in the business — it is no longer enough for them to be experts in technology regardless of the business they're in.

"But that used to be true of marketing," he continues. "I used to say I was a marketer in the insurance space, not an 'insurance guy.' When I was working in auto parts, I wasn't a mechanic, I was a marketer who happened to be in that business. But that's not how it works anymore."

As Murphy notes, it's no surprise marketing and IT are crossing paths, considering digital marketing is the norm. In an interview with I&T, AXA Equitable CMO Amy Radin — the first to hold that position — said that she told the company's EVP and CIO, Mike Healy, "marketing is driven by partnership with technology" in their first meeting. They could draw inspiration from Weeks and Brooks, whose close relationship often drives business value.

"Sometimes he'll bring us a solution because he knows we're leaning in a certain direction," Brooks says. "Jeff was the first to sponsor the customer information management initiatives we're working on. He was also very quick to respond to our geographic expansion needs from a technology perspective. Sometimes there's a debate: is the system priority greater than the business priority? The answer can only be yes if the technology enables a business advantage. Sometimes it does, and it makes us slow down things in the business so we can go faster later."

However, Brooks adds, at his company walls are breaking down between all members of the C-suite. PEMCO's officers favor an integrated approach where each individual executive's expertise is available to any other to help fine-tune strategic decisions.

"You could've asked if my best friend is the CFO or the COO," he says. "We talk every Monday, and then throughout the week, about cutting out the silos at every level including our own. We try to make sure that these aren't stacked initiatives; that we're integrating. We also know that there's times in order to be expedient when we don't need to get a committee together."

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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