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[BLOG] A new age for the C-Suite

  • Publish Date: Posted over 5 years ago
  • Author:by Matthew Eames

The C – Suite level, conducted by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is slowly adapting to technological change. While the conductor will always be the leading figure, the widely defined set of instruments, in so far as the, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Operating Officer (COO) are not so secure. In fact, so-called traditional positions may be at risk. Executive roles are no longer so clearly defined as they once were while new roles are increasing in importance. The capacity to understand innovative technology as well as the ability to communicate its strategic importance and eventual implementation, is proving to be ever more important. And so, business leaders are no longer looking for a ‘one-trick pony’. 

Our previous article referred to the forthcoming digital disruption and the need to manage this change effectively and efficiently. Changing and varying demands – which must be met – are evolving our daily work environments. In line with this, at the top of the business structure, the C-suite level is also evolving to encompass the oncoming technological disruption.

There is no typical fit to the C-suite level and its size and structure will vary from business to business. However, the make-up of the traditional system is in continuous change. The number of tech-centred executive roles – Chief Technological Officer (CTO), Chief Analytics Officer (CAO), Chief Systems Officer (CSO) – is growing and these positions only mark the beginning of the transformation. For instance, more recently, with the rise in importance of data analytics, Chief Data Officers (CDO) find themselves in high demand[1]. The Big Data boom is leading all industries to employ individuals able to take hold of the potential benefits of un-tapped and un-ending data, as well as prepare for the risks associated with protecting their own[2]. Above all else, what is fundamentally important, is that these roles are not only introduced to increase numbers, but those who are brought in are there to enact successful change.

Business leaders are often unaware, or simply, don’t have the time to concern themselves with the subtle differences between positions, and therefore, require professional scope to ensure a successful business hire. Defining the fine line between technological roles like CTO and CIO proves to be the difference. CTOs are in nature, more knowledgable about technological development, although therein lies the problem. Their expertise is so finely defined that the importance of communicating successful implementation is often an overlooked and highly important skill, which more likely falls into the remit of a CIO.

What is also likely, is a shift towards individuals with capabilities spanning multiple positions. Technical competencies are increasingly sought after amongst top level executive hires. The ability to not only understand, but to strategise, communicate and implement successful technological change, establishes an exceptional individual from the rest. What’s more, due to the complex nature of the forthcoming change, these individuals may be sourced from different industries or sectors and possess entirely diverse technical backgrounds. With the Lloyd’s of London market poised to take advantage of the FinTech revolution[3], such as a new online broking platform[4], it becomes ever-more important to employ a technically astute and versatile mind.

Elsewhere, insurers often bypass this problem via executives holding multiple titles. Take, for example, Ping AN, the Chinese insurer and global behemoth. Their business structure knows no conventional boundaries; however, it is well crafted, and above all else, works. C-suite executives can hold a number of senior titles with responsibilities spanning many different functions. For example, the co-CEO holds the titles of both COO and CIO. The purpose being, reduced operational and communication costs, in addition to more succinct decision making.

While this is unlikely to happen in the Lloyd’s market, what we are increasingly finding is client searches for tech-savvy executives in broad roles. Thus, the intention is there but the approach requires refinement.  

Boards need to be adaptable and flexible to such quickening and revolving disruption. Business leaders need to accept that disruption is unavoidable and adaptability is key. Instead of falling into traditional methods; placing people into defined roles and adhering to conventional processes. Leading insurance executives need to approach the upcoming issues by up-skilling internal talent, while looking to increase departmental capabilities through the acquisition of additional professionals with the necessary expertise.

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[1] Financial Post, C-suite of the future will call for 'executives without borders', 2018
[2] World Economic Forum, The Future or Jobs Report, 2018
[3] Lloyds, Lloyd’s Lab Opens its doors to tech disruption, 2018
[4] Lloyds, Lloyd’s launches new digital distribution platform – Lloyd’s Bridge, 2018