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Interview with Old Mutual Ltd’s Chief Information Officer

Interview with Old Mutual Ltd’s Chief Information Officer

Banking & FinanceInsightsMore NewsRegional NewsSouth Africa

Despite being a global financial company, Old Mutual Limited is still proud of its African roots and how it continues to serve millions of customers. Johnson Idesoh, the company’s Chief Information Officer, tells Intelligent CIO how he has been at the forefront of the firm’s success and the challenges he has faced.

Old Mutual Limited started in Africa in 1845 and rapidly developed into a recognised brand across much of Southern Africa.

Over the years, its business expanded internationally and 20 years ago was listed on the London Stock Exchange.

In March 2016, it was decided that the best way forward for the Old Mutual Group was to separate its four strong businesses into independent, standalone companies.

The main aim of the strategy – called Managed Separation – has been to unlock and create value for shareholders.

Johnson Idesoh joined Old Mutual Limited in 2014 and is responsible for all of the company’s IT services.

Could you highlight some of the previous positions you have held and what they entailed? What were the main technological challenges of these positions?

When I joined Old Mutual in 2014 as Chief Technology Officer, our major challenge was changing the paradigm for technology from ‘a back office’ function to a ‘customer facing and enhancing’ function.

Prior to Old Mutual, I was with Aviva for nine years where I held various roles. But I am most proud of the fact that I was part of a small group who got Aviva focused on digitalising customer and employee experiences between 2011 and 2014, which for an insurer with hundreds of years of history was a major win.  To this day, Aviva is a leader in digitalisation in the industry.

What is your managerial style?

I focus on explaining purpose, which is a basic human need, and on providing safety for my team to act with clarity of purpose. Ultimately, I believe leadership is about creating belief.  Belief in a purpose, in a strategy and confidence in our individual and collective ability to achieve that strategy and purpose.

What are the main challenges of your role as CIO?

Building belief that we can make the changes ourselves and that we can, with the strength of our brand and the 13 million customers who trust us with their savings and insurance, have access to the best capability anywhere.

What advice would you give to aspiring CIOs?

Focus on the space between outcomes and technology. Your specialism comes from using technology to change customer and employee experiences for the better.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your career?

Be humble and never be complacent. 

What have been the main IT achievements of your organisation in the past year?

We have materially improved IT service. We have deployed customer solutions in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost we could, using the latest generation of technology.  We have won innovation awards and have touched the lives of well over 300 school kids in South Africa though technology immersions we continue to sponsor. We have some of the strongest partnerships worldwide with some of the leading technology companies on the planet. 

Have you done any implementations that you can talk about?

We are now deploying a pioneering, fully online solution to our advisers and customers in South Africa and Namibia. It takes the process of reviewing financial needs, refining recommendations and deciding which protection solution meets our customers’ needs entirely online. There is no paper involved at all. It is better from an experience perspective, gives customers more choice and is of course unlike any process that involves paper.

You have chosen Amazon Web Services (AWS) as your preferred cloud provider. Can you explain the relationship you have with them?

AWS provides us with the depth and breadth of services we need to innovate like a startup, with the security expected from Africa’s oldest and most trusted financial services company.

With AWS, we can rapidly experiment at lower costs and push the successful experiments into production faster, allowing us to improve the experience for existing customers and attract new ones. AWS understands this high level of customer focus, which is why we see them as far more than just a technology supplier. We are working closely with AWS to not only serve our customers, but also support the development of technology skills in Africa by offering ongoing cloud training programs for employees.

What technologies are you looking to invest in?

Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.

How do you see the technology landscape evolving over the next few years?

As rapidly if not more so than it is today; it will become even more commoditised and scalable with the value manifesting itself in how to better enable customers in all industries.

What do you see as the biggest cyber threat facing organisations in Africa?

Brands are made and ruined by cyber security and beyond that the unethical use of information.  Cyber criminals are increasingly sophisticated so we (individuals, companies and governments) need to be aware, vigilant, have sufficient protection and knowledge from a legal perspective.

What are the main IT challenges in Africa at the moment?

In one sense no different than anywhere else, but in another very different because of the relative economic impact it can make for the better, developing world-leading skills in technology.

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