Stephen Barnham, Senior Vice President & CIO, MetLife Asia
Stephen Barnham is a senior technology executive with a track record in leading digital transformation in Financial Services. He is a mentor and investor in several early stage start ups and has extensive leadership experience across Asia. Throught out his career Barnham held various senior leadership roles in technology for institutions such as Morgan Stanley, Nomura, Deutsche Bank, Lehman Brothers and Standard Chartered. As the Asia Pacific CIO of Metlife Asia, Stephen Barnham is reimagining Insurance
1. As a CIO, tell us about a transformation that you’ve led that has had a positive impact on your business
Digital is fundamentally changing the insurance landscape and has been central to MetLife’s business strategy, both globally and in Asia, for several years.
We are operating in an era of “Digital Darwinism” - those who are able to adapt to change and engage with a highly empowered audience will come out ahead. Nowhere is this more evident than in Asia, where you have extremely large, highly connected, digitally savvy populations.
MetLife’s digital transformation is underpinned by this notion and a big part of my role as CIO is to equip MetLife to transform and thrive in this landscape across our various markets in Asia. Our goal is to ensure every journey, action and decision is connected, personalized and optimized through a deep and empathetic understanding of our customers. To do this, we are continually building our capabilities as a Digital Innovator establishing a best-in-class Digital Workforce, and to collaborate with insurTechs and the experience they offer today’s customer.
2. What’s the biggest challenge you are facing as a CIO?
Business and industry dynamics are shifting at a rate so rapidly that it’s difficult to know how to prioritize and deploy new capabilities that will serve your organization well in the future. This is one of the biggest challenges facing any CIO today.
On the flip side, these shifts are creating new potential sources of value as we recalibrate from vertical product lines to horizontal value- added services built into customer journeys and platforms.
Servicing this market requires a deep understanding of customers and an ability to predict life events to facilitate continuous meaningful interactions. Data analytics will play a key role in this – which is why it’s one of the core capabilities we invest in.
3. How do you strike the balance between operations and innovation among your IT staff?
As you highlight in the question, it cannot all be about insurtech and innovation… MetLife has taken a very pragmatic approach when it comes to our digital transformation – one that incorporates both foundational capabilities and new innovations to drive competitive differentiation.
Striking the right balance between these two is key. MetLife is a large organization and we have thousands of customers who rely on us every day to process requests and execute claims, so enhancing our foundational capabilities is a major focus of our overall transformation.
Our foundational efforts focus on three main areas:
• Digitally enabled distribution i.e. scalable enterprise platforms that offer leading and disruptive customer experiences. We have made significant progress in deployment of core systems for sales, servicing and marketing. In addition, we are leveraging social media channels with social analytics platforms such as Sprinklr, to provide cutting edge customer experience and personalized products and services.
• Enhanced Data Analytics i.e. developing a full-fledged analytics pipeline with opportunities to both improve customer experience as well as enable better decisions. Examples include using data analytics to enhance current business models with cross–sell and persistency, or redesigning products based on consumer demand.
• Digitized Processes i.e. re-platforming our company to streamline processes and operate at peak efficiency by leveraging automation capabilities such as robotics and workflow management. In turn this would free-up internal resources to engage in higher value activities.
When it comes to innovation, we take a holistic approach, bringing external orientation and internal efforts to provide an ecosystem that can help accelerate innovation and create tangible enterprise value.
To ensure we achieve this balance, we’ve developed a clear governance process that includes metrics that are clear, measurable, and linked to desired business outcomes and value. Dashboards capture progress at multiple levels across customer adoption & engagement, capability growth, innovation and organizational transformation. In addition, we have systemic tools such as Project Approval Requests (PARs) that are built-in to ensure all projects are linked to clear business value.
4. What organizational structure allows for the best relationships between IT and its business partners?
At MetLife, functional partners are absolutely integral to how we run the business. Nowhere is this more evident than in areas like IT. Technology is a critical enabler to the business and we have established a robust ecosystem of both internal IT experts and external partners ranging from large IT consulting firms to small startups to support our businesses around the globe.
Our market-based teams are supported by centers of excellence around the globe, including one in Malaysia, which provide in-house expertise and share best practices with our IT teams across Asia.