Perhaps one of Luc Derix’s greatest strengths is his ability to clearly explain to non-IT staff at Allianz Global Assistance exactly how IT can help contribute to the organisation’s growth.
Derix joined the travel insurance and assistance and insurance provider in 2009 as head of its business intelligence team.
This role provided him with a great deal of insight into what makes the organisation tick, which he believes played a “large role” in his appointment as CIO of Allianz Global Assistance earlier this month. He had spent the previous six months as acting CIO.
What does your role at Allianz Global Assistance involve?
Day-to-day it’s [managing] a lot of meetings, stakeholder management and making sure the business engagement is optimal. For me, I put a large [focus] on staff management, I think it is important to create a culture that is work hard, play hard – there needs to be time for people to work hard but also have a bit of an outlet.
What are some of the challenges you face in the role?
One of the biggest things I was asked to do was to change the culture of IT to be more engaging to the business. I came into the department where the perception [of IT] within the company wasn’t great and one of my biggest mandates was to create a more high performing culture.
I think it has largely changed already – it’s to do with empowering your people to do the work they are hired for and make sure they understand the business benefits of the work they are doing and [enable them to] talk directly to the business to understand what is required.
Twelve months ago it was hard [for people] to engage IT, the walls would go up and there was a barrier in discussing and opening up but I think we have cut through that and there’s a lot more collaboration happening within the department and the larger business.
For us, it’s enabling the business to use IT to drive revenue and reduce costs. IT is historically seen as a cost centre and we have an ability to also contribute to the bottom line not only from a cost and efficiency perspective but an innovation perspective. For me, that’s really important.
We are now working towards [deploying] global IT platforms so there will be big changes coming in the way we deploy our core systems and how we are going to pull that all together. The structure of the department and the requirements from us might change so I think we will see a shift in the kind of skills that people need to have.
Most business units in Allianz Global Assistance have been autonomous and [people now want] more transparency.
What are some of the major projects you have been working on?
Locally, it’s around disaster recovery, we are also looking at new systems to help us grow the bottom line and expand into new markets, predominantly on the e-commerce side. We have too many entry points in the organisation so there are efficiencies to be gained by consolidating our platforms.
Our servers are fairly virtualised and by mid-2013, I don’t want to have any desktops in the organisation, so [users] will have a thin-client or a laptop depending on their function. We were spending too much time supporting desktops and they were due for replacement anyway.
What are the three biggest issues facing CIOs today?
One is creating a culture where IT is not seen as a cost-centre but is a vital piece of the jigsaw that helps grow the bottom line.
Mobility for us is also a big thing, we have a lot of teleworkers who work from home [which] allows us to tap into a different workforce that we would not have had access to beforehand. We have about 20 people with a home office [claims and call centre staff] and when we look at staff levels, absenteeism is way lower [than it has been previously].
Information security and data classification is also important – I still think that data is not always treated as an asset but for me it’s key that data is seen as an asset in an organisation and therefore treated the same way.
What is your favourite gadget?
It would have to be the Apple iPad at the moment, the mobility and ease of use is great.