“In Ireland we have become a lighthouse for the whole group,” says Fin Goulding, the Dublin based and newly promoted International CIO of Aviva, the general insurance giant.
Aviva, once known as Norwich Union, covers a wide range of personal financial services from retirement, investment, car, travel and home insurance. Goulding has been with Aviva since 2016, joining the Aviva Ireland organisation from the gaming sector. He was recruited to lead a cultural change and help the business adapt to market challenges. Insurance, as with retail, media, banking, travel & tourism is witnessing a plethora of technology led market entrants and new business models disrupting the status quo.
“The thing about big insurance and banking is that there are very few that will disrupt the whole value chain, so we welcome startups to disrupt us in order to ignite much needed innovation,” Goulding says of working with Dublin’s growing innovation community. “Insurance technology is running faster than banking. I expect artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and chat bots to become central to what we do. IoT really works for us as we are moving from insurance to protection and we want to be a low cost provider,” he says.
Although the CIO embraces startups, he finds that many are too focused on the front end. “They don’t look at the back office as it’s seen as unsexy, so there is very little being done to disrupt the core of our Business, but it can be done as a collaboration.”
Additionally Goulding has focused his Aviva IT team to be a force for disruption within the business. “You are creating little startups,” Goulding tells Horizon from Dublin about the introduction of an Agile culture within Aviva. Goulding creates co-located teams to focus on frequent delivery, this method he says reduces “inefficient hand-offs”. Each team has a full set of skills and works on a feature from concept to delivery and operations.
“That is where you have to make your mark, in the delivery of functionality,” Goulding says of being a leading Agile CIO. A great advantage he says is the feedback you and the team receive.
Goulding is closely watching challenger insurance brands such as Lemonade in the USA or Neos here in the UK. “You are a captain in an oil tanker and they [startups] are in their speedboats and they have liquidity,” he says of the challenge Aviva and its peers face.
Many observers paint a picture of startups having limitless ways to damage incumbents like Aviva, but Goulding says the need to respond to customer demands more rapidly as a startup can be prohibitive. That startup speed is both its appeal and its risk. “Lemonade pay claims in seconds and we are not there yet, that difference could be because of an internal process that has not yet been challenged,” he says this can be more of a culture change rather than a technology change that Aviva is going through.
Goulding has become a leading light in the CIO community for the adoption of Agile and DevOps, blogging and speaking on the subjects, which has led to a collaboration on a new book. Titled “Flow – A New Approach to Digital Transformation“, Goulding explores the wider implications of Flow, Lean and DevOps are having on the culture of organisations.
“I am fascinated by the way that DevOps has become a cultural change,” he says, adding that the book focuses on how the leadership of organisations can use these techniques to surface critical ideas at the beginning of a process. Goulding says this naturally challenges the value of features being built by the organisation and often leads to an increased customer focus. “It kills a lot of stuff before it even gets to IT,” he adds. In Goulding’s organisation all customer benefits are tracked on a portfolio wall, which is sobering for the executives to see. “We also have a customer feedback wall made up of insights from the contact centre and social media which allows us to rapidly respond to customer pain points”
The merger of Paddy Power and Betfair was “a good jumping off point” Goulding says of moving from gaming to insurance. He wanted to stay in Ireland and Aviva wanted a disruptive cultural change agent that could also influence the wider group, hence his new International role.
Goulding is a keen marathon runner and in 2017 will be tackling the Paris, Prague, Cork, Dingle and New York marathons, a street pounding rival to HS2 CIO Andrew Turner’s athletic exploits.