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Getting the best of both Worlds: COO, Reliance Life Insurance

Shubhra Rishi | July 22, 2014
As technology and business become more interdependent, being a jack of all trades is inevitable. Srinivasan Iyengar, COO, Reliance Life Insurance, is leveraging his past experience as CIO to enhance the company’s operations and aligning business with IT.

It doesnt get harder than this. Being COO is arguably the C-suites toughest roles. Yes, more than that of a CIOs. Thats because COOs need to build capacity, improve scalability, and productivity and at the same time, make sure that the right resources are hired to contribute to organizational growth. And thats not it.  

As technology gets more and more intertwined with business, its putting pressure on COOs to  leverage IT to take their organizations ahead. This is making the COOs role more complex. But if you are a COO with an IT background, like Srinivasan Iyengar, of Reliance Life Insurance, you have less reason to fret. As the former CIO of Aegon Religare Life Insurancewho later went on to become its COOIyengar comes with a rich IT experience. And thats something that packs a double punch in his role as COO at Reliance Life Insurance. In this interview, he talks about how his IT background is helping him align with business better and why operations and technology are stitched together.

CIO: Was the transition from the CIO to the COOs role an obvious one?

Srinivasan Iyengar: I have always looked at any technology from the point of a business implementation. As a result, you focus on the drivers that will help you achieve business benefit. For instance, you need to ask yourself how technology can be used to drive more operational efficiency or innovation within the organization. In that sense, I had been preparing myself for the transition for quite some time. The opportunity at Reliance Life was also ideal as there is a healthy culture of looking at decisions from a business perspective.

How did your previous experience help you prepare for your COO role?

A large part of my success as a COO has to be attributed to two very important aspects of my experience as a CIO. First, I firmly believe that having a technology background makes for a far more successful COO. The primary reason is that a COO with a technology background can understand the business dynamics and also look at providing a roadmap on how technologies can be leveraged to achieve business goals within an organization.

Second, the CIO role is also very unique in a way that it interacts with every single function or line of business in an organization. For instance, as a CIO, you would have to work with sales to deliver a strategy, or a host of other functions such as marketing or legal, which makes the position of the CIO quite unique and makes the transition to a COO role simpler.

Can you give us an example?

Initially, as a CIO, I was responsible for designing and developing a rules engine. It enabled me to think about the nuances of risk management and risk writing, which is the core function of an insurance company.


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