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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.

Many implementations helped me transition to the COOs role in a much seamless manner. It was my past experience as a CIO of an insurance firm where I spearheaded the launch of one of Indias first e-sales platforms. During that period, a large part of my time was spent in understanding customer segment markets and channelsfor driving customer satisfaction levels, and at the same time, blending backend integrationthat an organization might require from a system and a process point of view. At Reliance Life, the stage was set to deliver launch an online sales platform which is best-in-class.

Is the COO role encompassing the CIO role?

My answer is a resounding yes. Today, no COO can successfully execute his role without having a good handle on IT, because technology is all-inclusive and all-pervasive. The traditional matrix has been superimposed with the technology layerlike how a COO achieves efficiency, cross-sell, distributed-style of working, and cross-leveraging the performance capabilities of the people using technology to share the load. As a result, all these have got a strong layer of technology embedded into the operations of an organization.

Does collaboration with your CIO become simpler because you have been on the other side?

Absolutely. It goes without saying. It helps the CIO from the aspect of not having to explain every single fundamental technology to me. As a COO, it helps to quickly co-relate with the CIO and come up with quick decisions without having to prolong projects.

A lot about the COO role is operational. Whats the strategic element in it?

The COO role is a mixture of both operational and tactical. A large part of it is operational and a reasonable part is tactical. For instance, there are a number of factors that a COO must consider such as: How do you safeguard the companys vision; or what do stakeholders and the CEO expect from the company; or how do you translate this vision into executable projects and initiatives that can lead you there. It is to ensure that theres a strong bridge between operations and non-sales functions such as underwriting, claims, customer care, and how all this ties with the sales front-end team in a way that you can collectively accomplish the vision. This calls for a lot a balancing act and a need to ensure that in the quest to go for the top line, you dont sacrifice quality. And in the quest for control, you dont end up closing the doors on business. In fact, I wouldnt like to over-glamorize the tactical role by saying that its all about new initiatives and strategy. New initiatives are avenues that you look for in order to obtain the incremental change for an organization that can help you achieve targetsnot just numbers, but top-line, bottom-line, quality and customer retentionand thats the way the CEO envisions it.


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