\u201cThe last five years have been ambitious and bold, but at the same time the organisation has evolved what we have done,\u201d says Andrew Turner, CIO at London-based specialist insurance firm \u00adHiscox.\nBold and ambitious are not words that have been associated with the financial sector in recent years, but Hiscox has always bucked the trends.\nTurner met CIO having not long completed some major application rationalisation, the launch of a new online-only business in the US and is completing a series of gruelling marathons.\n\u201cWe target markets where we know we have expertise,\u201d he explains.\n\u201cOver the years we\u2019ve developed some important niches such as an insurer of fine art and business insurance. We pride ourselves on covering these specialist needs that the more commodity players don\u2019t understand. We do a lot of liability insurance for IT contractors and SMEs.\u201d\nThese niche markets have enabled Hiscox to offset itself from the risks associated with the Lloyd\u2019s and Bermuda insurance markets, which it is also a player in, with \u201csmaller, more granular\u201d business.\n\u201cWe play to our knowledge and strengths in \u00adareas where we can provide our clients with cover on a profitable basis,\u201d he says. \u201cOur business is about the management of risk, both for ourselves and our clients.\u201d\nInsuring art isn\u2019t just a strategic business approach for Hiscox, it is endemic in the culture of the organisation. Chairman Robert Hiscox is a keen art collector and displays his artworks around the office a stone\u2019s throw from the famous Gherkin building in the City of London.\n\u201cArt is an important part of our strategy and philosophy and we want people to challenge convention and the art is part of that. It tries to stimulate ideas. They are not paintings of an Italian village, it\u2019s quirky,\u201d he says.\nThe wide range of art in every corridor and on every wall is staggering and does tone down the corporate \u00adatmosphere of what is, after all, an insurance firm in the heart of the City.\n\u201cWe have a distinct culture, it is a very driven organisation; people have to work hard. We have high expectations and an entrepreneurial culture. If you are bright, have a good idea and sensible, you can get things done,\u201d says Turner.\n\nThe CIO clearly enjoys this thrusting city culture, but not without a human touch. Hiscox employs a thousand people: \u201cso you can touch the four walls of the organisation\u201d, Turner says of the intimacy of the insurer.\n\u201cWe have grown internationally in the last four years in new markets for Hiscox, most notably the US and Bermuda and even through the traditional Lloyd\u2019s base,\u201d he says of how Hiscox was bold and ambitious during a period of economic turmoil.\n\u201cIt was exciting, we introduced an auto\u00admatic ratings system which went live at the end of 2010. The direct business we launched has been a key element, and now most people have heard of us.\u201d Turner says of the deep involvement IT has with the organisation and with the recent programme sponsorship campaigns on Channel 4.\n\u201cEvery year I have secured more investment for IT, and this year it remained stable. We have to work the business to secure the benefits from the business units, so it is a very collaborative atmosphere.\u201d\nOne of the company\u2019s boldest moves has been to launch its Hiscox USA direct online business which offers commercial insurance directly over the web.\n\u201cFor the US that is ground-breaking. The direct online business has not taken off in the US because of the broker network and the federal nature of the country. It was fascinating to see the challenges of a new business line,\u201d Turner says of the dir\u00adect business that has hogged a great deal of his time of late.\nRational thoughtsAs Hiscox moves increasingly towards transacting directly with customers over the internet, Turner has also been managing a rationalisation and transformation of the IT infrastructure within Hiscox.\n\u201cThe key element is what I call compon\u00adent architecture, a system strategy for claims, accounting and finance using service oriented architecture to integrate these components and where possible to re-use them.\n\u201cWe have some degree of duplication like most organisations. We are committed to a standardised strategy, with fewer components.\u201d\nTurner has a long-term vision\u00ad that this will allow Hiscox to replace components with ease, not only for the technology team, but also the business.\n\u201cEight to nine years ago we were doing\u00ad large ERP projects. That was exciting and valuable, but they were traumatic for the business. Now we are trying to get to a place where we replace systems over time. This allows us to keep some of the legacy systems \u2014 they are fine \u2014 but with a component architecture we have replaced some of the ugliness of those,\u201d he says of the benefits Hiscox is seeing as it extends the life of its legacy systems.\nThe component architecture is also designed to be modular to enable the continued expansion of the organisation. When Hiscox launched its US business, the IT foundations of the internet insurance service were those that underpin the UK business.\nThus Hiscox has just one credit care module, which reduces maintenance workloads.\n\u201cWe are looking at the US, UK and Euro\u00adpean retail experience and looking at how we can use these components so that our business units in these markets can be blended with what IT we have,\u201d he says.\nThis view comes from Turner\u2019s 22 years of IT experience that he says demonstrates how today\u2019s CIOs are technologists with a business view.\n\u201cNow it is about what the business is trying to do, whether it is on the web or being more efficient. IT has to demonstrate value and must be more responsive. Devel\u00adoping large applications might be the right thing to do but if it takes two or three years you must have patient customers. Incremental delivery and building on that is more scalable,\u201d he says.\nTurner has been with Hiscox for over four years and believes that CIOs should commit to long tenures at organisations.\n\u201cThere\u2019s a lot to be said for longevity. If you are constantly changing CIO the continuity is not there. If you are making big bets every year it is unhealthy. I\u2019ve seen the paratrooper CIOs, sometimes they are valuable, but how do you make those changes enduring? The paratrooper CIO will want to move or they will be sacked.\n\u201cMy role is to have a real ability to drive the business. I sit on a number of committees, so I feel the heartbeat of the organisation. I love the day-to-day stuff and still enjoy talking with the infrastructure guys and technology is still of great interest, but my knowledge of the intricacies is very different,\u201d he says.\n\u201cThe challenge is to be at the heart of the business while not being afraid of your heritage. I\u2019m able to bring my experience\u00ad elsewhere in the organisation now. CIOs shouldn\u2019t be afraid to use their technology background.\nSetting the tempo\u201cThe role of the CIO is like the conductor of an orchestra. You have an embedded knowledge of every instrument, but cannot play them all \u2013 you have to pull them together. Hiring smart people is a mantra of mine, as long as you can lead and inspire them. Being the leader of an orchestra is about setting the tempo and tone; and inspiring people to give their best. When you have a wood or brass section that is struggling, you get involved with helping them. What really matters is what IT does overall for the customer.\n\u201cI\u2019ve learnt from meetings that we need to make IT exciting, not in a glib sense, but as a way of unlocking potential. So I try to mix it up a little bit and talk about the hotspots and highlights. We spend too much time in meetings. And to get an open dialogue you need to get the concerns out on the table and resolve them.\u201d\nAt Hiscox, Turner has 100 IT staff and uses outsourced services for additional capacity and capabilities, he says.\n\u201cA core team of IT insurance professionals and to have people that are smart and can lead the various aspects of IT for me,\u201d he says is the key to the team\u2019s success.\n\u201cI\u2019m not religious about offshoring. At Hiscox we are increasingly looking at on-shoring because of the success rates. We use offshore for heavy lifting of well specified needs. For more business-specific \u00adrequirements that need a lot of business support we use the local team.\u201d\nTurner\u2019s main suppliers are infrastructure and BPO specialists Cognizant and Logicalis and Datasolve for application support. With a virtualised estate and adoption of SOA, it is unsurprising that Turner is a believer in the business benefits of cloud computing.\n\u201cCloud is going to become very significant. For me components and SOA means I can consider parts of cloud and bring them in. We have created a mini-cloud in Hiscox, when there was the heavy snow last year we had very good access to the systems from home.\n"When we have a new office opening we can be up and running using voice over IP (VoIP) and Wyse Terminals for all the offices and its very quick. I do think this era of IT is about tailored views for clients,\u201d he says.\nUsers are used to this in their personal lives, he explains, which means that corporations and CIOs need to be more flexible.\n\u201cPeople are less in awe of applications; they are more interested in the information. One day we will be like the iTunes store, where users come to the technology division to download what they need.\n\u201cIt takes time to put in monolithic systems and business doesn\u2019t have the pati\u00adence for them anymore. Vendors will have to offer off-the-shelf solutions. My job will be to set expectations and what cloud can achieve and what IT departments can develop, within the constraints of the budget of course. These will be the things that bring cloud to the fore.\u201d\nFlying startTurner started his career at British Airways, looking after transport operations at Heathrow airport.\n\u201cI was 23 or 24 managing some large teams and we were turning around 747s very rapidly,\u201d he says.\nHe enjoyed his time with the UK flag carrier and learnt a lot, and in return BA saw his potential, sponsoring his MBA which in turn meant he met a lot of IT people while study\u00ading.\nAt the time Turner was also developing some spreadsheet applications which IT and others in the organisation liked and his development continued.\nWith this taste for IT established his journey to the top flight of IT leadership went via telecommunications at Cable & Wireless and utilities before he wound up in the financial sector with Royal Sun \u00adAlliance (RSA).\nAt RSA he was instrumental at putting in the major outsourcing relationships the mainstream insurer has with Accenture and IBM, much of which still \u00adexists today under current UK CIO James de Watteville.\n\u201cWe put a lot of work into that deal. We did a lot around how we manage the relationship,\u201d Turner says.\nHaving launched Hiscox in the US and completed an infrastructure rationalisation, Turner isn\u2019t slowing up. Far from it, as he\u2019s running into his next big challenge: completing the marathon world series.