by Ben Worthen

20/20 HONOREES – Claude Cargou

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Chief Auditor and Former Group CIO

AXA Group

In 1975, Claude Cargou, then a systems engineer fresh out of school, now the former group CIO and current chief auditor of Paris-based AXA, the world’s third largest insurance company, bought his first adding machine. It was built in 1820, is 60 centimeters long, 10 centimeters high and 10 centimeters wide, made of oak, coated in gold, and has buttons to slide for calculations. Since then his collection has grown to more than 100, and he hopes to convert an old building he bought in Brittany into a museum for them.

When you listen to Cargou, 54, describe the machines, you can easily understand why he became a CIO. “I found it interesting that we could transform a concept into a reality,” he says. “I found it interesting that you could do something highly theoretical that could then provide a service for people. This machine has those characteristics. It works all the time, it delivers what we expect, and it is easy to use.”

Those are the same qualities that Cargou expects of the systems he designed and built for AXA. Through experiences that still make him cringe, he learned that the value of a system lies not in its design but in its use. By crafting easy-to-use systems, he has made both a name for himself?he was the head of CIGREF, the French association of CIOs?and a home. He was the CIO at AXA for more than 11 years, and when he left that job earlier this year, he stayed with the company as the chief auditor. He has no plans to leave. “I have always been loyal to my company and always loyal to my boss,” he says, even when it means putting the “interests of the company first and my interest second.” What else would you expect from a man who says his first adding machine is still his favorite?