If today's CIO needs to have all-around business knowledge, along with an appreciation of the special contribution of IT, then Barbara Piehler, Northwestern Mutual's (NM, Milwaukee, $92.1 billion in assets) new CIO, fits the bill. Having started in the carrier's controllers department in 1983, Piehler has held such positions as vice president, corporate services; vice president policyowner services; vice president, Internet; and vice president, information systems. She replaces long-time CIO Walt Wojcik, who retired recently.
"From my policyowners service days I have a pretty good customer view, from both our ultimate customer-the policyowner-and I also used the services of the IS department for many years," Piehler says. But perhaps not least among her qualities, she adds, is that "I have a financial bent which our CFO really enjoys, because he is very concerned about making sure we stay the low-cost life insurance company."
Among the general imperatives Piehler believes she faces is "the challenge to communicate the value of what IT does to our internal partners," and to challenge IT to stay creative.
From a market perspective, perhaps the greatest challenge is to support the NM Financial Network, "as we're moving more into the investment products world," Piehler says. An important part of that is the Network Connection, a comprehensive support system for NM's distribution force. From prospecting to doing sales calls, it's basically their desktop, so they know how to work," Piehler says of the general agent application due to complete rollout mid-2003.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio