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Student of Technology

Tony Candito thrives on change at New England Financial/MetLife.

Whenever Tony Candito addresses students considering a career in business or technology, the first thing he tells them is to find something that will excite them, challenge them and allow them to constantly learn. Candito, president and chief information officer of New England Financial (Boston) Information Services and senior vice president, MetLife (New York, $421.4 billion assets under management), has been guided by that standard throughout his professional life.

As Candito testifies, the insurance business is a very different from what it was only two years ago. And from his position within the MetLife family he should know. Demutualization, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and theemergence of "dot-competition" have made doing business a very different proposition. The technology changes rapidly, and understanding what solutions to bet on requires knowing as much as you can.

In insurance, according to Candito, the one thing that is certain is change. "If you're not geared for learning and figuring out what's next, especially with regard to technology, you're not going to be able to perform," he says. "Tools become obsolete because someone's always reinventing them to be a little bit better. The challenge these days is picking the right chariot to ride," he says. If you're not up to that challenge, he adds, "you won't survive."

Challenges aside, Candito describes the CIO job as, above all, "a relationship role." Among the necessary skills for success, first, he says, is "having the ability to work with all types of people and establish relationships." Second is being "comfortable with technology and the changing environment it represents." Lastly, the CIO must be decisive. "You're dealing with all these business issues and all these technical issues, and if you get your company into gridlock, you're history," he says.

Greg Ross, president of eStrategies Consulting, member of Insurance & Technology's Elite 8 Consultant Advisory Board and Candito's former boss at New England Financial (NEF), says, "At an institution as vast as MetLife and its subsidiaries, Candito must be a partner and a deliverer of value to numerous business leaders in the company." Candito has the critical skills needed to do this, which are, according to Ross, "the ability to work with senior business leaders-gaining their trust and respect, the ability to see innovation opportunities, and the ability to implement projects in large institution settings."

After graduating magna cum laude from Bridgewater State College with a BA in psychology, Candito joined New England Financial as a testing analyst. He became a second vice president in 1990, vice president in 1994 and senior vice president of information systems development in 1995. In his current role—to which he was appointed in 1998—he manages most of MetLife's application development area and oversees the Individual Business operation at NEF. This unit services more than nine million customers and supports nearly 11,000 producers in multiple distribution channels. This represents, says Candito, "a real technology challenge, involving complex networking, platform development and integration with administrative processes and end customers."

This year, Candito has also launched an application giving NEF's agents and customers access to product information over the Internet. The Web site is client-oriented and shows life, disability insurance, annuities, securities brokerage and mutual funds in a portfolio view.

Candito has also conceived and overseen the development of an IT architecture for the individual business, which he calls "a blueprint about how we're going to build things for the business." The architecture is linked directly to MetLife's enterprise architecture and guides how systems will support and change the business processes that producers, administrative staff and management use, he says.

"We are reengineering how client acquisition is done and who delivers services to end customers—including self-service—along with reengineering the product development process and the systems that support it," Candito says. Key related projects in development involve data warehousing, new product platform development, reengineering client acquisition, sales force automation/CRM, branch office cashiering, compliance reengineering, self service for producers and end customers, and administrative office improvements, Candito says.

Candito describes his day-to-day efforts as "constant communication, working with the business to figure out what the strategies are and how technology can enable them," he says. "I manage technology for multiple franchises now, pulling them together into a cohesive team, dealing with cultural and platform differences," he adds.

Purely technologically related activities account for only a small portion of Candito's workload, he says. "At MetLife, we're blessed with some really talented people. I can call on people to constantly stay in tune with the comings and goings of technology, asking questions that give me the answers I need to make the right choices."

But if the culture of MetLife affords Candito a certain degree of luxury in that respect, he stresses that the CIO position will inevitably move increasingly from a technological to a business emphasis. "I don't see CIOs in major corporations mucking around in all the implementations anymore because they're just too complicated and take too much time," he says. "So the trick is getting the right kind of CTOs around you making the right bets on the technology and getting the good application development leaders that can work with the business once the strategy has been established." In turn, he says, "the CIO will manage the portfolio of IT resources and the business strategies, and intervene and execute when necessary."

Because technology now permeates business so thoroughly, according to Candito, the CIO's migration toward a more strategic role must be as an ambassador of technology to business. "When you're forming alliances and partnerships or doing M and A kinds of things, the technical component has to be at the front of that process," he says. "If you only deal with it at the end of the process, there's a much higher risk of not realizing the business value from the choices made."

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

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