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

But however close to the top the CIO rises, he or she must always maintain close communications with coworkers at all levels, Candito believes. ""I think it's very important not to just be a 'suit',"" he says. As an effective leader, he adds, ""I believe that one of my key jobs is making sure that thepeople that work in my organization can link activities on their desktop to the strategies of the company.""

Being able to attract and retain talent is ""one of the key battlegrounds,"" Candito says. ""Every person I recruit into our organization invariably has another offer."" For most IT professionals, Candito says, money is not the most important enticement. ""I find they're more interested in 'What can I learn here? What's my career growth opportunity?"" he says.

Once new employees are on board, Candito believes an important part of keeping them is clear communication. For all staff, he says, ""you have to set reasonable expectations for...operational excellence."" And every employee must be managed differently. A certain employee may excel on creative assignments because he or she ""is going to run with it, deliver and be really, really happy,"" says Candito. But the same employee may ""crash and burn"" with ""run-of-the-mill stuff."" Other staffers may take complex problems that drive most people crazy and ""take it, chew it, spit it out and take it to a different level."" The moral, he says, is ""one size does not fit all.""

Part of taking that assembled team on the right course, Candito says, is ""knowing what's going on in the world,"" he says. ""You've got to be close to what IBM is doing, what Microsoft is doing, what Cisco is."" But you need to be prudent too, he says. Vendors talk ""ragtime"" about their products, and one has to read between the lines. Also, the CIO faces great expectations from above. For instance a business head may ask, ""This is possible, because our competitors are doing it; so why aren't we?"" To be ready to answer those questions, Candito says, ""you have to have good relations with your vendors.""

The CIO position in general is today much more a matter of facing hard questions, from Candito's point of view. ""Every day we're asking what we can do to increase earnings,"" he says. And facing that challenge in the new business environment brings a new level of intensity to the game. Does this make Candito's job more enjoyable? ""I think it's more fun in that the ambiguity of how well you're doing is dramatically reduced,"" Candito reflects.


Anthony Candito, President and CIO, New England Financial Information Services, Senior Vice President, Metlife.

IT STAFF: 1,250

EDUCATION: BA in psychology, Bridgewater State College.



KEY QUOTE: ""I think today's competitive environment is more fun in that the ambiguity of how well you're doing is dramatically reduced.""

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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