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Wilton Re CIO Andy Wood Focuses on the Strategic Core of IT

By conserving strategic capabilities and ceding operational services to external providers, Wilton Re CIO Andy Wood has built a flexible IT organization that maximizes speed while minimizing cost.

It might be said that Andy Wood, CIO, Wilton Re (about $6 billion in assets), is one of the happy few technology executives who had the luxury to build his technology organization from the ground up, free from legacy systems. Still, in Wood's view dispensing with not only legacy technology but also legacy thinking is a matter of necessity.

Wood was tasked with creating the technology capabilities of Wilton, Conn.-based Wilton Re, which opened for business in January 2005. Founded by a small group of industry veterans, including

Wood, the company specializes in traditional life reinsurance and closed-book "runoff" business. A significant growth engine for Wilton Re, the runoff business involves the acquisition of blocks of business or whole companies, which are then integrated into Wilton Re's environment, notes Wood, who was able to get the office up and running within five months of the company's launch and support growth on a stable budget, owing, he says, to a focus on core capabilities within his IT organization.

Wood thinks of insurance IT capabilities in two categories, which he refers to as supply and demand -- those aspects of IT that he can have supplied, on the one hand, and those demanded of him by the business. "One is focused on delivering technology, and the other is bent on working very closely with the business to identify projects that support business strategy and making them happen," he explains.

'IT Doesn't Matter'

Andy Wood, Wilton Re
Citing Nicholas Carr's infamous dictum, "IT Doesn't Matter," Wood argues that all "supply" technology capabilities -- things such as network security, storage, telephony -- are of no strategic importance and can be accessed from providers at lower cost and with less stress on the internal IT organization. "I see no strategic angle even in development," Wood declares. In addition to questions related to the relative costs of internal and external development, he says, "It takes a great deal of an organization's time, activity and energy to manage development staff for no strategic angle -- it is the business processes we support and shape that matter, not the art of coding."

Wilton Re's IT organization consists of just four individuals, including Wood, focused on six skill sets, the CIO reports. Three of those skill sets are oriented to analysis -- business, process and information -- and the three to management -- project, portfolio and vendor. These skills, according to Wood, enable his team to manage the "supply" services needed to run operations and focus the IT organization creative capacity on core insurance IT competencies, the "demand" side.

"If you consider what is unique and, therefore strategic, within an insurance or reinsurance company, it has to be about business intelligence [BI]," Wood asserts. "Business analytics, collaboration and business processes are, I believe, what I should be doing as a CIO."

IT's business orientation at Wilton Re -- the principle operating subsidiary of Wilton Re Holdings (Bermuda) -- was further strengthened by an executive decision to create a formal partnership between the CIO and the COO, Enrico Treglia, with whom Wood has undertaken major initiatives in the past when both were officers at Swiss Re Life & Health (Armonk, N.Y.).

Wood says he and Treglia worked closely in the build-out of Wilton Re's office, during which time the insurer began to forge strategic technology vendor partnerships to handle the "supply" capabilities. By May 2, 2005, Wood reports, Wilton Re had signed Logicalis (Detroit) as its managed infrastructure service provider and installed all of its communications infrastructure. In addition it had in place integrated voice, e-mail and mobile device communications; desktop software; and general ledger, document management, and pricing and valuation systems.

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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