CIOs Take the Lead on Security

Anthony Malakian, US Editor, WatersTechnology

For the December issue of Waters, Tim Murray profiled Allianz CIO Ralf Schneider. Anthony looks at some of the more interesting takeaways.

There are numerous reasons to explain the recent development of chief information officers taking a seat at the boardroom table. Partly it's because of firms needing to do more with less ─ less money in the budget; less staff. Data management has become both a nightmare and an enticing new frontier of analytics. Furthermore, regulatory requirements for things like Form PF or AIFMD require IT answers.

Another reason is security, says Ralf Schneider, group CIO of Allianz, Europe's largest insurance firm and now the third-largest money manager by assets under management globally, at $2.44 trillion. My colleague, Tim Bourgaize Murray went to Munich earlier this year to sit down with Schneider and discuss the firm's considerable technology and operations initiatives.

Security has been a key area of investment for Allianz, including a well-developed access management system, especially in light of the recently unauthorized publication of National Security Agency (NSA) documents that revealed US surveillance activities of numerous nations and dignitaries, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

"Customer trust...has now become squarely the responsibility of the CIO, and that has fascinated me with the pushback ─ particularly in Germany ─ against the NSA and other privacy breaches. We're at the boardroom table because of that, and it's something I feel very strongly that we have to deliver."

In the past, the governing of security was largely dispersed throughout the organization, and at larger shops like Allianz, usually overseen by various operations units and professionals according to need and geography. But as buy-side firms have come to rely more and more on cloud and as-a-service solutions, the need for a security figurehead has taken on greater importance.

I found it interesting that Schneider chose to raise his hand and say that this duty falls on his shoulders, especially when you consider how immensely important data security is to the national culture of nations like Germany or Switzerland.

As I interview CIOs going forward, I'll be interested to hear if they want to have the bull's eye of security targeted directly on their own chest.

Another interesting takeaway from Tim's profile of Schneider is the scope and scale of consolidation projects currently underway at Allianz:

Schneider's biggest move so far has proven a complex math problem: reducing the entirety of the firm's 140 datacenters down to six─two in the US, three in Europe, and one in Asia. In the process, Allianz will harmonize its core business applications across 71 business units, such that 95 percent of its apps are run from a single private cloud-based architecture a decade from now. ...

Consolidation of this magnitude is unusual for any buy-side organization; for an insurance giant, it is virtually unheard of. "None of our closest competitors really do this yet," he says. "It's truly a global transformation, investing €1 billion over five years with infrastructure as the vehicle, and harmonization as the objective. Our controller obviously is very intent on seeing that not burned through, and constructing a new network with 144,000 employees serving 78 million customers becomes a nightmare if not done right," Schneider explains.

To read more about Allianz's other projects around support for visualization, increased real-time informational speed and delivering greater transparency into clients' set of products, click here.

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