The best CDO: a hybrid strategist committed to stakeholders

Chief Digital Officers keep growing. The most recent one is Andrew Brem, Aviva’s new CDO who landed at the British insurance multinational from British Gas. It’s the last of a – now long – list of 2.0 Chiefs. But the reasons why Aviva made this choice turn it into an interesting “case”.

To drive the group-wide digital transformation” is the task assigned to Brem. Nothing new about this. But Aviva’s CEO Mark Wilson pointed out that the new Chief Digital Officer was called to launch a “digital first” strategy has the advantage of “coming from outside the insurance industry”. And the fields in which the Group expects achievements from the new CDO include in particular:

  • product innovation and development through data analytics, customer insights and risk management
  • direct distribution, interactive communication and claims handling
  • marketing and branding across social media and the mobile internet

The vexed question: “How can I become a CDO?” is partly answered by the appointment of Aviva’s new Chief. A brief list of the ‘universal’ characteristics that emerge from Brem’s specific case might be the following:

  • a professional mix of several fields of expertise: marketing, consumer service, eCommerce;
  • the industry of origin is significant but not essential (Brem becomes CDO at Aviva after having been Trading Director at British Gas and having worked in online sales at Carphone Warehouse);
  • experience in multi-channel communication.

The hybrid expertise required from the CDO is a must, also in this case. And in the ‘to do list’ that was handed to Brem I found traces of the combination of abilities that David Mathison pointed out when interviewed by RachelHaot, a “super-CDO” who knows how to combine the innovative characteristics of a Chiefdigitalofficer with the data-driven culture of the Chief Data Officer and the social network and media marketing skills of the CMO.

“Each company must have its own Chief Digital Officer” has become a mantra. But both in the explanation provided by Haot regarding her mission (as CDO first of New York City and then of the State) as well as in the various interviews with 2.0 Chiefs (such as those in the Huffington Post with Harvard’s CEO Perry Hewitt,  in Fast Company with HarperCollins’s CDO Chantal Restivo-Alessi or in eMarketer with  Ogilvy&Mather UK’s CDO PatouNuteymans) two essential rules that are common for all emerge: to have a strategy; stakeholders come before technology.

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