MetLife’s EVP & Co-CIO Discusses Technology and the Shift of Power

Gary Hoberman, Executive Vice President and Co-Chief Information Officer at MetLife, talked about the shift from business projects to technology projects.

Hoberman began his keynote presentation at the 2016 Chief Information Officer Leadership Forum held on December 13 in New York by mentioning that, in his presentation at the Argyle CIO Leadership Forum last year, he talked about business and technology each having to give up what’s most important to them. Technology has to go back to the world of viewing itself as development but also responsible for keeping the lights on. “Technology has to give development to product, and business has to give product back to one group and say it’s together with technology. The CEB report released two weeks ago talked about exactly this,” he stated. “It talked about how, in the past, we’d never say there’s an IT project. We’d say there’s a business project that needs IT. Where we are today, it’s the exact opposite. There are no more business projects; everything is a technology project. The shift of power has happened.”

“In the past, we’d never say there’s an IT project. We’d say there’s a business project that needs IT. Where we are today, it’s the exact opposite. There are no more business projects; everything is a technology project. The shift of power has happened.”

Hoberman then asked members of the audience to stand up and visualize themselves as the CEO of their company. “You, as CEO, need to run this company. You need to understand the operations, technology, marketing, finances..everything. As CEO of the company, think about your technology group—the CIO’s or CTO’s role. Technology is about 30% of any company’s budget, he stated. Hoberman next asked members of the audience to sit down if more than 50% of what their technology group is doing represents a competitive advantage for their company—it’s differentiating the company from its competitors and making the organization unique. No one sat down. “That’s what I expected,” said Hoberman.

“The point I’m trying to make with this exercise is to ask yourself how much of what you’re doing is unique. If you’re the CIO, think about this from a functional point of view. What is HR doing for you, as a business? Finance, compliance, marketing? Are any of those functions separating you in the market? That’s the shift we’re starting to see happen. The shift of power is asking, ‘Do you want to be the best at that? Would being the best give you a competitive advantage? If you’re not the best, who is?'”

Hoberman continued, “At my company, we had one of the biggest announcements in the insurance industry this year: We decided to outsource our entire closed-book operation in the U.S.—over seven million polices—to someone who could do this better than we can. I’m not driving skill sets if I’m making employees learn legacy technologies and systems. Why wouldn’t a company build a business case on supplying the service to multiple companies? That’s what’s happening, and we’re taking advantage of it.”

“I’m not driving skill sets if I’m making employees learn legacy technologies and systems. Why wouldn’t a company build a business case on supplying the service to multiple companies? That’s what’s happening, and we’re taking advantage of it.”

Hoberman said he constantly asks the business, “Are we delivering products that customers want, and are we keeping those products around in the market long enough to make a difference so we can get scale and efficiency, or are we not disciplined enough in our product practices?” Most people in business are in denial, said Hoberman, and will answer that their products are important and are being kept in the market long enough.

Hoberman’s company is assuring that products are being developed and marketed that are in demand by customers by implementing a cross-cutting initiative called product simplification and development. “This is becoming a discipline that businesses are starting to focus on in metrics.”

In conclusion, Hoberman stated that the role of the CIO regarding technology and the shift of power is to step up and challenge the business on assumptions about proposed and existing products to assure the product fits customer needs. “Remember, innovation is owned by you [as CIOs]—there are no more business projects; there are only technology projects.”

"Innovation is owned by you [as CIOs]—there are no more business projects; there are only technology projects.”

ABOUT GARY HOBERMAN:

Gary Hoberman is Executive Vice President and Co-CIO for MetLife, overseeing global technology for MetLife’s business in the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. Hoberman drives emerging technologies to advance the company and the industry, including the recent development of The Wall, a big data, customer service innovation; Synapse, a cloud-based recruiting tool; and MetLife Infinity, a first-of-its-kind mobile app to share memories and create a digital legacy. Hoberman has over 20 years of experience in application development within financial services.

Prior to MetLife, he was Managing Director within Citigroup’s Operations and Technology group where he led multiple patents across mobile and e-commerce.

Hoberman graduated from NYU-Stern School of Business.