CIOs Uncensored: Customer Intimacy Is An IT Priority - InformationWeek

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CIOs Uncensored: Customer Intimacy Is An IT Priority

CUNA Mutual Group's CIO seeks to understand and help the company's customers directly.

CUNA Mutual group is the leading provider of financial products and services to credit unions and their members worldwide. Many of our business lines are the technology we provide to our credit union customers. Customer intimacy is an important part of our IT strategy, including both internal and external customers. We've taken a proactive approach that starts with our IT mission statement: "Helping our customers to be more successful."

CUNA Mutual has customer relationships with 99% of the 8,500 credit unions in the United States. In addition to insurance and services for credit unions and their employees, CUNA Mutual makes available, through those credit unions, individual insurance, annuities, mutual funds, and other investment products to more than 9.3 million credit union members nationwide. It offers loan protection, credit disability, and credit life insurance products to 10.2 million credit union members.

To truly meet the needs of the credit unions, we have honest dialogues about challenges, sales, business development, and future strategies. Not only are we more involved in sales calls and key product implementations, we have strategic conversations to better understand the credit union business.

The CIO is one of the few executives who can see across business lines and the enterprise. I'm able to bring a unique perspective by working with many businesses across the company. Our perspective can be invaluable in helping our business leaders develop their long-term strategies.

My leadership team and I have conversations that provide essential firsthand feedback on how we can be a better IT organization, as well as help to define business and technology improvements and strategic direction. Additionally, we gather key observations on how to better integrate our products and services in the credit union environment.

We've initiated joint business and technology projects that are mutually beneficial. For example, we developed a state-of-the-art trading room for our asset-management business that will benefit our credit union customers and their members through our ability to respond quickly to investment opportunities.

Lastly, we're developing business and technology capabilities that will lead to innovative products and services that credit union customers can test and then offer their real-time feedback on. In one case, we're working with a few key customers on developing leading capabilities, future vision, and new technologies and features they want to make available to their members. All of these efforts are designed to ensure that we deliver the right technology and the right products to our customers.

Helping your IT organization develop closer ties to customers starts with understanding their needs, your business, and the industry. Allow your technology competence to drive innovation through new ideas and changes that ultimately drive business value. CIOs must talk the talk of the customer, actively help solve their business needs, and lead discussions on how IT can help their overall strategy.

Tom Gosnell is CIO of CUNA Mutual Group.

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