The Silicon Review
Information technology (IT) has brought about one of the most important technological transformations that have had a direct impact on numerous sectors. Industries such as banking & finance, healthcare, telecommunications, education, entertainment, etc. have seen manifold improvements due to their systemic adoption of IT. What information technology essentially does is to provide a highly consolidated means of storing and manipulating business data to streamline operations and derive rapid growth. In light of this, the importance of the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO) cannot be overstated.
A Chief Information Officer (CIO) is a senior executive who oversees the computer systems and IT operations in a corporation. It is the job of the CIO to ensure that the organization has adopted IT in order to carry out its operations with the maximum possible efficiency.
EFU group is one of Pakistan’s premier insurance Group that has carried a tradition of excellence since its founding almost ninety years ago. It was one of the nation’s first insurance group when Pakistan was still a part of India before its secession in 1948. Ashfaque Ahmed joined EFU as its head of technology and was instrumental in implementing a number of technological initiatives across the company.
Growing up in Pakistan, Mr. Ahmed started his career as a student of finance but soon realised that the world is fast moving towards business automation where no business impact can be achieved without IT. This early realisation helped him change the focus towards IT, very early in the career. After graduating with a
Degree in Computer Science, Ashfaque Ahmed worked with Oracle development and quickly rose through the ranks to a senior managerial role and then join 3i Infotech where his job involved implementing ERP in more than half a dozen companies. This sparked his passion for synergizing ERP and digital solutions with the insurance sector.
In conversation with Ashfaque Ahmed
Q. Can you talk about your role in the company?
I joined EFU Life in a position that required me to identify ADC opportunities and implement them in various insurance systems. I took up the challenge of uplifting the insurance sector by leveraging the benefits of digitization. The digital solutions did go a long way in improving customer interaction. My job also entailed the formation of multiple teams to facilitate the digitization of various segments of insurance.
Q. Can you brief us about the history of your company and its offerings?
EFU Life started operations in 1992 and now become a leading life insurance company in Pakistan with the highest paid-up capital of Rs. 1 billion. In the last 25 years, the business has been increased significantly with the branch network available in more than 200 cities of Pakistan and AJK. In the organization with the vision of providing better services to employees and customers, EFU Life Management is always looking towards technology to drive the solution for connecting all stakeholders and business processes.
One major segment of our business is bancassurance and we have deployed our POS applications to reduce the turn-around time and get real-time formation of policyholders which reduced the issuance time from 5 days to 1-2 business days. Similar we have built a smartphone app for our own salesforce of around 5000 agents who interact with customers and provide the services.
Now customers can use Facebook to ask for solutions to their queries, using a chatbot we developed for Facebook Messenger. It is available 24/7 to answer all the customer queries and provide the latest policy details on Facebook in a secure environment.
Q. How do you define success for a new CIO in the first 12 months and the first 5 years?
In my opinion, the success of new CIO in the first 12 months can be measured by improvements in business processes or operational efficiency with the help of stable technology infrastructure and support.
For the first 5 years, the success of CIO is considered based on the effective utilization of budget, while retaining the core team and skilled workers, planning for a secured the environment against cyber-attacks, accept changes and handle digital disruptions with timely availability of business reporting. Delivering customer-focused solutions should be the top priority.
Q. CIO is considered as the organizational glue for driving change. Do you agree?
Yes, I totally agree. CIOs contribute to shaping the future of business with the right technology. With the collaboration with COO, CFO, and CSO, a CIO is a person who drives to implement the large-scale transformation within the organization and manage the internal and external stakeholders based on the experience and practical understanding of communication delivery. As we have seen most of the times, technology shift drives the change in business process, even if you are implementing any ERP, CRM or even replacing the human efforts with bots, change is very painful but also fruitful for an organization. Also, CIO is a person who can mitigate the risks by providing alternative solutions.
Q. How do you manage the partnership between IT and the rest of the business?
Timely delivery of quality solutions and collaboration with operations for support is the key to successful partnerships. We have devised a mechanism through the Project Management Office where we identify and appoint a business as a project owner and deliver the solution as an execution partner to create a win-win situation for both the teams. Also, as a GM, I have also been involved with different departments and continue to work with business in different roles which help to build partnerships.
Q. What are the most important qualities for the CIO of a company?
To become a successful CIO, a person must have a vision aligned with the organization with an ability of execution with the help of internal and external stakeholders. A strong relationship with CXOs shows the strength towards the operational side of IT and upcoming digital platforms.
Meet the pioneering CIO of EFU Life Assurance Limited, Ashfaque Ahmed
Ashfaque Ahmed joined EFU Life in 2011 and lead companywide technology initiatives. He is also responsible for driving the IT strategy and leads various teams working under the technology group. Prior to this role, he was working with another leading insurance company of Pakistan and has the experience to execute various international projects with 3i Infotech Pvt. Limited and Auriga Associates Pvt. Limited. Overall, he has 20 years of experience working in various roles. He holds an MS degree in Computer Science and is now focusing to extend his expertise towards the field of data sciences.