An interview with Kevin Leith


Sainsbury: What are your top IT priorities for the next 12-18 months?

Leith: To achieve increased agility through simplification and standardisation, to enable an enhanced customer experience. We would like to deliver a customer experience that is predicated on speed of response to the market, and ever evolving consumer needs.

As with many insurance companies that have grown through merger and acquisition activity, legacy complexity is our biggest constraint.

Sainsbury: Given your recent appointment to the CIO role, where do you see key opportunities emerging for the business?

Leith: I see opportunity in a technology delivery programme which delivers to the organisation’s strategic direction. The programme would be underpinned by enhanced customer experience and future growth capability, whilst delivering significant advancements in productivity and efficiency.

Sainsbury: What have you found to be the most effective ways to engage with insurance customers via online channels?

Leith: The life insurance industry is one built on relationships and as a result, a key focus is being able to communicate with both advisors and customers through their channel of choice.

The mobile and online channels are evolving. Online interactions drive greater automation, less manual handovers, lower risk and faster turnaround times for both advisors and customers – delivering an enhanced service experience.

Sainsbury: What impact will social media will have on insurance in the long term?

Leith: In general, the life insurance sector is less sophisticated in online service delivery and social media relative to many other sectors for example, in digital media and banking. However social media will play a more important role in customer service delivery, brand trust and reputation; from the initial purchase experience through to day-to-day servicing.

Sainsbury: What influence does Sovereign parent, ASB, have over your IT strategy?

Leith: Sovereign adopted a standalone operating model relatively recently, hence we govern our own business IT strategy. However ASB remains our largest strategic IT partner for consuming services. We share IP, standards and processes where appropriate. This is especially predominant in the infrastructure services.

Sainsbury: How do you see the physical branch and online customer touch points evolving; and what role will each play Sovereign’s overall engagement strategy?

Leith: Sovereign does not currently have a physical branch footprint.  All our on-boarding and servicing is undertaken in conjunction with third parties, predominantly via independent advisers, ASB and other corporate partners.

Online touch points will continue to be an ever increasing capability for both advisers and customers, delivering service enhancements and increased productivity and efficiency.

Sainsbury: Which technology visionaries outside of the financial services sector inspire you?

Leith: Bill Gates. Many technologies and visionaries have come and gone. I believe we are on the verge of witnessing the Microsoft resurgence, which will challenge the Apples and Googles of this world, particularly in the business landscape.

Sainsbury: What advice would you give an executive with an ambition to step into the CIO role?

Leith: Gaining a broader appreciation of the business by ‘standing in the customer shoes’ is critical, and one which will help to ensure the IT and business directions are highly connected and engaged through out any journey together. 

Sainsbury: What would you be doing if you weren’t working in financial services and technology?

Leith: Trying to keep up with the Tour de France!  And if unsuccessful, at least savouring the pleasures of their fine red wine!

Sainsbury: Every IT leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours?

Leith: To have enabled and delivered Sovereign’s transformational technology roadmap; a roadmap that will facilitate the next 10 years of Sovereign’s strategic direction.  

To have truly delivered on our customer service, growth, productivity and efficiency aspirations.

To have inspired a team of people who are extremely capable of extending the journey well and truly beyond my influence.