Suren Gupta Moves Beyond CIO At Allstate
Allstate Executive Vice President of Technology & Operations Suren Gupta has a remarkably diverse background. He spent time as Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Consumer Lending at Wells Fargo, but he focused as much time on developing technologies that enhanced customer experience as he did on traditional IT. For example, he re-engineered the company’s real estate lending with new delivery capabilities that enabled the field sales force, enabling them to serve customers more effectively with just-in-time information. He was an entrepreneur, having co-founded a start up wireless Internet venture called Airclic. He also held senior operations, sales, marketing and strategic development roles at INTELSAT, a telecommunications company, and at Thomson Corporation before leading technology and operations at GMAC. Finally, he has the classic background that so many of the people profiled in the “Beyond CIO” series, with an engineering undergraduate degree, and an MBA. He combines technology and business acumen together with an entrepreneurs eye toward customer-centric innovation.
He has brought all of this to bear in his current role at Allstate. He is directly responsible for technology that can be applied to the company’s products and services. He also runs the company’s back-office operations. A big piece of the operations role is also customer service and agency customer service. The company has 10,000 agents across the nation that Gupta’s team serves through the products and services that they bring to them to sell on behalf of the company’s customers. The second piece of that customer service side is when a customer has a need that has not been fulfilled or a problem – his team is responsible for that, as well.
(To listen to an unabridged podcast version of this interview, please visit this link. This is the 19th article in the “Beyond CIO” series. To read the prior 18 articles, including interviews with Beyond CIOs from HP, Symantec, Aetna, American Express, T.D. Ameritrade, Marsh & McLennan, and Schneider National among others, please visit this link. To read future articles in the series, please click the “Follow” link above.)
Peter High: I know that you are in the throes of a business transformation and have been for some time now, actually. Please describe the framework you are using for the transformation.
Suren Gupta: We are in the midst of a huge transformation of the company, from a product standpoint – how we serve our customers— and how we bring those products and services to our agencies, which is our sales distribution channel too. If you think about that as the core business, there is a huge amount of change that we are going through both in terms of the services that we provide and the innovative products we are bringing to our customer base.
There are three key buckets that we divide our work into across the enterprise. The first is made up of all of the work that needs to be done to simplify our environment and continuously improve the current environment that we are in. The second bucket is building technology and platforms that would lend themselves to the future of the company. Things like our platform Drivewise where we provide incentives to our customers based on their driving records; well, we are the first company to launch something like that on the cell phone. That comes under the bucket too, where we are building new platforms and technologies to enable the business to move forward. Then the third bucket is all about creating innovative solutions that are longer term and allow the company to sustain itself.Obviously, technology plays a key role in all of those three key buckets—at the end of the day, there is nothing the company does without technology. So we are hand-in-glove with our business partners in terms of making sure that we move the business forward.