Aligning Digital Transformation Strategies with Business Objectives

Laura Money, Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, Sun Life

Being a seasoned technology executive, Laura Money, Executive Vice President and CIO at Sun Life, has succeeded in diverse roles across multiple countries and organizations. She has more than three decades of experience in Canadian, American, and British financial institutions. In her current role at Sun Life, she oversees multiple aspects of information technology, including strategy, architecture, infrastructure, development, and applications. Laura’s vast industry expertise is evident from her passion and commitment toward advancing digital transformation and innovation to optimize processes for clients and business partners. She is also a board member for Canadian Cancer Society – Ontario and Vice President of the University of Toronto Schools Alumni Association.

Our editorial board is really honored to recognize Laura as “Top 10 Canadian CIOs.” Following is the interview that we had with her.

AS A SEASONED EXECUTIVE, WHAT DOES YOUR CURRENT ROLE ENTAIL?

Like other CIOs, much of my time is dedicated to meetings, especially with my team and different business groups. I tend to focus on strategic conversations for laying out the right direction for the team rather than essentially getting into the details of how to execute digital transformation initiatives. We primarily work with business groups to create great client experiences by leveraging the latest technologies that are more responsive to their needs. In addition, as the demand for a skilled workforce keeps surging, we continue to build the best team in place to cater to our clients.

HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC BEEN INSTRUMENTAL IN ALTERING BUSINESS PROCESSES AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFORMATION?

Even though the pandemic is a recurring ‘dark age’ for all of us, it comes with a bit of silver lining. It created an opportunity for all businesses to work efficiently in digital and virtual ways. We were already paving the path for digital transformation, but the pandemic disrupted that path to a great extent. We had to be quick on our feet and accelerate our transformation journey. Employees, too, had to turn on a dime and identify new and effective ways of working virtually.

"We primarily work with business groups to create great client experiences by leveraging the latest technologies that are more responsive to their needs"

During these trying times we’ve had some great successes that have made a real difference for our clients. For example, in our Canadian business we improved data-driven chatbots that reduced the wait times for clients by 80 percent. Also, our digital coach, Ella, is one of her kind in the industry. The bot gives clients advice, and since the pandemic, she has connected with some clients over 20 million times, helping them manage and expand wealth deposits and insurances. Not stopping there, we also invested in a strategic partnership with Dialogue, Canada’s telemedicine and virtual care leader, to provide people with better virtual healthcare options, something that we continue to see as a need even post-pandemic. In Asia, where business is typically done face-to-face, we quickly leveraged digital technology to create a platform for clients to connect and use e-signatures where historically a wet signature has always been required – all created and delivered by our teams in six weeks.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PAIN POINTS THAT EXIST IN THE MARKETPLACE TODAY?

Every CIO today is concerned about cybersecurity. The increasing number of cyberattacks, such as Solar Winds and Log4J, has been extremely detrimental to organizations. The bad actors are constantly on the move— creating an increasingly difficult environment for us to function in. Another crucial obstacle is talent. Tech talent is in high demand. Every business is struggling to acquire and retain the best people. The best approach to combat this challenge is to digitize processes and transform the mundane activities of everyday work life into something more exciting. Also, businesses are increasingly paying more attention to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues.

Apart from this, the entire backdrop of uncertainty and change that looms over each one of us can become daunting at times. The increasing geopolitical tensions and several risks around cybersecurity and challenges with inequity pose significant hurdles for CIOs today.

HOW WILL THE INDUSTRY TRANSFORM IN THE FUTURE?

I believe that the pandemic will subside soon but it has made the remote and hybrid work environments the future reality. At Sun Life, the future of work for our employees revolves around flexibility and choice. They can choose where to work from, based on what their job roles require and driven by client and business needs. There is also the fallout from the pandemic around mental health as more and more people are experiencing anxiety. At Sun Life, we want to offer a workplace where people feel empowered, trusted, and have flexibility and choice.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU LIKE TO IMPART TO YOUR PEERS?

It is essential to focus on three core areas when it comes to digital transformation. First, businesses need to create a fabulous client experience aligned to the business strategy. To do that, you need to listen closely to your customers and build great designs based on their requirements. Secondly, companies are required to modernize their existing technology stack and leverage data in the best possible way. Finally, it is crucial to develop strategies that will modernize the current operating model at organizations and help them become more agile and flexible. If you can think about these three aspects effectively, you’ll have a holistic plan to address your digital transformation journey.

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