This week Stuart Walters, chief information officer at insurance specialist BGL Group, takes to the V3 Hot Seat.
Walters joined BGL Group in October 2013. He leads the group IT functions and has strategic oversight of the technology agenda across the divisionalised IT community, ensuring that all areas are fully equipped to deliver business objectives.
Walters joined BGL from his position as CIO at global travel business Kuoni. Prior to this, he held CIO roles for Worldhotels and Opodo.
Walters joins the likes of Lotus F1 Team head of IT Graeme Hackland and Ocado director of technology Paul Clarke in the V3 Hot Seat.
V3: What does a typical day involve?
Walters: I oversee an IT team of over 400 people, so a typical day for me involves meetings, decision-making and thinking. It is important to allow time to think.
BGL is one of the UK’s largest financial services groups, specialising in consumer insurance, price comparison and legal services. Brands include Comparethemarket.com, Bennetts Bike Insurance and Budget Insurance. With over seven million customers, a key element of my role is to ensure the smooth running of BGL’s technology systems and infrastructure.
What would be your dream job?
I'd be a professional motorcycle racer.
Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?
I am an Apple fan, so I have the iPhone 5S and the iPad Air. I love having the latest gadgets and technology.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
Linus Torvalds. He wrote the Linux computer operating system, first released in the early 1990s and run by most large companies today. Linux has taken on the world's largest software brands and achieved similar market share, but without the big marketing budgets. A truly visionary piece of technology.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
Consumer broadband technology. The proliferation of broadband has enabled so many consumers to access the internet and this has created huge online markets which otherwise would not have been there. In turn, this has created demand for new and better online infrastructure and software engineering practices.
Consumers today have high expectations of their online interactions, so businesses have to employ the most efficient technology possible. In BGL’s case, our systems generate eight million customer prices every day, across a wide range of products including motor, home and life insurance, energy tariffs and credit cards. It’s therefore vital that we both operate successfully today and make ongoing preparations for our future growth.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
It is difficult to say because I have been fortunate to have been involved in some very exciting companies and projects. Co-founding an online startup was a great learning experience and took me outside of my comfort zone.
What was your first job?
I worked in computer operations for 3M, the makers of the famous Scotch Tape and Scotchgard products.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
I really enjoy the pace of change and how quickly things move, especially in consumer technology. The consumerisation of IT is forcing businesses to develop strategies and execute them in full knowledge of what is technically possible.
This is one of the key reasons that I joined BGL. The environment here is fast paced and agile so IT developments move forward extremely quickly. One of our brands, Comparethemarket.com, was propelled rapidly to success by both great advertising and strong technology, making it highly appealing to customers.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
Analytics and the ability to rapidly process huge amounts of data is developing at an almost incomprehensible pace. Step changes in hardware capacity and price (downwards) is creating a market for ever-smarter analytics software and techniques. I believe many future innovations and business models will be born from this capability.
In our own market – insurance – it is vital to drive smart use of customer data to price risk accurately. This is a key strength at BGL, where we work closely with insurers and partner brands to use that information to benefit our customers.
What was the last book you read and was it any good?
Saturday by Ian McEwan. It was excellent.
What is your favourite band?
I love Weather Report, an American jazz fusion band.
Where’s your favourite place for escape?
Definitely the Maldives.
E-readers or real books?
I like both. E-readers while travelling and books when at home.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
For me it's The Rolling Stones.
That's a difficult one, but I'd have to say for now it's Twelve Angry Men or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Windows or Mac OS?
Definitely Mac OS.
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