Making the transition from CIO to executive general manager

Hamish Barwick (CIO)

Bobby Lehane had always wanted to be a CIO, but one who was in touch with the business rather than a technologist.

“I set about securing a role as CIO within the financial services industry. That was where I wanted to be because I felt financial services were the leader in terms of using technology to enable positive business outcomes,” he says.

Lehane joined Zurich Financial Services Australia in November 2007 as the CIO. He was then promoted to the role of Asia Pacific & Middle East CIO in 2009 and then became APAC COO in January 2011. He has been in his current role of SME executive general manager since June 2012.

Prior to Zurich, he worked as a CIO at property organisation Multiplex Group for three years. Lehane also worked at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia as head of financial markets technology.

“I came in here [Zurich] with the strong mandate to change. I entered the CIO role as someone who didn’t want to be known as their head technologist but someone who was part of a business trying to navigate it to better outcomes,” he says.

“I didn’t want to be known as a technologist or the computer guy. I always tried to ensure that I was commercially aware of the financials and the bigger picture.”

According to Lehane, the role of CIO is not a technologist but a business leader. “Companies don’t need technologists; they need thinkers, thought leaders and people who can get stuff done.”

How Lehane made the transition

Getting offered the Zurich CIO role for APAC and the Middle East was Lehane’s first step in the transition.

“I took it on the provision that I would continue to do the Australian CIO role and deliver the program of change that we had underway at the time,” he says.

Part of this program was changing the IT platforms supporting the organisation in life and general insurance divisions. One of the platforms was called HMS Express and now supports the business which Lehane runs in his role of executive general manager.

“Off the back of that, I was offered the role of COO for Asia Pacific. Moving from CIO to COO was a great step because that meant I needed to be more across the whole business in APAC,” he says.

“I needed to be across the numbers, the relationships and start to develop a reputation as a leader.”

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