Natasha Naidoo is the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) for a UK subsidiary of an international insurer. She has consciously and deliberately managed her career since her early roles as an actuarial student, through qualifying as an actuary, and completing her Executive MBA at London Business School, and has worked for insurers directly as well as a consultant. In these reflections on her career, she shares three elements fundamental to her career success so far:
“I realised relatively early in my career that I had a strong interest in risk management. I entered a risk role in my second year of work, and have performed risk-related roles for most of my career since. I also have the view that most of the benefit of risk professionals is when they are seen as a key decision-maker, effectively supporting and steering business decisions. As a result I have had, at times, an almost singular focus on managing my career path towards an executive risk role.
There were three elements that were common in the approach I took as I transitioned different career stages towards an executive position: (i) profile exposure, (ii) mentorship and (iii) sponsorship. Before I describe how I actively managed these elements in my career, a brief interlude on foundations in my education that I was fortunate enough to benefit from. In those formative years, the systems at school and university provided me with a blend of the three elements without me having to put in additional effort… Those experiences did highlight to me, however, their importance for me to manage in my post-qualification years.
The roles of Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) and Chief Data & Analytics Officer (CDAO) are relatively new, having grown in adoption significantly over the past decade as data has become ‘the new oil’ and as traditional companies seek to contend with digital competitors. These senior roles are now found within a variety of data-intensive industries, especially within Financial Services and Healthcare, and increasingly in others too.
...There is a wide-open field in many industries for developing products and services that have data and analytics baked into them.”
A 2019 NewVantage Partners survey found that almost 70% of respondents reported having a CDO, significant growth from 12% in 2012 when their first survey was done. While Financial Services firms compromised the majority of respondents (“data-mature firms that maintain high-value customer relationships and invest significant sums to manage their data”), Healthcare firms also shared their views (“businesses that are undergoing rapid transformation – data rich, but often less data-mature”), as did businesses in other industries. The survey highlighted the “creation of a yet newer role [than CDO] – the Chief Data and Analytics Officer – integrating the data and analytics responsibilities within a single executive.”
As Forbes Insights puts it: ““It’s safe to say that a flood of data – 250 billion terabytes created every day – has swept the chief data officer into the C-suite.”
As firms globally strive to harness the power of data and face challenges along the way, the demand for data scientists and analysts continues to increase. This post discusses the evolution of data-driven roles, some challenges of executive roles in these disciplines, and key skills to improve the likelihood of success in these roles, drawing on the insights of Tom Davenport, A. Charles Thomas and others. Read more to explore the nature of data and analytics roles, and their growing executive influence, in this latest entry in our Routes to the Top series...
In a recent discussion with one of our earliest proteges about his career evolution and his ambition to become a Chief Operating Officer (COO), we were delighted when he asked that we share a paper he’d read with others in a similar situation. He’d found it particularly useful to frame the skills required for his desired executive position, and to compare his current experience and abilities against to identify where he should concentrate on improving – active career management in action!
As he was also preparing for an upcoming appraisal at the time, we reminded him of our post “Ace your Performance Appraisal”, and guided him on questions to ask his managers in his development discussions in order to indicate his eagerness to excel, as well as showcase the progress he has been making.
This post summarises elements from the paper he recommended, as well as a related one also by EY, the consulting firm “building a better working world”. Both papers were guides to aspiring COOs and their organisations, and they provide helpful direction on the skills needed to perform such a broad executive role, and how to develop them. The second paper gave more industry-specific insights, and illustrated the career paths of several COOs. EY’s research was based on detailed analysis of the career paths of nearly 100 COOs, across five sectors: consumer products, financial services, life sciences, oil and gas, and power and utilities. For these reasons, we’re including this post within our Routes to the Top series.
Chief Operating Officers can come from different professional backgrounds, and breadth of experience is particularly important as the role varies widely in practice. Given this, roles in other functions (for example, marketing, distribution, IT, programme management etc) can help diversify experience so that it is not purely operations-focused. Often a COO is the right hand to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and many say that it is a stepping stone into a CEO role – to a greater extent than other C-suite roles like the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in certain industries. The COO is often seen as the go-to person for issues of every description, making individuals who thrive on solving problems a good fit. And, EY argue that “the reason many companies appoint a COO in the first place is to help provide the right balance between the CEO’s overall vision and the practical operating solution that underpins this”.
Read more for information on the role of a COO, to uncover the core capabilities and skills required by the role, to gain insight on additional factors which could help you stand out among potential candidates, and to see the links to EY’s full papers.