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A CIO boosts the business value of IT by helping customers make money

Rick Roy is senior vice president and CIO for CUNA Mutual Group, a $13 billion diversified financial services company in Madison, Wis. He is responsible for corporate shared services including security, real estate and facilities and enterprise procurement. In 2011, The Society of Information Management and the Wisconsin Business Journal named Roy Enterprise CIO of the Year.

Here, Roy, a featured speaker and advisory board member for the recent Fusion 2013 CEO-CIO Symposium in Madison, Wis., talks to SearchCIO about the added business value IT can create by taking an "outside-in" approach. He challenges himself and his calendar "every day" to get out and understand the paying customer.

You have to get out and work and spend time with your end customers -- only when you do that will you understand what's important to them.

Rick Roy,
CIO, CUNA Mutual Group

This is Karen Goulart from SearchCIO.com and I'm here at the Fusion CEO/CIO Symposium in Madison, Wisconsin. With me is Rick Roy, CIO of CUNA Mutual Group. Hi Rick.

Rick Roy: Hi, good morning.

Good morning. You're participating in a keynote address called "The CIO as Revenue Rainmaker, Adding Value and Revenue to the Enterprise." So you must see yourself as a revenue rainmaker of sorts. When did you come to realize that "revenue rainmaker" was a role that you could or needed to play as the CIO?

Roy: I don't know if it's so much I see myself as a revenue rainmaker as I think of IT and technology as being able to enable some of that rainmaking. And I certainly have a very bright group of people in IT at CUNA Mutual who are thinking about different ways we can enhance not only our revenue but ultimately the revenue of our customers. That's how we tend to think of rainmaking.

So while we've seen economic cycles swing up and down as you mentioned, I think in the end getting to the heart of, in our case -- our key customers, who are credit unions across the U.S., what pressures they have -- is about coming up with ways we can help them generate more revenue. Yes, that does have a residual positive effect on us, it helps us grow our revenue, but we tend to think of it very 'outside-in.' When we've had success, we've almost always taken that approach.

Can you tell me a little more about how you're helping the credit unions?

Roy: One of the product innovations that was a partnership inside our company between our product organization and the technology organization allows credit unions to actually market lending products to their members through a smartphone. We call it Smartphone Loans. The value proposition is essentially that it provides the member of a credit union who is shopping, let's say for an automobile, with up-to-date lending information on their smartphone.

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It adds value for the consumer because it makes them a more informed consumer. It adds business value to the credit union because the member is more likely to get the loan from the credit union. It adds business value to CUNA Mutual because we're helping the credit union grow and, given our relationship with the credit union and other insurance products we offer, it helps us grow our business. It's a really nice value proposition right through the chain from the consumer to the credit union to CUNA Mutual. That's an example of the kinds of things we're doing.

It may be relatively easy to quantify added revenue, but demonstrating added value is usually more complicated. How are you doing it?

Roy: Well, I think it's revenue, it's retention. If it makes the relationship stickier with the customer and allows you to add more products or product penetration with that customer, that's value. So we certainly look at revenue, but we look at some of the more classic metrics that you think about in measuring your relationship with your customer -- things like retention and the depth of the relationship, products cross-sold, that sort of thing as well.

What advice do you have for CIOs in terms of adding business value where there might be revenue or value opportunities that they might be missing?

Roy: My strongest advice to CIOs -- and to myself for that matter because we all have to remind ourselves of this from time to time -- it's very easy to get caught up in the "internals" of your own company or your own IT function, certainly as a CIO.

You need to understand those things, but my best piece of advice is to get out and work and spend time with your end customers. Really, only if you do that will you understand what's important to them. It's very easy for us to get insular within our own organizations and kind of lose sight of what the real customer, the paying customer outside your walls, is looking for. I challenge myself and my calendar all the time on this, and it would be the best advice I could give any CIO independent of what industry they happen to be in.

Thank you so much for spending some time with us.

Roy: Thank you, I appreciate it.

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