VP, CIO & Corporate Officer
Insurance, when it comes to businesses, is something which nobody wants but everybody needs. Today, the size of the insurance market, which was estimated to be worth $4.47 trillion in 2020, is expected to increase to $224.34 trillion by 2028, with a CAGR of 63.13 percent between 2021 and 2028.
Manulife, headquartered in Toronto, Canada, is a leading global Insurance firm that has been a significant player in the industry since its beginnings. Sunil Khatri, VP CIO & Corporate Officer of Manulife Japan, working with the Manulife Japan and Regional leadership teams has been engaged in transforming the legacy technologies of the company to new technologies which are focused on accelerating Digital Transformation and increasing business growth.
With over three decades of experience in the industry, Sunil focuses on new technologies and integrates those technologies into an environment that allows companies to migrate into modern advancements. Additionally, he has taken his experiences in these areas and is the author of ‘End Of Life Software: A Risky Business’ which provides help to senior business leaders in helping to understand the dangers of EOL software. CEO Insights Asia recently engaged with Sunil, here are some highlights from our interaction with him.
Give a brief account about your professional journey and what inspired you to build a career in the financial services domain.
My journey has been quite a rollercoaster and I've found myself gravitating towards different roles. I started with Lehman Brothers investment bank in New York in 1989, during which I came to Japan. I came back to Japan in 1990, with Salomon Brothers investment bank. I moved from being a core engineer to management and went to Merrill Lynch and became a senior manager there.
I had my first CIO stint in Deutsche Bank where we were investing in converting Deutsche Bank at the time from a commercial bank to an investment bank. This got me into application development, focused on business products, such as equity & bond products and building their related trading systems. I was then called to London, and Germany to lead the European technology operations team. I also learned a lot about different cultures, because I was constantly moving from London, to Germany, to France, to Italy. This opened my eyes for a cultural perspective and how different countries operate and the needs of different people.
In 2001, I came back to Japan, and joined Nikko CitiGroup, the Japanese Investment Banking arm of CitiGroup at the time, running first the technology equity trading development organization and then the technology infrastructure organization. Then I went to JP Morgan as CIO, which was wonderfully challenging experience as I was involved in globalizing the technology in order to support our customers from anywhere in the world. I then moved on to Amway, heading up Japan & Korea technology, which gave me the opportunity to focus on advancing the technology by creating a digital e-Commerce environment for our members which allowed me to understand how technology is used from a customer view. I spent about five years there and then went to AIG as the Head of Technology Audit which allowed me look at technology, cybersecurity and technology compliance from a regulatory impact.
At last, I joined Manulife and it's been a fantastic experience with a great team of people. We've been focused on Digital Transformation and moving complex legacy technology, such as 40-year mainframes into digital based customer focused technology solutions that provide faster access to our insurance products.
Describe your leadership approach. What is your success mantra?
Based on my experiences in different companies and different geographic regions I have come to believe that understanding different cultures and having a high degree of empathy is critical in building a strong team culture. In addition, communications are very critical to ensure that everyone understands the vision and goals of the team and company. I suppose that my success mantra is really ‘No Surprises’ so that we can address anything that we need to deal with as a team.
Define Manulife Life Insurance Company’s role in the insurance industry.
Manulife Japan provides innovative solutions and services through three distribution channels. Manulife Japan has consistently focused on providing innovative products and quality services under the banner of ‘Customer Centricity’, focusing on the needs of the customer. Manulife Japan has earned the trust of its customers by responding to diverse needs and has consistently maintained a high degree of financial soundness.
What are the steps you take to stay current on the ongoing technology trends? How do you decide which ones to adopt or help the company invest in?
We concentrate on what's going on in the digital world from the standpoint of innovation. Traditionally, we were mostly paper-based, but now we've incorporated a variety of modern technologies, concentrating on digital technologies to reach our customers and increase efficiencies within our organization. We started using artificial intelligence and machine learning for data analysis and are in the process of moving away from legacy technology like mainframes and to the cloud. Many of our systems have already been moved to the cloud and we are also utilizing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate our customer journey business processes.
How do you encourage continuous learning and development culture in your technology team?
We provide a number of platforms for our teams to engage in learning about new technologies. I feel that continuous learning and development is critical for the growth of our technology team. Fortunately, we are in the process of large technology transformations so there is plenty of opportunity to get involved in new technologies. We encourage experimentation through internal hackathons and encourage getting certifications in new technologies and publicly recognize these achievements while ensuring that people are given an opportunity to work on technologies that they certified in. Continuous learning is really the only way to stay ahead of the rapidly changing technologies and support our customers.
What is the future destination you are heading towards and what are your long-term plans for the technology unit of the company?
My personal future direction is to continue to focus on learning and applying new technologies to benefit Manulife and our customers. This also applies to our team as there is much to do in the technology space for our company. There are many new technologies that can be applied to helping our customers. Ensuring that we have a business aligned technology roadmap is critical to supporting our customers and that is a high priority for me and the team for the long-term.
Sunilkumar Khatri, VP, CIO & Corporate Officer, Manulife
An industry veteran with 30+ years of experience in steering through corporate challenges.