Women Leaders

Karen A. Chamberlain, Western & Southern Financial Group

Karen A. Chamberlain

The Evolution of the CIO

Editors’ Note

Karen Chamberlain attended DePaul University in Chicago. She holds FINRA Series 6 and 26 licenses. Her career spans 27 years in information technology and operations with assignments at Allstate Insurance Company, JPMorgan Chase and, most recently, The Hartford Insurance Group.

Company Brief

With a heritage dating to 1888, Western & Southern Financial Group (westernsouthern.com) is a Cincinnati-based Fortune 500 diversified family of financial services companies. Western & Southern maintains very strong financial strength ratings from independent rating agencies.

In regard to driving business and business strategy, would you talk about that function and for you, has the CIO role evolved over the years?

The role has evolved significantly over the years and one of the significant changes is that CIOs are now assuming a lead role. We are expected to deliver on the strategic vision of the organization. Technology can drive the outcomes that are important to corporate strategy.

This gives CIO’s an influential place at the table because they have a breadth of understanding of the total organization and how technology is going to enable business strategy.

What impact has technology had on the delivery of the business?

Western & Southern’s core technology has to drive 24/7 capabilities. We have cross-channel capabilities that have to be up and running in the mobile digital world of today. Securing that and the organization, and creating a much more data-rich environment that harnesses data both internally and externally, is highly important to our ability to differentiate.

Are there opportunities for women today to grow within IT?

It’s a slow-moving target, but there are incredible opportunities for women. The technology space is so broad now. When I talk with women about careers in IT, I try to help them understand that it’s about bringing a diverse perspective and being able to use their skills in many ways. Whether it’s technical skills, creative skills, innovation, or the ability to manage projects, their business acumen is used every single day because technology is so integrated into all of our businesses. We need people who can speak not only the technical language but can translate that into business language.

How challenging is it to address cyber risk today?

Cyber threats evolve every day so we have to be prepared by investing in the right tools, processes, and education. It is also important to understand what is going on in the industry and to stay close to law enforcement. We also have to rethink the roles and responsibilities in the organization because that has changed as well.

We are flexible and can change our course in certain areas if we need to because there is such a global risk now. Our core infrastructure can be disabled quite quickly if we’re not focused on it.

We make sure that we secure our classified data, but we’re prepared if incidents do happen. We work to understand how they can develop into a crisis by doing tabletop scenarios.

The most important deterrent is employee education and awareness because people can be one of our vulnerabilities if they don’t understand what it means when they click on the wrong link.