What is a Chief Customer Officer?

A look at how NAB, AMP, and Suncorp have approached the role of the "Chief Customer Officer".

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Customer advocacy at board level is a growing trend for organisations looking to build out customer values from the top down.

Many organisations, particularly within the Financial Services space, feel that the Chief Customer Officer offers an opportunity for organisations to become more intimate with their customer in a digital world.

However, like any new dawn or golden age of change, strategies and executions take a different route depending on the company. Just last week, NAB announced a board restructure that will see two of its C-Suite executives be labelled Chief Customer Officers.

Cathryn Carver was named the Chief Customer Officer for corporate and institutional banking, whilst Andrew Hagger will lead the business as the Chief Customer Officer for consumer banking and wealth management.

In essence, both roles see the executives head up their respective businesses, with the announcement being accompanied by the vanilla commentary of the group’s CEO:

“These changes will bring greater momentum and energy to NAB’s goal of creating a simpler, more customer-focused organisation that delivers better outcomes for customers as well as shareholder returns.”

The reality is, for NAB it is business as usual with a twist of the word “customer”.  One could argue that five years ago these titles would just have been “Head of [Business Unit]”.

One of the first Chief Customer Officer to be appointed was AMP’s Paul Sainsbury.

Sainsbury was appointed by AMP in 2013 and leads up two areas of the business for the bank, its burgeoning SMSF business, as well as being the “customer advocate” across the entire organisation.

Like Hagger and Carver, Sainsbury has responsibility over a line of business, with the added elements of transforming a 167-year-old company into one that has a customer-centric culture.

In the context of AMP and NAB, the role Chief Customer Officer is a cultural endeavour. However, this is not the only type of Chief Customer Officer currently plying their trade. Queensland-based Suncorp Group has another twist on what a Chief Customer Officer is.

The group announced in February that its Chief Marketing and Data Officer, Mark Reinke, would become the Chief Customer Experience Officer. In announcing the news, the group’s CEO Michael Cameron stated that:

“The customer experience function will use data, insights, and forward-looking analytics to inform product innovation and marketing strategies to ensure that Suncorp is at the forefront of satisfying evolving customer needs.”

Suncorp sees Reinke’s role as being a data-driven role which will be used by the business to uncover new insights and create new opportunities for innovative products. They have also linked this to the group’s marketing function, a division which analysts believe are the internal voice of the customer.

A name-change, a business culture evolution, a creation from data analytics and technology and innovation, the Chief Customer Officer is yet to be truly defined. One thing which organisations agree on however is that the customer needs more presence within the four walls of the modern business.