Andre Schenkel, CIO at Prudential do Brasil, discusses his career journey and gives insight into Prudential's Agile and innovation practices.
Avenue Code: You have a brilliant track record and have been in the technology market for over 25 years. Could you tell us how you became the CIO at Prudential?
André Schenkel: My story at Prudential do Brasil started in 2018 when I was invited to participate in a selection process to lead the company’s digital transformation initiative. After six months of working at Prudential, I can say that it is a great pleasure to be a part of this moment in the company’s history. Prudential is one of the largest financial services institutions in the world, with more than 140 years in the industry and a presence in more than 40 countries. The company’s current digital transformation initiatives are challenging and motivating, which provides a great opportunity for professional growth and personal development. I am proud to belong to a great insurance company at its best.
Before coming to Prudential, I worked for twenty-one years at Citibank, one of the most well-known banks in the world. I can only be thankful, because I had the opportunity to experience very important developments there, such as the institution’s preparation for the famous millennium bug. This took me to the USA for seven years, where I worked on and eventually managed development projects.
In 2002, Citibank moved its development center from the USA to Latin America, so I relocated to Chile, where I assembled a software factory. My initial team for this endeavor consisted of 14 people and, at the end of 12 years, we had almost 400 people, including developers and business analysts.
At the end of 2015, I received an invitation to make the transformation to Citi's core bank in Brazil, which allowed me to establish roots in the country again after 20 years abroad. After my journey at Citibank, I worked at a cryptocurrency FinTech, a fantastic and challenging experience that was a kind of hands-on MBA in digital transformation.
AC: Today, many companies are adopting Agile methodologies. Which methodologies does Prudential use, and what are the challenges you face in implementing them?
AS: This question is very interesting, as there is often an assumption about Agile that is erroneous. Normally, Agile practices are associated with IT and software development. This may be where Agile has better adherence and more evident results to be measured. However, I think the big challenge is to make the adoption of Agile practices reach all areas of the company so that we don't have only partial results. I believe that implementing a hybrid model can be the best cost-benefit solution for short-term results.
At Prudential do Brasil, for example, we started this transformation with a significant restructuring of the IT department, adopting the squad model for each product or service area during phase 1. We also implemented the sprint model, with deliveries every 15 days. I believe that this is the safest and most effective way to implement the Agile model throughout the organization until we reach the ideal balance of the hybrid model, which serves us best.
AC: Does Prudential have an area dedicated to Innovation? How does the company disseminate this culture?
AS: Originally, there was an Innovation area, a kind of laboratory, that was embryonic in terms of wider business application. Now we have an Innovation area in our headquarters abroad. This serves as a reference point so that we can take advantage of the model and adjust it to the realities of Latin America. Currently, the Architecture area is a reference in innovation, and we have extended its practices to other departments. POs and squads receive this channeled innovation from the Architecture team, thereby disseminating it to the entire company.
AC: What do you look for in strategic partnerships?
AS: One of my goals today is to re-profile partners here at Prudential. The key idea is to aggregate. We look for partners who bring market experience, add value to our business, and teach me to do what I don't know. We are not just looking for labor placement.
AC: What are Prudential's next steps regarding technology?
AS: Our business model is extremely successful, and it is clear that the crisis has given us an opportunity to accelerate and continue investing even more quickly in technology, always aiming to give our clients the best experience on all channels. Let's use this moment to experiment and dare more!
AC: Thanks for the insight into Prudential’s innovation culture and methodologies for IT, Andre!
Andressa Lopes is the Inside Sales Lead at Avenue Code. She loves to talk to people and create new possibilities. She is also crazy about plants and piano.