Andrew Anker

Andrew Anker
Former Head of Infrastructure Services and CISO, AIA, Hong Kong

Andrew, originally from Melbourne, Australia, has amassed over 26 years of IT experience working for GE Capital IT Solutions and CSC. His career has taken him to Asia where he has had the opportunity to live in both Singapore and Hong Kong and work across most countries in Asia. “Aside from having the opportunity to meet and work with some of the best people, it has given me a broader perspective of cultures and business which in turn has opened up opportunities for me to take on new assignments and responsibilities.”

Passion for IT

Although Andrew didn’t plan to be internal IT at the beginning of his career, his passion for IT has been very clear from the start. “The ability to affect change in a business directly through the successful implementation of technology attracted me. I enjoy all aspects of IT and being able to bring the worlds of infrastructure, networks, applications and security together for business value.” Part of his success can be attributed to his philosophy. “I subscribe to the lifelong learning approach and have embraced the corporate programs that have been offered during my career. Perhaps I am a bit slow but I had accumulated 25 years of IT experience before attaining my most recent role.”


Andrew points out several personal characteristics that have helped him along the way. “As with any senior management role, the characteristics that define good leadership are the same. I found that a few characteristics stand out as being helpful - first and foremost customer focus, then always exploring new technologies and ideas and not being afraid to change or accept alternatives wherever they may come from. The industry changes so fast that your ability to work with change and embrace it is important so that you don’t stall in your career.” Andrew also thinks that soft skills are more important than technical ones for a CIO. “We have teams of very experienced and eminently qualified and skilled individuals on the technical side. The teams look to the CIO to provide vision, strategy, direction and prioritisation, and help develop them as individuals.”

When asked to identify these soft skills, Andrew’s personal belief is: “Your project management skills, leadership and team management skills combined with a strategic, proactive, customer-centric attitude are the most important skills that one needs. Most organisations have complex structures and not always do all the resources you need to make a project or delivery successful, sit under your direct control. Being able to navigate this and demonstrate effective leadership is one area which you must have capabilities in.”


When asked which departments are most important to partner with, Andrew provided a clear answer. “All the functions of an organisation are important to partner with. Aligning with the strategy of the organisation is key as this will help you understand the strategic imperatives for each business unit and enable you to support them in the right way. This collaboration is especially important due to the rapid changing nature of the business.”

Andrew views that keeping up with the dynamic changes in business, customers, technology and regulations is a tough task for all concerned, but so is the skill to support and implement these technologies in the right business context. “We are undergoing a very rapid change in several industries right now with technology disruptors so it’s not surprising that it’s considered a challenge with so much of the strategy of many organisations dependent on the successful transformation that technology can and will deliver.”

“Whilst I didn’t sit on the board of the organisation, I presented on a frequent basis around cyber security and risk. I am not sure that a CIO should be on the board - good governance would suggest a separation between management and the oversight that a board provides. Representation at various sub-committees and at executive leadership level would be appropriate, especially in relation to risk in the ever-changing cyber world, and the challenge this presents to organisations. Boards and executive leadership teams need to be well informed and engaged. In my experience, good boards and executive leadership reach out to the IT organisation to better understand risks and opportunities that technology represents. As a senior individual within an organisation it’s also your responsibility to reach out when you see something that the board or executive management needs to be aware of - it goes both ways.”


Andrew also provides some advice for aspiring CIOs that are looking to improve their networking skills. “As with work-life balance, it’s hard to always focus on our networks and develop and manage them over time. To anyone at any stage of their career, I would suggest that they dedicate some time to networking more formally and make this a regular occurrence even if it’s only an hour or so a week, you need to get into the habit of maintaining it.”

Another valuable piece of advice provided by Andrew is: “Seek out a mentor that can help you develop. This person will probably be different at different stages of your career. Build great teams and trust them. Don’t aim to be the smartest person in the room but aim to be a part of the best team. I would also say don’t be afraid to try; take that job that’s a bit of a stretch, move to a new industry or new country but keep trying new things and seek out new experiences. Being uncomfortable is what makes us learn and develop.”

Lastly, “The best advice I have received is from the managers who have empowered me and held me accountable for my domain whilst mentoring and steering me along the way. It’s that management style that staff appreciate and I try to take these experiences and replicate them with my teams.”