Eversheds Sutherland appoints first-ever chief transformation officer as BigLaw expands the C-Suite

Eversheds Sutherland has appointed the former director of transformation for insurance giant QBE Insurance as its first-ever chief transformation officer, effective from August 2021. Ronan Hanrahan will lead a centralised project and change management function. He will report directly to managing partner Keith Froud and join the firm’s International Operations Leadership Team.

Froud said: “This is a major appointment for the firm in a significant new role. Ronan will manage the delivery of key transformational projects in the context of our firmwide strategy, and we are delighted that someone of his calibre and experience is joining us.”

Hanrahan added:“I have been impressed with the energy and ambition for change expressed by the team. The skills and experiences I have gained with diverse organisations such as QBE and GE will allow me to bring a fresh perspective to the firm and help develop industry leading responses for the firm.”

In his eight years with QBE, we’re told that Hanrahan was responsible for developing and implementing the insurance firm’s strategic change and transformation agenda. He managed the insurer’s European shared service capabilities; developed its change and transformation strategy; drove robotic automation; and led the company’s operational excellence programme (Lean Six Sigma).

The chief transformation officer role has been adopted within the corporate world to harness organisational change and spearhead growth initiatives. The consensus is that the role can be instrumental in driving change when supported at the highest levels. Query, though, whether this risks marginalising the chief information officer, whose role ought to include digital transformation.

Other firms to create a chief transformation officer role include Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, which announced in October that corporate partner Sean Odendahl will serve as the firm’s first-ever chief transformation officer, following a strategic review. Odendahl is leading the execution of BCLP’s business transformation programme, called Project Advance.

Far more common to date has been the creation of a chief innovation officer role, where Dentons as long ago as 2017 appointed John Fernandez as its first global chief innovation officer, and Reed Smith as recently as this July appointed David Cunningham to the inaugural position. Cunningham was formerly CIO at Winston & Strawn.