WellPoint Switches CIOs (Discreetly)

By Edward Cone Print this article Print

A health insurer changes bosses—but never informs the public.

As the new CIO of WellPoint Health Networks, Ron J. Ponder will have to keep looking over his shoulder.

The Thousand Oaks, Calif., insurer is an industry leader in both profitability and use of technology. So, well-credentialed Ponder—a former CIO of Federal Express, Sprint and AT&T—is supposed to keep WellPoint ahead of the pack. Ponder's predecessor, Marshall Jones, lasted less than two years on the job.

WellPoint, a publicly traded company with $12.4 billion in revenue in 2001, did its best not to publicize the sudden departure of its former CIO.

Indeed, from the public view, this was a Kremlinesque transfer of power. As of late August, several weeks after Ponder started work, no mention of the change was made on the WellPoint Web site.

Jones could not be reached for comment. WellPoint spokesman Larry Bryant says Jones resigned, but did not specify a reason.

"An internal memo went out, saying that he was resigning and was being replaced by Ron," says Bryant, who credited Jones with bringing the infor- mation technology function closer to WellPoint's business units.

Jones joined WellPoint in 2000 from Amoco, where he had been a vice president of information services. Under Jones, WellPoint introduced Internet technology that allows customers to tailor their own health plans and to pay premiums online ("Technology To Lower Costs," August). WellPoint also has established Web services for doctors, hospitals and plan administrators.

Ponder, who most recently was chief executive of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young's telecom, media and networks div- ision, did not make himself available for an interview.

As executive vice president of information services and CIO, Ponder will oversee a staff of about 2,000 and report to WellPoint Chairman Leonard Schaeffer; Jones had reported to an intermediary. Bryant says the company does not expect immediate changes in technology strategy or operations.

Like other health insurers, WellPoint wants to raise the proportion of claims filed and processed electronically.

This article was originally published on 2002-09-12
Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.
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