Jul 31, 2023
Meet Noelle Eder, CIO of The Cigna Group

Quick Take

  • Noelle Eder serves as The Cigna Group’s executive vice president and global CIO.
  • She has made a career of leading technology and business transformations.
  • Eder says changing people’s mindsets is the hardest part of transformation.

It there’s one thing that successful leaders all have in common it’s this: They are risk-takers who can lead through uncertainty, are willing to make bold and out-of-the-box decisions, and champion the exploration of unconventional paths.

This describes The Cigna Group’s Noelle Eder to a tee.

Eder serves as The Cigna Group’s executive vice president and global chief information officer (CIO), and she says that intelligent risk taking was often a topic of conversation at the family dinner table when she was growing up in Chicago, Illinois.

Eder’s mom was a teacher and a nonprofit leader, while her dad was a trader at the Chicago Board of Trade.

“My dad often talked to us about strategies for increasing sophistication in risk taking,” Eder said. “We frequently discussed how risk shows up in a financial context, and I learned a great deal about intelligent risk taking. You can see it throughout my career just in terms of the role changes that I've had and the moves that I've made.”

Customer experience at the core

Eder began her career in the technology department at the University of Chicago hospital system. She later moved to Silicon Valley, where she rose through the ranks at Intuit over several years. When she left, she was senior vice president and chief customer care officer. She then took her skills to the financial services sector to lead customer experience at Capital One. After Capital One, Eder was named CIDO at Hilton, where she led the hospitality giant’s digital transformation. She joined The Cigna Group in September 2020.

Eder says customer experience is something she’s been passionate about since she was young. Her first job as a teenager was at her local pharmacy, where she worked at the counter.

“It was my first real exposure to transactional customer experience, which has been part of my life ever since that time,” she said. “I think I knew even back then that health care was very personal — particularly for people who are sick. This notion became very pronounced to me when I saw somebody come into the pharmacy who had cancer and couldn’t get their medication. I had to face this person, and I truly believe that I changed right there in that moment.”

Today, as the head of technology at The Cigna Group, Eder is tasked with taking intelligent risks around ways that technology can improve the customer experience.

“Advances in technology have changed what’s possible,” she said. “Technology is allowing us to do more from a customer experience standpoint than ever before. And my team is tasked with helping our organization adopt new technology in a way that aligns with the company’s commitment to transform the health care experience.”

Business transformation: people, process, and technology

Eder has made a career of leading technology and business transformations and is likewise helping to lead the charge here at The Cigna Group. She said that while the transformation journey has been different for each organization — due to the nature of the businesses — the main focus for change across all three organizations was transforming people, processes, and technology in service of the customer.

“Changing people’s mindsets and behaviors has always been the hardest task,” she added. “It’s difficult to change someone’s willingness to take risk, to believe in something that hasn't been proven to them yet, and to think differently about how to solve problems, and, yet, transformation won’t happen without it.”

One of Eder’s biggest lessons learned is that transformation doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time and patience, and it happens in stages. Initially it can look and feel like a science experiment, she said, adding that there’s a cultural shift that needs to happen.

She’s also learned that it isn’t wise to walk into a business transformation thinking you know all the answers and she doesn’t try to tackle everything at once. “Transformation is about changing the way your business operates in a world where technology and digital capability are changing incredibly quickly. Don’t underestimate the lift and the need to have a picture in your mind of what the future might look like. But, treat that as directional rather than precise. Sequencing appropriately is one of the keys to success. And, finally, always keep the customer at the heart of every decision.”

Fostering diversity, inclusion, and belonging, while simultaneously rebranding IT

Eder asks people at The Cigna Group to refer to her team as the technology team, not the IT team. She explained her rationale.

“IT was a term coined by Harvard Business Review, and it was really oriented around making a request and getting a response to that request. It was transactional in nature. Technology today is so much more than that. Today, what technology teams do is much more business- and customer-oriented. It requires an increasingly broad spectrum of skills, capabilities and understanding of the customer and the problems they have.”

In addition to leading The Cigna Group’s technology team and helping to drive our technology-based business transformation, Eder is the executive sponsor of our employee resource group for women and serves as vice chair of The Cigna Group’s DEI Council.

“Every person at an organization plays a role in fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion,” she said. “Because I'm the CIO, I feel like I have both the opportunity and the responsibility to be a role model, and I take that very seriously.”

She also pointed to the fact that she is a woman leading technology — which happens more today than in the past but still isn’t the norm. Helping foster a culture that celebrates difference is of paramount importance to her.

“Having an abundance of different people, who all think differently, is critical for businesses today,” she said. “Creativity and innovation grow from diversity.”

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