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New digital officer at MGM

Thu, Apr 18, 8:51am by Staff Writer

The chief digital officer at Volvo, Atif Rafiq, plans to join MGM Resorts International as president of commercial growth and strategy, helping guide the casino and hotel company’s expansion of digital services and technology modernisation.

The move, slated for May, reflects a shift of the role from change catalyst to revenue producer, which can also lead to higher offices.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that at least 34 chief digital officers have gone on to become chief executives, presidents or other business leaders since 2016.

Technology experience is central to the newly created business and strategy role at MGM, which operates Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and other brands.

Mr Rafiq will oversee several revenue-generating areas, including sales, marketing and digital ventures in the US non-gambling businesses accounted for about 75 per cent of the $5.7 billion in MGM’s Las Vegas revenue in 2018.

Total revenue including from properties in China and other regions was $11.8 billion for the year.

The MGM 2020 project that the company has dubbed aims to cut labor and operating costs and increase overall revenue by 2020, with technology playing a large part in the changes, Chief Executive Jim Murren has said in public statements.

A better understanding of customer habits and motivations, through data analytics, could help the company create services and products, apart from gambling, to lure people back, Mr Rafiq said.

Technology to play bigger role going forward

Data analytics and mobile technology could be used to create more detailed views of repeat customers and to help them plan itineraries.

Today, booking Cirque du Soleil tickets, seats at a National League Hockey game at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and other activities are separate transactions, he said.

“That’s the first order of business – make it easy to flow through that,” he said.

“Take friction out of creating an itinerary.”

In the future, MGM could partner with internet-based service companies. He used a hypothetical partnership with subscription clothier Rent the Runway as an example.

“If someone wants to feel special and have a fantastic outfit, it’s waiting in the closet of the hotel. When the trip is over, you leave it there and we can take care of the rest,” he said.

In a press release announcing Mr Rafiq’s appointment, Mr Murren praised his “proven ability to translate emerging consumer behavior into strategy and revenue growth.”

Revolutionary projects part of Rafiq’s resume

Soon after he joined Volvo in January 2017, Mr Rafiq led projects to create technology-based businesses.

In one, drivers subscribe to services such as fueling and oil changes, scheduling technicians to travel to individual cars parked at owners’ homes or offices.

He also help build Volvo’s fund for investing in technology startups.

Volvo expects to replace Mr Rafiq, said a person familiar with the matter.

“The company is committed to digital transformation and we’ll attract the right person.”

MGM has rearranged executive roles recently.

The company is without a CIO since Sy Esfahani resigned in February after nearly six years at MGM.

Mr Esfahani is now group CIO at Qatar Airways.

MGM plans to hire a new CIO, who will report to Mr Rafiq, a spokeswoman said.

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