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The Evolving CIO

Increasingly, today's banking CIOs are called upon to achieve corporate objectives as partners of the business. As a result, strategy has become as much a part of the job as technology, according to experts, including three "Innovative CIOs" profiled by BS&T in 2004.

William K. Wray,
CIO, Citizens Financial Group
(Providence, R.I.)
Richard Jones,
Sr. Managing Dir. and CIO,
Countrywide Financial
(Calabasas, Calif.)
Jim Reichbach,
Natl. Industry Leader,
Banking & Finance Practice,
Deloitte & Touche (New York)
John Dick,
CIO, Regions Bank
(Birmingham, Ala.)

Q: How has the role of CIO changed over the past few years? How will it continue to change over the next few years?

William K. Wray, Citizens Financial Group: The job of the CIO is more and more about the direct achievement of corporate objectives - not just being an adjunct service provider to those who pursue those objectives. Increasingly, "the medium is the message" in the sense that technology faces off directly with customers in addition to being integral to supporting those who work with customers. This trend will continue over time as the technology part of the job diminishes and the strategy component becomes dominant. In a few years, it will not be about who understands technology in most companies, but who can best deploy it by means of supporting partners to achieve corporate goals.

Richard Jones, Countrywide Financial: In the past few years, Countrywide has diversified its interests from mortgage banking into retail banking, insurance and global services. To respond to this rapid diversification and expansion, I have put an increased focus on strong central governance and controls in order to maximize our efficiency and ensure that our systems are stable and secure.

Jim Reichbach, Deloitte & Touche: Traditionally, the CIO was seen as a dealer of technology services, providing technology solutions largely through in-house resources. Now, the CIO is a broker-dealer of technology capabilities, a role that enables the CIO to be far more flexible in meeting business demands by leveraging a new mix of fixed and variable cost options, including third parties such as outsourcers. This maximizes the opportunity to create a flexible, nimble IT organization that can quickly match fluctuating types and levels of business demands. Also, the CIO's fiduciary role is increasing, demanding that CIOs now assume the role of an enforcer of critical standards in the areas of security and privacy and service-level agreements as well as ensuring that regulatory requirements are met.

The one-dimensional CIO is becoming extinct. Today's CIOs must be able to talk the language of business and understand today's and tomorrow's technologies - and their implications. The CIO needs to better partner with the businesses to prioritize initiatives, make trade-offs across businesses and manage expectations. This business alignment will be all the more critical with many large-ticket expenditures likely on the horizon (e.g., legacy retail platforms). Most important, today's CIO must have the management prowess to drive decision making and collaboration, and be able to manage multiple vendors and geographies seamlessly. Simply having one's feet firmly planted on either side of the business/technologist line is insufficient.

John Dick, Regions Bank: Technology has emerged as a pervasive change enabler and also has grown core to our products and delivery channels. That, in turn, has driven the need for a highly participatory, effective working relationship with the business and suppliers. So, one of the changes is the amount of time spent ensuring effective dialog among the different groups involved. We'll continue to evolve beyond aligning IT to a model in which we integrate IT processes and people more seamlessly with the rest of the company.

Q: What is the biggest challenge you currently face in your job? Is this a new challenge?

Wray, Citizens Financial Group: The biggest challenge is that of rising expectations. The better things get, the better they are expected to get; the more people rely on pervasive technology, the more they expect it to be foolproof and omni-capable. Managing these expectations - while aligning technology staff who still may think of themselves as technicians rather than businesspeople - is the biggest single challenge.

Jones, Countrywide Financial: I call it, "running IT as a business." This has always been part of the job, but my team has realized that this is absolutely the key to our success in aligning IT with the business and having the business fully understand our finances and our progress. We need to fully adopt the same disciplines that have made our business lines so successful - strategic planning, marketing, portfolio management, project management, quality control and continuous process improvement. Part of this is having a laser focus on our key operational metrics, including our development productivity.

Reichbach, Deloitte & Touche: The old challenges remain - breaking down and integrating product silos to achieve client-centricity, managing offshoring and outsourcers, introducing new architectures in place of legacy ones, demonstrating alignment with the business, and showing measurement of value. But, while these issues are not new, the implications of getting them right or wrong are several magnitudes greater. In addition, in the connected world in which systems now reside, the challenges around information security, privacy and so on have become significant over the past few years.

Dick, Regions Bank: Leading the organization through change is always important, but the pace of change is accelerating and the options are growing. The economics of our check business, newly emerging business models and outsourcing/offshoring work are good examples. Keeping our associates productive and focused [in an environment] with more uncertainty, and, in some cases, more ambiguity, is a bigger part of the job.

Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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