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ELITE 8 2012: Joe Reilly Pushes Beyond IT Infrastructure to Create Business Value

To help keep meet some of the new challenges facing Zions Bancorporation, EVP and CIO Joe Reilly and his team have embarked on several key initiatives, including plans to improve time to market and agility, to modernize Zions' core banking system, to invest in data management, and to develop a cohesive payments strategy that would span payments types and lines of business.

Modern to the Core

Though he assumed the role of CIO a little more than a year ago, Reilly already has driven several projects that are integral to Zions' future, none bigger than the bank's ambitious project to replace its core systems. Zions sees the value of approaching this project boldly and with a vision for the future, he says. "We believe we need to modernize our systems, and we have been evaluating options over the past couple of years," Reilly explains.

While he can't provide specifics, as the bank is finalizing a deal to choose a core provider, Reilly says Zions is looking to implement a modern, integrated core. From a tech perspective, he indicates, that means having an integrated, robust, customer-centric data model; a platform that is architected from an SOA perspective from the ground up; a set of common services across deposits and loans; and a real-time system capable of straight-through processing. All of this would result in business benefits such as improvements in back-office efficiency, he says.

Another important IT project involves upgrading the corporation's online and mobile banking platforms. Reilly says Zions looks at mobile a bit differently because, "Most of our banks would call themselves commercial banks more than retail banks, though we do have retail bank lines of business." As such, many of the companies' customers tend to be middle-market corporate and small businesses. Still, Reilly says, Zions is making a "vigorous investment" to meet the mobile banking needs of its commercial customers, where, he says, the demand for mobile focuses on business functions such as authorizations.

On the consumer mobile banking side, Reilly notes, Zions has tried to be a "fast follower," remaining very aware of what the major large national banks are doing. But Zions also is focused on creating a holistic channel strategy, of which mobile is a key part, he adds. "We are looking to be more customer-centric and less product-centric and have a cohesive strategy that encompasses all of our channels," Reilly says.


As part of that strategy, Zions currently is implementing an "up-to-date, simplified and standardized online platform" that will be rolled out later this year, Reilly reports. That rollout, he says, will position the holding company "to stay closer to the leaders" in the online banking space.

Additionally, Reilly says, Zions is investing in big data and customer channel management solutions. Meanwhile, IT increasingly is involved in helping the bank meet compliance requirements and manage risk while improving time to market and agility. "That's a challenge I think about all the time," Reilly says of navigating the regulatory waters. Even though the "heavy lifting" for regulatory compliance is done by other teams, such as corporate accounting, "The velocity of regulatory changes means you always have to be aware of what's going on," he adds, and IT has an important role to play.

In fact, Reilly says, throughout his more than 10 years with Zions -- during which he has held various positions, including chief technology officer, with responsibility for major IT decisions -- he has seen the role of technology grow in importance in the banking industry. If banks are going to continue to thrive over the next decade and beyond, he suggests, they will need to focus on technology and "innovative experimentation," and the CIO will need to be a primary driver in that push.

Fortunately, Reilly believes, the banking industry will be able to attract the tech talent needed to make that happen. "Our industry is one of a few verticals that places such a high value on technology and that is attractive to skilled technical workers," he insists. And Zions is well-positioned to attract the best of the best, due in no small part to its location in Salt Lake City, which has "undergone a sort of tech renaissance," Reilly says. "I'm confident we can attract top talent to our organization," he announces. "We have worked very hard to create a collaborative working environment, where people are valued above all else."

Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio

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