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Management Strategies

02:15 PM
Deena M. Amato-McCoy
Deena M. Amato-McCoy
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2006 Most Innovative CIOs In Banking Find Roles Changing

According to Bank System & Technology's 2007 "Most Innovative CIOs in Banking," banking CIO responsibility continues to grow as banks' strategies change with market demands.

The banking CIO dons more hats today than ever before. In an effort to fight an ever-growing army of tech-savvy hackers, IT leaders are hard-pressed to protect enterprises from security breaches. Simultaneously, CIOs are working to continue to address a wave of industry regulations.

And at the same time, a saturated marketplace is making consumers more demanding. Thus, CIOs must ensure that core systems can support internal operations while upholding a superior, multichannel customer experience.

When Bank Systems & Technology revisited 2006's Most Innovative CIOs, the past honorees agreed that there is always new work to be done. Among their current challenges are initiatives intended to support efficiency and deliver innovation and customer service.

Patrick Ruckh First Horizon

Patrick Ruckh, First Horizon

Patrick Ruckh, CIO and EVP of Memphis-based First Horizon ($462.9 million in 2006 net income), for example, reveals that while his day-to-day responsibilities have not changed since Bank Systems & Technology recognized him in 2006 as one of the industry's most innovative CIOs, a new company vision is expanding his role. "There has been a change in our entire senior management team," he relates. "While I am responsible for ensuring that our technology solutions remain focused on the business, we are also learning to create more partnerships so we can make our corporate vision happen."

At the core of this vision, First Horizon strives to keep its customers' needs top of mind, according to Ruckh, who says he has spent the last year evaluating solutions that will lower internal costs while improving speed to market. It is not surprising, then, that a service-oriented architecture is on top of Ruckh's priority list.

"SOA is focused on reusability and ensuring that operations process information quicker and cheaper," he explains. "By learning how to tie this infrastructure within our enterprise, we will be better prepared to bring products to market quicker, service customers more efficiently and, of course, manage our infrastructure more cost-effectively." While First Horizon is already using some SOA applications, the architecture "will play a big role as we expand our brand further on the Internet," Ruckh adds.

New Kid on the Block

Similarly, 2006 honoree Mark LaPenta, CTO and COO for MetLife Bank ($537.8 billion in assets) in Bridgewater, N.J., is expanding his responsibilities. For example, LaPenta recently formed a Project and Process Management Office, and he is aligning this group within the company's ongoing technology and business strategies. "Our early actions have been critical in strategic project success, and we are currently establishing new operational process and planning for the bank," he says.

Mark LaPenta MetLife Bank

Mark LaPenta, MetLife

Since MetLife Bank is a new contender on the banking playing field (the company officially opened its doors in 2003), LaPenta notes, he is dedicated to expanding the bank's business line, such as launching new products that support MetLife's retirement initiatives. He is also "in the early stages of creating a new Web experience for our customers," LaPenta adds.

But being the new kid on the block doesn't discount MetLife from keeping risk and compliance top of mind. In fact, LaPenta stresses, he continues to "keep a keen eye on regulatory efforts, particularly around fraud."

Kevin Shearan Mellon Financial Corp.

Kevin Shearan, Mellon Financial

Another 2006 honoree, Kevin Shearan, EVP and CIO for Mellon Financial Corp., has been affected by the ongoing merger trend in banking. Although he was the gatekeeper of the bank's IT operations, the recent merger between Mellon and The Bank of New York actually narrowed Shearan's focus. "In his new role, he was responsible for the technology integration between the two companies," according to Ron Gruendl, a company spokesman. At press time, however, Shearan announced that he would be "leaving the newly merged organization and making a career change," Gruendl says.

However, Kurt Woetzel, CIO and senior EVP of The Bank of New York and another BS&T Most Innovative CIO 2006, has taken on the CIO role for the merged company, Bank of New York Mellon. The 22-year industry veteran's primary responsibility is to ensure that the bank's technology strategy is tightly aligned with the corporation's business objectives, he relates.

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