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Management Strategies

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Peggy Bresnic Kendler
Peggy Bresnic Kendler
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Bank CIOs Must Combine Tech Expertise With Business Acumen

Bank CIOs these days must be tech savvy and have good business sense, but they also must be capable of dealing with an accelerated pace of change on an increasingly global stage.

Q: What are banks looking for in a CIO today?

Craig Stephenson, Korn/Ferry International: Bank CIOs must drive intrinsic value across the enterprise by implementing strategic initiatives through sound business acumen and by capturing the maximum return on technology investments. Furthermore, competitive differentiation is apparent by CIOs driving business transformation and proactively addressing business requirements with forward-thinking IT solutions. The bottom line: Technology leadership should effectively manage expectations and collaborate to drive business results.

Judy Homer, JB Homer Associates: As banking has evolved into a highly audited and regulated industry, bank boards and senior management are looking for technology skills such as the ability to effectively manage risk and to adopt enterprisewide solutions for risk management and corporate governance control. When we evaluate banking industry CIO/senior technology executive candidates, some of the most important qualities we look for are a good understanding and grasp of the business and technical knowledge as well as being an enabler to business change and growth. Effective vendor management is another key quality we find essential in these candidates.

Andy Houghton, YSC: The senior technology lead is required to play the role on a broader stage today. Because the delivery of technology programs entails a high degree of complexity and risk, this broader requirement for CIOs has come to the fore only recently. Now clients ask us for people who can lead at an organizational as well as functional level. At the end of the day, however, the CIO's capacity to deliver a technology agenda that drives business success remains nonnegotiable, requiring CIOs to blend their specialist/functional niche with broader business leadership.

John Challenger, Challenger, Gray & Christmas: The biggest concern for banks these days is security, particularly for retail banks pushing online services. The biggest obstacle in convincing customers to make the switch to online banking is assuring them that their information and, more important, their money are secure. Banks want tech executives who will not only establish a high level of security but also develop systems and programs to train tellers, call center representatives and personal bankers on all facets of their security and how to relay that information in an easy-to-understand way to the customer. It is also critical that CIOs be able to communicate effectively, bridging the language and understanding gap that often exists between the business side and the technology side of banking.

Q: To what extent is the ability to innovate a qualification for today's senior bank technology executive?

Stephenson, Korn/Ferry: The technology function requires innovation to encourage unique business opportunities. However, the concept of bringing innovation to life in the technology function can be diminished by third-party vendors, cost pressures and business requirements. This changing dynamic requires the banking industry to place greater emphasis on a CIO's leadership characteristics and process management experience.

Homer, JB Homer Associates: Being an innovator and change agent are essential qualifications of a bank CIO today because the ability to provide innovation in areas such as online account control, wireless customer communication and RFID-enabled payment systems is critical to providing an organization with a competitive edge. As the heightened focus on global competition and business restructuring increases, innovation will become more prominent and important than in the past as banks have found a critical need to transform themselves into leaders in online, digital and on-demand technologies.

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