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Kathy Burger
Kathy Burger
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BS&T 2011 Executive Summit Report: Driving Growth In a Changing Industry

Participants in BS&T's 2011 Executive Summit addressed the operational, regulatory, service and marketing implications of banking's new business models and delivery channels.

For every growth opportunity that comes with new channels such as mobile and social media, there also are significant challenges and risks -- from security to legacy systems limitations to new regulation -- to be addressed. Finding effective ways to balance these opportunities and risks was the theme of Bank Systems & Technology's 6th annual Executive Summit, which took place this fall at the Royal Palms Resort and Spa in Phoenix.

With mobile and multichannel delivery among the hottest topics in banking, executives from several leading financial institutions took the opportunity to offer insights into the approaches their organizations are taking to optimize these still-evolving platforms. Andres Wolberg-Stok (right), Citi's SVP and director of mobile and emerging technologies strategy for North America consumer banking; and Jim Gifas, EVP and head of GTS Solutions U.S., Citizens Financial Group, RBS Citizens, spoke about strategies for leveraging the mobile channel.

"You cannot look at mobile and tablets as an extension of what you've been doing online for years," stressed Wolberg-Stok. "Don't let existing back-end or middleware technologies get in your way." He reported that for the recent makeover of Citibank's website, his team drew from newer technologies built for the institution's mobile platform.

Right: Citi's goal is "to help the customer feel [we're] with them wherever they are touching the institution," stressed the bank's Andres Wolberg-Stok, SVP and director of mobile and emerging technologies strategy for North America consumer banking.

Jim Gifas (right) spoke about the recent implementation of a corporate mobile banking solution at RBS that allows businesses' CFOs to transfer funds and perform other transactions from a mobile device. The bank partnered with Sybase to put the solution, called accessMOBILE, in place.

"Mobile banking has strengthened the stickiness of our relationship with corporate customers by making banking easier for them," Gifas said of the solution. It is "changing the way our [corporate] customers can do business."

Umpqua Bank's EVP and CIO Colin Eccles (right), a 2010 BS&T Elite 8 honoree, spoke about the challenges related to mastering the multichannel delivery paradigm. He said that customers must now be at the center of IT strategies, instead of a core platform or any certain channel.

"Infrastructure is becoming a tapestry of decentralized delivery services," Eccles said. "It's all about the customer and thinking about how the customer is coming to you." Seamless channel integration is critical, and that is what Umpqua Bank is striving for, he explained.

As Colin Eccles indicated, it takes a flexible, robust infrastructure and modern core systems to be able to securely and effectively interact with today's customer across multiple channels. That is exactly the challenge that is being tackled by North Shore Credit Union in Canada, and the institution's CIO, Fred Cook (right), discussed its recent core systems replacement and overall IT transformation.

Cook (a 2009 Elite 8 honoree) said one of the keys to a successful conversion is choosing a system that supports the integration of self-service channels. He added that core systems providers must want to "play in the sandbox," or be able to work with a group of other solutions.

Another hurdle that is becoming increasingly difficult for bankers to traverse is regulation, and in the Executive Summit's keynote presentation, Kevin Petrasic (right), a partner in the global banking practice at law firm Paul Hastings, spoke about the CIO's role in responding to compliance challenges.

"Everything the bank CIO does today has regulatory implications," he said. "The role of the CIO comes down to thinking like a regulator." He stressed that while bank regulators' views aren't always right, banks must consider their views and try to understand what regulators don't understand.

In an interactive session focused on 2012 IT spending priorities, Celent senior analyst Jacob Jegher identified several likely banking industry trends for 2012:

  • The convergence of the online and mobile channels.
  • Banking, saving and shopping -- the ultimate online banking triple play.
  • Banks continue to work at monetizing self-service channels (e.g., merchant-funded rewards).
  • Personal Financial Management conundrums -- mass market solutions don't work.
  • The tablet will act as a catalyst to the redesign of online banking.
  • Emphasis on user experience becomes mainstream.
  • Security and data breaches galore.

Jegher also moderated a discussion with a panel of three 2012 Elite 8 honorees -- Ghan Desai, CIO/CTO of Team Capital Bank; Richard Ferarra, CTO of Woodforest National Bank; and Madge Meyer (right), chief innovation officer and technology fellow at State Street Corp., who discussed some of the challenges confronting bank IT departments today and in the future.

Meyer noted the need to invest "a lot of money" in compliance, even opining that banks "would go bankrupt" if they had to implement all the requirements of the nearly 3,000-page Dodd-Frank Act.

The theme of using IT to create efficiencies throughout the organization also was a big topic. Team Capital Bank's Ghan Desai (right) said efforts to remove manual processes and add more automation have been a focus at Team Capital, while Ferrarra reported that Woodforest National Bank is looking toward complete virtualization of its data centers and reducing inefficient back-office functions.

The 2011 Elite 8 honorees were recognized at the Executive Summit's annual awards dinner and ceremony. In addition to Meyer, Desai and Ferrara, the other 2012 honorees were Rob Alexander, CIO, Capital One Bank; John Fiore, EVP and CIO, BNY Mellon; Helen Cousins, EVP and CIO, Lincoln Trust Co.; Aman Narain, global head of online and mobile banking, Standard Chartered; and Michael Harte, group executive of enterprise services, and CIO, Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

RIGHT: Elite 8 honoree Richard Ferrara, Woodforest National Bank.

This year's Executive Summit sponsors included CSC, Harland Financial Solutions, Melbourne IT, Silanis, Thunderhead and Verizon. BS&T's 2012 Executive Summit will return to the Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3, 2012.

RIGHT: Elite 8 honoree Helen Cousins, Lincoln Trust Co.


Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio

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