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New Zions CIO Joe Reilly Walks a Tightrope

Joe Reilly, recently appointed CIO of Zions Bancorp, will look to balance the needs of the holding company as a whole with the demands of the eight individual banks it serves.

his past July, Joe Reilly assumed the CIO role at Zions Bancorp, the Salt Lake City-based holding company that serves eight affiliate banks in 10 western and southwestern states. He had already been with Zions ($51.9 billion in assets as of June 2010) for 10 years in various positions that held responsibility for major IT decisions, including chief technology officer. But his new role, Reilly says, encompasses a lot more than technology.

When he first started as CIO, Reilly's early objective was modest. "We've had a lot of opportunities that have allowed a number of people in our leadership team to take on new roles, including myself," he explains. "One of my initial objectives was to maintain continuity by allowing people to settle into their new roles, and then move forward from there."

Now that everyone has begun to settle in, however, Reilly's goals are more ambitious. He says his top priorities from a technology delivery perspective include improving the bank's time to market, freeing up resources from day-to-day activities in order to focus on value creation for the business and placing a greater emphasis on customer channel management. Key to achieving these aims, according to Reilly, will be establishing standard business processes and applications among the company's various banks.

"If you think about time to market and shrinking business and technology cycles, operational and systems agility will become increasingly important, and that will drive the need for business process and simplification efforts," Reilly says. "We're looking to standardize and optimize our business processes, and subsequently standardize the systems that support those processes."

Zion's Long Road to Standardization

Attaining such standardization, Reilly adds, has historically been a challenge for Zions Bancorp, because of its complex business model, which requires finding a balance between meeting the individual needs of eight banks and the organization as a whole. "We have to walk that tightrope between a dedicated IT shop serving a single bank and a service bureau that's serving many banks," he says. "We have to provide each of our affiliates what they need to compete locally but at the same time create operating leverage such that it makes economic sense for those banks to be in the holding company and be more efficient there than they would be as independents."

In addition to the business process standardization work, Zions is planning some work on data integration and analytics, and will likely invest in the modernization of some of its legacy systems, Reilly reports. That work, he says, will be integral to improving customer channel management. "Having operational customer data integration is certainly key," Reilly comments. "And so is having a robust customer data model that supports all of the different attributes of the customer that have been important in recent years that some of our legacy customer information systems weren't necessarily built to support."

Zions, which has been in operation for more than 137 years, also will continue to invest in the mobile channel, according to Reilly. He acknowledges that the organization is playing catch-up to an extent with its mobile banking offerings, but he stresses that Zions is making strong progress. "We have investments targeted and a road map established to get us into more of a market-leading position," he says. "But that will probably go into 2013."

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