Q: What emerging technologies are you exploring?
Wray, Citizens Financial Group: Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a breakthrough in terms of allowing "anyhow, anywhere, anytime" banking. Customers want to have complete, consistent access to all information and all functions in every channel, whether working alone on the Web or walking into a branch or calling the phone center. The technology can deliver this, but managing it and the associated operational processes is a real challenge.
Jones, Countrywide Financial: We are currently focused on the thought that e-docs lead to e-mortgages. But, instead of trying to jump to full eMortgage capability in one step, we're building this technology house from the foundation (e-docs) to the roof (e-mortgages). The resulting improvements in productivity and time savings have already been dramatic. Workflow, or business process management (BPM), is a key technology that supports this. We also have a strong belief that virtualization is the backbone to our infrastructure stability and systems availability. Some of the many technologies that support virtualization are storage area networks, virtual OS layers (e.g., VMWare) to create virtual servers, virtual private networks, wireless networks and centralized Web services (i.e., SOA). Using these technologies effectively creates an "always on" environment for the business.
Dick, Regions Bank: We're exploring application streaming and open source options for the desktop. Regions has the seventh-largest branch network in the U.S., so cost-efficient technology delivery and support to all of those end points is critical for us. Grids are another technology we continue to watch. Harnessing the latent computer power in the enterprise has a lot of appeal, and commercially available products make it more practical.
Q: What is the most important skill a banking CIO needs to be successful today?
Wray, Citizens Financial Group: The most important skill is bilingualism - the ability to communicate effectively between business and technology staff. The CIO has to become the master broker of capabilities - both those provided by internal IT assets as well as external providers.
Dick, Regions Bank: The CIOs I respect the most have the ability to transcend strategy to execution. They have the capacity to lay out a vision, create an organizational pursuit with a sense of urgency and follow through with superb execution. Technology experience and managerial skills are certainly important, but an ability to adapt and lead situationally, communicate and relate well to others, combined with a certain level of assertiveness and a competitive spirit to win, are probably the differentiators of great versus average CIOs.