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It's Back to School and the Perfect Time for Bank IT Managers to Get Back to Work

I expect that 15,678 bank IT managers will take this as an insult, but my message is designed to serve as a wake-up call for next year. YOU'LL NEVER GET A CHANCE LIKE THIS TO PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER. The "three-year vacation" is about to end; the wave of new tech projects is beginning to look like a developing tsunami.

I expect that 15,678 bank IT managers will take this as an insult, but my message is designed to serve as a wake-up call for next year. YOU'LL NEVER GET A CHANCE LIKE THIS TO PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER. The "three-year vacation" is about to end; the wave of new tech projects is beginning to look like a developing tsunami.Based on all the current bad news about bank failures, loan defaults, scrubbing of bank fees, punitive reforms imposed by the Congress, self-imposed-elimination of the prime earning capacity of banks (lending), bankruptcies - corporate and personal, going-nowhere unemployment, and global economic deficiencies that put every optimist in a state of FUD, it would seem reasonable that bank IT employees were having a free ride as never before experienced in the world of IT. Probably, the only group that had it easier were the IT employees of GM's Pontiac Division.

But I see an opportunity hiding in this lemon-throwing phenomenon and the result could be sweet. There isn't an IT shop in existence that doesn't have a wish list that heretofore has been overruled by priority projects. Now is the time to dig it out and put it to work. This is an IT-proactive initiative that knocks on doors of users offering aid before the disaster occurs.

Following is a task plan that came to me during my five-week sabbatical at the beach. If I were back at the bank and the year were 2010, this is what I would be doing.

1. Recruit a team of one to six people to work on what I call the "Fine-Tuning Project." Politically correct, overly-nerdy, and salesy analysts need not apply.

2. Conduct an orientation session so everyone buys into the plan, believes in it, and is raring to go.

3. Present the plan to management, including users served by IT.

4. Definition of the plan: • Make sure everyone in the bank knows about the plan • A lot of the plan is about how users feel • Solicit inputs from less obvious employees of the bank who have a special interest in what's right • Present a list of IT capabilities where the bank is strong • Present a list where the bank is weak • Present a list of opportunities that the bank has never explored • Conduct interviews with users who want to voice their gripes, concerns and new ideas • Invite the primary vendor to "resell their value" based on this new awareness • Conduct a cost/benefit analysis that convinces the CFO he is getting his money's worth, or not • Review all findings with the chief strategist of the bank to make sure there is consistency in thought and there will be converging ideas at the end • Conduct a presentation with an audience of one - the CEO • Present a report to the management committee • Request authorization to proceed with the action plan

If you do not see the value in this exercise, then you are one of about 9,223 tiny banks and credit unions (less than $100 million in assets) in the middle of nowhere doing a good job for the people you serve. If you're anywhere else, then you've got a legitimate job to do.

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