For Suresh Kumar, executive VP and CIO at Bank of New York Mellon (New York, $1.4 trillion in assets), technology serves two main functions in his professional life: to help the bank's clients be successful, and to mine data analytics to help the business make better decisions. Indeed, Kumar is a man who loves metrics.
"For me, it's not as much about the technology as it is about changing the culture to create a culture of excellence and culture of measurement," says Kumar, who manages about 13,000 IT professionals and oversees a division that has a $2 billion annual budget. "We have made tremendous progress in goal-setting and identifying measures of success and how we track progress. We want that to be institutionalized and become part of the DNA of our organization."
Kumar says that ability to track and measure is the real potential of big data. Regarding big data, he says there is a tendency "for companies to do a project here and project there because this is the hot new thing. But we want to take advantage of technology and use data insight to make better decisions. I call it decision science, rather than big data."
With the substantial number of transactions BNY Mellon processes on a daily basis, Kumar believes there is a "tremendous opportunity" to take advantage of new data analytics tools available. He believes this is applicable not only to client data, but employee data, as well.
To that end, Kumar spearheaded BNY Mellon's Digital Workplace initiative, which was designed to improve and enhance the employee experience, productivity and knowledge. The goal of the initiative was to reduce downtime, complaints, failures and help desk calls, and increase collaboration across the company, innovation, productivity and satisfaction.
"Our focus was to use the technology and analytics capabilities we have to figure out what our employees are trying to get done and how to help them do it better," he says. "We thought, 'How do you measure the employee experience and improve that?'"
So the bank launched a massive campaign to garner employee feedback on every aspect of their jobs. Kumar and his tech team also used big data analytics software from Splunk to analyze unstructured internal data to understand behaviors and user actions.
Tools To Drive Collaboration
One finding was that employees were seeking more tools for collaboration, and BNY Mellon is working on enhancing internal collaboration tools. Kumar and his team also discovered which applications were used more or less frequently than others, and how to improve the user experience for some internal tools.
For example, Kumar says that Microsoft Outlook applications were taking a longer time to launch than should be expected. Analyzing the data received as part of the Digital Workplace initiative, Kumar and his team discovered that there were "a whole bunch of add-ins that people didn't really use" associated with Outlook, and so they were disabled. Since then, Kumar reports, the time to launch Outlook applications has been reduced by 63%.
Kumar has a long history of bringing innovative technologies to bear for institutional clients. He was a pioneer in creating online brokerages. In the late 1980s, while working at Pershing, a provider of securities services that's now a subsidiary of BNY Mellon, he helped create an online brokerage system for the Prodigy online service. Later, in the 1990s, he worked on creating online brokerages systems for AOL. Kumar has essentially been with one company his whole career, but as he puts it, "with many different parents." In 2000, Credit Suisse acquired DLJ Securities Corp., which at that time was the parent company of Pershing. Also that year, Kumar helped Pershing form a new company, iNautix India, a reseller of technology. In 2003, Pershing was acquired from Credit Suisse by the Bank of New York, which itself merged with Mellon in 2007. At that time, Kumar was already CIO of Pershing.
Another data-related initiative in which Kumar has been involved was the 2012 launch of BNY Mellon Xtreme Computing Platform to harness innovations ranging from big data and mobility to virtualization.
The platform is the third generation of a constantly evolving architecture Kumar developed at Pershing in 1994. It has evolved into a consolidated technology architecture and platform approach that dramatically streamlines and improves the bank's systems and lays the groundwork for future advances that, ultimately, will save time and money.
At the foundation of this platform, notes Kumar, is Data Center as a Service, which is BNY Mellon's private cloud. This service allows for auto-provisioning and efficient use of computing resources, he says. On top of that are common services, such as workflow management tools, and business services, including business-specific capabilities such as cash services, trade services and collateral management, which can be bundled to provide a more customized user experience.
Tech In His Blood
As a CIO who came up entirely through the technology ranks, Kumar describes his leadership style as "a hands-on technology person." Though there is a growing trend in the banking industry of bringing on people from nontechnology backgrounds to fill the role of CIO, Kumar is comfortable with the nuts and bolts of tech. "I started off as a programmer, and got the opportunity to do a number different things," he adds.
However, Kumar is quick to point out that utilizing technology just for the sake of it isn't the ideal; a truly innovative technology must be able to help the bank and its clients in a pragmatic way.
"As far as the potential for technology [at BNY Mellon], I would say the primary thing is to be an enabler for the business to better service the clients and not to be a roadblock," he adds. "Obviously, no one sets out to be a roadblock, but sometimes technology can be not very enabling."
Post-financial crisis, Kumar notes that the IT team has many more roles to fill within BNY Mellon and to help the bank service its clients better. In addition to the usual work of innovation and creating and maintaining new products, bank technologists also now need to help the business "achieve risk management excellence," and leverage technology to analyze data to better make "evidence-based decision-making."
[A Multi-Channel Strategy Based on Real-Time Data]
In fact, Kumar doesn't look at the increased regulatory environment in banking as a hindrance, but as an opportunity. "Our take is, if you're going to have to spend money [to comply with regulation], let's try to build the technology so that our clients and the bank can benefit from it, even though it was driven by new regulation."
Kumar also recently demonstrated his considerable leadership skills as BNY Mellon worked to service clients during and immediately after Superstorm Sandy savaged the New York region in October 2012. Though Kumar is quick to point to the investment BNY Mellon made in "world-class data centers" as key to mitigating client impact, he also notes that the disaster recovery operation "was a well-oiled machine" that was prepared to deal even with a natural disaster the magnitude of Sandy. "Business continuity is key for us. We are always testing and planning. We were ready when this happened," he adds.
After the New York Stock Exchange reopened following a two-day closure caused by the storm, Kumar and his IT team were focused on having quick responses on any issues clients were having, such as expanding remote access capacity through a portal that the team implemented. The IT team even wrote an app on the fly for employees to leverage Microsoft Bing maps to find other employees who lived close to them to carpool to work in the wake of the storm.
When not in the office, Kumar enjoys learning as much as he can. He is taking a design course from Stanford University online, and enjoys listening to TED Talks on his iPad. Kumar also lists cycling as a favorite activity. But this is no leisurely pastime for him, as he bikes in the range of 100 miles on some weekends. However, as with his professional work, his love of cycling all comes down to metrics and measurement.
"I find cycling to be a great experience, and it's easy to see if you are making progress or not," he says.
Executive VP, CIO, Bank of New York Mellon
Size of IT organization: $2 billion annual IT budget
Prior roles: CIO for BNY Mellon's Financial Markets & Treasury Services group; CIO of Pershing LLC
Education: Bachelor of technology, Indian Institute of Technology at Madras; MBA, Indian Institute of Management at Ahmedabad; master's in computer science, New York Institute of Technology
Hobbies: Cycling, reading
Bryan Yurcan is associate editor for Bank Systems and Technology. He has worked in various editorial capacities for newspapers and magazines for the past 8 years. After beginning his career as a municipal and courts reporter for daily newspapers in upstate New York, Bryan has ... View Full Bio