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