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BS&T's Elite 8 2008 Have Lived Through History

2008's Elite 8 honorees share their experiences about facing the most challenging economic environment of their careers.

Even the most successful technology executives have been forced to reassess their approaches to managing IT over the past tumultuous year as the credit crisis has transformed the global financial services industry. It has been no different for last year's Elite 8 executives. Several of the 2008 honorees provided updates on their roles and told BS&T how the crisis in financial services has changed and influenced their approaches to managing their IT organizations.

Sara Pelaez
Supporting Growth by Alternate Means

Sara Pelaez, SVP, CIO, First California Bank (Westlake Village, Calif.)

With technology spending tightly controlled this year, new initiatives to support the bank's continued growth have been put on hold or on a slow track. We have been fortunate, however, that recent acquisitions have allowed us to continue to meet our strategic goals as [they] relate to some of our operating efficiencies through technology. [The financial crisis] has forced us to take a closer look at acquired systems, their value and whether they would be a fit within our environment. We also continue to look at the cost savings benefits of virtualization as the bank continues to grow.

So although it has not been a year of implementing new systems or initiatives to continue to manage effectiveness within the IT organization, through acquisitions we are able to continue supporting [the bank's] growth goals by other means.

There has not been much of a change [in my responsibilities], but more emphasis on maximizing current efficiencies with the use of existing technologies, as opposed to replacing [them], by extending our established lifecycle policy, maximizing use of critical applications and reviewing baselines.

James Yee
No Retreat on Strategic Projects

James Yee, Senior EVP, CIO, Union Bank (formerly Union Bank of California, San Francisco)

The crisis in financial services did have a slight influence on our decision making. However, we did not cut back on any of our strategic projects, such as the Integrated Banking Platform and the Next Generation Data Center. We have been attentively spending the right amount of resources on technology. With our process reengineering and our offshore strategy, we were able to fund the strategic investments from the resulting savings.

Steve McLeod
Remaining Focused

Dave McLeod, EVP and Chief Technology Officer, BankPlus (Jackson, Miss.)

Our IT management approach has deviated very little [as a result of the financial crisis], and we have remained focused on the initiatives we set last year. We've spent a good deal of time working with various groups on revenue enhancement and efficiency objectives by providing data analysis and assisting in finding and/or implementing tools that support these various projects' goals.

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