If the familiar adage, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger," is true, then the talented executives who comprise Bank Systems & Technology's 2009 Elite 8 bank technology leaders must have incredible powers. The past couple of years have presented an array of trials and tests that have challenged the management teams of all financial institutions, big and small, and IT organizations have been on the front lines as banks simultaneously seek to improve governance and compliance, find efficiencies and cost savings, and strengthen customer relationships (and profitability).
But while many executives might find managing IT in the new hyper-competitive and highly scrutinized world of financial services to be extremely daunting and frustrating, BS&T's Elite 8 leaders are rising to this challenge with enthusiasm and determination. Rather than complain about how hard it is to deal with tight budgets, an unsettled regulatory environment and untested new channels such as social media and mobile, the executives profiled in this special issue welcome the opportunity to solve problems, deliver effective solutions and stretch the talents of their workforces. Or, as one of this year's honorees, David Downing, COO of First National of Nebraska, puts it, "I've been in banking for 25 years, [and] I think I've been practicing all my life for the past two years."
Perhaps this kind of attitude stems from the relatively nontraditional backgrounds of many of this year's honorees (although professionally eclectic work histories are becoming increasingly common among financial services IT executives). For example, two of the executives trained as accountants, one aspired to be a professional musician and another came of age in the military. Whatever their backgrounds, they all refuse to be impressed by jargon and hype, while seizing every opportunity available to praise colleagues, mentors and especially their own employees. These are among the most important traits of successful leaders, especially in uncertain times.
The 2009 Elite 8 will be recognized at BS&T's upcoming 4th Annual Executive Summit (Oct. 4-7, The Langham, Huntington Hotel, Pasadena, Calif.), where we will examine strategies and best practices that are helping banks emerge from the crisis and into the future of banking. As the industry faces not only increasingly complex challenges and risks but also new and untested opportunities for growth, it inspires confidence to know that there is real muscle and prowess among the senior ranks of banking IT.