In more than 25 years as a financial services technology executive, consultant and CIO, John Fiore has seen enough hot technologies come and go to know whether something has staying power. So his enthusiasm over the potential for the mobile channel means something -- especially considering that New York-based Bank of New York Mellon's ($1.2 trillion in assets under management) customers are institutions, not consumers.
"This is an area where we led the innovation," says Fiore of BNY Mellon Connect Mobile, which allows clients to access two of the company's web-based product and service offerings that have been specially designed for Apple's iPad. Advocating for an institutional-oriented application, "We built demos, we showed [the business] what was possible," adds Fiore, who was named the bank's EVP and CIO in 2010. "They really caught on to it and were very supportive of us going forward to develop this capability."
The initial apps included links to foreign exchange research from BNY Mellon Global Markets, as well as transactional capabilities on its Liquidity DIRECT cash investment tool and its BNY Mellon Workbench portal, which provides reports and information to institutional clients. "We're proud of the fact that we were, at least in our peer group, the first to deliver not only mobile-based applications for inquiry purposes, but also for transaction entry purposes," Fiore says. "The take-up by institutional users actually has been greater and faster than I thought it would have been." In fact, he suspects, the rapid embrace of the iPad and other tablets by business executives (including Fiore himself) has been key.
But as hot as mobile technology is, Fiore's advocacy is not about fads. Rather, this kind of innovation comes out of the bank's "IT Transformation" initiative, which Fiore launched in 2010 shortly after being named CIO (he joined BNY Mellon in 2005 as CIO of application development). According to Fiore, this evolutionary effort focuses on improving technology delivery at the bank -- which, he emphasizes, already is at a very high level.
"Technology is the foundation of what this organization is about, because without the use of technology, there's no way we could exist at the scale we're at today. It's a fundamental cornerstone," he explains. "Our goal is to have BNY Mellon technology viewed as providing competitive advantage to our businesses and to the markets we operate in around the world. We continue to strive [to provide] highly innovative, customer-responsive, market-responsive solutions to the increasingly complex challenges that our clients have, and also to be recognized as delivering highly innovative solutions for internal consumption to all of our business partners."
Fiore solicited feedback from his various business partners about the IT organization's performance and potential areas for improvement. "Providing even greater ability around innovation was one of themes that I heard, as [well as] helping drive change," he relates, adding, "The need for rock-solid day-to-day performance of our environment" was another priority that was identified.
These demands are at the crux of how Fiore views his role as BNY Mellon's CIO. Along with nurturing innovation, "There continue to be the fundamentals that need to be delivered day in, day out," such as reliable infrastructure and application services, he says. Another emerging aspect of Fiore's role is to serve as a change agent -- "to help foster change within the organization, whether that is through how we service our customers, the models our business partners have, operating efficiency, the quality of what we do, or enabling even greater abilities on a global basis," he says.
The program that emerged out of these imperatives "is really about making us better at what we do, better at higher levels of innovation [with] improved performance in how we deliver services day in and day out," Fiore adds. Accordingly, the priorities include "driving continuous improvement, solidifying and improving the performance of all of our applications and infrastructure," which all is "part of being able to deliver faster and more economically."
The IT Transformation initiative is not a discrete project with a specific end date, Fiore emphasizes. "We view it as a way of transforming ourselves into an organization that is performing at an even higher level than it does today," he says.
The transformation initiative also addresses the capabilities and priorities of BNY Mellon's workforce. Fiore says he wants the bank to "be recognized even more as an employer of choice for IT professionals, providing them with well-defined career opportunities and challenging and interesting work opportunities, leading-edge projects and business solutions." Another area of focus is "helping the businesses be more efficient in what they do," Fiore says. "It's also about us being more efficient in terms of what we charge our businesses for the services we provide, and being able to deliver faster-time-to-market kinds of improvements."
Key to the long-term effectiveness of the IT transformation is good project governance -- a capability that the organization has honed thanks in large part to the recently completed (and massive) IT and architecture integration that occurred following the 2007 merger of Bank of New York and Mellon Bank. Among those "lessons learned," according to Fiore, are how to structure a project governance model; definition of roles; assessing internal skills and knowledge; measuring and tracking results; and question/problem resolution.
"Most of the time, when you do a particular project it is business-sponsored and you deal with representatives from that particular business. It's much more challenging when you're trying to do something that spans the enterprise or most of the businesses, and they all will have some benefit or impact as a result of that," Fiore observes. "We learned a lot about how to structure participation across those different businesses … in order to maintain the pace with which the initiative was being performed."
Assessing the successful BNY/Mellon integration, Fiore notes, "There will always be continued refinement of what you've done, but this really has gone into 'business as usual.' Whatever we set out to do, we've gotten done. ... We achieved all the goals we set out for ourselves, whether expense synergy or consolidating applications or standardizing. Fundamentally, we executed flawlessly."
Fiore says he will build on this experience as he next manages the integration of the Global Investment Servicing (GIS) asset servicing business that BNY Mellon acquired this year from PNC. Compared to the BNY/Mellon integration, however, this will be a different animal to tame. With the merger of two companies, "All the technology assets belong to the new company. We had to rationalize and standardize, but it was all of our assets," Fiore points out. "With the GIS acquisition, there are a variety of access, security and risk challenges around addressing the situation of former PNC employees who now work for BNY Mellon but ... who still need PNC network access. A mix-and-match environment is a more challenging element to deal with than if you merge two companies and all the assets belong to you."
Big Data Challenges
This also relates to what Fiore says was one somewhat unanticipated challenge of the BNY/Mellon integration -- data integration, whether standardizing account numbers, addressing security master data or resolving data components of enterprise applications. "It proved more challenging to integrate a combination of technologies rather than convert to one or the other," he reports.
In fact, data management and adopting a clear information lifecycle management strategy are among the biggest challenges that Fiore is addressing. "Data storage is the single fastest-growing component of a technology organization's spend, because of the insatiable appetite our customers have for data and information," he asserts. "We're taking a look at: What data do we need to keep, how long do we really need to keep the data [and] in what way will we keep that data for however long we need to keep it? There's an opportunity there to be more cost effective in terms of information storage costs."
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio