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Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

How does one juggle the IT responsibilities of a financial institution with $435 billion in assets? Very carefully. And Wells Fargo's Webb Edwards takes his responsibilities in stride. As president of the bank's services company and a bank EVP, Edwards oversees a department that combines Wells Fargo's technology operations, communications systems and payments strategies - the technology elements that keep the bank running.

Wells Fargo's technology organization consists of four components, Edwards explains -- computing infrastructure, such as data centers, systems software and hardware; development, for applications both built in-house and outsourced; connectivity services, including network and field operations to support Wells Fargo's 6,160 "stores"; and shared services, an area that brings together the project management office, government activity and other bank functions. As a result, IT interacts with the business side on many levels, Edwards notes.

Common Discipline
Although this setup may not be out of the ordinary for an institution of Wells Fargo's size, Edwards says what makes the bank's approach to IT stand out is its operating philosophy. "We take a very disciplined approach to doing things," he explains. "We keep a common set of systems and infrastructure. Even if we acquire another bank, we still come out with the same system."

This IT discipline, Edwards asserts, provides the bank with flexibility and dependability. "Execution is key," he says. "If we say we'll deliver something, people know we will. This builds credibility with all our business partners."

Webb Edwards,

President, Services Company, and EVP,
Wells Fargo
(San Francisco; $435 billion in assets)

Credibility is something Edwards values on a personal level, too. "You must have integrity above all else," he says. And Edward's approach has remained constant, even as he has seen a definite change in the nature of how technologists at banks operate. "If you go back a few years, the CIO was basically a technology specialist," he relates. "That's a death knell today - you have to have a business orientation. It's more about collaboration and relationship building than being a technologist," Edwards adds. "Our business is conducted using technology, so the CIO should have an equal seat at the table. You can't have an equal seat if you just know coding."

Edwards has embraced this big-picture philosophy. He explains that he looks beyond implementing the latest and greatest technology for its own sake and truly examines its ability to forward the organization's goals. "We view technology as an enabler," he says. "We're a means to attaining bigger objectives. I see IT driving the bank's reach and richness of services as we move forward. Technology ... allows us to hook up with third parties to do things we couldn't do otherwise."

In this vein, Edwards envisions more collaborative work with outside service providers to enrich the bank's offerings. "We're in a global economy that is borderless, so we can use other firms as an extension of Wells Fargo," he says.

One way Edwards manages to remain focused on such long-term thinking is by heeding his own advice: "Don't sweat the insignificant things," he says. "There are thousands of things in technology that can drive you crazy -- just focus on the things that are significant to your success."

The Technology Elite: Innovative CIOs

Technology Leaders Take Center Stage

Stranger in a Strange Land No More
Jean Davis, Senior EVP, Head of Operations,
Technology & E-Commerce, Wachovia

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Webb Edwards, President, Services Company, and EVP,
Wells Fargo

Building Teams to Build Revenue
Timothy Theriault, President of Worldwide Operations
& Technology, Northern Trust

Small Staff, Big Returns
Greg Bixby, SVP & CIO,
Republic Bancorp

Bringing Banking to the People
Pravir Vohra, Head, Technology Management Group,
ICICI Bank

Conquering IT Growing Pains
Kent Seinfeld, SVP & CIO, Commerce Bank

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