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Every Bank Needs an IT Think Tank

"Practical" is my middle name-and I haven't shed my suit and wingtip shoes for a toga and sandals. So this is not an idea I thought I would be preaching. I tried it with the vendors a while back but I have not seen any signs of acceptance. I hope bankers will see the value of having an IT think tank, even if it's a Sunday night effort to take the place of "60 Minutes." The potential benefits might only be soft, such as not being the target of a "60 Minutes" embarrassment. I believe everyone shou

"Practical" is my middle name-and I haven't shed my suit and wingtip shoes for a toga and sandals. So this is not an idea I thought I would be preaching. I tried it with the vendors a while back but I have not seen any signs of acceptance. I hope bankers will see the value of having an IT think tank, even if it's a Sunday night effort to take the place of "60 Minutes." The potential benefits might only be soft, such as not being the target of a "60 Minutes" embarrassment. I believe everyone should step aside from the mechanical and conventional aspects of their business and think about how things should work. Everything is up for grabs these days.My definition of a think tank operation for the banking world (and I mean world) follows:

• A creative process using lots of individuals' ideas to develop solutions commensurate with changing business processes (and behavior). • The antithesis of, "We've always done it that way." • A good reason to change: The regulators have required it for years. • Another good reason to change: Management doesn't have a clue about what's going on two steps below the executive suite. • Where to do it: Away from the office. • What will other people think? If you care, you failed. • What resources do you need? Your body, head to toes. • Who is in charge? Everyone in attendance. • What will it cost? Only your time. • How will you know it's working? Tuesday mornings will never be the same. • How else will you know? You thought you were busy before. • Who will wish you never woke up? Your bank tech vendor. • How do you implement new ideas? By overcoming lots of resistance and friction from the dinosaurs.

I'd love to give you a list of improvements for what should come out of your think tank. But I'd sound like a marketing guy, which I am not. When I would do the grunt work for a bank, I would document 180 to 200 deficiencies that people put up with just because they thought that's the way things worked. The list of things to fix will be the product of your think tank activities. It's a unique list for every bank.

For Very Small Banks Find the hardest working person in the bank with too much on her shoulders and assign the think tank function to her. Busy people are the best workers.

For Mid-tier Banks Tell the CIO to hire a person to take the lead with a fresh outlook and no baggage. A new MBA is ideal. Too much experience will be like hiring an Alan Greenspan to tell us what's wrong with the banking industry. Remember, he's the guy who told us he made a mistake.

For Large Banks There's only one way to tackle new thinking here-hire McKinsey. Otherwise, the apparent brain trusts won't buy into this radical approach to fixing what the giant banks have already destroyed.

If anything good happens to take us out of this failing economy, growing unemployment, financial meltdown, doubts about bailout and stimulus, global warming, two losing wars, disrespect from world peers (and they are peers), then my vote is for a huge eraser to clear the board of old paradigms. I vote for new thinking, and it starts in a tank with good old-fashioned workers. Give it a shot.

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