Another major IT project, completed this past May, was the bank's 18-month overhaul of its network infrastructure to improve core processing and communications among branches. According to McLeod, the move to multi-protocol label switching (MPLS) and to pure voice over IP has delivered greater reliability, thanks to additional fail-over capacity, plus spare capacity to serve a growing customer base.
"Virtualization — that's our next big push," McLeod says, identifying virtual servers as the most significant technology of the future. Virtualization, he explains, not only means consolidating servers so that less power is required to run the data center, it also enables the creation of an alias of the primary data center so that, should it fail, the backup can "almost immediately" replicate its functions.
McLeod points out that he has not had a problem getting upper management to buy in to his technology projects. Funding was an issue "in past lives," but not now, he says. "Anything we ask for, we receive. I don't know whether we're really good at asking or if we have an organization that trusts us," he jokes. Seriously, he adds, "Our CFO comes from an operations background, and she [Gee Gee Patridge] understands the technology needs."
McLeod, who has worked both in software consulting and for larger, $10-billion-plus banks, says he likes that he can "maneuver a lot more quickly" at a small bank — just like on his "zero-turn" lawnmower, which can, he notes, "turn on a dime." Ask McLeod about his proudest achievement on the job, however, and without missing a beat, he says, "The team we have. I know that's not technology-related, but the fact that we have a strong group that works together is the biggest success factor in everything we do."
Understanding Users' Problems
So what are the most important personal characteristics in a CIO? "To listen, to be able to interact in meetings and to understand users' problems," McLeod says, adding patience, perseverance and focus to the list. "[Don't] lose sight of the long-term strategy while fighting a fire," he advises.
In more than 30 years in the banking industry, McLeod adds, the bank technologist's job hasn't changed all that much. While he has lived through cycles of tech trends — such as from centralized mainframes to distributed PCs, and back to a centralized system "with basically dumb terminals" — McLeod notes that "We're still doing basically the same thing."
What has changed is the addition of a more formal risk assessment of any potential technology before it's deployed, he notes. "We have to do a full-scale risk assessment on any major project because there's more fraud now," McLeod relates.
One thing that has not changed is being on call. Just ask his wife of 30 years — "We reconciled a long time ago," McLeod says. "She's been through all the 'I'll be home in a little bit' calls and it turns out to be two days."