All bank CIOs these days have outsize expectations placed on them by the business. At a bank like Umpqua Bank ($8.3 billion in assets), known for its forward-thinking use of technology in service of its customers, taking the reins of the IT shop comes with even grander expectations. And Colin Eccles, who was hired as the Portland, Ore.-based bank's CIO in January, has no intention of allowing Umpqua's tradition of technology excellence to end.
"[Umpqua CEO] Ray Davis and my executive business partners expect technology to be mature, like any other utility -- 100 percent available, reliable and scalable," Eccles says. "Like power -- when [you walk] into a room and flip the switch, the light must come on -- so must technology be available at the point of contact with the customer or back-office function."
This need for constantly available technology will only increase as the numbers of customers banking online and via mobile devices grow, Eccles adds, noting that the demand for anytime banking is a major driver of Umpqua's technology investments. "This is expected and is operational," he says. "At the same time technology must continue to be an enabler and support and drive business advancement by delivering new technologies."
To ensure that Umpqua's IT organization is delivering on those responsibilities, engaging with the business will be a priority for Eccles, he adds. "Umpqua Bank has differentiated itself when it comes to the customer experience in the stores," Eccles remarks. "Technology has played a role in achieving that differentiation, and this needs to continue in the future."
A Road Map to the Future
Eccles, who will report directly to Davis, brings with him 28 years of banking and IT experience, including his last gig, as CIO for Washington Mutual's retail bank IT organization. Nonetheless, Eccles stresses, each situation is unique, and assessing the state of Umpqua's technology will be his first priority. This includes gaining an understanding of the maturity of the standard technology operating processes at the bank, with a particular focus on the core processes, he explains.
Eccles also will review the bank's underlying architecture. "Umpqua Bank has grown rapidly by acquisition, and one of my priorities is ensuring that we continue down the path of successfully integrating the acquired banks into our technology infrastructure," he relates. "Once I have a good understanding of the current state, then I will lay out the plans and road map to address high-priority gaps to get technology to the desired future state."
Of course also among Eccles' priorities is ensuring regulatory compliance and proper risk controls. "Every manager and associate must understand their roles and responsibilities and have goals and objectives that align with and support the business strategies," he says.
Aligning the IT organization with the financial direction of the bank is even more important now, Eccles adds, and he says he'll explore technology investments to help drive down costs while also enhancing the organization's overall capabilities.
In addition, Eccles says, technology capacity planning, as part of IT governance, must align technology supply with business demand to help the bank better cope in the current environment. A large part of that is simply being smarter about where to invest, he says.
"It is typical to see demand for technology resources far exceeding supply," Eccles relates. "Enterprise prioritization must, therefore, ensure that the focus is on the critical few initiatives that are delivered flawlessly and provide maximum benefit to the organization.
"In times like these it is also important that technology is agile and is able to quickly respond to the business needs for new or revised products and services. Achieving agility is dependent on many factors, including technology architecture, resource utilization and planning, and having mature processes that support taking an initiative from concept to production implementation in the shortest possible time while managing risk."
Eccles replaces Roger Bishop, who left Umpqua for personal reasons, according to the bank.