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People to Watch in Bank Technology 2011

With regulation, trust and financial performance top of mind for bank technology leaders, Bank Systems & Technology presents some of the people who will be shaping the competitive environment in the coming year.

Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Adviser to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

This Harvard law professor gained a seat of power this year when she was put in charge of architecting the new consumer financial watchdog, her idea brought to life by the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. Warren's new authority strikes fear in the hearts of many bankers; in a Grant Thornton survey, nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of bankers said they believe the creation of a consumer protection agency -- and its authority to write and enforce rules over mortgages, credit cards and other financial products -- will have an impact on their banks. In a speech in October at the University of California-Berkeley, Warren outlined her vision for a high-tech consumer bureau that would track unsavory financial services practices with the help of sophisticated tools. "We can build a government agency that is responsive to the dynamics of our time," she said. "To get there, we need to reimagine the new consumer agency, using changes in technology to propel us." Banks will need to keep up with Warren's technology moves next year.

Julian Assange, Editor-in-Chief, WikiLeaks

He may be hard to watch if he remains in jail or in Sweden's court system, but Assange's WikiLeaks certainly stirred up government and private company concerns over data privacy this year. Shortly before he was arrested in December (a week after publishing 251,287 leaked United States embassy cables), Assange told Forbes his organization's next leak was going to be from a major U.S. bank and that "it could take down a bank or two." He also said the leaked information "will give a true and representative insight into how banks behave at the executive level in a way that will stimulate investigations and reforms." Speculation was that he was referring to Bank of America, because Assange had alluded in a 2009 interview to a hard drive he had obtained from a BofA executive. A lot of people want to know if WikiLeaks still will release the bank documents, what they contain and whether there are any true surprises.

Paul Thurston, Chief Executive, HSBC Bank

Thurston will become chief executive of consumer banking and wealth management in March and will take control of the One HSBC IT program, along with the lead of the retail bank and wealth management. "One HSBC has been heralded within the banking industry as a model IT program, showing what can be achieved when vision, financial investment, executive sponsorship and vendor partnership are married to well-planned execution," enthuses Alex Kwiatkowski, consulting group manager at Ovum. "From March 2011, Paul Thurston will be directing the transformation of retail operations and technology platforms. Completing the migration onto a single technology platform will be a major achievement," Kwiatkowski observes. But HSBC also must prove itself capable of nimble innovation, for instance by evolving its online, mobile banking and social media activities. "Ultimately Thurston is the one who has to deliver," Kwiatkowski says. No pressure there.

Ian Alderton, CIO, Royal Bank of Scotland

This former Wachovia Bank European CIO (for corporate and investment banking technology) was given the top technology executive spot at RBS in November, and he has his work cut out for him. In September, RBS cut 1,000 IT jobs, and the bank is outsourcing 500 jobs to India. On the other hand, CEO Stephen Hester committed last year to a nearly $10 billion investment in IT over five years. "You cannot generate shareholder returns without investing in technology," he told attendees at SIBOS this year. Alderton describes himself on Twitter as "a highly inspirational, decisive and commercially focused international CIO with significant information technology experience across the financial markets." He'll have plenty of opportunity to use his inspirational speaking and decision-making skills in this tough new role.

Wences Casares, co-CEO, Bling Nation

Palo Alto-based Bling Nation was an early pioneer in the field of mobile payments and has quietly partnered with banks across the country to provide mobile payments to local merchants and customers. The company recently paired up with payment powerhouse PayPal. "Wences has held the course when it comes to enabling new forms of payment at the point of sale," says Nick Holland, senior analyst, mobile transactions, at Yankee Group. "His vision is clearly gaining momentum with the association of PayPal with Bling Nation and may well pave the way for PayPal to become a physical-world payment brand." That sounds like a threat to us.

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