October 17, 2011

Steve Jobs probably would not have been a very effective bank CIO. It's hard to imagine the visionary creator of the Macintosh, iPod, iPhone and iPad having the patience to deal with arcane regulatory and risk management issues, thorny core systems replacements, or payments fraud -- much less squeezing more out of strained IT budgets.

Yet Jobs, who died on October 5 at the age of 56 after a long battle with cancer, no doubt has served as a role model and inspiration for technology executives across many industries, including banking. And he surely had a significant influence on the evolution of the financial services CIO from a mainly back-office and development-focused operative to a multidisciplinary business executive who can juggle code, budgets and RFPs in one hand and an iPad in the other.

I started thinking about these influences after Jobs announced in August that health issues were forcing him to resign as Apple's CEO. But the themes and findings of this special issue, which profiles Bank Systems & Technology's 2011 Elite 8 executives, also emphasize the extent to which the requirements for a successful bank technology executive are now shaped by trends and beliefs that, if not literally started by Steve Jobs, certainly were popularized by him. For example, it's striking to see how many of this year's honorees are attuned to the consumerization of technology. Furthermore, many of this year's Elite 8 are committed Apple customers. (Rob Alexander of Capital One even describes himself as an "Apple fanboy.")

It's also noteworthy that, rather than the traditional wary approach to innovation, the 2011 Elite 8 honorees embrace it. What's more, like Jobs did, they recognize that innovation can provide a significant competitive advantage -- as long as it is pursued in a focused way that is consistent with a company's business mission.

And just as Apple has disrupted the technology, music and media industries, the banking industry itself is being disrupted and transformed by a variety of external and internal forces. The new models being created by these disruptions were the focus of BS&T's 6th Annual Executive Summit, "New Strategies for New Business Models: Driving Growth in a Changing Industry" (which occurred in October at The Royal Palms Resort in Phoenix), where this year's Elite 8 executives were recognized at our annual awards dinner.

Our honorees cite many influences on their professional development, and they are successful because they combine independence, creativity and vision with compassion, responsibility and knowledge. The fact that they understand how to "think different," as Jobs and Apple famously challenged, is key to their success.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...