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Where Are They Now? Catching Up With the 2011 Elite 8

As mobile and digital technologies continue to reshape banking, we caught up with some of the 2011 Elite 8 to see how the changing expectations of consumers, employees and partners are transforming their focus.

Aman Narain, Global Head of Online and Mobile Banking, Standard Chartered (London)

Aman Narain, global head of online and mobile banking for Standard Chartered since 2008, has kept busy since being recognized as an Elite 8 honoree last year. In addition to overseeing the bank's mobile and online channels, he is now responsible for digital channels within branches and ATMs and for developing integrated solutions across all of them.

According to Narain, Standard Chartered has been ramping up a focus on monetizing the web, using the online channel for sales and wealth management capabilities in particular, especially in Hong Kong, where the firm recently launched mobile trading applications. The firm also has extended its suite of mobile applications, Breeze, in terms of both geography and capabilities. Breeze now enables equity trading, for example. The mobile app suite even supports the home-buying process, generating mortgage business. "With Breeze," Narain explains, "you can point a mobile phone at a building and it will tell you everything you need to know about it." Breeze currently is available in nine markets and will be in three more by the end of the year.

Standard Chartered is beginning to offer its smartphone banking solutions from more developed markets, such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Korea, in Africa, starting in Nigeria and extending across the continent. The firm also launched smartphone banking in China in the spring. "That was extensively an iPhone client, but now we're using mobile web to help serve our Android users in these markets as well," Narain relates.

From a servicing perspective, Narain says, Standard Chartered will work to help customers serve themselves and manage their account relationship directly, without having to come into a branch. "In some of our markets where we don't have a wide branch presence, travel times are long -- in places like India, for instance," Narain explains. "So we will focus on self-service through the online channels and on integrating that information into a CRM system that we've been building over the past year."

Richard Ferrara, Chief Technology Officer, Woodforest National Bank (The Woodlands, Texas)

When Richard Ferrara, CTO of Woodforest National Bank, was named an Elite 8 honoree in 2011, he was working to virtualize the bank's data center, with the goal of minimizing disaster recovery issues and ensuring business continuity during hurricane season. The plan called for a primary data center in the bank's headquarters and a colocation facility in Austin.

In the past year, Ferrara's group has focused on replacing the storage area network at both data centers. This year, after the SAN refresh, he says, he'll focus more on the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend and connectivity. Among the most exciting efforts, according to Ferrara, is an initiative to refresh branch design, which will follow a phased approach. "We're looking at building a concept lab in our building," he reports. "The new branch design will include technology -- more customer interaction with multimedia and kiosks and things like that."

In addition, Ferrara will reevaluate the banks' virtualization strategy on the server level. "We're still pushing for virtualized desktops along with virtualizing the application with Microsoft App-V," he notes. And he'll work to strengthen the bank's database architecture and business intelligence. "We're moving forward with a newer version of [Microsoft] SQL and seeing what that will do for us as well," he says.

Ghan Desai, CIO/CTO, Team Capital Bank (Bethlehem, Pa.)

It's been a very busy few years for Ghan Desai, CIO and CTO of Team Capital Bank. In fall 2010, Desai began a major technology transformation that included a core system replacement as well as replacement of a variety of other systems, including data warehousing and reporting systems, business and consumer online banking systems, branch systems and a public website. The new systems all went live without a hitch in February 2011. "We are well on our way to transforming our technology organization into a profit center," Desai says.

"The significant benefits we have achieved through the use of technology to reduce operating costs can be extended to other financial institutions looking to break from traditional back-office models -- that are manual, costly and human-dependent -- to a model that significantly integrates low-cost technologies to improve controls, reduce costs, and speed up delivery of systems and processes," he continues, adding that Team Capital Bank last year made its first external sale of one of its products, to help a credit union improve customer service in its call center.

Internally, the bank continued its focus on leveraging technology to provide better products and services to its customers and on improving efficiencies by automating the back office. "For example, our ACH origination solution is completely automated, which allows our customers complete flexibility in sending us their ACH files at any time. The automatic process kicks in and processes the transactions securely while ensuring that business rules filters are in place to prevent fraud and limiting credit exposures," Desai explains. "We also are taking a proactive approach to using technology to reduce compliance costs, while introducing automated controls into business processes."

He adds, "In order to transform the IT organization into a profit center, we are taking a very measured approach to ensuring that our business model addresses key areas such as product and services portfolio, pricing and profitability, risk assessment, sales and marketing strategies, as well as support and training."

Even as a commercial bank, Desai notes, Team Capital Bank is subject to the realities of the current economic conditions. "However, we are staying focused on what has helped us grow our assets to almost a billion dollars since our inception in late 2005. This strategy of building one relationship at a time and maintaining the conservative credit discipline has allowed us to successfully build a very strong asset base," he says.

Rob Alexander, CIO, Capital One (McLean, Va.)

When we visited with Rob Alexander, CIO of Capital One, a year ago, he was working to facilitate the McLean, Va.-based bank's aggressive growth strategy while simultaneously upgrading its enterprise infrastructure and improving the customer experience across delivery channels. This year, if possible, the 2011 Elite 8 honoree is taking on even bigger challenges. Capital One acquired ING Direct USA and HSBC's domestic credit card business, transformational moves that have made Alexander's Capital One the sixth-largest bank by deposits and assets -- and the nation's largest direct bank.

With the acquisitions comes a mammoth task of integrating the companies' IT systems into Capital One's infrastructure. "We believe a fast, efficient and reliable infrastructure will drive success for Capital One and our customers," Alexander's says. "To make this happen, we have been focused on nailing the integrations, delivering the infrastructure for a great customer experience, and becoming leaner, faster and more efficient in how we operate."

Alexander observes that with the digitization of banking, customers have come to expect to be able to interact with the bank wherever they are, whenever they want, which is why being "always on" is a top priority for IT. "Business demand for technology solutions continues to grow -- that's never changed," he says. "This, coupled with the fact that we're working now to integrate two major acquisitions, translates into the largest IT investments we've ever made in our company's history."

Alexander and his group are concentrating on enabling agents and customers to deliver a seamless service experience across all of the firm's product lines and across all channels. "We're putting particular emphasis on advancing our mobile and online banking capabilities," he reports. "Similarly, for our internal customers, our associates, we're continuing to invest in workforce technologies by upgrading videoconferencing, introducing social computing, upgrading wireless access and developing customized apps for smartphones and tablets."

Looking ahead to 2013, Alexander cites three main priorities for his IT organization: completing the integrations; increasing IT delivery speed; and creating a culture of excellence in execution to remain always on for users, business partners and customers.

Helen Cousins, EVP and CIO, Lincoln Trust Co. (Denver)

Since receiving Elite 8 recognition in 2011, Lincoln Trust EVP and CIO Helen Cousins has remained focused on helping the business use technology effectively and efficiently. "This continues to be my main responsibility," she explains, "along with developing our future leaders."

At this time last year, Cousins had received plenty of industry recognition for implementing a business process management (BPM) solution that incorporated enterprisewide business intelligence and workflow management, helping reduce the trust's paper-based workload by 90 percent -- and almost eliminating client complaints about delays and lost paperwork. "In 2013," she says, "we will focus on integrating new offices we acquired and bring advances in technology to them, and therefore, to our growing customer base."

This year, Cousins has been concentrating her efforts on acquiring competitors in the 401(k) administration industry along with growing the trust organically through new opportunities brought to the firm by 401(k) advisers. But, she suggests, her underlying driver is and always will be improving the customer experience. "At Lincoln Trust, we have always been a believer in using technology to enhance the customer experience," Cousins says.

Madge Meyer (Retired), State Street Corp.

Madge Meyer, an Elite 8 honoree in 2011, retired from her post as EVP, chief innovation officer and technology fellow at Boston-based State Street Corp. earlier this year. Meyer first stepped into the newly created position in February 2011 following nearly 10 years overseeing State Street's global infrastructure services.

In her role as chief innovation officer, Meyer had been responsible for leading efforts to benchmark, disseminate and commercialize State Street's technologies, and she had been responsible for driving awareness of the financial firm's IT capabilities in the technology marketplace, venture capital community and academia. A year ago, Meyer told Bank Systems & Technology that she felt innovation was as much a way of thinking as it is about specific technologies.

"Innovation is not creating new hardware or software, because that's not our business," she said. "For a bank, innovation is thinking, 'How can technology impact our business, and impact our bottom line, to help the business to be extremely successful and to be a competitive advantage for the business?'"

John Fiore (Retired), BNY Mellon

2011 Elite 8 honoree John Fiore retired as CIO at New York-based BNY Mellon in June 2010. Fiore had been a technology executive at the firm for five years before being named CIO in March 2012. He spent more than a quarter-century as a financial services technology executive, consultant and CTO.

"Technology is the foundation of what this organization is about, because without the use of technology, there's no way we could exist at the scale we're at today," he said of BNY Mellon in 2011. "It's a fundamental cornerstone."


Peggy Bresnick Kendler has been a writer for 30 years. She has worked as an editor, publicist and school district technology coordinator. During the past decade, Bresnick Kendler has worked for UBM TechWeb on special financialservices technology-centered ... View Full Bio

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