A new breed of executive — often in the role of the chief technology officer or chief data officer — are combining technical and business knowledge to lead a change wave at Canadian financial institutions, participants at a roundtable discussion hosted by ITWC agreed.
With new entrants to the market space having a disruptive impact on the financial services industry, traditional players are looking for new ways to compete. To spin up legacy platforms and get a grip on corporate data in a way that can keep up with nimble startups operating with agile technology, the technical leaders at financial institutions are taking new approaches.
Technology leaders discussed the trends at CanadianCIO’s Executive Roundtable, Three goals for new Financial Institution Architecture, hosted by ITWC and sponsored by RedHat and Intel Corp.
“How long until the CTO stands for ‘chief transformation officer?’ asked one roundtable participant, the CISO of a bank. He reflected as well that the idea of the role of chief data officer has been around in the industry for 30 years, but it’s been in the last five years that this role really came to the forefront.
Some impressive skill sets are being brought to the C-suite, combining both technical and business skills, agreed Cory Vokey, territory service manager of Red Hat Canada. “You’re seeing a dynamic shift where very high-level executives know what they’re talking about,” he said. “You can’t pull the wool over their eyes.”
Changing a risk-adverse culture
In part, the change in Canada may be explained by recent hirings of executives from south of the border, added Kevin Felten, enterprise sales and client executive at Red Hat Canada. “Canadian executives say ‘Hey I don’t want to take that risk,” he says. “U.S. executives will say ‘I’ll take that risk and manage that risk.'”
Taking risk in a managed approach and operating with an agile model is defining the way these new executives are innovating at banks. For an industry that’s centuries old and has been relying on legacy technology that’s decades old, moving to modern technology platforms isn’t just a simple upgrade, it requires a cultural shift.
Another roundtable participant in the analytics division of a bank pointed out that the financial industry can be very risk-adverse. Every new project requires partnering with a risk assessment group and that’s where it tends to get tricky. “It’s finding that middle ground and doing that negotiation piece that is sometimes not so much fun,” she says.
Vokey says that a bank he previously worked with, he saw the bank go through three different tools each costing $20 million and the problem at hand remained unsolved. But when the bank finally tried a different approach of allowing a team of three people using open standards to tackle the problem, it was quickly dealt with.
“It wasn’t about telling the story and failing upwards and spending money,” he said. “You’ve got one guy that can come in and look at it as a system and understand it objectively and solve the problem quickly.”