What IT leaders in Canadian banking could learn from Goldman Sachs’ CIO

He calls himself “the poster boy for diversity” — he’s gay, Hispanic and has more tattoos than is probably typical in financial services — but it’s Marty Chavez’s insights as a CIO that really make him stand out.

Speaking at a recent enterprise IT event hosted by Re/Code in New York, the IT leader for Goldman Sachs offered a fascinating take on how technology is changing the nature of banking. The half-hour interview is worth watching not only by his peers in Canadian financial services, but other sectors as well.

As you might expect, Chavez’s resources are considerable, with more than 11,000 engineers and a third of the organization’s overall headcount. From an IT infrastructure perspective, he’s handling 120,000 servers as part of a private cloud, and his team has written 1.4 billion lines of code, including a bunch in a custom language Goldman Sachs invented.

While Canadian banks such as RBC, TD and Scotiabank might wrestle with how they compete or partner with various fintech firms, Chavez suggested technology will become a major driver of how banking is transformed.

“We could have a debate over whether financial tech companies in Silicon Valley will actually know the use cases, especially institutional finance as it’s practiced in New York,” he said, adding that Goldman Sachs has taken a stake in more than 60 companies, which have generated an internal rate of return (IRR) of 40 percent since 2008. “It’s not just investing in companies we think will go up in value, but creating the companies with competitors in our clients and then capitalizing them, as long as they’re aligned with the business.”

More specifically, Chavez talked a lot more like a tech vendor along the lines of Apple or Google than your typical banking executive, extolling the virtues of creating the technology driving your organization as an open platform. This, he said, was a far cry from the “bespoke, highly artisanal” way his sector has traditionally operated.

“Imagine a company had decided that instead of letting everybody who comes to a web site do some sort of  self-service, that they kept it internal, and if you want to search for something, you had to pick up a phone and call a sales person and they would enter your search terms for you,” he said. “That is an exact description of how Wall Street works. It makes more sense if our clients can come and get all those analytics that we previously kept internal. They’ll end up giving us more of their business and their problems.”

That doesn’t mean Goldman Sachs is going to attempt to do everything on its own. Instead, Chavez said the company was an avid user of, and contributor to, open software. It’s something that has informed the thinking in his IT department — which others in Canada might want to ponder themselves.

“Our motto used to be that the only thing crazier than making all your software is not making your own software,” he said. “We have changed that to ‘download, build, buy.’”

Watch the full interview below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Shane Schick
Shane Schickhttp://shaneschick.com
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