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Reinventing the job of CIO in financial services

Richard Stein | Dec. 16, 2016
The role of the CIOI think in financial services doesn’t need to be enriched. It needs to be entirely reimagined.

Nothing is more dangerous to strategy formation than unchallenged certainty. A choice that has succeeded in the past can take an organization down the path to ruin when the competitive environment changes — which it always will. What models, frameworks and approaches help with this relentless complexity? That sounds like a question we should ask a CIO.

Reimagining the CIO role

The role of CIO in financial services doesn’t need to be enriched. It needs to be reimagined.

JPMorgan Chase is among the firms beginning to do that. Earlier this year, for example, the firm’s CIO, Dana Deasy, told American Banker that “we aren’t looking to change the amount of money the firm invests in technology. We’re looking to change the mix between run-the-bank costs vs. innovation.” Among its innovations is cloud computing, in which JPMorgan is emerging as a leader among banks. All of its services are now designed to be “cloud aware.” Instead of worrying about nontraditional competition from fintech startups JPMorgan is actively building bridges and partnerships to that world.

Speaking from my vantage as a partner in a search firm serving the financial-services industry it doesn’t surprise me that Dana Deasy came to JP Morgan from outside the industry (General Motors, Tyco and Siemens, to be precise). To its credit the bank is learning to draw from nontraditional talent pools. With that comes nontraditional thinking.

Not long ago the CIO Executive Council surveyed an array of U.S. industry leaders to get their understanding of the evolution of the CIO’s role and of what it will take to move the position toward a central place in strategy development. CIOs, the survey suggested, will need skills their traditional mission of serving a largely internal client base didn’t require quite so much. These would include change leadership, collaborative decision-making, influencing and fuller attention to developing the careers of people reporting to them.

What they already have going for them, the survey suggested, is long experience with the tools of spotting external competitive movements.

Other industries are well along the road to cultivating a set of strategic skills in their CIOs. Financial services are slower to move in the same direction. Firms like JPMorgan are evidence of the business advantage that can derive from reimagining the CIO’s role.

Put this way, why wouldn’t a firm go in that direction?


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