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Move to public cloud displays CIO’s clout

Brian P. Watson | April 18, 2017
Veteran IT leader Steve Randich arrived at FINRA and found a burning platform — leading him to move the regulator’s 'crown jewels' to AWS.

Add to that accountability. Randich was 21 when he first started managing people. And in his capacity as a consultant, he was frequently interfacing with senior managers and leaders at client organizations.

Those early experiences played a significant role in his rise to the CIO ranks, first with the Chicago Stock Exchange, and then Nasdaq. He went on to become CIO of Citi’s Institutional Businesses, and then became co-CIO for the entire financial services giant.

By the time he arrived at FINRA, Randich had become one of the most experienced IT leaders in the financial services space. Along the way, he learned that management acumen, communications skills and a focus on building strong teams were among the most important assets any CIO could possess.

In one way or another, all three attributes would play critical roles in fixing FINRA’s burning platform.

Right away, Randich knew a major change was needed. FINRA’s data volumes had grown both systematically (trading volumes were increasing up to 20 percent each year for the past 20 years) and organically (FINRA expanded its reach from just doing surveillance for Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange to practically every equity and option exchange).

When he realized that new appliances were not a viable option, he began looking at cloud providers. Remember, this was March 2013, when countless IT and business leaders questioned whether cloud products were enterprise-ready or secure, not to mention reasonably priced. The thought of putting mission-critical assets in a public cloud was a foreign concept to most executive teams. Using a private cloud was more viable, but even then, executives hesitated to do anything beyond simple pilot programs involving non-core assets.

Not surprisingly, FINRA leaders balked as well. At first, many didn’t realize they were on a burning platform. Randich used his skills — and leaned on his clout and experience — to clearly explain the situation.

AWS offered the massive processing scale and storage they needed, at commodity costs and without the on-premises appliances that were bleeding money, he argues. It was a burning platform, plain and simple, and the cloud was the answer. Still, some executives and board members worried about security and over-reliance on a sole provider. 

Again, he was able to beat back the pessimism. “They saw we had a burning platform. The option was either, go get a bigger burning platform, or completely re-do this by going to the cloud,” he says. “Coming in here from Citi and Nasdaq, I had enough credibility that they trusted me.”

Still, in Randich’s words, in was no slam dunk. He got approval within four months to pursue AWS — while continuing to look at offerings from IBM, Google and Microsoft. And the board made it clear that they would be watching closely.

 

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