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What’s on the Minds of Financial Services CIOs?

Earlier this week, I participated in the Financial Services CIO Summit, which brought together CIOs and other senior technology business leaders from global as well as regional financial services institutions to share insights on the industry’s evolution. The dialogue was rich, compelling, and creative. The leaders grasp the challenges before them and see solution pathways that will help their banks capture new opportunities. So what was on their minds?

Four main forces are driving change in the banking industry: 1) rapid technology development that is providing a new business reality; 2) increasing customer demands that require banks to rethink how they have historically approached customers; 3) heightened competition, not just among financial institutions, but from companies outside their industry; and 4) burgeoning regulation that will require banks to track and store data disseminated to customers, including text messages, emails, and other interactive forms of digital information.

Overwhelmingly, the CIOs agreed that their challenges are not about technology per se; they have a plethora of technology choices. Instead, the main challenge is how to apply technology to maximize business benefits. The role of the CIO is no longer to serve primarily as a transactional technology guru. Management now expects CIOs to identify business problems and apply the right technologies to drive new business and serve customers better—while at the same time helping the bank become more productive and cost efficient.

One of CIOs’ biggest challenges is serving new customer segments with tailored approaches. Banks want to appeal to the younger generation of customers in a more differentiated and adaptive way. Gen Y consumers expect banks to use the web, social media, interactive games, and ubiquitous mobility in their customer interactions. CIO Summit attendees agreed that they need to create greater brand presence in social media circles to stimulate conversations with this key customer segment regarding home ownership, retirement savings, and other personal finance issues.

For high-net-worth clients, CIO Summit attendees pondered two “virtual expert” scenarios based on two-way high-definition video: (1) utilizing virtual advisers in wealth management branches to broaden availability of subject-matter expertise; and (2) home-based solutions that enable clients to reach their financial advisers when it is most convenient.

The CIO Summit offered a glimpse at several great opportunities. To capture them, I think CIOs should consider three steps: 1) conduct research and analysis to identify and prioritize strategic options; 2) define the appropriate business architecture (business strategy, people, processes, and organizational structure); and 3) create the technology architecture that enables successful implementation.

Financial services CIOs face some interesting battles. However, they now have the opportunity to become even more business-critical to their organizations than ever before.

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