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Beyond the techie - CIOs must be versatile leaders


As enhancing customer experience becomes more prevalent in banking, data security protection needs intensify, and operational and technology cost-containment measures persist, the role of the chief information officer (CIO) has become an increasingly critical one within many financial institutions. Their technical savviness, cutting-edge insights and understanding of the banking industry can be an essential differentiator in a highly competitive and demanding market.

Yet, while technology skills are paramount to the role, the CIO techie may not always be the best CIO leader for your bank. A well-rounded CIO, someone who has the technology skill and can communicate well, possesses sound business acumen, and can inspire and motivate other organizational leaders and staff is the ideal. Why is this important?

Seeing the big picture
The issues facing today's CIO require a versatile leader and someone who can see the big picture of the organization. Frequently, technology managers and directors are focused on solving a problem and reacting to that problem. Conversely, a CIO must first understand the problem, weigh its impact on the entire organization and provide a more encompassing strategy so more proactive reasoning and measures can be put in place and evaluated. In addition, today's CIO must have an innate sense about the integration of the organization's technology strategy with the overall goals of the banking enterprise. One works in tandem with the other. Technology strategy without business application has no value and most assuredly will fail. A CIO must be that conduit between technology and the organization to ensure seamless execution. Today's CIO sees technology as a tool to meet business needs and make the enterprise more competitive and successful.

Key CIO attributes
So when looking for your next CIO, what attributes should be present? Confidence and communication head the list. The forward-thinking CIO needs to be confident in their abilities and be mindful of new technology innovation, but they also need to translate that technical-geek jargon into communication executives can understand. Successful CIOs can talk about the upgrades and strategy in terms of how they improve process or customer relationships. For example, in the case of a bank's goals to improve customer relations, an effective CIO would communicate how a new social media rollout can drive greater customer engagement and retention showing measurable impact of expected gained and retained customers. The CIO who can help the CEO and other leadership make savvier business decisions is the one who will stay at the leader table, as opposed to the CIO who negligently harps on tedious issues around mobile banking, for instance, or bores the CEO with confusing tech talk.

And while your current CIO might not be the strongest communicator, there's still hope. CIOs can be coached to develop skills around communication and build on their decisiveness and consensus-building approaches. If the eagerness to learn is there, budding leaders who have the willingness to grow and values their contribution to the business can be helped by a professional coach to develop the key skills needed. This boost could position your CIO as the vital and transformative leader you need, one who can make an important and lasting difference for your financial institution.

For more information
To learn more about this topic, contact Beth Johnson, principal, at beth.johnson@rsmus.com or 816.751.4071.