CIO Strategy: How IT can Create Great Customer Experiences

Explore the transformative impact of CIO strategy on customer experiences in CXOTalk episode 789. Join Michael Ruttledge, the CIO of Citizens Financial Group, as we uncover insights on leveraging IT to create exceptional customer journeys, foster innovation, and drive sustainable growth.

43:48

May 19, 2023
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On CXOTalk episode 789, we explore the impact of CIO strategy and its transformative impact on customer experiences. Listen to this thought-provoking conversation with Michael Ruttledge, the Chief Information Officer of Citizens Financial Group, as we discuss how IT can help create exceptional customer journeys, foster innovation, and drive sustainable growth.

The topics for this episode include:

Michael Ruttledge is the Chief Information Officer and Head of Technology Services for Citizens Financial Group. He oversees all aspects of the bank’s technology environment, from customer- and client-facing applications to the people, processes and infrastructure supporting Citizens’ day-to-day business operations. He spearheaded our Next Generation Technology transformation to modernize the bank and deliver personalized, digital solutions for customers and delivered a major up-skilling initiative and strong culture of learning through immersive Engineering and Architecture Academies, digital credentialing and building of critical skills for the future such as AI, Blockchain, Modern API’s and Cloud. Before joining Citizens in 2019, he previously held the position of Chief Information Officer of American Express Co. 

Transcript

Michael Krigsman: The role of the chief information officer (when it comes to customer experience) is crucially important, but we don't talk about it enough. 

Understanding the CIO role in enhancing customer experience

Today on CXOTalk, we're speaking with Michael Ruttledge, Chief Information Officer at Citizens Financial Group. When we talk about the role, your role as CIO, and the role of IT in customer experience, give us kind of an overview of what's involved.

Michael Ruttledge: Step one is really understanding the customer needs. I think Citizens does a terrific job of listening to customers. 

We bring customers in, and they give us advice on our mobile app. We're constantly taking the pulse of our customers, both our retail customers and our commercial customers. And we measure that.

We also use outside surveys, things like JD Powers where we get an awful lot of data about customer sentiment, and that is really important. It's really important to me, as the head of IT, that I really understand what that customer sentiment is and how we can go about improving it.

One of the fundamental things when I joined the bank was stability. We weren't where we needed to be from a system stability perspective. It's been a really maniacal focus of mine over the last four years really improving that. 

We've improved it by over 75%, and that's one of the first things I heard both from our internal colleagues and our customer base. Let's make sure that the systems that we are building are highly reliable, highly resilient, and can withstand some of these bumps in the night that you get occasionally.

Bridging the gap between IT systems and customer value

Michael Krigsman: To me, the gap is that you're focused in IT on systems and reliability. Yet customers don't think about that. From a customer perspective, if you go on the mobile app or the website, it just has to work. How do you bridge that gap into directly affecting customer perceptions?

Michael Ruttledge: If you think about what's happened the last few years, more and more customer expectation is that everything can be done through a mobile device. If you look at our own internal stats, the number of people logging into our mobile application has increased over 22% year-over-year.

The expectation is that people can do a lot more through their mobile device, whether paying a check in. You know they want to do it automatically through their mobile device, whether checking their balance. 

It really has been really trying to move some of those what we call assisted transactions to more self-service. Really, that's what our clients are looking for. 

To do that, it's really important that the systems are architected in such a way that you're able to remove the friction points from customers. We're being very sensitive to that in how we're designing the experience of all of our digital applications.

Using technology to meet customer expectations

Michael Krigsman: How much of this is technology and how much is understanding the nuances of what customers want? Then how do you marry those two sides together?

Michael Ruttledge: For example, one thing that's been phenomenally successful that we rolled out was an easy way for our customers to make an appointment at a branch, to check in. Give us information before they come to the branch about the type of services they're looking for. 

Then when they get to the branch, they're having that tailored discussion that talks to, I want a mortgage, I want a home equity line, I'm looking for a car loan. My daughter or son are about to graduate high school and I'm looking for a student loan.

Being able to tailor those conversations is really, really important. The feedback we've had from our customers there has been really phenomenal.

We've been at this journey to really transform all of our branches. When you walk into a Citizens branch today, it's very different from what it was before. There's less teller lines. There are more open spaces. 

You can walk in. You don't necessarily have to go to the line and put in your card in an Ingenico device. In many of our branches now, our customer service reps have a tablet. You can leverage e-signature to authenticate, so we know it's you on that tablet without going to a teller line. The response from our customers has been really, really positive for that.

We're also seeing the same if I pivot a second and look at our commercial customers. Our commercial customers, too, want to move more to self-service capabilities. 

Once again, we're trying to make it very easy for them to log onto systems. We provided a single sign-on portal that allows them to log on once and then to access many of the different commercial applications that they need.

We've introduced a digital butler service where they can get curated answers to certain problems very, very easily with updated voice response systems to make it very easy for our customers to do business with us.

As I said earlier, we constantly measure what's called NPS, which is the score that our customers give us (both our commercial and our consumer customers) to make sure that we are on the right track.

Michael Krigsman: It's funny. As you were talking, I was thinking, we're a commercial customer of Citizens Bank, and I haven't been into a branch in a long time because, if I can do everything on my phone, of course, I prefer doing that. It's much easier. Or on the website.

Creating seamless customer experience with innovative technology

What are the technologies? You've kind of alluded to this, but what are the technologies that go into creating that kind of seamless customer experience that you're hoping for?

Michael Ruttledge: A couple of examples of cloud-native applications that we've built from scratch that are where the customer feedback has been just phenomenal.

One is for our student business. We developed a loan origination and servicing platform from the ground up in just over a year, 8.5 million lines of code, API microservices architecture. But fundamentally, we really looked to improve the customer experience. 

We want to make sure that our customers don't have to provide us paper documents. How can we get that information? How can we leverage the data ecosystem with the appropriate, of course, customer consent to go get that information? 

We make it very easy for our customers to enroll, either do a student refi or get a new student loan. The disbursement is very easy for those loans because we really looked at the end-to-end process and made sure, from a workflow perspective, from origination all the way through to disbursements of the loan, it's very easy for our customers to do business with us.

Another example of that is one-click HELOC or fast HELOC. The average processing time to process a home equity loan is something like 45 days. We've been able to cut that down to seven days. In fact, the application process now for existing customers can literally be done in three minutes. 

The way that we've been able to do that is we leverage the power of data, the power of data that we already have for these customers to be able to prefill a lot of this information. We're able to do the underwriting automatically, leveraging data we already have. We don't have to go out and ask for this data, which clearly can take weeks to do. 

Some of these systems have been really phenomenal. They've grown. They're doubling the amounts of revenue that we've been able to get from some of these products year-over-year. I think it's primarily because we've really focused on that customer experience and making it frictionless for our customers to do business with us.

Michael Krigsman: You see a connection between the streamlining of those processes and the revenue and the customer satisfaction that you're receiving from your customers.

Michael Ruttledge: We've seen, in the first, I think, 160 days of launching a lending-as-a-service product, we were already over one billion in loan originations. We saw a 40% improvement in loan turnaround. 

It's really as well as been a satisfier to the customer, it's also an enormous satisfier for our colleague base. They used to have to a lot of these processes manually before. Literally, they would get a calculator out and calculate some of these things. 

We've made it so much easier for our colleagues who are sometimes on the phone providing advice. By providing this end-to-end workflow, they can see everything from the beginning to the end. Certainly, the satisfaction from our colleague base as well has been really, really positive.

Michael Krigsman: There's a very strong link then between the ease of use for your internal bank employees as well as ease of use from the customer perspective. You need both sides in order to create that ultimate customer experience.

Michael Ruttledge: That's correct. Absolutely.

Digital transformation and customer experience are strongly connected

Michael Krigsman: There's a very strong digital transformation theme that's running through this. Can you link for us or describe that connection between the digital transformation of these processes, all the things you were talking about, and customer experience? How does customer experience fit into the digital transformation landscape?

Michael Ruttledge: Digital transformation and customer experience go hand-in-hand. The key to a lot of this is the data. You can make it frictionless for your customers to do business by prefilling information, by making it very easy for them to complete applications. 

They're able to start an application in a branch. If they don't have time to finish it, they're able to continue that journey at home. Doing those types of things, leveraging the power that we have in terms of the data that we have to make it easy for our customers.

Once again, if I look at the client-facing side as well on the commercial business, we've launched a digitization initiative to make it much easier to enhance client onboarding and our lending processes. As I said earlier, we rolled out a single portal for them to log onto, which makes it very easy for them and improves that customer experience. 

We've improved our chat capabilities. If they do need to speak to a client service representative, they can. 

It really fits with this is all about white glove treatment to our clients. That fits very well with that piece because we can do both.

We really want to make sure that we're providing self-serve capabilities to our clients, so they're able to do things themselves. But at the same time, if they need to reach out and talk to somebody, they can. We try and make that process very easy for them. 

Michael Krigsman: Please hit the subscribe button at the bottom of our website CXOTalk.com so you can subscribe to our newsletter. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. 

Five pillars of next-generation technology strategy at Citizens

Michael, from a technology standpoint, what kind of transformation or change or evolution did you have to make internally within IT in order to enable all of this?

Michael Ruttledge: We set out by developing a vision and a strategy. We called it the next-generation technology strategy. It had five pillars. 

The first was moving to an agile environment. How can we deliver much faster, new capabilities for our customers?

The second was how could we build a library of reusable APIs, reusable micro-services, so I can develop much more quickly and share capabilities, leverage open source. Once again, with a view of being able to build so much more quickly.

The third pillar was around our talents and really making sure we have the right engineering talent at the bank.

The fourth one was about our journey to the cloud. We'll talk a little bit about that later, but the journey to the cloud is fundamental from two perspectives. One, speed to market. Secondly, to reduce our operating costs. 

Finally, the fifth pillar on this strategy was stability, cybersecurity, making sure the bank is protected. We are a regulated entity. It's very important that as we're making all of these fundamental changes that we're protecting our customers' data and that we're protecting the stability of the environment. We're very focused on that. 

Agile transformation: shifting from monolithic to incremental software development

Michael Krigsman: An interesting question that's come in from Twitter from Arsalan Khan (who is a regular listener). Arsalan, thanks for listening and for your great questions. He says, "Given the importance that is attached to improved customer experiences, how do you decide the financial value of that? Who gets involved? Is it the CFO? Is it you as CIO? How do you figure out the value of customer experience to warrant that investment that you've been making?"

Michael Ruttledge: As we've moved to an agile journey, we've been very focused on OKRs and making sure that we understand the value of the investments. We're very focused on iterative development, developing MVPs, testing and learning. But we have these quarterly investment meetings where we look at all of the investments and we measure whether we're hitting the revenue targets, the operating expense targets, the customer experience targets. 

We measure that. We report back on that on a quarterly basis. Sometimes we make adjustments to those, to some of those investments. 

Yeah, we're very focused on looking at the value that these investments are giving us. Frankly, moving to agile has allowed us to react much more quickly to that. As I said earlier, before, we were doing releases that were 18 months, 2 years, sometimes 3 years. 

You spend an awful lot of money on a two- or three-year program to realize, "Hold on a minute. This wasn't hitting the mark." Now, we're much more focused on smaller releases, incremental releases, and measuring the effectiveness of those releases on a regular basis.

Aligning the culture of IT and business to support customer experience objectives

Michael Krigsman: That must have required a real shift in the culture, the mindset, the thinking inside IT (going from these very large, monolithic, waterfall projects to smaller, incremental, agile development).

Michael Ruttledge: Not just a fundamental change for IT but a fundamental change for the business because the business now has to develop the user stories in advance. They've got to get that backlog of user stories so the engineers can be developing at speed.

They've got to think through what the business case is for these in advance. Once again, smaller increments. 

That product owner role or experience owner role is vital. We recognize that at Citizens as well, and we've been on a journey to not only upskill and reskill our engineering talent, but also our business talents to make sure they have that product management skillset.

Michael Krigsman: You raise a really important point, which is, very often when it comes to these types of cultural changes, we talk about what's necessary for IT. But it also must be matched on the business side because if IT does not have the right environment in which to work then the work is not going to get done.

Michael Ruttledge: One of the important shifts as part of our strategy was really getting the confidence of the business that we were able to deliver. We're able to deliver quickly at speed, and we had the right, frankly, engineering caliber that was able to deliver results. 

We had some really good successes early on with that. Things like the Small Business Administration's PPP Program after COVID really helped us, actually, because it forced us to work with the business very quickly to implement new capabilities so we could help our small businesses and our commercial customers get loans. We were able to develop some of those applications in-house with in-house engineers very, very quickly.

We also, as I said earlier, stabilized the environment very quickly as well, which gained the confidence of the business. We've been able to reduce the number of significant outages. We've been able to reduce the number of risks in the environment considerably, the number of security vulnerabilities that were outstanding. That's given the business a lot more confidence in the partnership that we have with technologies. 

You know I would say we started as a bit of an audit taker, I would say, and we didn't have that relationship. Now, if you had to ask the business what the relationship is (and we have), they would say it's completely turned around 360 degrees, and we have this phenomenal relationship. 

Certainly, we can't do it without them. That partnership is really, really important. 

Michael Krigsman: Can you assign any broad timeframe for the change in that relationship from, as you said, being an order taker historically to a much closer partnership that you have right now?

Michael Ruttledge: We turned the corner year two, I would say, I think, in terms of at least having that seat at the table. But it's an ongoing journey. 

We're partnering with the business where we've been at this agile journey now about four or five years, and we're still learning. The business is learning. We're learning. 

We've fundamentally changed our operating model. We've moved to what we call the modern operating model, which was done in parallel to the next-generation technology.

Fundamentally, the business reorganized how they worked with technologies to deliver new capabilities. And we're still maturing that. We're certainly not there yet, but we've made significant strides in the right direction.

Michael Krigsman: Again, it's a really interesting point that it's not just a technology transformation but you have changed your operating model. I was going to say, can you assign? Could you say that one is more important than the other? I realized maybe that's kind of a silly question to even ask that.

Michael Ruttledge: You need to do them in parallel. You can't be too far ahead with one or the other either. You have to do it in concert. 

If I have an engineering team who is able to deliver at speed and deliver capabilities to market at speed, yet the business is not able to keep up with the backlog of user stories, then at the end, we're not going to deliver that real, true experience to our customers, that minimal viable product, because it's not going to have everything that the business needs.

It's important you really keep them in tandem going at the same pace. Yeah, I don't think one is more important than the other. I think it's vital that you keep both moving along.

Modernizing legacy systems with a platform approach

Michael Krigsman: We have another question, again from Arsalan Khan, who says, "Digital transformation is about business transformation." He asks about the role of the CIO since the CIO has this very unusual position of seeing across every part of the organization, which is very unusual. You're not siloed as a CIO.

Michael Ruttledge: One of the things we've been moving towards is what we call a platform approach. This is exactly to tackle this problem, which is I don't want to develop bespoke applications for every single business process that I have. 

Why do I need one application for student loan originations, one application for credit loan applications, one application for mortgage applications, one application or platform for home equity applications, loan originations? If I can build a set of common components that can be reused across all of them, it's going to be much faster time to market and, frankly, much cheaper to build out. The lending as a service example that I gave earlier, the 8.5 million lines of code that we developed, cloud-native application, we've built it so it can be reused not only for our student lending business but for our personal loans, for our credit card loans, and different platforms. 

As the CIO, you're absolutely right. I can step back and take that platform approach and say, "Hold on. This is how we should architect this system," and explain the benefits of that for the business.

Sometimes they will agree, and you can wait. Sometimes, you might have to go ahead. And because it's such a priority to the business, you have to build a bespoke application or go out and buy a bespoke package. Sometimes that happens, but making that conscious decision is really, really important.

The second piece of that, which we've been on a journey as well, is to replace our core platform. We have a legacy core, and we've been modernizing that platform.

We're actually moving to a cloud-native, modern banking platform. Once again, that's based on these reusable building blocks.

As a CIO, it's up to me to articulate to our business how that can be leveraged across the broader business. Not just for one particular business line, but how can I use that not just for our consumer business but also for our commercial business, for our small-business business?

I do have that unique vantage point in having taken this platform approach. Building reusable building blocks that we can reuse across different business lines helps with that.

Michael Krigsman: How do you go to the business and say to the business, "Folks, we need to architect, well, pretty much everything"? How do you begin that conversation?

Michael Ruttledge: We did, and we have. What we did was set out creating a set of blueprints and roadmaps. We laid that plan out.

We said, "Look. Rome can't be built in a day. You're not going to be able to transform all of these platforms overnight." But we've touched, in the last four years, a great many of them, and we've made strides to improving them. 

I think, fundamentally, the most important thing, at first, was setting out the architectural blueprints, acknowledging where you have platforms that are out of date that need updating, prioritizing which of the ones that you need to upgrade first, and aligning that with the business. 

It may be okay that you have a platform that's old. If it's not a growing part of the business, that it's just working, it works every day, why touch it? You just park that, and you say, "Okay, we will put that in a maintain category. We will maintain it. But these other systems that are growth, that are going to help us grow the bank, we will invest in." 

That's what those blueprints do. These blueprints fundamentally have to be done in partnership with the business where you will lay out that roadmap to say, "Over time, over the next three to five years, here's what we're focused on," and get that alignment with the business. It's really fundamental.

Aligning business and technology investments

Michael Krigsman: At that time, how did you approach the business in terms of arguing on the one hand about the need from a technology standpoint versus on the other hand arguing the need from a business standpoint?

Michael Ruttledge: I think you've got to show both. You've got to show the short-term, medium-term, long-term advantages to the business. 

Sometimes there may be immediate benefits to implementing these small-scale changes that can move the business forward. Sometimes you have to show that longer vision and show that, over time, here's how this is going to benefit you. 

If you look at, for example, the core modernization journey is a five-year journey. We've started it, but we're not going to move all of our existing products to this new cloud-native platform until about 2027. 

But we laid out that roadmap for the business and showed them, "Look. We've launched now. We've got all of our digital bank now on this new platform, 80,000 customers in production. Our savings account is on that platform." I was able to launch that.

Now, I'm building out checking capabilities by the end of the year. Then I can move our checking customers onto that platform. Different products one-by-one for next year.

I think it's showing that journey, but you've got to create business value along the way. It wouldn't have worked if I'd have gone to the business and said, "Well, in 2027, you're going to get a brand new, shiny system. We'll be able to put things on it then."

You've got to do it incrementally, and you've got to show the value incrementally. That's what we're doing. 

I like to say we're biting the elephant one bite at a time. We're not trying to eat it all at once.

The impact of business and information technology transformation on customer experience

Michael Krigsman: We're talking about the impact on customer experience. And so, can you just, again, link for us all of this technology transformation, business transformation to that upper-level theme of how does this help customer experience?

Michael Ruttledge: If you look at our digital application, we did 970 releases last year – 970 releases. We were able to take that customer feedback and really incorporate changes rapidly into our mobile app. It has a 4.7 rating on the app store, which is pretty high. 

By building components, by building this component-based architecture in the cloud, we're able to deliver new capabilities so much faster. We're able to react with industry trends. 

As the banking industry has tackled fees, we were able to reduce our fees and give customers a 24-hour grace period for an overdraft. We're able to implement those capabilities very quickly.

We're able to implement capabilities such as you can now see your paycheck on a Wednesday as opposed to a Friday. Once again, we're able to deliver those capabilities very quickly on the digital platforms. We wouldn't have been able to do that before. 

I talked earlier about the branches. You can walk into a branch. The branch personnel have a tablet. They can service you on that tablet. You don't have to go to the teller machine. We have e-signature capabilities.

There are many ways that we're making it easier for our customers to do business with us. When you look at the new account origination for new customers that sign up, we've really made it far fewer clicks to be able to do a lot of that information, far fewer details that they have to enter. That's making it easier for our customers to do business. 

We've dramatically reduced the time it takes to apply for a new checking account or a new deposit account or a new credit card by leveraging the power that we have in the data here at Citizens. I think there are some examples, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Chris Petersen asks, "When you were talking earlier about building blocks, blueprints, and roadmaps," and this is a pretty geeky question, so see how you'll respond to this—

Michael Ruttledge: [Laughter] 

Michael Krigsman: –"Did that come from adopting or maturing IT frameworks like TOGAF or ITIL?"

Michael Ruttledge: When you think about the standard set of APIs that we're building, we leverage BIAN, which is an institute that publishes standard APIs for the banking industry. 

Certainly from an architecture perspective, we follow TOGAF, TOGAF principles. 

We definitely look at them.

When you look from a cyber perspective, we've built all the controls that the NIST Foundation recommends in terms of cyber best practices and building protection into the code.

Yes, we definitely look at all these types of outside standards and, where possible, we adopt them. Absolutely.

Prioritizing investments in customer experience

Michael Krigsman: This is from Lisbeth Shaw who says, "How do you know which aspects of the customer experience (from the customer's point of view) need improvement? Then how do you map that onto how IT can help?"

Michael Ruttledge: I'll give you one example: ATMs. A couple of years ago, we had a lot of feedback about our customer's dissatisfaction with ATMs. Now we've jumped up this year to fourth in the ranking in JD Powers on our ATMs.

We've introduced things like multi-denominations. When you go to an ATM, you can ask. Do you want 20s? Do you want 100s? How do you want your money?

You can also enter personal preferences so that the next time you go, we automatically know that you always get $500 out, and you always want it in 100s. So, there are those personal preferences. 

We've also made it easier if you don't want to carry any card. You can tap and go with your mobile device and get cash out from many of our ATMs now with your mobile device.

Direct feedback from our customers, and we prioritize that set of activity. Really, we've significantly improved the quality, I would say, for our customers, of our network of 3,000+ ATMs. That's just one example, but we always listen to our customers, and we prioritize a lot of those customer experiences that are raised.

The role of IT in digital transformation projects

Michael Krigsman: Another question from Twitter. Arsalan Khan comes back again, and he says, "How is digital transformation different than any other IT project? Can you explain this from the perspective that a non-IT person would understand?"

Michael Ruttledge: I'll give you one example that we've been doing as part of our digital transformation is what we call on war on paper. If you think about, in the olden days, if you need to prove your income, you have to fax us or walk into a branch and give us your payroll stub. If you're a company, you have to give us your tax information. 

A lot of that information now is available through APIs that I can get with appropriate customer consent. That's where the digital transformation really comes in of those business processes is, how can I digitize that?

The same with our commercial business. We really digitized a lot of the documents that our clients have to provide us in terms of wanting to request loans, et cetera. We've been very focused on making that very easy for our clients to do everything to sign through DocuSign rather than sign in manually and having to post or fax or send that type of material in.

Those are just a couple of examples, but that war on paper not only is a big customer experience satisfier. Fundamentally, as well, reduces our operating expenses. 

We don't have to keep all this paper. We don't have to post it and the postage fees that go with that. You're also able to reduce your costs by reducing the amount of paper that you have. It's just one example of where digital transformation fundamentally replaces some business processes.

Cloud strategy: Responsiveness to customers, agility, and efficiency

Michael Krigsman: What about cloud? You've mentioned cloud several times. Where does cloud fit into this and why is the cloud so important to this?

Michael Ruttledge: Cloud is fundamental to our overall architecture. We have a multi-cloud strategy, so we're on both AWS and Microsoft Azure. We started on AWS, so a lot of the mobile applications that I talked about have all been built on AWS.

Our data platforms, we have several appliance solutions. We were on Netezza, on Teradata, on IBM BigInsights, on Hortonworks. We've eliminated a lot of those appliance solutions. Now everything is in a data lake on AWS. 

We're able to build Customer 360, which is a view of all of our customers' relationships with us. We're able to have a product master, so we really understand fundamentally where are our customers and what products they use.

We've built all of that on the cloud. We're moving to more real-time using data, data streaming tools, enablers to make decisions real-time.

That's what our customers want. They want instant gratification. All of that is enabled on the cloud.

It's just fundamentally improved our time to market. Before, you would have to order a server. Then you would have to order the operating system, then the database. Then you would have to lay the application down on that. 

We've automated a lot of that. We've automated a lot of the security controls. 

As I build out code and I put it on this pipeline, now I can do releases in under 15 minutes. It used to take four hours.

Because it's all fully automated in the cloud and I've built in the controls, I don't need someone in security to check the code, check out the code, look at the code, and say, "Is it free of vulnerabilities?" I already... I scan for that. I automatically scan for it. I produce. I say, "Yep, that code can move forward into production. It's free of vulnerabilities, free of defects."

The cloud has helped us enable that. We've built what we call a platform as a service, which is a sort of development toolkit for our engineers on the cloud. They're able to develop so much faster.

Once again, reusable utilities. They don't have to do error handling. We already prebuilt that and they can reuse that. 

They don't need to build logging. It's already reused, and they can reuse that on the platform. Many of these capabilities allow our developers to really move at speed in the cloud. 

It's also enabling us to really improve resiliency because we have multiple availability zones within the cloud. We have multiple regions, so we're able to failover from one region to another region. And so, it's really improved the availability of our most important tier-one applications.

Then finally, cost. Ultimately, our plan is to exit our data centers by 2025, by the end of 2025. 

That unlocks massive amount of operating expenses that we can feed back into other things at the bank, either more development, more new capabilities, or other priorities for the bank. By unlocking that, we see the cloud as a much cheaper alternative to having our own brick-and-mortar, our own data center.

Michael Krigsman: Again, there is this technology architecture that enables the agility and the responsiveness to customer needs, customer requests, which therefore improves customer experience, improves revenue, and all the good things associated with that.

Michael Ruttledge: Absolutely. You brought it full circle, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: As we finish up, any closing thoughts on this alignment of IT with customer experience?

Michael Ruttledge: The one piece of advice that I'd give is to make sure you have the right talent. We swung the pendulum a little too far over to outsourcing, I would say, four or five years ago. We've now swung that pendulum a little bit back. We've hired 550 software engineers at the bank. 

We've trained and reskilled over 400 software engineers by developing internal academies, badging certification programs, and our colleagues love it. The love the fact that we're investing in them, that they're able to use new technologies. 

These academies, they've learnt 30 different new technologies, whether that's MongoDB, Snowflake, or PostgreSQL, whether it's the new DevSecOps tooling that we've been able to bring in, and new APIs, microservices. 

They have this engineering muscle. People in technologies, they were computer science grads. They just lost that muscle. They were managing and not doing. 

We've now enabled them – by reskilling them, retraining them – to do again. And so, I would say invest in your people, invest in your talent, train them would be one piece of advice.

Then also look at the external marketplace. Bring the right talent in so they can coach and mentor your existing talent base as well.

That's fundamental, I would say. Get the talent right and the other things will fall in place. 

Michael Krigsman: Great advice. Get the talent right and other things will fall in place. With that, we're out of time, and so I just want to say, Michael, thank you so much for taking your time to be with us today.

Michael Ruttledge: Thank you, Michael.

Michael Krigsman: Everybody, thank you for watching, especially those folks who ask such excellent and insightful questions. Now, before you go, please hit the subscribe button at the bottom of our website CXOTalk.com so you can subscribe to our newsletter. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Check out CXOTalk.com, and we will see you again next time. Have a great day, everybody.

Published Date: May 19, 2023

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 789