Michel André: Everything You Need To Know About Succeeding As A CIO Post-Pandemic

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Post-pandemic, phrases like ‘the new normal’ and ‘unprecedented times’ have joined our shared lexicon. As we’ve adapted in our own ways to what this looks like, businesses have raced to match new norms and expectations. The rapid digital transformation that has taken place across industries is a prime example – particularly in Payments and Banking, where end-to-end digital access became a business necessity overnight.

Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have been the stewards of this digital transformation and will continue to play a critical role in how society adapts to a ‘COVID-normal’ life.

With the spotlight on them, it’s not surprising that almost three-quarters of CIOs surveyed by Banking Circle are kept awake at night thinking about their role. The survey, which focused on CIOs in Banks and Payments businesses across Europe, found the most plaguing concerns included tech outages, staying up-to-date with market developments, staff skills, and digital transformation projects.

With tech budgets increasing but still tight, CIOs will need to get thrifty with their resources and persuasive with their management style to ensure they stay at the helm of digital transformation.

The always-on mindset

A lot has changed in the past five years, just take the pandemic as an example. Tools empowering digital transformation are constantly evolving, and it’s the job of the CIO to be open to learning about them. Adopting an always-on mindset as a CIO is crucial, not just to minimise the risk of downtimes or outages, but to be tuned in to new trends and advancements in technology. In Financial Services, for example, new developments in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), have the power to totally transform the industry.

That said, while remaining tapped in, CIOs must avoid the temptation of being a kid in a candy shop and forking out for every exciting new goodie that comes their way. New solutions must be targeted towards previously identified business problems. In the case of AI, this might be fighting money laundering and fraud, as AI dramatically increases rules precision and highlights patterns the naked human eye could never spot. It’s all about choosing technology that is closely linked to business results.

Similarly, when deciding whether to build technology in-house or seek third-party support, CIOs must choose what works best for the company. Interestingly, 65 per cent of CIOs said they will seek out partnerships with external providers which suggests we can expect more collaboration between Banks, FinTechs and Payments businesses, which CIOs must be open to.

Securing team buy-in

While technology is one piece of the puzzle for CIOs, the other is the human workforce. Onboarding a new piece of technology is just an exercise in wasting time and money if your team is not on the same page.

Again, the pandemic has exacerbated the disconnect for many businesses as they navigate a permanent shift to hybrid working. Soft skills like leading, mentoring, acting as a role model and clear, effective communication have never been more important.

Such soft skills will also be key to training up a digital-first workforce. With more than half of both FinTechs and Banks expected to increase their IT human resources in the next 12 months, it’s crucial CIOs encourage good communication skills coupled with integrity and independence. CIOs can inspire these traits in the workforce through leading by example. For instance, encourage entry-level employees to ask questions and encourage mid-level managers to lead the way.

Stay on your toes

Five years ago, the CIO was still seen by many as the person who kept IT systems working. There is now a clear recognition of the fundamental contribution these individuals make to the future success of their businesses, stepping into the spotlight to quickly ensure seamless digital access for colleagues, clients and customers. To stay ahead of the curve, CIOs must remain vigilant to the evolving technology landscape and prioritise soft skills and human resources.

They must also remain aware of the fact that the role of the CIO is ever-evolving. That is to say, in five years, this article itself might be null. So, if you remember anything, make it this: a drive and desire to learn new things goes a long way to ensuring success as a CIO. Using technology to solve problems for businesses and people is a continuous learning path. The newest “new normal” is always just around the corner.