COVER STORY

The Innovators 2007

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If there's an ethos that ties technologists together, it's the notion that the status quo poses far greater risk than not pushing forward. Among some of this year's Innovators there's an almost militant insistence that banks not shirk.

"Innovation or death" is the motto of Pete Cittadini, the CEO of Actuate, one of 2007's most innovative people. Looked at another way, it has been observed by Peter Drucker that "the best way to predict the future is to create it," a sentiment the 25 most advanced people, companies and technologies in BTN's ranking certainly share. Those who do not embrace new technologies that effect positive, if not disruptive change risk being swept aside by more progressive competitors.

This is a list of success stories in the industry, and so a certain degree of brio is to be expected. But there are lessons here for all players. The Innovators show how an aggressive, well-conceived technology strategy can boost revenue through untapped avenues, lower costs through operational efficiencies and differentiate a financial institution from its competitors in the minds of customers and investors.

It's key testimony to why long-range, creative thinking about ways in which to redefine the technology landscape must have equal footing with the short-term drive to hit annual financial and market share targets, all the while serving the interests of customers.

Equally impressive as the financial results this year's Innovators have enjoyed is the breadth of their technological advances. The technological strides featured in the ranking include next-generation payments and mobile banking, improved data analysis, more sophisticated credit risk assessment, open-source-based business intelligence, advanced remote-deposit capture, branch automation, regulatory compliance, core banking, and Internet security.

Of course, innovation in the financial services industry continues at a breakneck pace, and institutions are eager to put these advancements to good use. The Innovators in this issue - stand outs in a crowded field - have stories particularly worth telling. In all cases, what's striking is not just how great an impact these 25 companies have had on their customers and the industry over the past year, but the extent to which they light a path forward. That, in the end, is true innovation.

The Innovators 2007

Click on a link below to be taken directly to each profile.

  1. Jeff Yabuki - President and CEO, Fiserv
  2. Bank of America
  3. Tripp Rackley - CEO, Firethorn
  4. RBC Financial Group
  5. Louis Hernandez - Chairman and CEO, Open Solutions Inc.
  6. CheckFree's Web RXP
  7. PrimeRevenue
  8. Frank Martire - President and CEO, Metavante Corp.
  9. Art Coviello - President, RSA, the security division of EMC
  10. John Woolbright - SVP and CTO, Synovus
  11. Oracle
  1. June Felix - General Manager, Global Banking Solutions and Strategy, IBM Corp.
  2. Panini
  3. Michael R. Cote - President & CEO, SecureWorks
  4. Pete Cittadini - CEO, Actuate Corp.
  5. Actimize's Employee Fraud Solution
  6. IdenTrust
  7. Wincor Nixdorf's Bulk Check Deposit
  8. NCR
  9. mFoundry
  10. VSoft
  11. WSFS Financial Corp.
  12. Verint
  13. Harland's CreditQuest
  14. Bottomline Technologies

1. JEFF YABUKI - CEO, Fiserv

Age: 47
Claim to fame: Landed CheckFree in a $4.4 billion cash deal
Compensation: $4.4 million (2006)

Fiserv chose Jeff Yabuki as its new CEO in November 2005. In early 2006, the company was named to the Fortune 500, but the CEO did not bask in the limelight. Rather, he embarked on a corporate strategy to offer a platform-wide suite of products, Fiserv 2.0, vowing to move away from a profit-center, business-unit model to a customer-driven mission. "My drive and motivation is helping our employees, our associates, our clients and their constituencies be the very best-to create a platform where people can be special," Yabuki says. Clients are integral to innovation and design, he contends. "In the end, it's [about] what the clients have and what they want."

Giving clients what they want isn't always easy-or cheap. Fiserv's recent $4.4 billion purchase of CheckFree, a deal expected to close by next month, is the latest in a line of 140 other acquisitions since its founding in 1986. The moves are paying off: income from continuing operations grew to $333.7 million in the first nine months of 2007, up 4.1 percent from the similar 2006 period, while earnings per share for continuing operations rose 9.4 percent to $1.97. During the same nine-month period, total revenues increased 9.3 percent to $2.54 billion year over year. Fiserv's client list exceeds 18,000 institutions, as well as self-insured employers.

The greatest challenge in reshaping the company has been focusing the richness of the technologies it offers, from core systems to fraud detection and prevention. "Which of your children is your favorite?" Yabuki asks rhetorically. "We needed honest assessments, with the goal of taking our position as a world-class provider of integrated solutions and helping customers become best-of-class."

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