The economy may be tanking, but demand is still driving hard in one regard: the relentless thirst for technology. American finance is one of the central proving grounds for this and, as CIO at one of the country's most tech-forward institutions, Avid Modjtabai is at the heart of it and has been for several years running now. Attach that to her McKinsey experience and stint as head of Wells' Corporate Human Resources, and it likely adds up to chief executive potential if she adds some number-crunching and wants it one day.

But right now, the steward of Wells' $2 billion technology budget is about the art of the impossible. "The exponential demand for technology has not abated, although this is a tough economic environment," Modjtabai says. "Applications like online banking and mobile banking have driven the demand for technology up by as much as 35 percent-yet it's more important than ever to manage expenses."

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