New SunTrust IT chief weighs open banking, AI, fintech partnerships
The job of a bank’s chief information officer has changed drastically in recent years.
Whereas in the past many CIOs functioned in an isolated information technology management role, today they have a much wider influence on the organization. They not only have to make sure vital IT systems keep running smoothly, but they also help the bank draw road maps for digital strategy and growth.
That expanded role is essential to usher in much-needed innovation, said Scott Case, the new CIO of the $206 billion-asset SunTrust Banks. He joined in January at a time when the bank and the industry are in the midst of a digital transformation.
Case replaces Anil Cheriyan, who retired after serving as the bank’s CIO since 2012. This is Case's second stint at the bank — and the stints were not far apart. Case had held senior technology positions at Bank of America before joining SunTrust in April 2015 as chief technology officer for its consumer segment. He left last October to become CIO of Ciox Health, a health care information management company, but SunTrust brought him back shortly afterward.
Case spoke recently with American Banker about his goals, the priorities for SunTrust’s IT infrastructure and the challenges ahead. What follows has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of your initial goals?
SCOTT CASE: Being in the role for just over a month, some short-term goals included focusing on partnerships internally and aligning with the different lines of business and acting as a strategic partner with the other parts of the bank. It’s important to be aligned so we can maximize the investments we have made. We have a good trajectory on mobile and digital capabilities so it’s important to continue that trajectory.
Medium to long term, we are looking at our digital road map and how we can use digital to improve the client experience and driving financial confidence and well-being. One way we’re doing that is through our onUp movement, a website that is available to anyone, not just SunTrust clients, with tools on budgeting and education to help you assess your level of financial well-being.
We’ll also be looking at things like our further migration to cloud, API gateways, microservices and continuing to create a culture of innovation internally.
Does the CIO have a more collaborative role now than in years past?
The short answer is yes. I am very much collaborating with others at the executive table as well as the business leaders that have PNL accountability day to day. Delivering purpose to our customers in a digital world is paramount for the company. [We're] not just here to keep the lights on for important systems — though that is critical — but also advising and being a part of our strategy moving forward.
Application programming interfaces enabling the notion of open banking are a hot topic in the industry, How do you view this trend?
It all starts and ends with the purpose of improving the client experience and how we can enable that. I believe with the technology and digital ecosystem we live in today need to have those types of services to improve the connectivity of systems inside and outside of company. Over time how open and how aggressive we go in letting third party developers leverage our APIs is something we’ll have to determine. As the API economy evolves over time, the openness of some of these services to drive banking forward is something we will be doing more of. Right now, we are using APIs mostly to connect systems internally and with fintechs we have acquired or have partnerships with.
With partnerships between fintechs and banks becoming more common, do you see them as a viable way to bring new technology and ideas into the organization?
They’re fundamentally important to us going forward. Banks and fintechs need each other, quite honestly. We have been fairly active in this space, such as our investment in Greenlight Financial Technology last month. We also used our acquisition of Lightstream (known as FirstAgain when it was acquired by SunTrust) to create a digital lending platform; another good example is our partnership with nCino which is an integral part of our wholesale loan origination platform. Another category we are currently looking at is a mortgage offering, and we are talking to and working with some fintech companies to provide capabilities in that area. We’re always looking across a range of dimensions, whether it is an outright acquisition, investment or partnership.
What other technologies are top of mind?
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are big topics right now. We have been doing a lot of work to strengthen our data platforms internally, and AI and machine learning can play a key role when it comes to analyzing data and data management. So we’re certainly looking to evolve our capabilities there. It obviously also plays a role in consumer-facing services.
AI, machine learning and robotics in improving risk management and fulfilling know-your-customer requirements, leveraging those technologies further for effectively and efficiently improving internal processes, is also something on our road map.
What role does technology innovation play in improving the commercial-client experience?
It’s very important to us. Look at what we’re doing with a platform like nCino for our wholesale clients; it allows bankers to respond quicker to clients because everything is centralized and ultimately better serve clients from beginning to end. In treasury services, we also have our SunView portal, which gives them a dashboard view of accounts and reporting tools. Digital services for commercial clients are really important to us and it’s something we’re investing in.