Banks' Five Big Tech Priorities for 2015

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I'm headed to Davos, Switzerland, today for the World Economic Forum's annual meeting, where leaders from around the world will discuss trends and issues affecting the global economy and global financial industry.

I'm looking forward to talking with leaders from a wide range of disciplines about how changes in markets, technologies and regulations are drastically changing customer expectations and companies' strategies and operating models. These are a few of the topics I'll be focused on.

Technology and the revolution. Today, partnerships between chief information officers and other leaders are crucial in setting firmwide business strategies. As the gap between technology and the business shrinks, so does the distinction among front, middle and back office.

Oftentimes, what we're selling is the technology itself. Services like deposit-taking and payment processing are not new. We're selling customers a technologically advanced way to deliver that capability. This puts the CIO and technology teams at the center of banks' business in ways they weren't before. Gone are the days of hiring tech leaders simply for their ability to write code. Now they need to be able to identify and understand a business problem and apply technology to solve it.

Technology as a black box. Too many people in our industry apply magical thinking to technology. They expect amazing results if they just funnel enough money into it.

The notion that technology is separate from the business is destructive. Businesses don't bet on magic. We bet on technologists and capabilities that solve business problems, serve customers brilliantly and make it easier to get work done.

Big data. I vote we all stop using this term, which makes mysterious an idea that is conceptually simple, if difficult to execute. The basic idea is that banks need to manufacture, store and use data to better serve customers and grow the business. It's important that banks distinguish between uses of data that are interesting to consider and those that are actually impactful. The danger of an overly theoretical focus on data is that you produce a lot of work that falls into the first category and pay little attention to the second.

To cloud or not to cloud. Agility is the sun around which all planets revolve. Information technology organizations must eliminate barriers to scale and build virtual infrastructure that can adapt rapidly. We also must connect legacy systems in ways that provide the required elasticity for the tools and technologies we work with today: tablet and smartphone apps, social media analytics, location-based services, and an array of other post-PC tools and features. We must lay a foundation that allows brilliant and creative people to introduce innovative ideas and solutions.

Innovation in the service of simplicity. The world and the technology that runs it grow more complex every day. Our challenge is to deliver solutions that make the complex simple. Innovation is critically important, as long as we keep in mind that our goal is not to produce shiny new toys but to make people's lives easier. Information security is a great example. The innovations that help most combine security with simplicity, enabling customers and clients to manage their finances with confidence.

My mission at the World Economic Forum is to advance the conversation among industry and policy leaders about the impact these trends and issues will continue to have on our customers and clients, our businesses and the economies in which we operate—and how we can continue to work together to build a stronger and better global financial services industry in 2015.

Cathy Bessant is the global technology and operations executive at Bank of America. Follow her on Twitter @BofA_News.

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