Slideshow 2016 Digital Bankers of the Year

  • May 30 2016, 3:00pm EDT
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The 2016 Digital Bankers of the Year, selected by the tech journalists at American Banker, are helping their organizations redefine the customer experience as people rely more on their phones and less on face-to-face interactions to transact. Through their efforts, customers are getting into their accounts faster, sending money more easily and enjoying better digital experiences overall.

Gavin Michael

Head of Digital
Chase Bank retail unit of JPMorgan Chase
$2.4 trillion in assets

By sticking to the principles of "simple, personal, human and cohesive," Michael has made JPMorgan Chase a leader in digital banking in the U.S. Michael and his team are obsessed with making sure customers find their digital interactions with the bank easy and enjoyable. That focus manifests in various ways, such as greeting its 24 million mobile users with local images and time-appropriate messages or being the first large bank in the U.S. to allow its customers to login with their thumbprints.

"For habitual customer use, it has to be easy all the time," he said. "If it is hard for the customers, they won't come back."

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Suresh Ramamurthi

Chairman and chief technology officer
CBW Bank, Weir, Kan.
$22.7 million in assets

In the past year, Ramamurthi has introduced a homegrown faster-payment product for corporate clients called BlastPay. It lets them disburse mass payments such as payroll and expense reimbursements across multiple channels including cards, ACH and internally. He also has created a platform that lets customers, fintech companies and others build custom applications. For instance, a fintech company could build an app that offers online loans with instant cash availability. Both innovations put this small rural bank at the forefront of payment-related innovation and both were spearheaded by Ramamurthi, a former Google executive who has been driving tech change at the bank since he bought it in 2009.

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Carrie Sumlin

Digital consumer executive
Ally Bank, Detroit
$111 billion in assets

As an online-only bank, Ally has to ensure it is delivering a great digital experience to its customers. Taking the lead in instituting customer-centricity throughout all Ally brand initiatives, Sumlin has overseen the creation of services such as Ally Assist, which analyzes a customer's accounts and transactions to offer smart reminders, flag potential issues and make financial recommendations.

Ally also has simplified the digital log-in experience from a two-step to a one-step process by deploying security technology that runs in the background and involves sending customers a security code to verify their devices.

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Arjun Sirrah

Chief technology officer
DRB Lending, an affiliate of Darien Rowayton Bank, Darien, Conn.
$587.6 million in assets

To Sirrah, the objective of his company's technology operation is to "build lasting personal relationships with its customers, enhanced by technology." Under his leadership, its online student-loan refinancing platform has originated more than $1.5 billion in loans nationwide. Last year, Sirrah and his team reconfigured the loan application in a way that eliminates some manual processes and speeds up approvals. They also enabled Stripe and PayPal functions for customers to receive referral bonuses. Now, the team is developing an entirely new online loan application, with improved operational efficiencies that allow for addressing customer feedback more rapidly.

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Secil Watson

Head of wholesale internet solutions
Wells Fargo, San Francisco
$1.8 trillion in assets

Watson has been championing digital innovation for Wells Fargo's commercial customers for several years, and a big advance is on the way.

By the end of the second quarter, Wells expects to launch an answer to one of the most pressing banking challenges: easier logins for these on-the-go customers. They'll no longer have to remember user IDs and passwords and carry tokens. Instead, they will be able to stare into a smartphone camera and, almost instantly, software will verify their identity via the veins in their eyeballs.

Beyond biometics, Watson also helped lead the charge to pilot an Apple Watch app.

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