For over a decade, the team at Cornerstone Advisors has been evangelizing about the need for bankers to more effectively manage technology. While we’ve seen great progress in many of our clients, technology overall is still a mess:
In many respects, technology can be viewed as the last great struggle in banking. We’ve nailed credit and finance, and we’re making sound progress on sales and risk management. However, technology’s progress has been less stellar, primarily because it is the most difficult thing for a bank to do well. Let me go on record here. The hardest job in the bank is that of the CIO. It involves the most complexity, the fastest change and the least understanding from management and peers. In many respects, bankers are struggling with technology because we simply have not taken its challenge seriously enough.
Success will only come if we get past the talk and dive into the DETAILS. All great technology projects are won or lost in the details. Engineers understand the importance of details when working with technology; bankers do not.
And so I say to you, fellow bankers, it’s time to recommit to the struggle. Banks that leverage technology will certainly have intellect and creativity, but most importantly, they will have TENACITY. The team at Cornerstone is simply not going to let go of our dream to make technology work for this industry. It’s time to shed cynicism and resolve once again that “we shall overcome.” I got choked up last week re-reading Martin Luther King’s famous March on Washington speech from 40 years ago.
After my second Bloody Mary on a business flight, I began to dream of a “Million Banker March.” Because it’s my stupid dream, I’m leading the march. And on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, our industry makes it clear that we will make technology work for us. Inspired by the late, great MLK, here’s the speech I would deliver to fire everyone up:
(I approach the podium and the crowd goes wild!)
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for real change in the banking industry.
Four score years ago, we saw the dawn of a great new force known as “technology.” This momentous new machinery came as a great beckoning light of hope to millions of pinstriped bankers who had been seared in the flames of overwhelming paper and process.
But forty years later the banker is still not free. The life of the banker is still sadly crippled by the manacles of disparate systems and the chains of inadequate functionality.
Forty years later the banker is still languishing in half-finished technology projects and promises of enhancements next year. Sadly, the banker finds himself information-poor in an industry so rich with capital.
We all have come to this hallowed spot to remind bankers of the fierce urgency of now. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of sloppy technology to the sunlit path of simple navigation and integrated applications. Now is the time to change the injustice of PowerPoints and prototypes that never evolve into real products.
Now is the time to make justice ring for all the poor bankers trying to use technology today – those poor souls, shanghaied into projects without the staff or resources to make it work. Those poor souls working weekends while the politically astute golf on the green fields of the country club.
There will be neither rest nor tranquility until bankers understand and manage technology as well as they manage their credit, financial and sales processes. Amen brothers and sisters, we can do a better job!
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our protest for sanity to degenerate into physical violence against certain vendors or those bankers who just don’t get it. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting stupidity with facts and best practices that reveal the ineptitude of those who complain about technology, but do nothing to improve it.
And the marvelous new vendor management programs that have engulfed our industry must not lead us to a distrust of all vendors, for many of our vendor brothers have evidenced by their presence here today that they have come to realize their destiny is part of our destiny.
So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow I still have a dream.
I have a dream that one day this industry will rise up and live out the true potential of the vendor creed: “This system is seamless, integrated and user-friendly.”
I have a dream that one day on the floor of the BAI show, the sons of former bankers and the sons of former vendors will be able to sit together at the table of technology and toast to their success.
I have a dream that vendors will compete in a market where they will not be judged by the glitz of their demos or the trinkets they give away at their booths, but rather by the content of their products and the quality of their support.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day executives will take the time to understand technology and not just yell to terrified techies, “Just make it work!”
I have a dream that one day every technology investment shall have a rational business case before it is funded, that every project shall be managed with discipline and every process measured to a benchmark. The bugs shall be fixed and the training budget will grow, and the crooked systems will be made straight and used to their potential.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I take back into the next technology project. With this faith, we will be able to find a kilobyte of hope in our gigabyte of despair. With this faith we will be able to hold ourselves accountable that technology will no longer be a monetary rat hole that troubles our CFOs, but rather an enabler of productivity and service that lifts up our shareholders.
And I say to you today, my fellow bankers, let technology ring. From the prodigious desks of the CEOs, let technology ring. From the loan presentations of the commercial lenders, let technology ring. From star-gazed dreamers in Marketing, let technology ring!
Let technology ring from the cubicle-infested call centers to the quiet desks of anal retentive auditors!
Let technology ring from the server racks and firewalls of our data centers!
But not only there; let technology ring from the sorters in the back offices to the sales tracking on the front lines!
Let technology ring from the profitability systems in Accounting all the way up to our massive, glorious data warehouses.
And when this happens, when we allow technology to ring, when we let it ring from every branch and every department, we will be able to speed up that day when all of the industry’s children – bankers and vendors, IT staff and business lines – will be able to join hands and sing the words of the banker spiritual, “It works at last! It works at last! Thank God almighty, the technology works at last!”