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by Dan Turchin | August 12, 2015

Rishi’s better than you at just about everything. Here’s his advice for CIOs.

Rishi is too humble to be the CIO of a Fortune 100 bank, too busy to be the father of four, too accomplished to blog about ice cream, and too educated to love John Gray. Mostly, he's too unpredictable to fit stereotypes and too passionate about everything he does to do anything at less than full throttle.

I met Rishi this week at the Pacific Crest Global Technology Leadership Forum in Vail where he was presenting and I was lucky to be in the audience. We spent an hour together before his talk that inspired me to rescue Nepalese orphans... and eat more ice cream.

Rishi's been an IT leader since before we called it that. He has helped organizations grow and shrink and grow again. He's more scared about the state of IT today than he has ever been.

Here are excerpts from the discussion...

Me: You’ve been in the same role for eight years. Most CIOs don’t last eight months. Why the long tenure?
Rishi: Nobody’s foolish enough to sign up for the responsibility. That, and I have an amazing team. I decided eight years ago to partner with Susan (the bank’s CEO) and to make our team the anti-IT organization. We’re a profit center – not a cost center. We measure our performance based on customer satisfaction – not uptime. We help the business use technology to create competitive advantage – we don’t pretend to be a technology traffic cop. 
Me: What has changed about the role of IT at the bank over the last few years?
Rishi: We generate 20 times more data today than we did 36 months ago. We’ve acquired nine regional banks. We’ve integrated seven ERP systems. Our budget’s about $500M per year and it hasn’t changed and neither has our headcount.
Me: Have service levels declined?
Rishi: No. They’ve increased. We’re focused on automating manual tasks in the datacenter and only doing what we can do best. We’ve outsourced data management, migrated all key apps to SaaS or PaaS, and shifted from a traditional NOC to a DevOps model for app management. Automation is the only way we’re surviving.
Me: What are Susan’s goals for IT?
Rishi: Susan’s goals and my goals are the same. Look, the bank’s really a technology company. 80% of all transactions are initiated outside a branch. Most of our customers, especially the millennials, will never interact with a teller, wait in a line, or sign a paper form. To be a technology company we need to behave like one. That means measuring the value of our services from the perspective of our customers.
Me: How do you do that?
Rishi: Here’s an example: we had a 90-second outage Sunday around midnight. 350 transactions failed. That’s about 0.001% of all transactions we did Sunday. I was furious. Those 350 clients had a negative experience with the bank. We must strive for 100% satisfaction.
Me: What’s the hardest part about managing technology for a retail bank?
Rishi: The challenge of modern banking is that we’re dependent on merchant terminals, payment processors, and clearing houses. There are too many single points of failure and yet we’re the one throat customers choke when the ATM doesn’t dispense money. Plus, we’re highly regulated. We need to take ownership for the entire lifecycle of every transaction and that means being the best at monitoring and remediating issues with our data pipeline. We can’t point fingers.
Me: What advice do you have for CIOs trying to be strategic service providers?
Rishi: First, be brilliant at the basics.Get out of the server management business. Don’t be a telco. Don’t tell millennials what devices they can use or where they can work. Today, you’re really the CTO of a software company. Act like one and you’ll create a culture of innovation in the process.
See what I mean… and yet he finds time to be a soccer dad, read pop Psychology, and blog about his sweet tooth.
Dan Turchin - VP of Product

Dan Turchin was BigPanda's VP of Product. Follow Dan on Twitter: @dturchin. Connect with Dan on LinkedIn.