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Small Banks Risk IT Decisions Because They Wing Them

While large and mid-tier banks suffer from hernia of the brain when deciding on strategic IT plans, small banks go the other way while the CEO decides using seat-of-the-pants wisdom.

Here are some good IT rules for small banks when making IT decisions:

1.  Select a representative team including, CEO, CFO, Head of Operations, Head of Lending, IT Director, Compliance Officer, Customer Service Manager, and Head Teller.  I wanted to add Head of Marketing, but I've never worked for a small bank that had one.

2.  Always include a Betty on the team.  I have never figured out why, but women and banking go together like a perfect reconciliation of last night's posting run.  A good synonym for women in banking is "balance."  They are tough, right, knowing, objective, ego-less, with hearts.

3.  Always include a Randy.  He's the guy who complains the most about the present system.  He'll give the proposing vendors the right challenges, and you'll learn to love him in years to come.

4.  Get rid of any hot-shot who wants to enhance his resume by having the most innovate system in the industry.  "Innovative" is a nice sales word.  I prefer "delivered for us."

5.  When the team reaches an impasse in selecting the best core system, and they will, let the lending department have its way.  They earn the money, and that's what banking should be about, making money, not social causes.  Let HUD pay for home ownership for all.

6.  Look for robust functionality, ease of navigation, comfortable usability, sensible integration, vendor service, and management commitment.  If the sales guy tells you they want you to be their showcase bank, show him the door.

7.  Make sure the CFO signs off on the five-year pro forma budget and tracks it carefully.  Paying for the right technology is like paying off a car loan.  Don't ask for a Bentley half way through the 60 months.

8.  Document the entire process.  My stuff isn't pretty with a fancy binder.  It contains every task, every sign-off, every e-mail, every cost, and every butt-kick.  Bank examiners love the note book because it's real.  My clients score a "1" a year after the conversion when the bank examiners show up.  The note book was their resource.

9.  I have hundreds of tests to determine which system is best for my client.  At the end of the job, there is always a guy in the back of the room who asks why I chose System X.  My answer is, "Because you all told me where the bank wants to be and System X scored highest in delivering your wishes."  In other words, you all chose it.  I just did the grunt work.  Today, of the 321 clients who hired me, half are still using the system they chose.  The other half were acquired.

10.  Finally, IT doesn't respect prima donnas.  The right fit is important, cost should be measured as ROI, not price tag, implementation should be manageable with go-live assurances on morbid monday, and here's the toughest part to digest, don't expect every problem to disappear overnight.  Break out the champagne one year after conversion.     



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