By Thomas H. Davenport and Randy Bean
At any gathering of senior technology executives, one issue that reliably comes up is reporting relationships among the increasing number of C-level tech executives. Should the Chief Data Officer, for example, report to the Chief Information Officer? And where do the Chief Digital Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Analytics Officer, Chief Information Security Officer and any other chiefs that happen to be around report?
There is no right answer to these questions, of course, but we do feel that there are some general principles that should be followed in answering them. Here are a few:
- Whatever the reporting relationship, there should be clarity in how senior technology roles are defined, and the scope of the roles should be broadly communicated within the organization.
- In general, we believe that highly related roles should report to the same place within the organization, so that they can collaborate effectively.
- If there’s not a clear “first among equals” among these senior technical executives, they should report to a more senior person who manages technology and something else—e.g., Technology and Operations (a role commonly found in banks), or Technology and Corporate Services.
- While the Chief Information Officer is the oldest and best-established among these roles, it should not be presumed that all other technology executives should report to the CIO.
The Technology Organization Stack at Citizens
To illustrate some of these principles at a real company, we spoke recently with Mary Ellen Baker, executive vice president of Business Services at Citizens Financial Group, one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with $179.9 billion in assets as of June 30, 2020.
Citizens was first established in 1828 as the High Street Bank in Providence, Rhode Island, and in 1871 was granted a second charter by the state to establish the Citizens Savings Bank. In 1985, Citizens changed status from a mutual savings bank to a federal stock savings bank and expanded into other states beginning with Massachusetts in 1986. Today, Citizens operates approximately 1,000 branches in 11 states in the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions, and offers a full range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations and institutions.
Baker has been in her position at Citizens for about four years and before that held technology executive leadership positions as EVP, Enterprise Systems and Services at PNC, and SVP and Head of Consumer Technology and Operations at Bank of America. The functions at Citizens that she oversees include Technology, Data Management, Information and Corporate Security, Property Services and Vendor Management.
Michael Ruttledge, the Chief Information Officer, and Vinay Jha, the Chief Data Officer, both report to Baker and she reports to the CEO. Ruttledge, who spent 32 years at American Express, most recently as SVP Technology and Business Unit CIO, focuses, like many CIOs, on technology strategy, infrastructure management and application development.
Baker said she had worked in organizations where the CIO and CDO reported into different places; it made it difficult to coordinate her activities. When she came to Citizens, there was already a CDO role, but it had a relatively narrow mandate. Baker expanded it and had both the CIO and CDO role report to her. She commented:
“Both of these functions are very important to Citizens. There is so much value in the next-generation tech strategy that Michael is driving, and just as much opportunity in the data and analytics work that Vinay oversees. I wanted to have two experts leading these functions in a close partnership.”
Data Management at Citizens and The Role of the Chief Data Officer
As Chief Data Officer for Citizens, Jha has both data management and governance, and some analytics-oriented responsibilities; his group includes an Advanced Analytics function. Jha comments:
“The way we have structured our organization is twofold. One set of people provide enterprise functions such as data governance including customer master, data infrastructure, tools, and standards and guidelines for data science and robotics. The other part of the organization is dedicated to enabling the lines of businesses and corporate functions with various data solutions focused on driving value. We also provide business intelligence support via the development and automation of dashboards and reporting. The teams work in an Agile framework and have very close partnerships with the businesses to solve the data problems.”
Jha is also working with Citizens’ HR function on developing a data-driven culture at the bank.
The final leg of the stool is the Chief Security Officer (CSO), who also reports to Baker. In this role, Holly Ridgeway heads both physical and information security for the bank. She has, as Baker puts it, “a huge need for collaboration with the CIO and CDO,” but there is also a healthy tension with them. “It’s natural for the CSO to put on the brakes occasionally,” Baker explains. At the moment, the CDO and the CSO are looking at opportunities to use analytics and AI in security, which will probably lead to even more opportunities for collaboration as Citizens builds a business services and technology organization to enable banking in the 21st century.