CIO Interview with Albert Ma, CIO and Vice President at Toyota Financial Services

Toyota CIO: How the Recession, IoT and Millennials Are Upending Financial Services Tech


Financial technology, along with healthcare tech, is one of the fastest growing sectors as regulatory and privacy needs are finally being met. Toyota Financial Services CIO and Vice President Albert Ma shares his insights into how technology is changing the very traditional world of financial services.  

What is your main goal at Toyota Financial Services? 

Our goal is to be the Partner of Choice for our customers and our dealers. Within IT, we’re strategically focusing on how we can delight our users. Whether it’s our customers, dealers or internal team members, we want to exceed their expectations. 

Second, we’re focused on becoming a more agile organization. For us, it’s not just about Scrum or DevOps, but taking the waste out of every process we have.  It’s about having a mindset that “speed to market” is everything. 

Finally, we want to build a culture of experimentation. It’s OK if something doesn’t work out. We’ll learn from it. For me, it’s about being curious and seeing where that curiosity takes us. 

How has FinTech evolved over the years?

The sheer amount of VC investment in FinTech is staggering. In 2015, roughly $12 - $14 billion was invested in FinTech start-ups, which is significantly more than the previous year. If you look back, three areas have converged to change the dynamics of the industry. First, the recession created a key inflection point as financial services companies had to respond to increased regulation. Second, we saw the advances in technology like mobile, cloud, big data, and the Internet of Things. Third, we’ve seen the rise of the millennials and their expectations of a faster, quicker and simpler experience. All three have opened up the door to disruption and new business models.

In what ways are other internal leaders joining the IT discussion?

I am fortunate to work with an amazing group of executive partners who are champions for our growth into this digital world as much as I am. I used to hear language that “There is IT and then there is the Business.” But the reality is that IT is as much “the Business” as any other business unit in the company. And the flip side is that our business is all about technology. Our executives really understand this and we’re working together to see how we can drive business outcomes through the use of IT.

We’ve seen a shift from back-office activities, like process improvement and optimized efficiencies, to more customer-facing, revenue-generating capabilities. Our imperative is to focus on the top line and deliver a better customer experience. 

As a mainstream company, how is technology serving your customer better?

We highlight four different areas: Building a seamless, transparent, faster and personalized customer experience. Technology is really the backbone of it all. Whether we are leveraging mobile technologies or cloud computing or predictive modeling, IT is at the heart of the change.

All that said, it is the non-technology pieces that are just as critical. What are the organizational changes necessary to execute well? How can we get our partners aligned with the new processes? How do we build the right incentives to change human behavior? These are the elements along with the technology that really transform the customer experience.

What will be your biggest innovation from tech within the next five years? 

We’re really excited about blockchain technology.  Although there are still technology and regulatory hurdles to leap, the possibilities are endless. It will have a significant impact. When you have the ability to take friction out of a process and you have the capability to bring full transparency and complete immutability into a process, you open the door to many opportunities. 

It’s exciting to see where we can apply that technology within our space as well as in emerging markets like ridesharing and car sharing. I imagine we’ll see many more advances in that technology within the next five years.

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