by Mark Chillingworth

Barclays loses CIO Anthony Watson to Nike global role

Feb 18, 20144 mins
CareersFinancial Services IndustryIT Leadership

Anthony Watson leaves his role as CIO at Barclays Bank this week to become the Global CIO of Nike, the sports goods manufacturers and retailers, which is also one of the most famous brands in the world.

Watson has been with Barclays as CIO for Retail and Business Banking for Europe and Middle East and Global Operations since 2009. He completes his career with Barclays this week and moves across the pond to the US to begin his Nike career in April.

“We look forward to Anthony Watson joining our team and bringing his deep knowledge, expertise and vision to lead Nike’s overall technology strategy,” said Eric Sprunk, Chief Operating Officer of Nike in a statement. Watson will report to COO Sprunk.

Sources in the City of London see this as a big coup for Nike. Watson is considered to be one of a new breed of CIO’s that are highly consumer centric, agile, innovative and transformational and one Europe’s top CIOs.

Roland Paanakker retired as CIO of Nike in November 2013 having been with the Portland, Oregon-based company as CIO since 2005.

Watson is the second high profile business technology leadership loss at Barclays in recent months. In November 2013 Shaygan Kheradpir resigned as Chief Operations and Technology Officer to become the CEO of Juniper Networks. Kheradpir’s resignation came at the same time as Barclays lost its most senior banker, Sir Hector Sants.

Watson has been CIO of Barclays during one of its most interesting periods of history. It has remained one of the pioneer banks in its use of technology. In February 2012 it launched Pingit, a mobile App for all the major operating systems that enables money transfer management on the move. Barclays has also been quick to deliver Apps for mobile customers.

“The feedback we have had around Pingit in the media and on Twitter was amazing, we were in the top spot for a while with that launch, only porn stars get that sort of traffic,” Watson said.

Watson’s CIO tenure at Barclays Bank has also seen his ‘just do it’ attitude transform the bank’s back end architecture and customer relationship technology.

“Banking has a tradition of making things very complex. Basically what a customer wants is real time and seamless banking that’s channel independent,” he told CIO UK in a profile interview.

Just as Microsoft founder Bill Gates questioned that everyone needs a bank account, but not necessarily a bank, Watson saw the role of technology as becoming increasingly important to Barclays and its customers.

“Banking is the most technology-focused industry out there. Think about it, every transaction a bank performs is executed through technology. There are not many things you can do in a bank without technology. In fact I can’t think of any! Banking, in very real terms touches people’s lives. I want to make sure everything we do at Barclays has a positive impact a person’s life, each and every time they engage with us, regardless of which channel they choose.

“As a CIO I want to work with the business in a technology led transformative fashion. Technology will enable our vision of becoming the ‘Go to Bank’,” he said.

It was this vision, as well as his analysis and contributions to the major CIO issues of the moment, such as data analytics and cyber-security, that had the judges vote Watson into the top 10 of the 2013 CIO 100.

As well as one of the highest profile CIO roles in the UK, Watson is a tireless campaigner. As an openly gay business leader he gives a great deal of his spare time to speaking in schools and to other institutions of the importance of diversity. At the 2013 CIO Summit he led a frank discussion on this topic.

“He always wants to do the right thing,” said a fellow CIO, Ian Alderton.

Watson has spent over five years at Barclays, joining the bank in early 2009. Prior to Barclays, he was Senior Vice President and Global Head of Technology Services at Wells Fargo, running technology for the bank across 44 countries.

Previously, he worked for Microsoft and First-e Bancorp, Europe’s first internet bank. He is currently a member of the board and non-executive director at DGS, a digital customer acquisition company listed on the London Stock Exchange, a national board member of GLAAD, a US-based gay and lesbian rights organisation and Chair of the European Diversity Awards, the world’s largest award ceremony that recognises and celebrates people, organisations and companies that make a difference in the field of diversity and inclusion.

In July 2013, in the Guardian Newspaper, he was listed at the 26th (out of 100) most influential gay person in the world and in October 2013, he was named by the Financial Times as the ninth (out of 50) most influential gay business leader in Europe, the only technologist listed.