The early days of the pandemic saw many organizations urgently accelerating their digital transformation strategies as, almost overnight, they needed to find new ways to connect with customers.
Such was the situation for Scott Case, who became CIO for Truist Financial Corporation in December 2019 as the big merger was completing between BB&T Corporation and SunTrust Banks—and a few short months before the full impact of the pandemic was felt in the U.S.
Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Truist is the seventh largest commercial bank in the U.S., with total assets of $541 billion and 15 million clients across 17 states and the District of Columbia. As CIO, Case oversees the organizational unit that provides the company’s overall technology, operations, and information-related services.
Case spoke with CIO contributor Maryfran Johnson on a recent episode of CIO Leadership Live about the merger, the digital transformation mindset that developed out of the pandemic, and aligning with business partners. What follows are edited excerpts of that conversation. For more insights, watch the full video below:
On customer-driven transformation:
The pandemic for all of us was certainly a catalyst that really forced us to think very intently, in a very focused period of time about how to serve our clients. What their needs were, as well as our 58,000 or so internal teammates.
When I think about a digital transformation mindset that came out of the pandemic, there are many examples, such as how to service our clients remotely, how to leverage data and analytics differently, in a more focused way, to deliver to our clients. How to speed up our internal delivery through techniques, especially around automation, to make sure we are efficient in our delivery as a company for our technology services.
That, combined with our merger happening at the same time, really forced us to get focused and serious about what I would call a digital transformation, which is still evolving and ongoing.
On adopting a new IT operating model:
It was clear that we needed to reorganize and think about maybe a different operating model. We in technology had to take our teams and really get embedded with our business partners.
So, we started a journey at the beginning of the merger work, to really align with business partners on how do you think about it as a product owner vs. maybe just a traditional P&L focus, how do you take product ownership and think about an ongoing backlog of work you want to deploy, how do you embed technology teams further up in the value chain, and how do you create a technology ecosystem that allows for continuous development so we are sprinting along the way?”
Really what I am describing is this notion of an agile culture, really buoyed by a DevSecOps kind of culture and processes and tools. And that is so much more of a cultural shift than it is a technology or tool shift. You really have to change mindsets and expectations. And I think as a hallmark of our culture inside of our technology organization is to how we want to operate and go to market with our business partners every day.
On getting agile right:
All of us that have entered into the agile culture [have had the experience where] sometimes you start chasing the backlog, perhaps at the expense of the bigger picture.
When folks hear agile culture, oftentimes they think you are winging it and you just kind of do whatever comes to mind. But you have got to do it quickly. The reality is, agile—as a culture, if done right—is a lot of planning, a lot of transparency, a lot of communication. And I feel good about our focus on product management and client experience that is really the guiding compass.
On taking a best of breed approach:
In the context of our merger of equals—BB&T and SunTrust coming together to form Truist—best of breed was really the way we described our approach to choosing which processes and, therefore, which systems and, therefore, which data—and you can keep going down the stack—which choices we would make.
This merger, when we announced it, was not intended to be an acquisition. It was not intended to shift the process or technology or data to one or the other so there was a winner and loser. It was really meant to be an opportunity to redesign and think about what the clients would need. And we applied that mindset in the retail space as well as the commercial space and made some hard decisions early on in this merger.
We took the opportunity through the merger work to optimize and, in some cases, simplify our third-party architecture. But where we made decisions around best of breed, we have been really intentional about who our partners are. It allowed us to get back to the table with some of our partners and reinforce the desire to be partners; not to look at it through the lens of just a contract, but to look at it like we are working on this together to build, architect, and sustain great client experiences that correlate to our purpose.
The best part of this was it created an open door for us to reengage many of our suppliers and, in some cases, new ones, to really reinforce that message.