WOLF & CO Insights Key Takeaways – Our First Annual Technology Leadership Conference

Key Takeaways – Our First Annual Technology Leadership Conference

Key Takeaways: Our 1st Annual Technology Leadership Conference

Technology is disrupting the banking industry—and for financial institutions, in order to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing environment, preparation is crucial. To help drive the conversation during this significant transition, Wolf & Company hosted its 1st Annual Technology Leadership Conference, where CEOs, CTOs, CIOs, and more gathered to discuss industry-defining tech topics that would take their institutions to the next level.

Looking Back and Forward: Ten Years as a High Tech CIO


Joel Jacobs, Vice President and CIO of the MITRE Corporation, has been at the forefront of IT changes over the last decade. Using his expert insight, Joel discussed the evolution of demands and disruptive forces from his perspective as CIO of a $1.8B high tech company.

Anticipating the pressures, expectations, and opportunities ahead, Joel highlighted the upcoming trends that will shape the first part of the next decade.

The Need to Know

Ten years ago, there was a demand increase for information access and knowledge management to “bring the community to bear.” By opening the information pipeline, the last decade has seen a rapid shift in the demand for computing, virtualization, and cloud services and, in turn, has had to keep up with the increasingly sophisticated cyber threats that come with these advancements.

Key Trends Enabling and Accelerating Transformation

There are certain trends coalescing in the corporate world today that are pushing business to the next level and forcing companies to stay on their toes and adapt to the surrounding environment.

• Artificial Intelligence

• Pervasive Mobility

• Pervasive Connectivity

• Deep Personalization/Digital Assistance

• Increasing Classification of Government Materials

• Evolving Interfaces

• Process Consolidation and Integrated User Journeys

• Zero Trust Networks/Software Designed Access

• Rapid Movements/Cloud Architecture

• Exponential Growth in Available Data

Aligning Defenses

Organizations can no longer afford to set up defenses against all possible threats. To survive the technology risks of today’s world, it’s essential that institutions align their defenses with the threats they’re seeing. The MITRE ATT&CK™ knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations can be used as a foundation for the development of specific threat models and methodologies to develop more effective cybersecurity.

Insights from the Experts: CEO Panel

A CEO’s view from the top spans the entire organization, giving them a full view of an IT department and how it directly impacts the company. Our CEO Panel took questions and dove into the nuances of IT in their organizations at every level:

The Most Significant Tech Changes Over the Past 10-12 Years (and How They Affect Institutions)

• APIs, broadband, and the cloud have collectively become a groundbreaking foundation for the technology we’re seeing today, with the overarching presence of the cloud setting the stage for the future.

• The digital experience—including the monumental advancements in cellular phone and mobile technology—is really the largest change in expectations that clients have (e.g. clients want to do everything, including their banking, via mobile).

Handcuffed to a Core Provider? Work with Them to Innovate and Create APIs

• They find that their core providers tend to be the biggest hurdle; their business models and innovations are often found to be legacy and expensive. Technology leaders need to work more aggressively with these providers to keep their institution competitive in order to thrive.

• A unified customer experience is also key; the customer journey needs to be mapped, integrated, and optimized from start to finish.

The Changing Role of a Technology Leader

• Just trying to run your classic architecture isn’t going to cut it anymore—“that’s how we’ve always done it” is no longer a good answer. Technology can solve your problem, but you have to know what problem you’re trying to solve before moving forward.

• The need for an innovation budget has emerged; while it may still be nebulous for some institutions, it’s essential to begin setting funds aside, even nominal amounts, for creative opportunities, knowing that while it may not be a win during that particular venture, it could lead to future opportunities.

Our CEO Panel

Moderator: Renee Broadbent, Senior Manager of vCISO Services – Wolf & Company

Vasilios Roussos, Managing Partner – DCU FinTech Innovation

Rich Spencer, CEO & President – North Easton Savings Bank

Derrik Wynkoop, CEO & President – Walden Savings Bank

David Araujo, CEO & President – Service Credit Union

Is Technology Driving Community Banks to Obsolescence?


As technology continues to rapidly change—and threaten—the dynamics of financial institutions, CEOs and Boards are focusing more attention on their IT Department. This means more pressure on the department to not only keep the network running, but also to help with the strategic direction of how technology can better interact with customers and employees and support the institution’s overall growth. Matthew Putvinski, Director of Risk Management for Wolf & Company, shared his insights:

• Technology is the ultimate disruptor: Remember Blockbuster Video? When Netflix first announced they’d be mailing you DVDs, Blockbuster laughed them off. Yet today, Netflix has dominated, and Blockbuster is merely a memory.

• To avoid becoming the next Blockbuster, banks need to rethink the way they approach technology—and their customers’ expectations. Fintech is taking the industry by storm, and banks need to keep up.

• When it comes to generational expectations, it’s time to focus on what Millennials want, and how they’re shaping the future. According to the Millennial Disruption Index:

  • All 4 of the leading banks are among the 10 least loved brands by Millennials
  • 53% don’t think their bank offers anything different than other banks
  • 1 in 3 are open to switching banks in the next 90 days
  • 71% consider their banking relationship to be transactional rather than relationship-driven
  • And, perhaps most telling of all—71% would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are saying

• Mobile banking is gaining ground, especially among Millennials and Gen Z. In fact, online and mobile are used most often to access customers’ bank accounts, at 42% and 30% respectively. On the other end of the spectrum? Telephone weighs in at 2%, and mail at just 1%.

• It’s time to take stock of what your institution is doing. Do you know how you compare to your peers? What payment options do you offer customers? Do you have secure messaging? Custom alerts? Person-to-person payments?

• As mentioned in the industry leading book, The New IT, by Jill Dyché, defining your IT Archetype is key. Are you IT Everywhere? Brokering? Data Provisioning? Aligning? Order Taking? Tactical?

• At their core, strong technology leaders need to do three things well: deliver IT services and projects, understand how technology can drive business value, and master the competencies of human dynamics.

Insights from the Experts: CIO Panel

For CIOs, making connections—both through technology and with their customers—is everything. So how can they tackle such a tall order? Our CIO panel explored how to make these important connections, how to drive technology to create better organizational efficiencies, how to transform perceptions of IT, and more:

Changing the IT Services Conversation from One of Cost to One of Value

• Let’s put it right out in the open: IT is expensive. In fact, it’s one of an institution’s biggest budgets. It’s essential for CIOs to show the value of the investment—how the bank will benefit from the costs incurred, how small wins can have a lasting impact, and how IT is making a profit for the bank moving forward.

• There are a number of key questions that need to be answered along the way: What’s the business case? Is it a regulatory risk? Will it give the bank a competitive advantage? Addressing it as an in-house project is the best way to start.

What’s holding up your house vs. what’s in your house—identifying the infrastructure and the key elements within it. To succeed: First, outline the benefits to the organization; after the project’s completed, do a lessons learned and KPI/metrics dive to ensure IT has hit its mark (or knows what it needs to change).

Getting Your Business Partners—and the Rest of the Organization—to Stop Viewing Tech Projects as Just Tech Projects

• Formalizing project management is essential. When it comes to strategic planning, it’s the business units that need to determine those processes, not IT. IT helps and participates, providing guidance and partnership for infrastructure and strategy, but the business units need to do the homework (providing RPFs for products, doing the paperwork and pitching, getting the sign off, etc.).

• IT needs to be in constant communication with business units to understand their pain points. Oftentimes, business units can’t see the forest through the trees—IT shouldn’t force feed them, but help them think of and see things differently ahead of budget and strategy seasons.

The User Experience: New Interfaces, Experiences, and Learning Opportunities

• We have the most efficiently trained workforce—maybe ever—coming in. They understand technology in a different way. But organizations are being incredibly unproductive and essentially un-training them on their skills when they walk through the doors, trying to get them to use antiquated systems and mindsets…

• …which is also a problem on the customer side. When customers walk into a bank branch, they want the Amazon experience. Instead, we’re giving them an old-school banking experience they no longer recognize.

• Financial institutions need to think about the end experience for both employees and customers. What is the ideal experience, and what technology tools do they need to make it a reality?

• Think about the 5-9 approach, not the 9-5 approach. When it comes to technology and tech tools, why would we do things at work that we would never do at home? (And this applies to business and data analytics—provide the insight and process you’d want to see on your own time, if you could have it your way.)

• So many people don’t know how to free up the right resources to get the work done. IT can help them with the right technology tools and processes.

• Banks aren’t just banking institutions anymore—they’re technology institutions that do banking.

The Outsourcing Trend

• From SaaS to infrastructure, more and more financial institutions are outsourcing. When doing so, it’s essential that your IT team is managing their vendors very closely, and being proactive rather than reactive to ensure the institution’s rigorous security standards are adhered to. When outsourcing and moving to the cloud, there are always struggles. It flies in the face of what institutions have always done—but the rewards are vast.

• Your IT team no longer needs to be confined to a cube during business hours. While you need some feet on the streets for interacting with business units, the availability of technology to support remote employees is boundless. Why just tap into the local workforce if you can broaden your reach to top talent across the country?

• What happens when your outsourced resources outsource? Fourth-party vendors aren’t a big topic of conversation yet, but they need to be—they’re on the rise, and extra levels of vendor oversight and communication will be essential. Ensure you’re visiting these vendors on-site to confirm they’re as trustworthy and safe as they say (and make sure you bring your risk and cyber risk people with you).

Our CIO Panel

Moderator: Ryan Rodrigue, Principal – Wolf & Company

Barry Abramowitz, CIO – Liberty Bank

Eric Devine, First VP, Innovation & Technology – Country Bank

Julie Jenkins, Director of Operations – Northeast Bank

Kevin Runyon, CIO – Peapack-Gladstone Bank

John Sullivan, Director of Digital and Technology Strategy – BankNewport

Recruit/Retain/Develop Talent in the Tech Roles

When it comes to finding—and keeping—strong tech talent, there are a number of important aspects institutions need to consider. Lisa Jacobi, SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer at COCC, shared some of her top tips and insights to creating the right atmosphere for hiring, onboarding, and lasting engagement:

• Hiring for Culture Fit: From inclusiveness and shared core values, to a positive outlook and strong work ethic, ensure your candidates are aligned with your organization’s culture before extending an offer.

• Identify the Right Tech Role: Are you hiring for service? For problem solving? For developing new products? Make sure you know before you go into the interview (and before you post the job description).

• Providing Talent Development: Both new and existing employees need ongoing talent development to stay happy and productive. Try offering courses, providing one-on-one coaching sessions, and utilizing surveys for feedback.

• Don’t Forget Technical Training: Keep your employees properly trained and engaged in the right ways. This could be through e-learning (webinars and online courses), incentivized off-hours trainings, and customized on-site trainings.

Industry Innovators:, Everyday Life, iink, Posh Technologies

Innovation may be a buzzword, but it’s blazing a trail across the technology industry. In that spirit, we welcomed four startups that are changing the game to share their stories:

• Greg Woolf, founder of, an intelligent process automation software product that simplifies risk and compliance workflows in the financial services industries.

• Jake Tamarkin, founder of Everyday Life, an online insurance concierge service revolutionizing the process of obtaining customized, cost-effective life insurance for everyday people.

• Ryan Wetzel, founder of  iink Endorsements, which gives clients access to a network of licensed insurance adjusters who will help prepare, review, and submit their endorsement package to their mortgage company.

• Karan Kashyap, founder of Posh Technologies, a conversational AI startup founded out of MIT’s AI Research Lab with a patent-pending IP to make conversational bots more humanlike.

Interested in learning more about these innovators? Check out their websites for more details!

We were thrilled to host such an empowering event where industry experts came together to identify shared challenges in the industry, exemplify ways in which companies can address these issues, consider the importance of a strategic plan for IT, and discuss important tactics for strategic hiring practices.

We are looking forward to next year’s event, and we hope you are too! Stay tuned for more announcements and information about our Technology Leadership Conference in 2020.