Financial IT and business intelligence pros streamline and protect
From efficiency solutions to security oversight, IT and business intelligence professionals in the financial sector smooth the road for workers and customers
An improving economy is stirring up action and opportunity, creating a challenge for companies to retain these “hot commodities”
By Sonya Stinson
Cyber attacks, Internet privacy and the issues that accompany “big data” have been hot topics in the news. The financial industry has also received plenty of attention. So it’s no wonder that business-focused information technology expertise is a hot commodity.
The finance and insurance industries employ 14 percent of all computer systems analysts, 13 percent of database administrators and 10 percent of network and computer systems administrators, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent Occupational Outlook Handbook. Financial services companies also employ significant numbers of software developers, programmers, computer support specialists, information security analysts, web developers and network architects.
Then there’s the field of business intelligence, which CIO.com defines as “a variety of software applications used to analyze an organization’s raw data.” The IT specialists doing this work are employed in a wide range of industries.
Shirley Batista, director of human resources at CherryRoad Technologies, Inc, a consulting firm headquartered in Morris Plains, NJ, says her company has faced a competitive market for IT talent even during the slowest periods of economic growth. “Recruiting highly qualified candidates has always been a challenge,” Batista says, and adds that it’s getting harder as the economic outlook brightens. “As both private and public sector organizations gain confidence in the improving economy, hiring escalates, as does the comfort level of the labor pool. Even those who are currently employed are much more receptive to discussing potential new opportunities.”
Nazgol Khamneipur: practice director at CherryRoad
With a decade of service at CherryRoad Technologies, Nazgol Khamneipur has spent the last seven years as a practice director in the company’s Chicago office. She’s often on the road traveling to project sites.
Khamneipur’s duties include communicating with executive project sponsors and other key stakeholders, developing detailed project plans, analyzing customer data and monitoring and mitigating project risks. Along with her project management responsibilities, she also manages several people who report to her directly.
Khamneipur earned a BA in comparative literature and Hispanic studies from Brown University (Providence, RI), where she also took courses in the sciences.
“Around the time I graduated in 1996, the technology boom was really starting to gather speed and startups were springing up all over the place,” she says. “Like most college students, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after graduation but was looking for something different, something that could leverage more of my interpersonal and business skills.”
She came across a fifteen-employee startup in Cambridge, MA, founded by two graduates of Harvard Business School. “I joined the company as a consultant, and over the next year and a half I got experience in FMS (financial management solutions) and HCM (human capital management) implementations. I developed numerous client relationships of my own and helped grow the company to 150 employees,” Khamneipur says.
Acquiring “critical skills”
Khamneipur credits much of her success as a technology professional to her academic background in the humanities. “I learned how to analyze situations and communicate my analyses while I was studying different styles of literature and cultures,” she says. “Effective analytical and communication skills are critical throughout the different phases of an enterprise-wide project.”
Khamneipur hopes to become a managing director within five years. In the meantime, she’s taking on more project management responsibilities and pursuing sales opportunities.
“I’m being mentored by a managing director at CherryRoad and I look for opportunities where I can expand my skill set and learn from him,” she says.
Batista feels that CherryRoad Technologies benefits considerably from its diversity. “We consider it a competitive advantage, and we’ve seen that it enhances the creativity and innovation we need in our client engagements,” Batista says. “Our diverse workforce allows us to draw on the many unique perspectives and experiences of our employees. It is the cornerstone of our and our clients’ success.”
Patty Urda leads technology solutions for HR at Charles Schwab
Patty Urda is in charge of a geographically dispersed team of technologists who support and implement HR systems at Charles Schwab (San Francisco, CA).
“Another area of my job is partnering with the business to set the HR technology strategy, to create a roadmap for the technology and execute it over the next several years,” says Urda. She joined Schwab fourteen years ago as a business systems analyst supporting the company’s recruitment systems. Her role expanded over the years, and she now leads the overall HR IT team.
Her goal had been to work in human resources since she graduated from college, but she didn’t set out to be a technical expert in the field. Instead, she says, her role in technology has “evolved.”
Urda received a BA from the University of California-Berkeley in 1988, where she designed her own liberal arts major with a concentration in business and sociology. After graduating, she took a management trainee job, expecting to move to an HR post eventually. But within six months she had become the unofficial systems liaison in her region. She continued to display an aptitude for technology in her subsequent jobs, and “it became clear that my true talent and passion lay in business applications, using technology to help solve business problems.”
Multilingual and multifaceted
Urda grew up speaking Korean, Japanese and English. She also speaks Italian fluently, as well as a little French and Spanish. And while the connection may surprise some people, she believes her facility for languages also makes her adept at picking up codes and understanding the lexicon of software.
Urda is quick to dispel the idea that she’s totally absorbed in the world of HR technology. “I really enjoy my job, but it’s not my whole life,” she says.
For every five years of service, Schwab rewards eligible employees with four weeks of paid sabbatical, and it’s one of Urda’s favorite job benefits. “Since I love international travel, that gives me a great opportunity to spend time abroad every five years,” she says.
Urda is looking forward to future opportunities to broaden her knowledge of Schwab’s business operations and take part in some interesting new projects. “There are a number of new initiatives that I’m very interested in over the next few years, part of that technology roadmap I talked about.”
Carl Stith manages tech and data at Morgan Stanley
When Morgan Stanley (New York, NY) acquired a majority interest in Smith Barney in 2009, Carl Stith took on the biggest project of his twenty-two-year Morgan Stanley career.
“We had to move all of the assets from Smith Barney: all the accounts, computer records and so forth, to Morgan Stanley’s platform,” says Stith. “This ended up being the largest conversion on Wall Street.”
The project, recently finished, required a massive build-out of the platform to provide state-of-the-art services to the firm’s wealth management unit and complete the successful integration of Morgan Stanley and Smith Barney. The effort drew heavily on Morgan Stanley’s technology resources.
In February, Stith was promoted to managing director in the technology and data department, supervising a team of Morgan Stanley technologists. “I’m responsible for delivering the technology solutions for mutual funds, retirement and unit investment trusts, or UITs,” Stith says.
Stith earned a BS in industrial management and economics from Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA) in 1986. “I got exposure to technology as part of the first job I had coming out of school,” says Stith. “Though I was drawn to technology, what I was drawn to even more was using technology to solve business problems.”
After graduating, Stith spent several years as a business analyst and program manager for a small defense consulting firm in Washington, DC. In 1991, he entered Morgan Stanley’s nine-month IT training program. “It was tailored to expose you to technology, give you background training in the systems we use and expose you to the various businesses we’re involved in,” he says.
When he finished the program, he was assigned as a software developer for one of the financial firm’s business units. He gained experience in other product areas as his career at Morgan Stanley progressed. “Over time, I’ve continued to grow, get promoted and work my way across a number of different roles to get to where I am today,” he says.
Veteran Elena Vaquera: IT tech manager for fellow vets at USAA
USAA is a San Antonio, TX-based company that provides insurance and online banking and investment services for military members, veterans and their families. Elena Vaquera, herself a veteran, is an IT technical manager at USAA. “I provide leadership to a team of IT professionals who develop and support geographical information systems and cloud solutions,” says Vaquera, who has been with USAA six years and in her current job since last fall.
Vaquera’s team provides end-user education and support of the company’s Force.com cloud platform. The use of cloud solutions, she says, avoids problems like accidental deletion and data corruption associated with shared drives. “It decreases the liability and mitigates the risk associated with putting something on a shared drive,” she explains.
A tech start in the military
Vaquera received a BS in management information systems in 2004 from the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Before starting college, she spent four years as an aviation resource manager on active duty with the U.S. Air Force.
She was stationed at Shaw Air Force Base near Sumter, SC, which frequently deploys units to the Middle East. Vaquera came up with an automated system for tracking flight information on the deployed unit and relaying it to the station. “It made the team’s deployment process run more efficiently,” she says.
Vaquera later served in the Army National Guard, where she held a number of IT leadership posts.
Vaquera says the most challenging part of her job at USAA is managing a geographically dispersed team. “My team includes people in the home office, which is located in San Antonio, TX, Chennai, India and soon Guadalajar, Mexico, and I’m in Houston,” she says. “In order to overcome this challenge, we leverage technology so we have several channels to communicate back and forth.” She’s found her experience of working with geographically dispersed units while deployed in Iraq has prepared her well for this role.
Beth Tate directs tech risk control for Citigroup
Beth Tate is managing director for global consumer technology risk control at Citigroup (Jacksonville, FL). The job involves reducing security risks, protecting customer data, preventing software bugs and complying with the regulations of the countries in which Citigroup operates.
Tate began her career at Citi seventeen years ago as a personal computing services manager in the Citi Cards division in Hagerstown, MD. Next she became a manager of infrastructure projects, and later got a special assignment to work on some issues that had been discovered through an internal audit.
“I realized that it was kind of fun figuring out how to address the risk that was identified in the audit,” Tate recalls. “Then I realized the smart thing to do would be to put in place programs that would prevent us from having these issues in the first place. That aspect really appealed to me, and I could see the impact I had on the entire organization.”
Her next career move was to Jacksonville, to join CitiCards’ risk compliance function. Eventually Citi reorganized to bring risk compliance for its nine consumer banking technology organizations under one umbrella, and Tate was tapped to lead the new group.
Tate earned a BS in technology management from the University of Maryland-University College (UMD) in 2005. Lack of funds had interrupted her college studies before she joined Citi, but years later she returned to school part-time as a Citi employee. She’s currently pursuing a dual masters degree in information systems and finance from UMD.
Before Citi, Tate did a long stint in the telecommunications industry, where she implemented one of the first wide area networks in the Washington, DC area.
Balancing risks and efficiency
In her current job, Tate finds it challenging to keep abreast of the changes in a dynamic regulatory environment while also meeting the demand for business success. “In the risk management discipline, it’s possible to manage all the risk out of a business, but you can end up bringing everything to a halt,” she says. “Our challenge is to manage the risk effectively and yet allow the business to still be efficient and effective every day.”
DIVERSITY-MINDED FINANCIAL AND BI FIRMS
Check website for current listings.
|Company and location
|Charles Schwab (San Francisco, CA)
|Investment and financial advisory services
|CherryRoad Technologies (Morris Plains, NJ)
|Business technology and management consulting
|Citigroup (New York, NY)
|Banking and other financial services
|Morgan Stanley (New York, NY)
|Investment and financial advisory services
|PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
|Retail, corporate business banking, residential mortgage banking, asset management
|Principal Financial Group (Des Moines, IA)
|Financial services, global investment management
|USAA (San Antonio, TX)
|Banking, insurance and investment services for the military
|U.S. Bank (Minneapolis, MN)
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