To be a great IT leader, you need these competencies

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If you want fertile ground for innovation within your IT organization, then you need to make sure you’re cultivating both business acumen and technical skills in your employees. It’s something we firmly believe in at Vanguard.

Our theory is that to be a great leader (whether you're an individual contributor or a team leader), you must have three sets of competencies:

  1. Technical Prowess. No one in IT gets a pass on this.
  2. Business Insight. Second, you have to understand our business and our industry – when you have that added dimension, you create fertile ground for innovation.
  3. Leadership Skills. Finally, you need leadership competencies to be able to turn those innovative ideas into real value.

Powers of persuasion, influence, relationship management, communication – it makes for a high bar, but it’s the right set of expectations for IT professionals. When you combine those competencies, you’re going to have stronger IT professionals, regardless of whether they’re individual contributors or managers.

That said, rotations and assignments matter here at Vanguard. But for us in the financial services industry, we also need a way to create deep technical skills and deep industry expertise. As an example, some of our best developers with deep programming skills are embedded within our investment management function. These are IT developers working on advanced trading systems, operating in Agile teams on the trading floor. Many of them are even pursuing their Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification. Not only does it make them better at their jobs, but it also impresses the heck out of the business teams.

For those whose career path takes them up the management chain, understanding the business through various rotations or assignments builds knowledge and credibility. Ultimately, it makes them better IT leaders, since they have built a more holistic view of things. So all these methods – rotations, assignments, higher education, and certifications – are ways to achieve the competencies that we so firmly believe in.

John T. Marcante is Vanguard’s chief information officer and managing director of Vanguard’s Information Technology Division. Vanguard is the world’s largest mutual fund company with more than $2.6 trillion in global assets under management. Marcante oversees all aspects of Vanguard’s worldwide technology agenda to serve clients and manage investments. Mr. Marcante, with more than 26 years of experience in the business and technology fields, joined Vanguard in 1993. After serving in a number of leadership roles throughout the company, he returned to the IT division in 2012 and was named Vanguard’s chief information officer and managing director. Marcante holds a Bachelor's degree from Pennsylvania State University and an M.B.A. from Saint Joseph's University.

John T. Marcante is an award-winning C-suite technology and business executive with expertise in digital transformation, business strategy, financial planning and wealth management, cyber security and technology risk. John is the US CIO in Residence for Deloitte and the former Chief Information Officer and Managing Director of Vanguard.