Vanguard CIO: IT must enable and accelerate new products and services

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An interview with John Marcante, Chief Information Officer and Managing Director of Vanguard's Information Technology Division.

John Marcante oversees all aspects of Vanguard's worldwide technology agenda to serve clients and manage investments and was named to his current position in 2012.
The Enterprisers Project (TEP): CIO Executive Council recently released a new "Future State C-Suite" leadership framework for business transformation in the digital environment. The framework calls for having a "digital pathfinder" to provide digital strategy and literacy to the C-Suite. Who is the digital pathfinder in your organization? Is it you?

John Marcante: The better question is: Who isn't? This goes back to that question: Is Vanguard a financial services company or a technology company? And the answer is, "Yes!" Vanguard was virtual well before it was "cool" to be virtual.

At any second, within any minute of any day, we have at least ten times the number of clients interacting with us on our digital channels versus our traditional channels. Being tech savvy is in our blood. The Head of Retail preceded me as Chief Information Officer, and our Chief Investment Officer preceded him as CIO. We rotate people through IT because we understand that technical expertise is not a need for one individual – it's a competency need for the team.

TEP: How do you help the rest of the C-Suite understand how your organization can use technology to its fullest advantage?

Marcante: This is really a philosophical question about what role technology plays in your company. At Vanguard, technology is not viewed as an expense, or just a service provider or order taker. Technology is an enabler and accelerator of new products and services.

Some key enabler examples for IT include:

  1. IT isn’t viewed as only contributing to the bottom line by enabling efficiencies and cost reductions; it’s used to drive top-line growth by improving on client loyalty and revenue.
  2. CIOs have to have (and earn) credibility in the business. You have to know the business as well as you know the technology.
  3. IT has to run like a business – this includes having a strategic plan and continually proving that you are adding value.
  4. You have to be part of a high-performing team.

One tool we use is an IT Value Flywheel that we adapted from Jim Collins. The concept is to identify what drives your flywheel, measure it, and spin it faster.

Vanguard IT flywheel

TEP: How has this flywheel helped your IT organization?

Marcante: We’ve created key initiatives and three-to-five year plans to align with this flywheel, as well as a scorecard that measures our success. Each of the chevrons in the flywheel has a measurement associated with it. One of our chevrons is dedicated to fostering strong partnerships with our business clients, and the associated measure is Net Promoter Score. We’ve taken learnings from external client relationships and applied these concepts to IT as an internal service provider.

Cloud, mobility and Big Data are all key initiatives categorized under an architected approach to adopting new technology. Globalizing our IT support model is a crucial initiative to enable great business technology solutions, as we’re supporting a U.S.-based company that is now a global leader. The flywheel and scorecard enables us to demonstrate how IT adds value, and helps us to evaluate and prioritize initiatives and technologies that will be crucial for our future.

For more from John, read his article, "Four ways Vanguard IT recruits and retains IT college talent."

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.


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