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Defining Strategies for a Better Tomorrow

Ken Nagel, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Umpqua Bank

Ken Nagel, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer, Umpqua Bank

Q1. Brief us about the journey you have had over the years?

I’ve spent my entire career in technology, working across various industries including aerospace, public utilities and banking. After transitioning to the banking industry fifteen years ago, I’ve spent the past five-plus years at Umpqua Bank. Prior to Umpqua Bank, I served as a chief enterprise architect and CIO at two other banks.

Q2. What are your roles and responsibilities as the EVP and the Chief information officer?

I oversee Umpqua’s 350-person Technology Advancement Group (TAG), including: technology enterprise architecture; data management; cyber and physical security; and operations. Our TAG team plays a leading role in advancing and innovating the Bank’s business and technology strategy and infrastructure for associates and customers alike, including mobile and online platforms, payment processes, IT infrastructure, and more.

Q3. What are some of the major pain points in the industry and what are the strategies implemented to cope with them?

A few of the industry challenges requiring new technology strategies and approaches include remote work, tech workforce recruitment and retention, electronic payment processes, and cybersecurity. Since there are no quick fixes to these challenges, we launched a digital transformation strategy four years ago. For example, we began investing in remote work for associates across the bank back in 2019 – investments that paid off when the pandemic hit. An intentional focus on recruiting and developing technology department associates is another ongoing effort to help keep technologies active while minimizing turnover and improving our bench strength. Another example is our effort to implement real-time or same-day payment methods to the bank’s automated clearing house (ACH) process. Finally, cybersecurity threats are constant and increasing, so we continue to innovate, invest, and upskill in this area with a goal to keep pro losses low.

“Today’s professionals have a very different approach, outlook and expectations than even five years ago. Leaders of organizations and teams are wise to study and understand the mindsets and needs of today’s professionals to revisit and reinvent their workplace and practices.”

Q4. With all these disruptions that are happening, how do you envision the future for the banking sector?

The next 12-24 months will be an interesting time in the banking sector, with adaptations needed to address rising interest rates, inflation, and more. Rising interest rates put pressure on companies, including banks, to develop, market, and sell new products and services. And all of this requires corresponding technology investments to ensure organizations continue to remain competitive in the marketplace and meet employee and customer expectations. In addition, human interactions within the digital space will only continue to increase as clients and customers have a need for deeper conversations about their financial means and investments.

Q5. Any pieces of advice to the upcoming professionals and the colleagues out there in the industry?

The next generation of employees have a different approach, outlook and expectations. Gen Z (born between 1997-2010) is estimated to make up 40 percent of the global workforce. As digital natives, they expect modern, flexible, and healthy work environments with digital software collaboration tools. Leaders of organizations and teams are wise to study and understand the mindsets and needs of today’s professionals, then revisit and reinvent the culture, recruitment, training, and incentive practices. This requires reallocating budget and resources to develop a healthy, well-skilled employee base and a flexible, supportive work environment. Competition for top developers, data analytics, and talent is not slowing down, as the needs for a productive and functional workforce intensify.

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