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Painting the Future with Technology and Strategic Planning

Jeff Norris, CISSP; SVP, CIO, Seacoast Bank

Jeff Norris, CISSP; SVP, CIO, Seacoast Bank

As the SVP, CIO, and previously CISO at Seacoast Bank, Jeff Norris specializes in driving substantial business changes while also enabling high value solutions. Owing to his hands-on, successful operational experience in the banking industry, Norris is well recognized for his unmatched ability to quickly assess complex organizational and technology issues that banks often face and develop effective solutions to alleviate them. He is also known as a collaborative and personable executive who effectively motivates, leads, coaches, and mentors employees, driving a reliable organizational culture.

What are your current roles and responsibilities at Seacoast Bank as the SVP, CIO?

My journey at Seacoast Bank started over three years ago, as its first CISO responsible for improving its security posture and implementing plans to ensure its regulatory compliance and future growth. As an organization that partners with several third-party vendors, its always crucial to keep customer data secure across all touchpoints. By applying an approach of understanding where our data was located, and assessing, testing and adjusting our controls, I was able to achieve significant enhancements in the safety and protection of our customers’ data.

Just over a year ago, I assumed the responsibilities of all of IT in addition to holding the CISO title until recently with the addition of our new CISO. As the CIO, I lead Seacoast Banks entire IT and information Security team, and allows me to concentrate on ensuring that there is collaboration, partnership, and focusing on scaling up its IT operations. A significant amount of work has gone into eradicating end-of-life IT assets, which enables a better security posture, but positions the organization for success as we continue to transform and accelerate IT solutions. All this was done by prioritizing Seacoast Banks security basics and hygiene while also rightsizing and prioritizing efforts to drive a reliable growth strategy.

Could you elaborate on Seacoast Banks strategies for sustainable growth?

Growth always tops the list of any organization’s business agendas. Regardless of their size, nature, and industry verticals, businesses thrive to expand their organizations, so does the team at Seacoast Bank. While our growth strategies have been primarily focused on organic, as well as M&A, we needed to better account for how to scale the bank even further internally. We’ve realized through the pandemic and with the M&A market heating up over this past year, it’s now an absolute imperative with our anticipated growth. Since August of 2021, we have acquired Legacy Bank of Florida, Florida Business Bank, Sabal Palm Bank, and most recently announced Apollo Bancshares and Drummond Community Bank, which we anticipate closing later this year.

The other part of our strategy focuses transforming the bank and prioritizing on key objectives that drive sustainable growth in size and scale to meet our customer and regulatory expectations. And the result is a significant increase in revenue and customer base, where we have evolved from a community bank managing around 7 billion in assets under management when I started, to a mid-size bank with over 13 billion dollars in assets under management anticipated later this year. We’ve effectively doubled in size within the last four years.

It’s now safe to say that we’re likely considered a top tier bank in the M&A market for mid-size banks, as Seacoast recently announced two more acquisitions after completing three acquisitions since August of last year”

Id say that my priorities have now shifted from simply securing the bank when I started, which securing a bank is not simple by any stretch, to now scaling up its operations and capabilities for driving a long-term growth and scale. In that regard, how do we access technologies and adopt processes needed for growth both for customers and associates? What are the products, services, and technologies we need in order to attract more customers? At the same time, we are accelerating staffing needs, process improvements, and partnership strategies accounting for the current supply chain shortages for equipment to upscale our operations and acquisitions. It’s thinking big and changing mindsets internally, but making sure we absolutely maintain that security standard and the safety and soundness that’s required of financial institutions.

How does Seacoast Bank stay relevant in todays highly competitive banking space?

Our strategic partnership with some of the prominent players in the banking industry is one of the numerous reasons that drive our success as a bank. Instead of employing a large development team, we focus on finding the right strategic partners to support core banking products. We also find other partners that allow us to leverage those investments. We have a smaller, API focused development team combined with a good sized data management office, with strong integration capabilities, allowing us to excel and realize a somewhat best of breed approach. As such, joining hands with right partners who share our vision and can navigate us towards success is always crucial for us and is a key principle I drive.

When it comes to technology, we are uniquely positioned when compared to other banks of our size and scale. We have a data management and analytics team that helps us gain insights about our customers and make better decisions, which is a key differentiator for us. Having data scientists in our team and making data-driven decisions is probably unheard of in banks of our size.

What are some of the marketing trends that you see in the banking space?

Open banking is the relatively new trend in the banking industry, and the banking fintech providers are plentiful. Were looking forward to embracing API integration to ensure seamless interaction with our third-party applications in unique ways. For example, weve recently transformed our internet and mobile banking platform and gained the capability to tie that into our other platforms, so that customers get not only consistent experiences, but can surface capabilities from those other partners and create a more seamless experience.

Another item, largely accelerated by the pandemic, is the rapid shift to the digital channel. For that, weve increased our investments to enhance our capabilities on the digital footprint. It has a repercussive impact on in-branch and call center operations as organizations have to react to some of those digital items from a servicing perspective. So how do we look at technologies that are not just focused on the customer and their services? When customers use our mobile or online channel for banking, these are kept up to date and are modern, we should have similar tools internally to service them properly. We need ways to increase the bankers experience as well. In the past, it used to be a green screen and mainframe terminals, where we just punch away at customer information in-branch and those tools and technologies are starting to transform and catch up. We need ways to improve both sides of that equation.

What would your piece of advice for the upcoming professionals in this field?

My advice revolves around two major pillars.

First, were witnessing a war for talent and its getting complicated as the days go by. As such, attracting and retaining skilled talent is always a challenge for all. In such a pressing situation, its crucial for us to be adaptive and open to how people want to work and try to find things that they're successful at and leverage their skills in the best way possible. People, both the leaders, and upcoming professionals need to be open to possibilities and comfortable with “gray”, especially in a growth organization. Change provides opportunities all over. Learning to learn and being flexible is important.

Secondly, patience. We've grown from a large community bank to a mid-size bank, and we face the normal challenges associated with this growth trajectory that a lot of companies face. We need patience and exceptional planning to tackle these challenges and ultimately achieve what we want. We can't solve everything on day one. Prioritization is the key. We can do wonders when everybody “rows in the same direction” and we're prioritizing things all in the same way. That patience pays off when you start to have conversations around planning and prioritizing what is most beneficial for the bank. Then you can start to transform over time, build on solid foundations and you see the big picture. Start to plan for success rather than running for the first “shiny new object”.

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