Tech Earns Interest at Wachovia

By eweek  |  Posted 2007-07-05

Tech Earns Interest at Wachovia

Wachovias roots are in the southeastern United States, but it is branching out across the globe. Wachovia, based in Charlotte, N.C., has $706.4 billion in assets and $408.1 billion in total deposits, with a presence extending to the West Coast of the United States, Europe and, most recently, Asia. Susan Certoma, the CIO of Wachovias Corporate and Investment Bank, has been in IT for more than 20 years. Prior to joining Wachovia in 2004, Certoma was a vice president at Goldman Sachs & Co., leading the global sales/trading technology organization. Certoma recently spoke with eWEEK Editor Debra Donston about the initiatives she is driving at Wachovia.

Could you explain your role at Wachovia?

Im the CIO, Corporate and Investment Bank, at Wachovia. The Corporate and Investment Bank is one of four major businesses in Wachovia as a financial services institution, and it is accountable for approximately 25 percent of the bottom-line revenue for the bank.

I support what you traditionally know as capital markets types of businesses that you would see at a Goldman or a Morgan. In addition, it spreads beyond those businesses to [Department of] Treasury finance, trade services, correspondent banking, capital financing, etc. So we are doing some very deliberate programs and work in my organization, which is an organization of about 1,500 people from a technology perspective.

Wachovia has been growing of late. In what areas is the institution now located?

We are global. We have a large base in Charlotte, since, historically, we are a southeastern financial institution. But that has changed over the years. We now have significant presence in the United States in Philadelphia and New York for the businesses I cover, and weve just begun to expand to the West Coast.

We have also expanded into Europe—most notably, London, but with work going on in Frankfurt and Geneva. We also have a beginning presence in Asia—mostly in Hong Kong but also in Shanghai, and youll see significant growth in the Asia region over the next two to three years.

What are some of the key initiatives your group is working on?

We are focused on several different areas. One has been, from a business alignment perspective, on the significant development of our platforms to grow Wachovias corporate investment bank businesses from being kind of a 13th or 14th in the ranking when I first joined about three years ago to being one of the top-tier players that compete with Lehman, Goldman and Morgan.

Unlike some of the other investment banks, we tend to specialize in very niche areas, such as derivatives and complex structured products. And all of that actually requires us to have significant computing power—the ability to have the performance and the power to do complex calculations and analytics.

How are you leveraging technology to do all that?

We have been very much focused on the development of our front-to-back platform on several levels.

One has been on an application infrastructure level. We have invested and delivered a significant amount of application infrastructure on services-oriented architecture, which serves several purposes, one of which ties in to our strategy around green IT.

We also have made significant investment in our dynamic utility infrastructure environment, which is the environment that we consider provides all the services that an application group would play into—anything from caching services to our grid environment to our fabric server implementations to our golden-copies-of-data environment. So, its an end-to-end utility that moves us more and more toward autonomic computing.

Other key initiatives are based on that SOA [service-oriented architecture], all the way from a sales perspective and research perspective through trading and mid- to back-office functions as well as finance functions. Were rebuilding our platform.

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Which vendors are you working with on driving this end-to-end utility computing project?

When we look at them, we look at several different areas. So, some of the vendors we work with are fairly mainstream.

From a messaging environment, we work with Tibco. We actually formed a very strategic partnership with them about two years ago and cut a significant deal with them where we are using their EMS [Enterprise Message Service] products, as well as their BusinessWorks and BusinessEvents products within our environment.

We tend to look at vendors who have a strategy and understand how they will integrate holistically. So we tend not to buy closed vendors or application vendors. We tend to buy vendors that provide frameworks or tool sets or services that we can integrate into our environment.

Next Page: Driving green IT.


You had mentioned green IT earlier, and I know that Wachovia has recently announced that it is building several new branches on the West Coast that have been designed from the ground up as green. What does it mean for a CIO to drive a green IT initiative?

With any of these programs that are not specifically tied to a line-of-business deliverable but are more part of a strategy that we drive, it means changing the way that we think about the things we do or how were going to approach the solutions we provide—understanding the impact of our operations on the environment.

On a day-to-day basis, that means understanding that one of our huge initiatives is becoming a very global company, and we will have an impact across the globe. And, so, what does that mean to be environmentally conscious as one of the top four banks in the United States and one of the major corporations on a global basis? For every solution that we put forth, both from an application perspective and an infrastructure perspective, what are the decisions we should be making around those solutions? What is the hardware we should be purchasing? How should we be setting up our data centers? What tools should we be using? Which vendors should we be partnered with that are also environmentally conscious? And how should we be forming those relationships? Wachovia is very, very focused on customer service, on core values in terms of branding and community involvement, so it means making all the right decisions on all of those aspects to say, Were not only a company in the financial services industry, but we have an impact on the communities in which were involved.

Has that kind of thinking gained steam in the last year or so, as green IT is being put forth more and more by vendors?

Ill speak more for my organization than broadly: Its been going on much more than just recently overall, but, for my organization, theres been an awareness of it thats grown over the past two or three years.

I would say that awareness has most recently become more heightened to action. We are still fairly new at it—it is still something that has not infiltrated every single aspect of what we do.

We are still learning about what we need to do to incorporate this in our day-to-day decision making. I do think it has been part of the thinking for a while; people are just starting to learn how they can take action on it.

What are some of the things you have put into action at this point?

Wachovia is involved in many different associations. Its a founding member of the Environmental Bankers Association; it participates in the environmental roundtable of the Risk Management Association; its one of the founders of the Forums for Corporate Conscience. So, on one level, we are very much involved in different forums.

We also are expanding to the West Coast, and some of the first branches that we have been building there have been green branches. And weve been thinking about those branches energy consumption, how theyre set up in terms of that, the recycling that takes place there.

Were also designing and building a new office tower in Charlotte, and we are very much doing that in accordance with the Leadership in Energy in Environmental Design and Certification Standards. As we put that together, were looking at whether there are renewable energy sources, whether there are alternative energy sources that we can look at. Were looking at high-efficiency lighting and HVAC [heating, ventilation, air conditioning and cooling] so were replacing older types of systems.

HVAC hasnt traditionally been part of the IT budget.

Right, it has traditionally been part of corporate real estate and how they set up certain environments. But weve implemented a change in our procurement process that requires an analysis of a devices total cost of ownership, rather than just the upfront capital costs.

I think youll see over the next year or so also that well actually start to try and measure some of our energy cosumption and CO2 emissions. But metrics become difficult—determining what you should be measuring and how you can capture that data, and what that data is telling you.

Have you worked out what some of those metrics will be?

The corporation may have started working out some of those metrics, but that is not widespread at this time in terms of capturing or publishing. I know theyre in the process of putting those things together, but thats something that well be seeing in the near term.

On a technology level, given the platform were building and the types of technologies were looking at, weve been able, for our SOA infrastructure and our utility, to take our concepts of virtualization, of efficiency and self-cooling, of resource optimization, thin clients, reduced heat emissions, things of those concepts, and actually look at vendors who provide those green attributes.

So, when youre evaluating vendors, one of the criteria is their ability to help you meet your green IT goals?

Yes, I would say thats absolutely one of the criteria.

Are you looking to expand the green IT mind-set, even to the user at some point?

It has to be done in tandem with the efforts we have planned and the initiatives we have planned. Its going to always be a component in determing these solutions. I do see that it effectively becomes part of every single aspect of our environment—all the way from infrastructure to eventually what would be on a client desktop.

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