The Senior Partner
Anyone who doubts that e-commerce executives are moving rapidly up the corporate food chain need only spend a few minutes with Clyde Ostler, group executive vice president, Internet Services, at Wells Fargo & Co.
"We really thought it was necessary to accelerate the growth of the Internet channel by giving it some very weighty attention," Ostler says of the banks decision to put him in charge of its e-initiatives. "This extends not just to me, but most of my reports were broken out of very senior, very traditional jobs and told to concentrate exclusively on making the Internet channels for the banks products and services successful."
Ostler, who previously served as the banks group executive vice president of investments and has three executive vice presidents under him, reports directly to Wells Fargos President and CEO Richard Kovacevich. He also is a member of the banks executive committee.
Simply put, his charter is to replicate all of the banks diverse offerings on the Web. "Were adapting all the banks products and services to the Internet channel in a way thats easy to use," he explains. "At the same time, were taking advantage of some of the unique things you can do on the Internet."
For his groups efforts to be successful, Ostler and his staff need to collaborate closely with the huge banks other officers whose fiefdoms are broken down by either business or geography. "The most important thing about running the Internet Services group is partnerships to get things done," he says. "One thing thats crucial is how well we form and manage partnerships.
Ostlers senior people report on a dotted-line basis to the heads of the business units they support and directly to Ostler. "We think our strategies need to be jointly developed and owned, so we want the traditional business manager at the table, along with Internet specialists, and we want them to be equals."
Ostler views himself as joined at the hip with the banks CIO, Webb Edwards. "We talk two or three times a month," he says. "Were very focused on how our clients interface with browser-based public Internet tools and technology, what shows up on the screen and how the network is set up. The middle and back end falls to the IT group."
Under Ostler, the bank is also teaming up with outside sources of dot-com expertise to help Wells Fargo push along some new e-commerce initiatives. Among them: B2B exchanges; a wireless technology pilot program; e-CRM; and what Ostler calls the next generation of e-banking technology, which would allow for collaborative screens and enable customers to deal with the bank interactively. "Of all the initiatives on the horizon, the interactive efforts are the most important," he says.
Clearly, Ostler loves his work. "We can get a lot done and move very fast at the same time," he says. "Its a very exciting time and place to work."