By Peter High, published on Forbes
When Greg Carmichael joined Fifth Third Bancorp in June of 2003, it was a chief information officer, a role he held at his prior company, Emerson Electric. He thought joining Fifth Third would provide an opportunity to learn a new industry, to face new challenges, and to return to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. What he did not realize at that time was that he was beginning a journey that would take him from CIO to CEO of the company.
His path began even before he joined Emerson, he was an IT leader at General Electric. He saw at an early age the power that the CIO could have in as much as it touched ever employee of the company, and increasingly most customers, as well. As such he recognized how strategic IT truly could be. He thought about the revenue implications of IT much earlier than the average CIO. This continued at Fifth Third, and by 2006, he was offered the COO role. He became President in 2012 and would ascend to the top post three years later. In this interview, he reflects on his remarkable journey.
Peter High: As the President and Chief Executive Officer of Fifth Third Bank, please describe the business as it currently stands?
Greg Carmichael: Fifth Third has been around for 158 years. We have roughly $142 billion in assets and about 18,000 employees. We operate approximately 1,160 retail banking centers across 10 different states and have commercial and consumer lending presences throughout the United States. Fifth Third consists of four main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, and Wealth and Asset Management.
High: Fifth Third spans business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-customer (B2C) sales. What role does technology play in each?
Carmichael: Technology plays a major role in everything we do; from the products we build, to our distribution channels, to how we service our customers. Our customers want to bank anywhere, any time. We enable them to do that. On the customer side, 60 percent of our financial transactions come through our digital channels, which include our web channel, our mobile channels, and our digital ATM channels. Additionally, 90 percent of our interactions and touch points with our customers occur through our digital channels. Over the last four or five years, as it became possible to transact with a digital image of a check, a significant proportion of transactions, like depositing a check, have transitioned to our mobile platforms.
On the commercial side, through our digital channels, we continue to advance our product suite to allow our commercial customers to have access to the technology portals that house all of the capabilities and resources of the bank that they use. This includes things like wires, accounts receivable transactions, etc. Many of our interactions with our commercial customers also occur through our digital channels. This will continue to evolve as our customers work to become more efficient, and we develop new ways to help them achieve that. This transformation has been underway for some time, but it has accelerated in the last two or three years.
High: Is there a member of your team who shepherds the evolution of digital channels, digital business, the use of technologies, and so on? Or, is it the responsibility of the broader leadership of the organization?