David Thompson has been the chief information officer at a number of leading companies, including Symantec, Oracle, and PeopleSoft. He has broader responsibilities in his current role as Executive Vice President, Global Operations and Technology and Chief Information Officer at Western Union, the $5.5 billion revenue provider of money movement and payment services based just south of Denver, Colorado. In his role, he is responsible for developing the next generation of payment products and services. He also is responsible for maximizing efficiency, quality, and customer delivery for the company’s global agent network of more than 500,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories. This puts Thompson squarely in the innovation agenda for the company, helping the organization both grow revenue while also doing so efficiently.
Additionally, given Thompson’s wealth of experience as a technology leader, but also as one who has always thought of the role of CIO as a business role, he has been asked to join the boards of companies. Since 2010, he has served on the board of CoreSite Realty Corporation, a publicly traded an integrated, self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust (REIT).
As such, Thompson is at the forefront of two leading trends for CIOs: he has joined the ranks of the CIO-plus, as well as board-level CIOs. When I recently interviewed him, I was interested in his current sets of responsibilities, and the creative ideas his team is driving, but also his own career path, which represents an aspirational track for other CIOs.
(To listen to an unabridged audio version of this interview, please click this link. This is the 30th interview in the CIO-plus series, including CIO-pluses from Boeing, Verizon, and Walgreens. To read the prior 29 interviews, please visit this link. This is also the 18th interview in my board-level CIO series. To read the prior 17 including the CIOs of companies such as Intel, P&G, Biogen, Kroger, and Cardinal Health, please visit this link.)
Peter High: You’re the executive vice president of global operations and chief information officer at Western Union, and as the name would suggest, you have operation and technology responsibilities. Can you talk a bit about your purview?
David Thompson: I have two jobs. First and foremost, I have responsibility for global operations, which is the management of our customer experience – all of our customer care centers, our interaction with our customers. In addition to that, we have a broad network of partners and agents that service our customers and provide the service globally. Both of those areas require a lot of staff, so a large portion of our employees services our customers’ needs or our agents: Enrolling our agents, training their staff, doing the certifications around [Anti-Money Laundering], and managing the infrastructure associated with our agent network. On the customer care side of the house, I have responsibility to make sure we have a strong, end-to-end process that our customers go through. If a customer has a problem in that process, we have a mechanism for them to interact with us either electronically or via phone, and we can resolve that issue.
The other portion of my job, as the chief information officer for the company, the entire technology portfolio for our customers, our agents, our partners, and the regulators of the company. That is an exciting part of my job. I joined the company as the chief technology officer at a point where we are transforming what we are doing, bringing new capabilities to the market, but at the same time, enhancing the services that we have today.
High: How do you structure your team? Do you have two distinct teams? Are there any other people like yourself that span across both of those?
Thompson: I have a team of 15 direct reports. About half of those direct reports are responsible for our customer care and our operations function – servicing our agents, training our agents, supporting our customers via call center or electronic channels. We also have a series of engineering heads, who are responsible for developing new products on the technology side of the house: engineering capabilities, information security, our global operations’ technical operations: our server infrastructure both in the cloud and on premise.
High: You began to mention in both your responses some of the new things you are doing from a payment product and services perspective. I know this is an area of great innovation for the company. Can you provide some more details?