Greg Carmichael managed to first change industries, and then change roles as he climbed from CIO to President at Fifth Third Bank.
Greg Carmichael was the chief information officer at multiple industrial behemoths before joining Fifth Third Bancorp as CIO in 2003. Although Fifth Third was smaller, revenue-wise, than was his prior employer, Emerson Electric, Carmichael was attracted to the challenge of learning a new industry that was very information dependent. He wove himself deeply into the operations of the business, and was able to drive significant business value from IT. Carmichael’s accomplishments have been rewarded as he has risen to the role of president and chief operation officer of Fifth Third Bancorp. In this interview, Carmichael provides advice for others who might wish to follow in his footsteps.
(The “Beyond CIO” series kicked off with this article, and the all past interviews in the series can be found here. If you are interested in future articles in the series with executives from companies like HP, Symantec, Ameristar Casinos, and Aetna, among others, please return to the Technovation column in the coming weeks.)
Peter High: Greg, you were a long-time IT executive at major industrial companies like General Electric GE +0.17% and Emerson. You then joined your first financial services company when you became the CIO of Fifth Third Bancorp in 2003. How did you approach this new experience in a new industry?
Greg Carmichael: Truth be told, GE and Emerson are each such diverse businesses that I had a series of new businesses to learn about within each company. Therefore, I came to Fifth Third with a pretty solid ability to learn about business drivers quickly, and to establish trusted relationships with new colleagues early on.
The key to any executive’s success is an understanding of the business that they are in. I dove right in when I joined Fifth Third and got to know the executives around the business, and talked to them about their plans, the opportunities they foresaw in the future, and I went to work translating the relevant points into solutions that IT could offer to bring those business plans and opportunities to life.
I have always focused on the creative use of technology to help meet needs. Technology for technology’s sake is pretty useless. Technology that helps the top and bottom lines is a recipe for success. It requires understanding the business drivers, as well as getting to know your colleagues well enough to help fix issues that they’ve identified.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- What was it about the CIO role that prepared you for your current role as president and chief operating officer of the bank?
- Now that you are the user of IT and boss of a CIO, how is your relationship different with IT leadership relative to other executives in the bank?