Jean-Michel Ares Moves Beyond CIO To Group Head Of Technology And Operations at BMO Financial Group by Peter High, published on Forbes 1-26-2015
Jean-Michel Ares has been the CIO of such august organizations as Coca Cola and GE Power Systems prior to assuming his current role as Group Head of Operations and Technology at BMO Financial in Toronto. His strong background makes it less of a surprise that he has moved beyond CIO. He has an advanced degree in electrical engineering and an MBA, both from McGill University in Montreal. He also spent time as a telecommunications and banking consultant at McKinsey & Company. He strongly believes that more CIOs will advance to operations leadership posts among other roles above the CIO role due to the natural tendency for those who occupy the role to be highly networked, and equally comfortable in taking on risk through the development of innovative ideas and risk mitigation, represented by investments in security, for example.
Though he is correct that more CIOs are likely to follow in his footsteps, it is no wonder that he was one of the pioneers, given his drive to push IT to be both a driver of efficiencies, but also a source of potential revenue augmentation.
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Peter High: You are the Group Head, Technology and Operations at BMO Financial Group. Can you briefly describe your area of responsibility and the parts of the organization that report to you?
Jean-Michel Ares: I am responsible for Technology, Information Security and IT Risk, Product Operations, Sourcing and Governance, Real Estate, and our newly created Data Analytics team under a Chief Data Officer who also jointly reports to our Chief Operating Officer.
High: You are one of a growing number of particularly successful CIOs who have moved beyond that role to be responsible not only for technology but also for a broader set of capabilities. How did it occur to you and your colleagues to combine these areas of focus under a single executive?
Ares: My view is that it is about effectiveness and efficiency. If you look at a bank, technology and operations are the foundation. Essentially, the business teams will develop products – a mortgage, a loan, a card offer, a mutual fund—and technology and operations will work in partnership with these teams to create the business processes, infrastructure, and IT systems that will bring that product to market. Day to day, technology and operations supports the flow of information across these products, so having T&O together simplifies the business model. Whether it is a retail banking or a wealth management team, T&O really needs to act as one to support these teams.
The other element is that having T&O together creates a foundation that enables improvement across the bank. We are working on digitizing the bank, and when you do so you have to consider the business processes, looking at those from front-to-back or from the business to product operation, and technology and data must work together. Pulling them together, I think, gives us a sense of cohesiveness and the ability to execute effectively.