I had a fascinating conversation recently with Sathish Muthukrishnan, the Chief Information, Data and Digital Officer at Ally Financial Inc. (NYSE: ALLY). Ally is a leading digital financial services company and a top 20 U.S. financial holding company. The company has a distinctive brand, innovative approach and a strong commitment to “Doing It Right” for its consumer, commercial and corporate customers.
Ally has an award-winning online bank (Ally Bank, Member FDIC), one of the largest full-service auto finance operations in the country, a complementary auto-focused insurance business, a growing wealth management and brokerage platform, and a trusted corporate finance business offering capital for equity sponsors and middle-market companies.
Sathish and I spoke about the pressures and challenges of bringing established organizations into the digital age. We also spoke about the importance of staying fit, both physically and psychologically.
“Modernizing a legacy platform is the hardest thing to do for any technology organization,” he says. “There is no glory in it. You spend a lot of money and you wind up at the same exact point you were when you started the journey. For some people, it doesn’t seem as though you added tangible value. But it’s like going to the gym. You’re not going to see a visible outcome on day one, day two, or day three. Over time, however, your reward is a healthier life. It’s similar to modernizing a platform. The results aren’t immediately obvious, but it makes a big difference over the long term.”
In his role as the company’s Chief Information, Data and Digital Officer, Sathish can muster the resources necessary for leading large-scale transformation efforts. “It’s unique in the industry that you have digital, data, technology and security reporting to the same leader. That’s very rare. It gives us end-to-end accountability and ownership of everything that is related to technology,” he explains.
Even though Ally is a financial services enterprise, “we consider ourselves a technology company,” Sathish says. “That’s what makes Ally unique compared to other financial institutions.”
I respect and admire how Sathish and his team at Ally leverage new technology to provide the best possible experiences and results to their customers. “Here’s what I say to my team: You have to build a product or a capability as if Ally is your first customer. That drives ownership, accountability and understanding the customer journey,” Sathish explains. “You also need to understand the impact to the bottom line of the business. How much am I spending? Am I spending it wisely?”
From my perspective, Sathish embodies the modern digital executive in the 21st century enterprise. He combines with business acumen with technical expertise and brilliant execution to drive business growth in ultra-competitive markets.