State Street's executive vice president and CIO, Christopher Perretta, says technology is leading the transformation of the financial services industry. In any organization at any time, that's no small task, but Perretta says it's particularly challenging given the state of the economy in the past several years. But he welcomes the opportunity. "I aspire to be a change agent," says Perretta, who leads a team of more than 5,000 employees and contractors that supports operations in 27 countries. His leadership was recognized earlier this year, when he received an MIT Sloan CIO Symposium 2012 Award for Innovation Leadership. The award honors CIOs who lead their organizations to pursue the innovative use of IT and business processes to deliver business value.
"Don't sweat the small stuff."What's your favorite way to spend downtime? "[I have a] growing affinity for power tools."Where is your hometown? Westbury, N.Y.Is there anything that very few people know about you? "I'm an ex-medical engineer."What are you reading now?Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens
What do you think earned you the MIT distinction? I think the team at State Street has done a great job at really putting new technology into a business context, and they're making a difference with the business. They're a very customer-centric group and a tech-savvy group, and they've made the connection between those two ideas. They've delivered in an environment that requires some pretty high-quality delivery. I'm proud to be a part of that team.
What's your role in all that? My job is to connect the dots, to build an organization that leverages the talent that we have. I think at State Street we've elevated the role of architecture, of technology architect -- and I use that word to include application architect, data architect, technical architect. We've elevated that role and made it a firm-wide endeavor, and that has greatly enhanced our ability to deliver solutions in a consistent manner across the board.
What are the most important qualities in an IT leader today? It's very easy to get into the tech tactical side of what we do and the incident management side of what we do, and one has to fight to free up the resources and the brain space to develop strategies and execute on them. You get sucked into the day-to-day, and you have to make an effort to build capabilities that are geared for five years from now. You can't lose the day-to-day, but you can't forgo the strategy. And then you have to execute on the strategy. So you have to build the organization and work with the people. [You have to determine:] Are you putting the right people in the right spot and giving them the right type of autonomy to do their jobs?
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