How to be a CIO

How to be a CIO

‘The higher you get in the organization, the less your technology skills will matter.’

October 4, 2017

If you want to ascend to the top technology spot in a credit union, learn to collaborate, communicate, and bring value to all areas of the organization.

That’s the consensus of a panel of hiring experts at the co-located CUNA Technology Council and CUNA Operations & Member Experience Council Conferences Tuesday in Phoenix.

“In the past, technology people were put in a back room and, as long as the computers worked, everything was ok,” says Bobby Michael, president/CEO of Army Aviation Center Federal Credit Union in Daleville, Ala. “Now, information technology departments need to be integrated with other departments. We don’t need loners; we need CIOs who can integrate into the mainstream and who are good collaborators and communicators.”

Brian Kidwell, executive vice president at D. Hilton Associates, agrees the role of the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO) is changing. “When we started, it was all about, ‘Does this person have Symitar experience?’ But it’s not about products or the latest piece of equipment or software anymore,” he says. “It’s about using technology to find out what members need or to help staff serve members faster. CIOs don’t even need to have banking experience.”

Another requirement, adds Jessica Jarman, assistant vice president of recruiting for D. Hilton Associates: Seeing the big picture.

“Technology has evolved from a necessary evil to a strategic contributor,” she says. “CIOs need to understand the big picture. They need to manage and develop their team.”

Michael agrees. “Take the initiative and learn as much about the credit union as you can outside the IT department. The higher you get in the organization, the less your technology skills will matter.”

Sell your CU

There’s a hot market for technology positions now, Jarman says. So when a credit union finds the right person, they need to move fast with a job offer.

“Be ready to move because these people might already have two or three other offers,” she says.

One of the best-selling points for top candidates is the culture of credit unions, “how credit unions are passionate about servicing their membership,” Jarman says.

Michael meets with candidates to explain his credit union’s culture and strategic plan—and even gives them gift baskets.

“We’re selling our credit union,” he says. “You’re asking someone to leave the known and come to the unknown. It’s not necessarily about money.”

Click here for more conference coverage from CUNA News, and get live updates on Twitter via @CUNACraig@cumagazine, and  @CUNACouncils, and by using the #TechOpSS hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA Councils, a member-led professional society for credit union executives, at