Using technology to power the future of banking

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A heritage financial services institution isn’t necessarily the first place a technologist looks to grow their career. But that hasn’t been a problem for JPMorgan Chase, which has made itself an appealing career destination for technologists. “Technology is not an afterthought,” says Gill Haus, chief information officer of consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase. “It is in everything we do, from our offices to our branches to our contact centers to our web and mobile applications.”

Haus explains that there’s more to being a technology company than using technology to solve problems. “What really makes a technology company is how you think about the way you hire teams, the way you groom teams, the way you build software, the way you deploy that software,” says Haus. “It’s how you organize around products, not around your business units.”

Like a technology startup, the technical teams at JPMorgan Chase solve real-world problems. “Every single day, we are launching new features and products that make it easier for everyone. It’s incredibly exciting,” says Haus.

However, unlike a startup, JPMorgan Chase has scale. The financial services institution supports 44 million mobile active customers and 59 million digitally active customers in general. The company spends $12 billion on technology annually. “When we launch a solution or bring a new product to market, we don’t bring it to market for 1,000 people. We don’t bring it to market for a 100,000 people. We bring it to market for millions of customers immediately, and that is incredible,” says Haus. “There’s incredible talent here, as you can imagine, because we have such a technical need. Talent begets talent. It’s exciting to go to a place where you know you’re going to be challenged.”

Laurel Ruma: From MIT Technology Review, I’m Laurel Ruma and this is Business Lab, the show that helps business leaders make sense of new technologies coming out of the lab and into the marketplace.

Our topic today is innovation at scale. Established institutions in every industry have found themselves competing against cloud-born startups that run lean and mean. Legacy companies must not only innovate, but do so on a significantly larger scale than the current generation and much faster to maintain that scale in a rapidly changing marketplace. But success is possible.

Two words for you. Scaling innovation.

My guest today is Gill Haus, who is the chief information officer of consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase. Gill heads the Chase technology team, and is a member of both the consumer and community banking leadership team, and the firm’s global technology leadership team. This podcast is produced in association with JPMorgan Chase. Welcome, Gill.

Gill Haus: Thank you for having me, Laurel.

Laurel: You’ve worked at a number of different companies, including PayPal and Curb, which is formerly known as RideCharge. What’s it like working at a large financial institution after being at several fintechs? And why did you join JPMorgan Chase?

Gill: I’ll answer it in reverse, which is what led me to come to a company like a JPMorgan Chase. There is a size and a scale that is incredibly attractive, particularly given the technology challenges that we face. To put it in perspective, we have 44 million digitally active mobile customers and 59 million digitally active customers in general. Getting the experience right for them, making it load quickly, showing all the information their customer needs in a secure way, that’s a technical masterpiece, and that’s exciting for me and that’s why I joined a firm like this. That’s just the Chase portion of the business, not to mention our corporate and investment bank and other parts of our organization.

There’s also incredible talent here, as you can imagine, because of the fact that we have such a technical need. Talent begets talent. It’s exciting to go to a place where you know that you’re going to be challenged. You’re going to learn from other people. But also, there’s a culture. This one’s important and it goes to the first part of your question. There’s a culture here of, “We can tackle these problems. We are a startup on our own.”

We look at any of the challenges facing us, whether it is in our consumer business, whether it’s in our asset wealth management business, whether it’s in investment international, and we look at each of those problems the way that a startup would. So, it feels very much like a startup here, like when I was at PayPal or Curb or other companies. The difference is we have the scale, so we have the resources at our disposal should we need them. We have the money to actually be able to make a difference. I do love startups having been there, but unlike some startups, when we launch a solution or bring some new product to market, we don’t bring it to market for 1,000 people. We don’t bring it to market for a 100,000 people. We bring that to market for millions of customers immediately, and that is incredible.

The other piece of this, which is really great about a startup, is purpose. A lot of the places that I joined when I was at a startup was because we’re going to change the world. We’re going to change ride share, which is why I joined Curb. At PayPal we were acquired, but it was about changing how money is used. The purpose that we have here at JPMorgan Chase is incredible because finance is at the center of everyone’s life. There’s nothing more personal than finance. Whether it is an individual customer, a small business, or a corporation or a government, money is so incredibly important. Every single day, we are launching new features and products that make it easier for everyone. It’s incredibly exciting. The technical challenge is huge and that’s why it feels a lot like a startup almost every single day, but also why I joined the organization.

Laurel: You started as the head of digital technology and probably much like a startup, you moved along quite quickly to lead Chase’s technology organization as CIO. How has your role changed? And what advice would you give to technologists who might actually follow that career path?

Gill: If you had asked me years ago, “Do you want to be a CIO, whether it’s here or anywhere else?” I don’t know Laurel, if I would’ve said yes. And now that I know, I might go like, “What, really? I don’t know.” But what really kept me moving in my career were a few things. The first was the technology itself. I’ve always been passionate about technology. The roles that I’ve had have been on solving technical problems and having a curiosity and being technical. Now, I’m not as hands-on as I once was, but I do read constantly about technology. I get into the architecture, and I’ve done that throughout my career.

That’s an important thing too, because I believe that anyone that wants to be a CIO or a CTO, particularly in the way that the industry is progressing, you need to understand technology. So, staying close to the technology and curious and wanting to solve those problems has helped me.

But there’s another part to it, too. In every one of my roles, there have been times when I’ve seen something that wasn’t necessarily working and I had ideas and wanted to help, but it might’ve been outside of my responsibility. I’ve always leaned in to help, even though I knew that it was going to help someone else in the organization, because it was the right thing to do and it helped the company, it helped other people. So, it ended up building stronger relationships, but also building my skillset. I think that’s been a part of my rise too, and it’s something that’s just incredibly powerful from a cultural perspective. That’s something that I love here. Everybody is in it together to work that way. But I also think that it just speaks volumes about an individual, and people gravitate to want to work with people that operate that way. The reality is we all need help and there have been so many people that have done that for me in my career, and I either hire them or they’ve hired me and we stay close. So, that’s been something else has been important in my career path.

The last piece that I would say is, it’s important to have two things. There is one, the excitement about the work. And I have that here. I had it in my last role here too, which is there’s an excitement about the changes you’re making every day, about the problem set and the technologies that we can use and the opportunity. That’s really important because that ensures that you’re always going to be excited, even if there’s a bad day.

The other thing that I make sure of is, am I a bit scared? Not scared like something bad is going to happen, but more scared like, can I do it? Do I understand how the technology works? Do I know how to navigate this situation? Having that means you’re going to grow and you’re going to learn skills you didn’t learn before. So you won’t get bored because you can get excited, and after a while the excitement wanes, but you still are really jazzed about the things that you’re learning. I urge people to find roles where they have both of those challenges.

If you have a cultural view of, I’m going to try to solve the problems and it’s bigger than me, it’s about the company, and I’m going to put myself in a situation that I’m having fun, you’ll have energy. And I’m also a little bit scared, you’re going to learn. That’s the best way, I think, to grow someone’s career. And what’s so exciting here is we have so many awesome problems to solve, so many incredible people that are looking for assistance, that you just have an environment where people can grow their careers really quickly.

I was surprised that I became CIO so quickly, but you can point to so many examples in this company where people that bring the attitude, the aptitude, the skill and the passion, they continue to grow because we’re doing some incredible things, and we respect and we value that in our leaders.

Laurel: Speaking of problem solving, for a lot of organizations, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation initiatives out of necessity. Perhaps some organizations had a five-year plan to roll out video collaboration solutions for remote work, but suddenly they had to make that a priority when everyone was home for the pandemic. Where was JPMorgan Chase in its digital transformation journey in early 2020, and did you feel the need to accelerate any initiatives to get through that pandemic?

Gill: I’m smiling because I joined JPMC on March second of 2020, so it was right before we went into lockdown. I got to see the before and the after really quickly. One of the things that was incredibly apparent then and continues to be apparent is that our customer is our number one focus. That has always been the case and COVID didn’t change that. In fact, it was a rallying call for the organization, that we need to make sure even more so, that we’re doing right for our customers because our customers were unable to visit branches or perform the services they were used to. And they were also impacted by the pandemic themselves on their finances, etc. So, it was super clear about the mission we had here, even more so, we want to make sure that we’re helping those that really depend on us. You could see it in the way that everyone rallied around solving problems.

There were some things that the pandemic also drove. There was an increase in digital engagement. That would’ve probably happened anywhere to your point about a five-year plan, but that was fast-tracked because people were at home, and they needed to transact, and they used their digital devices because there was no other way. I believe that’s here to stay and that digital adoption, that acceleration, we’re seeing it because we are up 6% year over year. If you think about our digitally active customers, so 58.8 million customers. I mentioned the mobile number, we’re up 11% year over year. That’s something that we’re continuing to see happen. Once you’re using our mobile, or you’re using web, it’s hard to necessarily go back, but you still can.

It required us to roll out video conferencing globally to our employees in a span of a weekend, which is not for the faint of heart. When you think about the 200,000 employees that we have, we were able to roll this out at that pace, which speaks not just to the technical powers we have more broadly in the firm, but to how adaptable we are when these sorts of things occur. That was all because we wanted to make sure that our people could service our customers the best way that we could. Remember, we have people that work in our call centers, and they were impacted, and we have people that work in branches, and they’re impacted, etc.

One of the things that was really clear when the pandemic occurred was how quickly our teams could deploy new software. Many talk about being able to build quickly and being agile. There’s the Paycheck Protection Program, and this was the ability to offer small businesses who were not having as much traffic, etc., loans through the government. We had about a week to put this in place, and we were able to stand up that portal in about a week. We had it fully automated in a matter of two-ish weeks, and we were able to provide more funding than any other lender in both 2020 and 2021, which was just incredible. The fact that we were able to build that because of the technology we’ve invested in over the past years, build that so quickly and scale that to such a large volume for our customers was huge.

But we also were able to make some fundamental changes in mobile. We were able to enhance things which might seem simple. We have a product inside of our mobile application called QuickDeposit, and this is where you’re able to deposit a check. But as many know, sometimes checks are large numbers. Traditionally we asked people to go into branches to help prevent fraud. Because of the technology that we have, we were able to raise limits in a way that ensured that we were able to manage through fraud appropriately and allow customers that would have formerly had to come into a branch or ATM, make the deposits electronically. Those are the kinds of things that we’ve seen change, but the pace that we moved, that’s not just limited to the Chase part of the business, but we saw this across all of J.P. Morgan.

There’s one piece that I think is important on this Laurel. I was in a meeting and here I am a new person in the organization working on the Paycheck Protection Program. I recall there being somebody on Zoom. We were having a conversation and I assumed because I was new and they were in the meeting that they were on my team, and the person said, “Oh no, I’m not on your team, but I know you’re new and you needed assistance. And so here I am to help, and I just figured I’d navigate.” And that has stuck with me about the culture of this organization and how we focus on the customer both externally and internally, to really make sure that we are providing the best service that we possibly can.

Laurel: That certainly requires an agile mindset. So, how is JPMorgan Chase transforming into an agile organization? You’ve laid a couple examples. Clearly you would not have been able to respond to the US government’s Payroll Protection Act that quickly if you hadn’t been already working on a number of these opportunities and abilities to be more agile. So, what lessons have you learned along the way and how have your teams and customers benefited from this shift?

Gill: Oh, yes. An agile transformation is a really hard thing to do. Many people are making agile transformations, so it sounds like it should be easy. You have your scrums, and you have your various ceremonies and retrospectives, and you use a tool to manage your backlog and you’re golden. One of the big challenges that we as a company had faced in JPMorgan, was we were organized more around our software and platforms than around our customer and the experiences back. That made it really frustrating for teams because it meant that you likely needed 10, maybe 12 different organizations to agree on building something. It wasn’t clear who the owner was. The architectures sometimes would be a bit more frail because you were working through multiple teams. If you want to move quickly or you want to innovate, that’s not a model in which you’re able to actually operate. You can force it, but it requires many more meetings. It’s difficult to know who the decision makers are. You can move more slowly and sometimes an application or a solution looks like many teams built it. There’s Conway’s Law, and you may have probably mentioned this before on other podcasts, but Dr. Conway said that your software will reflect how you’re organized. That’s really what we had seen. So, as opposed to us just trying to find a way to navigate around it, we said as an organization, “We’re truly going to become agile, and we’re going to accept Conway’s Law, and we’re going to organize around our products back.”

In the community and consumer bank, we organized around 100 products, so we have a thousand teams that are aligned around these products. A product, for example, is something like account opening. So, I want to open an account on mobile or web. There is one product for this. There is one product leader, one design leader, one data leader, and one technology leader that are accountable for that product. Now we know who can manage the backlog. Now we know who can work through any kind of architectural decisions. Now we understand who is accountable for ensuring that we have innovation and understanding that customer needs. That has allowed us to pivot quickly, because if I need to move, I can work with the account opening team, they can make the decisions, they can manage a backlog, and they’re able to adapt when we have things like the Paycheck Protection Program or other types of efforts that are out there. But it also gives more purpose to the individual teams because they set their destiny, they have more autonomy, and they’re working together between tech and product design and data, so we can build the right solutions that we need. This creates a great experience for people in the organization.

By the way, the whole of JPMC is moving to operate this way. This lets us not just move more quickly, it gives better work life balance for our employees and less frustration, because it’s easier to know where you are. You have that purpose and you accept being part of a particular team. I mentioned we can respond more quickly when there is a challenge, but it’s not just those challenges like PPP or a pandemic that we have to address, Laurel. There are places where our customer’s needs are changing every single day. And by organizing around products this way, we can understand the data from our customers, and we can experiment, and we can adapt in a truly agile fashion for what our customers really need, versus what we think they might need and building something that doesn’t really resonate with them. It allows us to operate in a truly agile fashion, which we were not able to do before and it’s quite incredible being able to make a change like this at such scale.

Laurel: With those hundreds of products and millions of customers, what are some of the challenges and opportunities that your teams face when operating on this scale?

Gill: We are a company, so it’s a job. And there are going to be the normal things that you would see in a company, which is we have to prioritize. We’re like any other company in that respect. However, working here, in my opinion, is incredible. When you write code in this organization, you are deploying it at scale. The problems that we are solving that could be frustrating because it could be a day where this code isn’t working or I’m running into this blocker, I can’t figure it out or, I have to support some other change that’s occurred — when we make those changes for our engineers, for our product, our design, our data leaders, we are deploying this at scale.

The other part is we include the feedback from our millions upon millions of customers to improve an experience and improve the life of those customers. That’s something that keeps me going every single day. Yeah, I might feel like this project’s been a bit harder than it should have been. However, the difference that I’m making for a customer on every single day is tangible. Somebody buying groceries for their family, somebody buying their first car, somebody refinancing their house, you name it — the list goes on. Because the work that’s being done every single day is making that positive impact, I just feel incredible about it and I think everyone else in the organization does, too. This is the kind of thing that makes me excited about being here. Even if there is a challenge on a particular day.

Now, there are things we want to do. We want to deliver software more quickly, and we’re constantly working on improving in that space. We have a ton of products that we continue to improve, but that’s the opportunity, which is we have thousands of engineers. We hire thousands of designers. And every day we’re making it better, but we’re also learning. And that’s the career opportunity for people because what you join the company to do today, could be something different that you do in a year. That’s exciting because what we learn to do in one of our other divisions, we go, “That’s wonderful, bring that over.” Career opportunity, mobility opportunity. And it’s a career mindset every single day for people that’s exciting and that’s the opportunity I think, for our technologists here and the scale, that’s really the gravy because most engineers, that’s what they want, from an engineering perspective. I want to ship code at scale.

Laurel: It’s possible some people may be surprised how big a team is, so you’re talking about data, design, customer service, as well as product managers, as well as your actual software developers. So with this, you actually have to invest in a collaborative and purpose-driven culture. And that seems to be certainly something that draws you to this organization, but it also creates an attractive workplace that can develop and retain talent. As you said, that is building that purpose-driven company for the customers themselves. So, why are you passionate about this idea of purpose-driven culture and what are the benefits that you’re seeing every day?

Gill: Yeah, as a purpose-driven company, it’s more than just the services that we provide when you think about technology. We’re making differences in communities. Because money is central to people’s lives, when we make a difference in our mobile app, that’s huge. But also we have a large branch network and many people still use us through branches, and if we can be your community bank and we’re able to help a family or help a small business, that makes a difference. If we’re able to help a large company that is working on investing in some new electric vehicle type technology, we’re the ones that are helping change the world in a positive way, and the list goes on. That sense of purpose is what really attracts people to the organization.

But we also recognize and are passionate about diversity in general. We know that diverse teams are more innovative, more productive, more effective. You name the thing that teams’ ought to be, and diverse teams are that way. We spend a good deal of time ensuring that we are focused on diversity, whether it is internally and how we ensure that you can be your whole self and bring your whole self to work, to the communities that we help. These are the things that really are meaningful and drive a difference for the people that work here. So, that’s why people want to come and work here because you make a difference every single day.

Laurel: There’s obviously an incredible demand for developers and other software and IT professionals across every industry, including banking. So, how are you specifically addressing this challenge and what is JPMorgan Chase doing that is different from competitors?

Gill: Tech is not an afterthought. It is in everything that we do. This is from our offices, to our branches, to our contact centers, to our web and mobile applications. It is a core in our purpose. When people look at our organization, they should see that is what we do on a daily basis.

In 2021, we hired thousands of software engineers with skill sets that range across full stack development, cloud, data science, machine learning, and engineering. You name the technology, we’ve invested in it. Now, the market is incredibly hot, and one of the things that we focus on is making sure that when we bring people in, that you are coming here for a career. You’re not coming here just for a job. There’s training. We do bring people in at entry level, and we put you through training, so you learn how to work in our environment.

We also provide additional mobility and opportunity within the organization, so that you are learning, and you are growing. That is another attractive point. Our push for diversity. It’s a welcoming culture. You work with people from different walks of life and backgrounds. All of that just make it a really enjoyable place to be. We recognize that attitude and aptitude make the difference. So that’s what we are looking for in the talent that we bring in. We’re looking for that really incredible talent that wants to change the world, because we’re at the center of what everyone does on a daily basis.

We’re hiring across the country. We’re hiring across the world, honestly, Laurel. We have our career page that people can visit, at careers.jpmorganchase.com. The thing that is just really passionate to us is we are focused on being a technology company in the sense of how we build software. We’re moving to building our software in a truly DevOps fashion. You build your software, you test your software, you deploy your software, you manage your software in your agile team. We’re operating in a way where we can release software more and more all the time. If you name the cloud provider, we’re there, and if you name the technology, we are thinking about that technology or using that technology. Because we also deploy it at scale, it’s one thing to say, “I’m using the cloud,” or, “I built a mobile application.” It’s another to use those technologies for 60 million customers on a regular basis. That is not just incredibly challenging from the user experience, but even the back-end of the plumbing and how we rethink or reimagine how we provide the foundational services to make that happen. Those sorts of things are really attractive to engineers. It’s what gets me and the people here excited, too. That’s the thing that we believe is really drawing people to the organization.

Laurel: Delivering services at scale clearly is important and also, as you said, one of those attractive features. But what is it about the banking industry that makes it so appealing to technologists?

Gill: When I was first approached to join a bank, Laurel, with full transparency, I said what I thought most technologists typically are thinking: “A bank. I don’t want to join a bank. I want to join a technology company.” I know I gave a bit about what a technology company is and how I think we are a technology company. When you think about banking and you think about the technology that we have, we employ technology at great scale. So, the first part is, in order to deliver the services we have, there’s no way we can’t be using technology. But what really makes a technology company is how you think about the way you hire teams, the way that you groom teams, the way that you build your software, the way that you deploy that software, as I mentioned. It’s the way that you manage that software production. It’s how you organize around products, not around your business units. It’s how you obsess over the customer experience. That is what we are doing at JPMorgan Chase. And when you think about the technology problems we’re solving, the way that we are solving them, there’s no better place to be because we are moving from many heritage technologies into modern, cloud-based technologies. We’re rebuilding, re-plumbing our entire deposit platform in a cloud-native manner. That is something that drives trillions of dollars of our deposits. And we’ll be moving that to a modern ecosystem that we deploy on a regular basis, in a controlled, well-managed way. This is incredibly exciting. It’s exhilarating actually, when I talk about it. We make the difference in people’s lives. People ask if we are really committed to this sort of change. We spend for JPMorgan, $12 billion on technology annually. In my division, $4 billion alone. So, there’s one thing for all the words that I’ve used on what we’re doing, but also we’re putting our money where our mouth is, which is incredible.

Laurel: And you’ve mentioned some of those technologies that you’re investing in, like machine learning, artificial intelligence, microservices and all of these technologies drive that product development and digital engagement for customers. Looking forward, what are you thinking about for the future of banking and the banking technology?

Gill: There are a few areas where I think the future is. One is collaboration in general across our various business units. One of the reasons we’re doing this transformation and we’re really modernizing how we operate, is to move—and I’ll use API as an example—but to enable our teams to be able to innovate at pace beyond just their local division. Organizing around our product teams makes it easier for us to build those products. By also ensuring that we have APIs and the data that is accessible across those teams, teams can innovate and explore in a truly agile fashion, which is empowering our engineers and designers, data, etc., to be able to do things they once couldn’t do. I think you’re going to see more of this happening, where I can use elements of data or a service from other portions of the bank within my mobile app that make for a more compelling experience for our customers.

But I think the other part of the future of banking really is personalization. We know that you just booked a trip. We can make other recommendations while you’re making that booking. If we see a flight is delayed, we can act immediately. If we identify that you have a big inflow of money, we can help you when it comes to, in real time, tell you where you could be spending that money more effectively, what you should be saving. The list goes on with the kinds of experiences we can create. And they’re not just limited to our mobile or web app, but it’s across our whole ecosystem. When you’re in a branch, that kind of data can tell us, I know that you’ve called us about other types of products, or I saw you perform some experience on our mobile application, and we could tie it all together to a truly personalized experience where you’re a customer of one, and that’s a really incredible future, I think.

There’s also just a little bit of the road less traveled. We know there are going to be things that we need to do or technologies that we haven’t really tapped yet. You can see that happening on a regular basis. That’s why we are always on the search for the best technologists in the industry and what we have our technologists doing here, which is what have we not unlocked yet. Because there are definitely things that we know we’re going to need to do in the future. We’re not looking for people that know how to do everything today. We’re looking for those who are curious and want to know and are willing to learn, “Okay, how do I need to do this in the future?” Because all the things I just recommended, I’m sure there will be something even well beyond that in the coming years.

The other part of the future is diversity. I mentioned before that diverse and inclusive teams are just better teams. We know that by science, not just anecdote, and we want this to be that sort of place. We want our teams to be that way. We want an environment where everybody brings their whole self to work. I think you’re going to see that more and more, not just here, but even more broadly. It’s important, because I do think that it is a secret sauce to how we develop products, because remember, the millions of customers that we have, they are also diverse. It doesn’t matter who you are and so our people should reflect those people we serve so we can make better products, can understand our customers more. And that I think is extremely exciting to me on what I think the future of banking holds in store.

Laurel: Excellent. Thank you Gill, for joining us today on the Business Lab.

Gill: My pleasure, thank you for having me.

Laurel: That was Gill Haus, who is a chief information officer for consumer and community banking at JPMorgan Chase, who I spoke to from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the home of MIT and MIT Technology Review, overlooking the Charles River.

That’s it for this episode of Business Lab. I’m your host Laurel Ruma. I’m the director of Insights, the custom publishing division of MIT Technology Review. We were founded in 1899 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and you can find us in print, on the web, and at events each year around the world. For more information about us and the show, please check out our website at technologyreview.com.

This show is available wherever you get your podcasts. If you enjoyed this episode, we hope you’ll take a moment to rate and review us. Business Lab is a production of MIT Technology Review. This episode was produced by Collective Text. Thanks for listening.

This content was produced by Insights, the custom content arm of MIT Technology Review. It was not written by MIT Technology Review’s editorial staff.

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