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BNY poaches BP's Leigh-Ann Russell as new CIO -- eyes sustained modernisation

CEO Robin Vince earlier cautioned BNY had "operated in a way that was vertically integrated and became siloed..."

New BNY CIO Leigh-Ann Russell.

Bank of New York (BNY) has appointed Leigh-Ann Russell as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Global Head of Engineering, effective September 15, as the bank continues with an organisational overhaul.

Leigh-Ann Russell joins the financial services firm (which has $48.8 trillion in assets under custody) from supermajor BP. She joins September 15, reporting to BNY’s President and CEO, Robin Vince (appointed in 2022), and will be a member of the firm's Executive Committee, BNY said. 

She is being replaced at BP by Emeka Emembolu.

New BNY CIO: Lots to tackle

Her appointment comes as BNY (which dropped the “Mellon” from its name last week) continues reform efforts led by Goldman veteran Vince, who in 2023 hired its first Chief Commercial Officer, Cathinka Wahlstrom. 

A core current focus at the firm is product innovation – to be delivered whilst driving down cost-to-serve and tackling some stubborn siloes including a fragmented IT estate; a common challenge at storied firms.

(BNY was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1784 and became the first firm listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Legacy? It certainly has one.) 

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As CEO Vince put it on a Q1 2024 earnings call “We also see meaningful opportunity over the coming years from continued digitization and re-engineering initiatives, as well as from embracing new technologies… 

“We do not”, he added however, “want to repeat the problems we’ve had in the past of having everyone go off in their own direction…” 

(He was re-emphasising a point the CEO had also made in the firm’s last annual report, in which he emphasised “our businesses and functions have operated in a way that was vertically integrated and became siloed.”)

AI at BNY? (Someone had to ask...)

Asked about the company’s investment in AI on a Q1 call, he said: “I really don’t think this is a 2024 story. Of course, we’re doing things in 2024. 

“But if you ask me to try to put a pin in where the real… tailwinds kick in, I’m actually going to say it’s not even necessarily a 2025 story, although maybe we’ll see a little bit in ‘25. I think this is a ‘26 and out benefit… We’re using our AI hub  to collect different use cases… AI platforms that can then be used in multiple places around the company” the CEO added.

In terms of current BNY estate, Joe Sieczkowski, CIO of architecture and engineering noted in 2022 that the bank had run a major application modernisation effort. It had “virtualized and containerized approximately 95% of our distributed applications in our internal ecosystem,” he said.

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That, said Sieczowski, had laid the groundwork for strategic cloud migrations, adding: “Today, our strategy is to have a multi-cloud approach. We have to go to where our clients are. We are going to pick best of breed solutions and maintain our ability to pivot as needed. We are going to limit lock-in, we are going to understand our exit strategy. And frankly, for critical business workloads, we actually may select a process on multiple providers, like Azure and GCP or AWS and Azure, etc.” 

Since that time BNY has inked a major partnership with Azure (in February 2024) to bring data workloads in particular to Microsoft’s Cloud. 

Clearly lots happening for an ambitious CIO to sink their teeth into.