CXO

In financial services, CIO role requires strong education

Career columnist Peter Woolford provides insight and recommendations on how finance-savvy IT managers can advance to the CIO helm within the financial industry job market.


CIO Republic’s monthly column, CIO HR Corner, focuses on helping IT executives and leaders find the right answers and approaches for staffing and personnel issues. If you have a question you’d like CIO Republic columnist Peter Woolford to answer, e-mail it to us.

Question: What training do I need to become a CIO at a bank?
I have several years of exposure in system application analysis (evaluation of software packages, business requirement definition, and information analysis) and am also a certified public accountant. I want to someday become a CIO of a company, particularly a bank. What training should I pursue to complement my business expertise in order to qualify for a CIO job?

Answer: A master's degree is a must and will broaden your employment opportunities
Your keys to long-term success will be your functional knowledge and your managerial skills. (It is a little late to restart your career on the technical career ladder.) Training will be useful as it will improve these skills, fill in gaps in your experience, and enhance your credentials.

Your career skills appear to be headed in the right direction: You have experience developing business requirements and implementing software packages.

Before I offer training recommendations, let's consider the career issues you face trying to aim for a CIO role within a bank. My first suggestion is that you broaden your industry search. The banking industry has been going through years of consolidations, and indications are that trend will continue. Every bank merger you read about in the paper means another CIO role was eliminated. Are you sure this is the industry you want?

Which other accounting-intensive industries could you consider? Mutual fund and asset management companies are a small step from banking but still have similar IT needs. You might also consider large multinationals in any industry. These organizations tend to have more roles on the border between IT and finance.

Training is only a small part of what you will need to successfully pursue the CIO career goal. An advanced degree is your best bet. My preference is for a master’s degree in MIS or CIS. A master’s degree in computer science would be a second choice, although these programs are typically geared toward careers in product development rather than IT management. An MBA with an IT focus would be another good choice. If you go the MBA route, I strongly recommend you get it from a top-name school. A commuter-school MBA can damage your resume.

In the short-term, there are a wide variety of certificates available. Approach certificate programs as a way to enhance skills on a limited basis. Given your career aspirations, you would benefit most from project management certificates. Earn a PMI certification, and it will stay with you for life.

I don’t recommend any of the technical certificates for you. For example, a certificate as a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer or a Sun Certified Programmer for Java would train you in skills that are too far down in the weeds.

Good luck pursuing your career goals. Enhancing your education will enhance your skills and your credentials. It will also send the right message to prospective employers that you are highly motivated as well as serious about this career direction.

 

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