Faizal joined Mashreq bank as a programmer in 1994, he handled several assignments including taking care of the contact centre, card portfolio and CRM. In 2006 he joined Dubai Bank as a CIO reporting to the bank’s CEO. During that time the bank was undergoing a transformation from a conventional bank to an Islamic bank. Mr Eledath enjoys non-fiction books, sports, movies and travel.
CIO2CIO: Your company is in banking, how does that impact your work, how involved are you in the business itself? Faizal: Our mission in IT is to become a key enabler to the business strategy by providing a high quality IT environment. That has been our guiding principle all along and we have been blessed in that the business has recognized the importance of IT. For the last three years, IT has been seen as strength for the bank. That is because we are living up to our mission of being a key enabler.
The key challenge in the early part of my career with Dubai Bank was the migration into Islamic banking. We had to complete the migration in six months. Beyond that the challenge was around deploying internet banking, the call center and modernizing the infrastructure. Within the banking sector, technology is fully embedded in the business, that means technology is very critical element in enabling any business imitative, be it a new product introduction, or analyzing and segmenting customers. The tricky bit is how you use IT in order to differentiate your bank in the eyes of the customers.
CIO2CIO: In your view, what is the biggest challenge facing CIOs nowadays, is it budgets, skills, picking the right technology, status within the enterprise, or what? Faizal: Budgets have not been a challenge for us at Dubai Bank. That is not to say that there is no pressure to do more with less. That is always there. My key challenge is around talent retention. How do you maintain their motivation levels and create an environment where they see a meaning in working. The other challenge is around security an ever changing threat that is becoming increasingly important for banks and other institutions. I’m privileged and lucky enough to take part in the planning of where the bank wants to go so I have early access and hence I can make sure It is focused on what really matters. So that isn’t a challenge for me now. But I would say talent retention and making sure we continuously maintain our security are the challenges.
CIO2CIO: As an achieved CIO of a leading organisation, can you tell us about the project you hold closest to your heart, the project you are most proud of? Faizal: There are quite a lot of projects that I’m proud of. If I were to pick one it would bethe Islamic banking migration, there was a looming deadline, not enough time and this was one of those initiatives where everyone was busy in their own rights and they were also looking to IT to provide the platforms to do what they needed to. The team collectively with strong support from the management pulled it off.
CIO2CIO: There also must be a project you maybe in retrospect look at with a certain amount of regret, a project that did not go that well, and you would like to share the learning experience with our CIO2CIO community members? Faizal: After every project there is some soul searching that we do, what were the key points, what worked, what we would do differently. I like to see IT as a learning experience. There are no mistakes, there is just learning. We have never done a perfect project and we learn from each one.
CIO2CIO: What are some of the big projects you are working on or planning for? Faizal: There is a whole host of projects. We are changing our risk management. We’ve launched our operational risk and we are doing our credit risk and market risk, two separate projects. We are looking at upgrading our credit card application, this is a big upgrade. On the CRM front today we have rich and robust CRM application and we are looking at further enhancing it to incorporate new functionalities and services. We are including more systems into our disaster recovery scope. We also have an initiative where we are learning from other companies outside of the banking industry. So we’ve been visiting Al Nisr Publishing, we visited DEWA and other forward looking organizations in other industries, We learn al lot by sharing experiences with companies outside the financial sector.
CIO2CIO: For many in the IT industry, cloud computing is the future, for others it is just a buzzword. As a CIO how do you make a decision as to whether to adopt a new technology or not? Faizal: Private cloud, I think the time has come and most banks have moved in that direction. We’re using virtualization on our production platform for a number of key applications which has really allowed us the flexibility in provisioning new systems and servers. When it comes to public cloud, we’re observing and learning. .
CIO2CIO: The IT industry is going through a phase of acquisitions, if you look at Oracle, HP, IBM and more recently SAP - as a CIO do you look at this as a positive or a negative development? Faizal: My thinking is that customers always like choice, so when you are looking from that standpoint mergers are reducing our choices. As a customer you don’t have too much choice right now when it comes to CRM applications and from that standpoint it is a bit limiting. Obviously there are benefits too, when vendors integrate and bundle, we get better performance and perhaps lower cost of ownership. When a bigger company acquires a smaller company they often change the licensing model totally and that is not always a good thing from a customer standpoint. It creates a little bit of uncertainty until the product roadmaps firmed up.
Dubai Bank IT Profile
IT staff: 44 Database: Oracle Database ERP: Oracle Financials CRM: Microsoft BI: Microsoft Analytics Server technology: HP and IBM Desktop and OS: Microsoft Networking: IBM, Cisco Telephony: Alcatel