Tech group to help 'clueless' boards

and more news for digital executives, by journalist Mitch Betts ▸ developments at Walmart, Greyhound, Neiman Marcus ▸ CxO jobs and career news ▸

Newsletter by Mitch Betts © Ampersand Reports 2018, all rights reserved.
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Association plans to be a matchmaker for digital execs seeking director positions, and to encourage more tech-savvy corporate boards

A new organization called the Digital Directors Network (DDN) plans to help tech executives such as CIOs and CISOs get appointed as directors on the boards of public companies, and generally boost the digital literacy of corporate boards.

The DDN’s website tagline: “Digital success starts at the top.”

The association, founded in July, is the brainchild of Bob Zukis, who is a management professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business; a senior fellow with The Conference Board’s Governance Center; a member of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD); and a former PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) consultant on IT strategy & operations.

DDN’s mission is to put CIOs, CISOs, and other tech executives into every corporate boardroom to improve digital governance. “This is a boardroom skill set that's long overdue,” said Zukis, the association’s founder & CEO. 

The dearth of tech literacy on corporate boards first hit Zukis in 2012-2013 when he was a PwC consultant and boards were “clueless” about what to do with social media such as Facebook — and didn’t even know the right questions to ask, Zukis said in an interview with “Digital Business” newsletter. Then, the Equifax data breach in 2017 exposed the fact that boards were failing to understand & address cybersecurity risks, Zukis said. Moreover, boards today lack the tech literacy necessary understand the digital business opportunities at their companies, he said.

According to MyLogIQ LLC, which analyzes public company governance filings, only 11% of S&P 500 boards have technology committees — and less than 1% have cybersecurity committees. While audit committees are often tasked with cybersecurity oversight, MyLogIQ research indicates that 36% of the S&P 500 don’t mention board-level cybersecurity oversight in their proxy filings.

The DDN recently released a statement urging U.S. public company boards to add a Technology & Cybersecurity Committee — including at least one qualified tech exec — to improve digital oversight.

Zukis noted that the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was born from the Enron collapse and required U.S. corporate boards for the first time to have at least one qualified financial expert on their audit committee. “I’m hopeful we can avoid a similar Enron moment around IT governance,” Zukis said. “Boards can address these IT oversight shortcomings themselves, or regulators will step in again,” Zukis said in the statement.

In the interview, Zukis said the DDN is working on several initiatives to improve board-level digital governance:

  • DDN is already acting as a “matchmaker” to help digital executives (such as CIOs) get appointments as directors, and conversely, to help boards find tech experts to recruit as directors. “We make introductions of technology executives for boardroom opportunities,” Zukis said, but “we’re not a recruiter — this is a free service.” The association also provides coaching on what it takes to be a successful director, such as knowing the difference between governance and management.

  • Content — including Boardroom TV, a forthcoming library of short videos — to help educate corporate boards about technology opportunities and risks.

  • Events: Speaking engagements and panels at corporate governance events, such as conferences held by the NACD and the Council of Institutional Investors.

  • Advocacy: Zukis said he’s convinced that legislators and regulators will be tempted to set requirements for IT governance, so the DDN will need to “inform the regulatory process,” without actually becoming a lobbyist.

Membership in DDN is free for qualified digital executives and directors. “We don’t disclose actual membership numbers, but it grows daily and we’re closing in on our goal of 500 board-qualified technology experts by year-end,” Zukis said.

Initial funding for the association is provided by the USC business school and NTT Security, which benefits by encouraging boards to focus on IT security, Zukis said, adding that other sponsors will be announced in the weeks ahead.

DDN’s website indicates that participating companies include Accenture, McKinsey & Co., Korn Ferry International, Constellation Research Inc., Johnson Controls International plc, Pirelli S.p.A., Zurich Insurance Group, Apria Healthcare Group Inc., SAP SE, and Salesforce.com Inc.

Related: Boards are on high alert over security threats (2015); CIOs who serve on boards sharpen their business skills (2014); CIOs say corporate directors are clueless about IT (2012); Six questions boards should be asking their CIOs (2018)


Who’s doing what

Walmart Inc., after a successful pilot program, is deploying Oculus virtual reality headsets to all U.S. stores by the end of 2018 to help train more than 1 million workers on topics such as technology, soft skills, and compliance. The company already has more than 45 training modules available for the headsets. — Alex Hickey, CIODive

American Tin Ceilings introduced the Visualizer Tool, an online interactive tool that lets customers test different design and color combinations for tin tiles. The tool “combines the American Tin Ceilings’ product catalog with real-life home images to let customers see their final project before purchasing.” The company added: “The conversion rate for those who used the visualizer nearly doubled, which in turn has increased customer satisfaction with a significant reduction in returns.”

Intercity bus company Greyhound Lines Inc. announced the launch of nationwide e-ticketing on its iOS mobile application. Customers can purchase tickets from the homepage of the Greyhound app and “board the bus with just a flash of their mobile phones.” An Android version is coming later.


Talent: jobs, appointments, careers

American Banker published a list of the “Most Powerful Women in Banking,” which gave top honors to Catherine (“Cathy”) Bessant, chief operations and technology officer at Bank of America. The publication noted that Bessant was behind the bank’s AI-driven virtual assistant Erica; a move towards agile software development; and a forthcoming private cloud. Moreover, she was instrumental in founding the Council on the Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University in April.

Also on that list: Amy Brady, CIO at KeyCorp, who established a Digital Business Automation Center of Excellence, a group responsible for automating manual processes.

A separate American Banker list, of “25 Women to Watch” in banking, included:

  • Yolande Piazza, CEO of Citigroup Inc.'s innovation lab, Citi FinTech

  • Ranjana Clark, chief transformation officer at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.

  • Beth Johnson, CMO & head of virtual channels at Citizens Bank

  • Liz Wolverton, chief strategy & customer experience officer at Synovus Financial Corp.

  • Avid Modjtabai, head of a new Payments, Virtual Solutions and Innovation Group at Wells Fargo & Co.

  • Barbara Duck, CIO at BB&T Corp.

  • Jane Russell, head of customer experience and retail sales strategy, delivery & operations at TD Bank

  • Jennifer Smith, CIO at Zions Bancorporation

United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) said that Juan Perez, UPS chief information & engineering officer, was one of 31 global recipients of the first Distinguished Mexican Award from the Mexican government, “for his personal and career achievements that have advanced his profession and community in the United States.” Perez was born & raised in Mexico, later moving to the U.S. He began his UPS career as an intern and part-time package delivery driver.

Dallas-based retailer Neiman Marcus Group Ltd. LLC announced the following C-suite changes:

  • Carrie Tharp, who joined the company as SVP & CMO in September 2016, was promoted to EVP & chief digital officer. “She will oversee the evolution of data and digital analytical tools to enhance omnichannel experiences, with an emphasis on customer engagement,” the company said. Tharp’s team includes Lindy Rawlinson, SVP for customer experience & e-commerce; and newcomer Stefanie Tsen, SVP for omnichannel customer experiences.

  • Adam Orvos, who started as CFO in April, was promoted CFO & COO, with expanded responsibilities that include IT, cybersecurity, supply chain, operations, and legal.

Recent CIO appointments: Danny Nadalalicea at Wedbush Securities Inc. in Los Angeles; Pamela Chase Dyson — former CIO at the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission — to CIO at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; and Michael Haney at SOS International LLC in Reston, Va.

Job openings for digital executives:

  • Chief Analytics & Information Officer at Navicent Health in Macon, Ga.

  • Chief Digital Officer at Encore Capital Group Inc. in San Diego — reporting to the SVP, Strategy & Analytics and Chief Analytics Officer.

  • CIO at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. (salary: $126,148 to $179,900).

  • CIO at New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services (salary: $60,435 to $161,497).

  • CIO at Fidelity & Guaranty Life Insurance Co. in Des Moines, Iowa.

  • CIO at Rogers Corp. in Chandler, Ariz.