Walmart hires global CTO; bank chatbot Erica turns one

and other news for & about digital executives, by journalist Mitch Betts ▸ PepsiCo's digital lab ▸ CIO Hall of Fame ▸ Brownouts in Texas? ▸ More CIOs on boards ▸ CxO career moves ▸

Newsletter by Mitch Betts © Ampersand Reports 2019, all rights reserved.

Hello, and welcome to Digital Business, a newsletter about real digital activity in corporate America, and the executives making it happen. If you think this is valuable market intelligence, please urge your network to sign up here. Thanks for reading.
— Mitch


Walmart hires new CTO to do battle with Amazon. Walmart Inc. hired Suresh Kumar — a former technologist at Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM — as global CTO and chief development officer, reporting to CEO Doug McMillon. “Suresh has a unique understanding of the intersection of technology and retail, including supply chain, and has deep experience in advertising, cloud, and machine learning. And, he has a track record of working in partnership with business teams to drive results,” McMillon said in the announcement.

The org chart. According to reports by The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Bloomberg, Walmart’s CIO Clay Johnson will report to Kumar, as will the technology chiefs at Walmart’s main operating units: U.S., international, and Sam’s Club. Kumar will also oversee Walmart’s Global Business Services division. Kumar will assume the duties of long-time Walmart CTO Jeremy King, who handled customer-facing technology (including Walmart Labs) and left recently for Pinterest. But Kumar’s “elevated” role will also include internal systems & tools for the company’s 2.2 million employees and vast supplier network. King had reported to Walmart’s head of e-commerce in the U.S., Marc Lore, whereas Kumar will now sit directly on McMillon’s leadership team. Walmart still plans to fill King’s precise role, but meanwhile, Fiona Tan, SVP of customer technology, has stepped in to cover some of King’s duties.

When & where. Kumar will start at Walmart officially on July 8, based at the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif., office (not the Arkansas HQ).

Background. Kumar, 54, was most recently at Google, serving as VP & GM of display & video ads, apps, and analytics. Prior to Google, he was corporate VP of Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure & operations. Kumar spent 15 years at Amazon in various leadership roles, including VP of technology for retail systems & operations. He holds a Ph.D. in Engineering from Princeton University.

Brownouts in Texas? The Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc. (ERCOT) is warning that electric power capacity will be “tight” in Texas during the hot summer months, so there could be emergency alerts seeking energy conservation — or rotating power “brownouts.”


Real digital activity in corporate America

Financial advisor Erica turns one. Bank of America says that its virtual assistant Erica is helping more than 7 million clients stay on top of their finances through the bank’s mobile app. Since its nationwide rollout in June 2018, Erica has:

  • Completed over 50 million client requests — from everyday banking activities to more complex tasks — using artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, and natural language processing.

  • Communicated with an average of more than 500,000 new users per month.

  • Doubled the ways clients can ask financial questions, from 200,000 at launch to more than 400,000 today, through ongoing expansion of conversational knowledge.

Demographics. The generational breakdown of Erica’s users: 15% from Gen Z, 49% millennials, 20% Gen X, and 16% baby boomers/seniors.

The three Ps. “The personalized, proactive and predictive nature of Erica’s guidance is what will continue to make the solution unique and powerful,” said David Tyrie, head of advanced solutions and digital banking at Bank of America. “It’s been a solid first year, but we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of Erica’s full potential.”

What’s next. Bank of America will expand Erica’s capabilities to provide clients more insights & guidance on optimizing cash flow, managing debt, monitoring transactions, capitalizing on savings opportunities, and balancing competing priorities to reach critical financial goals. Next month: a Balance Watch feature will notify clients when typical spending has the potential to take their balance below $0 in the next seven days.

Custom framing goes online. The Michaels Cos. Inc., the arts & crafts retail chain, is providing a new online option for custom framing: customers can upload an image; select from various frame and mat options; use free, pre-paid shipping materials to send art to Michaels custom-framing experts; and have the finished product shipped to their home or closest store.

LPL boosts IT spending. Charlotte, N.C.-based LPL Financial LLC, a retail investment advisory firm and independent broker-dealer, said it plans to increase its technology spending by allocating an additional $15 million on top of the $135 million already planned for 2019. LPL plans to upgrade its advisory platform for the wealth management market; and expand the ClientWorks system to provide “integrated & flexible digital workflows to help advisors thrive.”

Digital lab for foodservice operators. PepsiCo Inc. opened the PepsiCo Foodservice Digital Lab, a suite of capabilities to help the restaurant & hospitality industries learn about emerging technologies and consumer trends in the digital economy. The lab will provide operators with: data about the digital habits of their target demographics; “digital playbooks” for various types of restaurants; advice about digital solutions such as online ordering & delivery platforms to increase beverage and snack sales; and testing of technologies such as voice, augmented reality, and machine learning.

Mobility as a service. Enterprise Holdings Inc. is launching the U.S. car rental industry’s first vehicle-subscription service, starting in three states: Minnesota, Missouri, and Nevada. Customers can sign up online and, with one monthly fee, select from several different vehicle classes, and can swap out their vehicle up to four times per month. The monthly cost includes up to 3,000 miles per month, vehicle maintenance, roadside assistance, damage & liability protection, and satellite radio.

Briefly noted: Lowe’s Companies Inc. acquired a retail analytics platform from Boomerang Commerce that will help the company make “data-driven pricing and merchandise assortment decisions,” according to CIO Seemantini Godbole. Unified Trust Co., in Lexington, Ky., has developed a digital platform called the Rollover Wizard, which guides clients through the 401(k) retirement plan rollover process to help them select a best option for their personal financial situation.


Appointments, promotions, transitions

Potbelly Corp., a Chicago-based chain of sandwich restaurants, appointed Adrian Butler to the company’s board of directors for his IT experience. Butler is SVP & CIO at Dine Brands Global Inc. (with restaurant chains such as IHOP and Applebee’s).

AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc. appointed Adam Sussmanthe first Chief Digital Officer at Nike Inc. — as a member of AMC’s board of directors.

MIB Group Inc., in Braintree, Mass., elected Bruce Baude — EVP & Chief Operations & Technology Officer at CNO Financial Group Inc. — to a three-year term on MIB’s board of directors.

City of Hope, an independent biomedical research & treatment center in southern California, appointed Phil Fasano to its board of directors. Fasano, head of consultancy Bay Advisors LLC, is a former CIO at American International Group (AIG) and at Kaiser Permanente. He’s a member of the 2017 class of the CIO Hall of Fame.

Prudential Financial Inc., based in Newark, N.J. announced that Stacey Goodman will join the company as EVP & CIO, effective July 15, reporting to the company’s vice chair. Goodman — previously CIO at Freddie Mac and CIT Group Inc. — replaces Barbara Koster, who announced her retirement as Prudential’s CIO in December.

Duke Energy Corp., in Charlotte, N.C., hired Bonnie Titone as CIO, effective June 19. She was VP of Business Technology at Pacific Gas & Electric.

United Fire Group Inc., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, announced that shareholders elected John-Paul E. Besongformer CIO at Rockwell Collins Inc. (now known as Collins Aerospace, a unit of United Technologies Corp.) — to serve a three-year term on the company’s board of directors.

Aflac Inc. promoted Pete Kelso to SVP & Chief Information & Technology Officer, reporting to the CFO. Kelso will chair a newly formed Global Technology Committee, and coordinate IT strategy with the CTOs of Aflac U.S. and Aflac Japan.

BBVA USA, based in Birmingham, Ala., named Kevin McMahon as U.S. Head of Engineering, responsible for IT strategy and digital transformation, reporting to the U.S. bank’s CEO.

New York-based Bain & Co. hired Ramesh Razdan as CIO. He will oversee the consulting firm’s “digital transformation, deploying tools & technologies that unleash new ways of working for the firm’s client-facing teams.” Razdan was previously CTO at rival Boston Consulting Group, according to his LinkedIn profile.

PFSweb Inc., a global e-commerce company based in Allen, Texas, appointed Mercedes De Luca to its board of directors. She is currently CIO at Pebble Beach Co., which owns & operates resorts and golf courses.

Diplomat Pharmacy Inc., based in Flint, Mich., appointed Dave Loschinskey as COO. He was previously the company’s CIO.

Wells Fargo & Co. named Gary Owen as Chief Information Security Officer (based in New York City), and Steve Hagerman as Head of Consumer Lending Technology (based in Charlotte, N.C., starting in August). Both will report to Saul Van Beurden, Head of Technology.

J.C. Penney Co. Inc., based in Plano, Texas, hired Shawn Gensch as EVP & Chief Customer Officer, effective June 3, reporting to the CEO. The announcement said: “Gensch will oversee all aspects of the company’s marketing strategies & initiatives including digital, advertising, creative design, customer research, loyalty, analytics & insights, social media, sales promotions & planning, and events marketing.” He previously had similar roles at Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. and Target Corp.

Tricolor Group LLC, based in Dallas, promoted Don Goin to President & COO — just three months after being appointed CTO. Prior to joining Tricolor, which sells used vehicles to Hispanic customers, Goin was CIO at Santander Consumer USA and at Capital One Auto Finance.

The new CEO at United Rentals Inc., in Stamford, Conn., promoted CIO Dale Asplund to COO.

Conduent Inc., in Florham Park, N.J., appointed Cliff Skelton as President & COO. He was previously President of Fiserv Output Solutions, and spent five years as EVP & CIO at Fiserv Inc.

Atlantic Union Bank in Richmond, Va., named Kelly Dakin as Chief Digital & Customer Experience Officer. She had a similar role at Santander Bank.

Lyft Inc. hired Tal Shaked — previously a Google engineer — as its first Head of Machine Learning & Artificial Intelligence.

PVH Corp. (New York-based owner of apparel brands such as Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfinger) announced that Marie Gulin-Merle will assume the newly created role of PVH Chief Digital Officer, in addition to her current position as CMO of Calvin Klein Inc.

JetBlue Airways Corp., based in New York, promoted Michael Stromer to Chief Product Officer for Technology, reporting to Eash Sundaram, the airline’s Chief Digital & Technology Officer. Stromer “will lead the design & execution of the digital commerce web & mobile applications that support revenue initiatives; technology for airport, customer support (reservations), system operations, technical operations, flight, and inflight teams, as well as back-office products.” He will “also have primary responsibility for the modernization of JetBlue’s customer sales & service and system operations technology, across all crewmember- and customer-facing products.”

E*Trade Financial Corp. in New York named Alice Milligan as Chief Customer Officer, overseeing “retail products, the digital customer experience, and marketing.” She was previously Chief Digital Client Experience Officer at Citibank’s North America Consumer Bank.

Standard Industries Inc., a global industrial company based in New York, named Keith O’Sullivan as Chief Information Security Officer. He held similar positions at CBS Corp. and Time Inc.

The Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BNY Mellon) appointed Subhankar Sinha as Head of Blockchain, based in New York.

Data analytics vendor Alteryx Inc., based in Irvine, Calif., hired Alan Jacobson — former director of global analytics at Ford Motor Co. and a “longtime Alteryx user” — as Chief Data & Analytics Officer.

ExpressJet Airlines — a subsidiary of ManaAir LLC that operates United Express, a regional carrier for United Airlines — re-hired Jonyt Meyer as CIO in Atlanta.

Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida announced that CMO Jeffrey Lee has been named Chief Digital Officer, overseeing “technology, customer analytics, and digital activities.”

HawkEye 360 Inc., based in Herndon, Va., hired Chris Herndon as CIO. He previously served as Director of White House Information Technology for the Trump Administration.

Neustar Inc., in Sterling, Va., said that Venkat Achanta, SVP & Chief Data Officer, will add CTO responsibilities to his current role, with oversight of Product Engineering and Technology Operations.

Medlogix, in Hamilton, N.J., hired Chad Gross as COO. He previously held COO and CIO positions at Examination Management Services Inc. (EMSI), according to his LinkedIn profile.

More recent appointments & promotions: ▸ Vince Perfetti, Chief Transformation Officer & SVP of Technology at Nu Skin Enterprises Inc., in Provo, Utah ▸ Chris Andrews, CIO at Smoothie King Franchises Inc., in Dallas ▸ Mahesh Shah, EVP & Chief Product & Technology Officer at CDK Global Inc., in the company’s new San Jose office ▸ Matt Hough, CIO at Cintas Corp. in Cincinnati (effective June 1, reporting to the Chief Administrative Officer) ▸ Steve Miller, SVP of Strategy & Analytics at Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. in Pittsburgh ▸ Dixon Gould, CIO at Merrill Corp. in St. Paul, Minn. ▸ Christopher McPhee, CIO at PKF O’Connor Davies LLP, in New York ▸ Tom Walsh, Chief Digital Officer at Viamedia Inc. in New York City ▸ Gene Bishop, Global CIO at IDG Communications Inc., in the media company’s New York City office ▸ Kelly Isikoff, Chief Information Security Officer at AXIS Capital Holdings Ltd. (reporting to Global CIO Keith Schlosser), in the company’s New York office ▸ Andrew Kasarskis, Chief Data Officer at Mount Sinai Health System, in New York ▸ Tina Price, SVP & Chief Information Security Officer at York Risk Services Group Inc., in Jersey City, N.J. ▸ Rod Sayegh, Head of Digital Strategy at Fiduciary Trust Co. International, in New York ▸ Greg Ryslik, Chief Data Officer at Celsius Therapeutics Inc., in Cambridge, Mass. ▸ Monique Dumais, CIO at Encore Capital Group Inc. and its U.S. unit Midland Credit Management, in San Diego ▸ Kyle Costello, VP of Emerging Technologies at Radius Bank, in Boston ▸ Amer Waheed, CTO at Neighborly Franchising LLC, in Waco, Texas (replacing former CIO Shayne Mehringer) ▸ Raj Velmurugan, SVP & CIO at Salem Five Bancorp, in Massachusetts ▸ Lee Pepper, CIO and Chief Creative Officer (leading the IT and digital marketing teams) at Meadows Behavioral Healthcare near Phoenix, Ariz.


IDG Communications Inc., owner of the editorial website and CIO Events, named 20 new inductees to its CIO Hall of Fame. (Selections are judged by CIOs & ex-CIOs who are already in the CIO Hall of Fame.) The Class of 2019:

• Rob Alexander, CIO at Capital One Financial Corp.
• Steve Betts, SVP & CIO at Health Care Service Corp.
• Alan Cullop, CIO at DaVita Inc.
• Craig Cuyar, SVP & Global CIO at Omnicom Group Inc.
• Richard (Dick) Daniels, EVP & CIO at Kaiser Permanente
• Anuj Dhanda, EVP & CIO at Albertsons Companies LLC
• Randall Gaboriault, CIO & SVP of Innovation and Strategic Development at Christiana Care Health System
• Zack Hicks, EVP & Chief Digital Officer at Toyota Motor North America; and CEO & President of Toyota Connected North America
Ann Joyce, EVP & Chief Customer Officer, Technology, Supply Chain & Omni Operations at Chicos FAS Inc.
Vince Kellen, CIO at University of California, San Diego
• Michael Kingston, SVP & CIO at L’Oreal Americas
• Michael Mathias, EVP, Customer Experience & CIO at Blue Shield of California
• Kathy McElligott, EVP & CIO/CTO at McKesson Corp.
• Gregory Morrison, SVP & CIO at Cox Enterprises Inc.
• Steven Randich, EVP & CIO at Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA)
• Cynthia Stoddard, SVP & CIO at Adobe Inc.
• Lynden Tennison, EVP, Chief Strategy & Information Officer (retired) at Union Pacific Railroad
Patrick Thompson, CIO at Albemarle Corp.
• Stephen Warren, CIO at U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency
• Walter Yosafat, SVP & CIO at Wyndham Destinations