‘Together, We Move Mountains’: Leading Digital Transformation in a Job That’s ‘Never Boring'

Sponsored by Santander US

Joanne Chadwick

Photo courtesy of Santander Bank.

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Fairygodboss
May 18, 2024 at 6:45AM UTC

What’s it like being a chief information officer at one of the country’s largest retail and commercial banks? 

“It’s never boring,” says Joanne Chadwick, CIO of Digital Transformation at Santander Bank

In the ever-evolving world of financial technology, Chadwick and her team are charged with ensuring the bank’s online and mobile applications deliver a frictionless digital experience using the latest technologies. Given the mobile app’s recent recognition by J.D. Power, Javelin, and Insider Intelligence, Chadwick and team are doing a knock-out job. 

In fact, Chadwick’s team, working closely with their business partners, has delivered tremendous value to customers and the bank, including but not limited to introducing investment servicing, personalized financial insights and a virtual assistant within online and mobile, as well as Transfer Now capability to allow customers to transfer funds into the bank.

“As a team, we’re always innovating—to improve the digital experience for our customers and to meet the needs they haven’t even considered yet,” said Chadwick. “Our purpose in all of this work is to deliver best-in-class solutions to help enable our customers to thrive and prosper financially.” 

Chadwick, who has been with Santander for nearly 25 years, attributes the success of the bank’s online and mobile applications to the team members she works with daily across the bank’s lines of business. 

“The real gem of Santander is the people,” said Chadwick. “What I love is their willingness to roll up their sleeves and lean on each other to achieve brilliant things.  I’ve met so many awesome people here who I now consider friends, and together we move mountains.”

We spoke to Chadwick about how she got her start in tech, her advice for growing a career in this exciting field, how Santander supports employees, advice on leading a team and more!

How did you decide to join the technology field?

It wasn’t my original intention to work in technology; my education is in art history! After I moved into a role as a technology project manager, I got hooked on the excitement of making tangible change, and the challenge of being exposed to so many exciting initiatives. Plus, the on-the-job experience was a good education in all things IT. I’m not a developer by trade, but that hasn’t stopped me. I made it a priority to learn and understand the ecosystems of the applications I own. 

How has Santander supported you in your career?

I’ve grown up at Santander and embraced all the development opportunities available. My journey started at Santander UK as a Contact Center Agent, and, shortly thereafter, I applied for an internal development program designed to train rising leaders. I joined the Mortgage Operations organization in a leadership role before transferring to Technology as a Project Manager.  

I’ve always been eager to learn and grow and took a stretch role soon after as the technology owner for branch applications. I have vivid memories of complex overnight software deployments, where I learned many lessons that I still hold dear to me today! I jumped at the chance to transfer internationally to the U.S. in 2010, where I was part of the transformation following the acquisition of Sovereign Bank. I took on the challenge of heading up the customer-facing channels for the bank in 2016 and, more recently, took the position as CIO for the Digital Channels.

Because Santander is a global organization, the opportunities for career growth are limitless. I love being a part of that. 

How do you help others grow their careers?

I have been honored to serve as a mentor and enjoy meeting colleagues and contributing to their career development. More recently, I became involved in shaping the start of a new Santander Women in Technology initiative and look forward to encouraging others to become a part of that.  

What’s your No. 1 piece of advice for women looking to start a career in tech? 

It’s really important to have a vision, to know what or who you want to be and how you want to show up. Be authentic. Be open, honest and curious in challenging situations. Listen to and understand the perspectives of others, and then, use courage to form your own conclusion and act on it. It might not always be the right decision, but there’s always an opportunity to course-correct. Learning and growing never gets old. 

What recent projects or accomplishments are you particularly proud of? 

In 2021, our team, in collaboration with our business partners, delivered a new Digital Online Account Opening platform for the bank. This contributed directly to the bank’s goal of national expansion. It was a complex integration combining solutions from several vendor partners and over 65 new APIs. I’m most proud of the team effort that went into making it, which allowed us to do impossible things. It wasn’t easy, but I still remind my team of what they achieved.

When growing your career at Santander, what surprised you? 

Asking for help is okay! You don’t have to figure everything out on your own. I used to be worried that if I didn’t know everything, it would reflect badly on me. But seeking help and asking for guidance actually empowers others and makes for better teamwork.



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