AFTAs 2017: Best Technology Executive: Buy Side—Mike Urciuoli, JPMorgan Asset & Wealth Management

2017 AFTAs

JPMorgan Asset and Wealth Management (AWM) CIO Mike Urciuoli wins this year’s best technology executive (buy side) award, commanding a technology budget of over $1 billion. After taking the reins at AWM in 2014, Urciuoli embarked on a period of radical change at the firm. This program included platform rollouts, including Connect for its wealth management business, Cortex, an order and execution management system, and Spectrum for the asset management organization, through to instilling a culture of Agile development. Part of the drive to restructure AWM’s technology operations has also been the implementation of a DevOps model and “aggressively refactoring our applications to utilize cloud-native microservices,” Urciuoli says.

“These practices have changed the dynamics with our users and allow us to develop applications faster while helping us recruit younger developers who are used to fast-paced deployments not typically seen in large financial firms,” he continues.

One of the initiatives Urciuoli has spearheaded at AWM is its “kill the tail” program, which aims to decommission over 600 legacy systems. Keeping the engines running in such a large organization can often hinder progress, although Urciuoli is focused on the future of technology within AWM, as well as addressing its present issues. It is, he admits, “very challenging to build a new technology platform while supporting the current technology during an incredibly dynamic regulatory environment and changing market conditions.” But Urciuoli is uniquely suited to this task. An electrical engineering and computer science graduate of Princeton University, prior to JPMorgan, he spent 19 years at Lehman Brothers in a series of senior technology roles across asset classes, before moving to Citi as its global markets technology head for the markets and banking business. “It requires strong discipline and well-planned priorities to drive most of your investment toward the strategic systems while minimizing the work required on the older systems,” he says. 

Part of retaining a view toward innovation has been the promotion of “code-a-thon” sessions for technology teams and business users, organizing visits to leading technology firms and Silicon Valley startup firms alike, bringing in outside speakers to educate his employees on areas as diverse as DevOps, the cloud, big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and what he calls “a robust training program utilizing in-person and online educational courses.”

Urciuoli sees promise in the development of AI and its various subsets. “Tools like natural-language processing and predictive analytics in the AI space really open a lot of possibilities in all areas of the firm from the front office to the back office, so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out over the next few years.” 

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