Event Highlights from The CIO Exchange: Workplace Evolution

Event Highlights

The CIO Exchange: Workplace Evolution

At the height of the pandemic, financial firms were faced with a critical decision: transition thousands of employees to virtual work environments or go bust. Overnight, infrastructure, operations and culture were digitized, which will have long-term implications for the future of work. Cloud technologies, AI, virtual collaboration and communication tools made telecommuting possible and strengthened the connection between customers and employees.

More than a year later, workers have become accustomed to working remotely and both employees and employers have realized the cost-savings benefits. For many financial institutions, adopting a hybrid work model is essential to compete for top talent; however. maintaining a collaborative, company culture in a remote-first work model is a primary concern for many leaders.

The CIO Exchange convened executives to discuss the unique challenges and opportunities and how they are accelerating digitization to evolve employee collaboration, better connect with customers and make organizations stronger and more resilient in a remote-first future.


  • Nandita Bakhshi, President and CEO Bank of the West; co-CEO BNP Paribas USA Inc.
  • Rich Gilbert, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Information Officer Aflac
  • Hari Gopalkrishnan, Managing Director Client Facing Platforms Technology Bank of America
  • Angela Sim, Chief Technology Resiliency and Experience Operations Officer BMO

Bloomberg moderators:

  • Caroline Hyde, Anchor, Bloomberg TV 
  • Julie Chariell, Senior Equity Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence 

Below are some highlights from the event.

Click HERE to view the full event.

Employee Retention Top Priority 

As the economy re-opens and financial firms navigate uncharted territory, getting employees back into the office and dealing with a shift in employee preference to have the option to be hybrid, Angela Sim, Chief Technology Resiliency and Experience Operations Officer for BMO, explained employee retention is a top focus at this time and flexibility is critical to keep and attract employees. “We have a very strong listening culture. We are consistently having surveys and pulse checks, because we want to be able to have flexibility and we also want to continue to drive the bottom line. I think the hybrid model is really where most organizations will land and I think it will depend on your organization’s culture, their objectives,” Sim said.

How Consumer Behavior Has Changed

Hari Gopalkrishnan, Managing Director of Client Facing Platforms Technology for Bank of America, addressed the changes in customer behavior post-pandemic and how Bank of America is investing significantly in security, payment infrastructure and creating a seamless digital customer experience. He said natural language processing was a major focus of innovation to help customers navigate issues. “If you look at the work we did around Erica, our AI driven chat platform, it was all around people asking us questions around the pandemic. ‘How do I defer my bill because I can’t pay my credit card bill this month?’  That’s not something you can build in the menu on a mobile screen, you have to be able to teach some kind of a natural language engine,” Gopalkrishnan explained.

“Being able to give customers a human interface, even though they’re dealing with the machine goes a long way in building confidence. The machine understands you and we understand you, and you can be comfortable that you don’t have to walk into a branch or call a call center,” Gopalkrishnan added.

Digitizing the Office 

To better outfit the office for collaboration under a hybrid model, Rich Gilbert, Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Information Officer for Aflac, discussed the technology and tools he’s found most helpful and how Aflac is doing things differently: “One of the things that we’re doing, we’re implementing a band that takes your temperature and it also allows you to be able to open the doors into the building. It allows you to unlock your computer. If you have a secure elevator — do that.”

Gilbert discussed how Aflac is redesigning office space previously built for thousands of employees to collaborate in person to accommodate hybrid work by “putting video cameras and solutions in all the different agile spaces.”

“Video enabling is great. However, we’ve got to teach people how to act differently. Being in a conference room again, you see that there are multi-threaded communications. People talk and other people talk. If there’s somebody on a video screen, that’s serial-based communication. How do you do that and effectively bring in and engage people that are not in the office?” he asked.

Keeping Women in the Workplace 

The economic devastation caused by the pandemic hit women particularly hard. Lack of child care and closed schools often meant women were forced to prioritize their families over returning to work. Nandita Bakhshi, President and CEO, Bank of the West; co-CEO, BNP Paribas USA Inc., discussed her concerns that women continue to be left behind during the recovery and her work with the “returnship program” to bring women back to the workplace. “During the pandemic, we probably lost some of the good work that we had done prior to the pandemic. We did see lots and lots of women — not just at Bank of the West but overall —  leave the workforce. I think that number is as high as 2.5 million people left the workforce just in 2020 and that trend continues and I’m extremely concerned about that,” she said.

“We recently signed up with a company called Women Back to Work where we call it Returnship. These are individuals that left their corporate jobs some time ago, either for child care, or during the pandemic. These are software engineers, they are developers, coders that we are bringing back. We are putting them through an immersion program for 16 weeks all online and then we’ll put them to work,” Bakhshi explained.

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