Bryan Wilken, Chief Information Operating Officer at Bank Midwest, a $1.2 billion-asset bank based in Spirit Lake, Iowa, recently oversaw his community bank’s migration to the cloud.
Wilken says that by moving its core processing system—the nuts and bolts of the bank, where all customer transactions are based—to the cloud, Bank Midwest has leveled the playing field with industry giants. He spoke with StrategicCIO360 about how the move has shifted his business, and what his expectations are going forward.
Tell me about your bank’s recent transition to the cloud.
I’m a big believer in the cloud and the dividends it pays for community banks to make the transition, and our decision to make the move was really solidified for me by the pandemic. So many financial institutions were unprepared at the onset of that event, but we were already able to roll out more digital offerings at Bank Midwest.
For Bank Midwest, two of the significant factors in our decision to migrate our core to the cloud with provider Finastra were the greater ability to scale the solution as we grow and the ability to launch innovative solutions to compete with the large banks and non-bank fintechs. We’re really facing competition from all sides, both from big national banks and from other community financial institutions, so gaining that kind of advantage and intel is huge.
Looking ahead, something we’re excited about with this transition to the cloud is the ability to choose the solutions and vendors that are the best fit for us. Having access to our provider’s opening banking platform on the cloud means that we can partner with other fintech companies that we wouldn’t have had access to before, and that opportunity for collaboration has moved our digitization timeline up significantly. This is very important, because without the kind of budgets that big banks have, community banks are much more dependent on our vendors.
As CIOO, what were the challenges of migrating and how did you overcome them?
Migrating to the cloud was actually a painless process, especially compared to what core transformations used to be like for banks. Our migration took just five working days, and our provider did not have to rewrite any existing code.
Tell me why you believe the cloud is the future of banking.
I could not agree with this sentiment more. Cloud technology is leveling the playing field for financial institutions of all sizes. We don’t need to have millions of dollars of innovation budget to launch innovative solutions as cloud technology lowers the cost barriers to innovation. To me, the cloud is really the evolution of this fintech and banking ecosystem that we’ve been creating, and as more banks move to the cloud, that ecosystem will open up even more. That ultimately allows banks to partner with companies that were just not on the table before.
For example, Bank Midwest recently partnered with a payments vendor, and if we hadn’t already moved our core to the cloud we would not have been able to do that, or at the very least, it would have been much more expensive. That experience is worlds apart from my early days in the banking industry, when you were limited to what systems could talk to your core banking provider.
The other reason that I feel so strongly about the future of banking in the cloud is that to me, it really allows for a continuation and deepening of what already sets community banks apart—the personalization of service that we deliver. We’ve seen across industries how technology can allow companies to better meet customer needs, so I’m very excited to see how cloud technology will do the same for the community banking sector.