How Virtual CIO Services Strengthen Compliance and IT Strategy

Since its inception in 1887, Auburn Savings Bank has become a foundation in its community by offering traditional lending services to its customers in Auburn, Maine. Martha Adams, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Auburn Savings Bank, credits the bank’s commitment to supporting their customers as the reason for their continued success.

For more than a decade, Adams has spearheaded the bank’s IT initiatives and planning—despite not having a background in cybersecurity or technology. Citing the ever-evolving regulatory landscape, Adams decided to seek out a strategic technology partner in early 2021.

“The regulatory demands continue to grow more intensive, and I didn’t see how I was going to navigate IT audits and examinations without additional resources,” Adams says.

Adams knew the bank needed assistance to tackle a variety of IT challenges, including preparing for upcoming regulatory audits and updating the bank’s business continuity plan (BCP) to reflect changes in operations relating to its recent conversion to CSI’s core platform. And CSI’s virtual CIO (vCIO) services have proven to be the answer.

“I Can Call the vCIO Team for Anything”

vCIO services provide a holistic approach to addressing critical IT issues and planning for future needs. After undergoing a core conversion, the bank’s BCP required updates, and CSI assisted in completing the business impact analysis and risk assessment, both of which were foundational in implementing the rest of the plan.

“I was really drawn to the amount of support, resources and tools offered by CSI. I can call the vCIO team for anything, and if they don’t have the answer, they have a resource to get the answer for me.”

Martha Adams
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Auburn Savings Bank

According to Adams, one of the most significant benefits of vCIO services is access to the guidance tools, including business continuity, incident response, disaster recovery planning and password protocols. These tools help the bank get initiatives up and running efficiently, without spending excess time and resources to start the planning process from scratch.

“They provide you with resources to make an informed decision and accomplish the implementation more quickly, and they help identify specific things to remedy before exams,” Adams says.

Preparing for IT Audits and Examinations in an Evolving Regulatory Landscape

The regulatory demands on financial institutions are complex, and when Auburn Savings partnered with CSI, the bank had an upcoming examination from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).  Adams says that within 30 days of using vCIO services, the bank was preparing for its IT audit and relying on insight from CSI.

As an IT department of one for many years, Adams’ team grew when Ryan Talmadge, Manager of IT Operations, joined Auburn Savings in the summer of 2021—just as the bank began its preparations for the upcoming OCC exam.

The bank’s staff knew there were a variety of documents that needed review, but others had fallen by the wayside and would require more time and attention for revisions. Talmadge says CSI’s vCIO team offered invaluable experience and expertise during this process. Since the vCIOs frequently work with different institutions on exam preparations, they know exactly what the bank should expect and how to satisfy regulators’ requirements.

“It was critical to have their guidance and experience during our exam preparations,” says Talmadge. “If we didn’t have the expertise from the vCIO team to help us accomplish what was needed, we would’ve fallen behind instead of staying right on par.”

Enhancing the Bank’s IT Steering Committee Meetings

An IT Steering Committee is a group of high-level stakeholders who determine an institution’s IT priorities. This committee functions by “steering” IT initiatives to successful outcomes and ensuring alignment with business objectives.

Before partnering with CSI for vCIO services, Auburn Savings did not hold regular IT Steering Committee meetings, since Adams solely made up the IT department for so long. After partnering with CSI, the bank now holds meetings and reaps the benefits of this committee, such as ensuring both short- and long-term IT initiatives remain on track and aligned with the bank’s overall strategy and vision.

“Having someone who already knows what our technology options are and provides us with a possible path for the future saves us a lot of time and allows me to focus on managing day-to-day IT operations.”

Ryan Talmadge Manager of IT Operations, Auburn Savings Bank

During IT Steering Committee meetings, the vCIO team also ensures the bank is up to date on any upcoming assessments. When Adams was completing the bank’s responses to the FFIEC’s Cybersecurity Assessment Tool, she sent the document to the vCIO team for review.

“Because of their experience, they could review the tool much more efficiently than we ever could, providing us with key feedback,” Adams says.

The vCIOs identified an area that needed additional attention and discussed the issue during the bank’s IT Steering Committee meeting. This process prevented Adams and the bank from spending valuable time and resources reviewing the entire document, instead only revisiting the area that required additional evaluation.

How vCIOs Deliver a Different Perspective in IT Strategy

During the bank’s IT strategic planning meetings, the vCIO team evaluated certain bank processes and provided recommendations on how to implement changes to create a new revenue stream or generate additional revenue from an existing source. “It was an informative process and allowed us to look at things from a different perspective, providing us with valuable insight,” says Adams of the strategic planning process.

Today, Auburn Savings Bank leverages the deep experience of the vCIO team to enhance and create initiatives to facilitate growth, allowing Adams and her team to focus on other projects at the bank.

Additionally, the vCIO team ensures the board of directors for Auburn Savings is briefed on any relevant changes in regulations or requirements. For example, the vCIO team will give a presentation to the bank’s board of directors on the new Architecture, Infrastructure and Operations (AIO) booklet issued in 2021 by the FFIEC, which includes an expanded role for IT in supporting enterprise and business operations and meeting customer expectations. With insight from CSI’s vCIO services, Auburn Savings is well-equipped to meet examiners’ expectations for this new guidance.

“They Work with the Bank as a Partner”

Both Adams and Talmadge believe that the vCIO team is more like a member of the bank’s team instead of a consultant. “The service received has been absolutely exceptional,” Adams says. “The relationship is different than any other consultant-type relationship that I’ve had, and I really feel like they work with the bank as a partner.”

Talmadge adds, “They make it feel like we’re not just another organization they work with … when you work with the vCIO team at CSI, they always have your back.”

With CSI as a partner for vCIO services—as well as a core banking platform—Auburn Savings Bank is poised for continued success and can focus on the business of banking rather than navigating the regulatory landscape while balancing IT management and planning.

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