Christopher P. (Chris) Higgins

Christopher P. (Chris) Higgins
US Bancorp

Last Updated: 11/17/2017

Executive Summary

Higgins is Chief Information Officer with U.S. Bancorp, the Minneapolis-based parent of U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the country. A former 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, Higgins joined U.S. Bancorp in 2012 in his present position. Upon leaving the Army in 1989, Higgins embarked on a banking career that, after a four-year stint with Shawmut National Bank. would lead him to spend nearly two decades at Bank of America Corporation. He held various roles of increasing responsibility during his long tenure with the organization, including having direct responsibility for the bank's technology organizations, infrastructure, supply chain and corporate security and operations. Higgins earned an MBA from Pacific Lutheran University.

Personal Attributes and Interests

  • Higgins lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife.
  • He enjoys scuba diving.
  • He is Six Sigma Black Belt certified and earned Series 7 (Registered Security Representative) and Series 24 (Principal) licenses. 
  • Higgins is the inventor of an awarded patent for risk management methodology that combines process and control engineering and Six Sigma to manage Information Security.
  • Way back in 1998 when he worked for Bank of America, Higgins was the subject of a Fast Company article that dubbed him "Mr. Project" and marveled at his talents as a project manager. According to the article, "What are Higgins's action items for keeping projects on track? First, he says, spend less time 'doing' and more time 'planning.' Higgins warns that teams are often too quick to act and too slow to think. "If you spend enough time planning," he says, 'execution time can be very short. If you work on the fly, you do things fast. But you may do the wrong things - which slows down the project.' Recently, for example, Higgins led a 500-person team that had one year to develop a system for BankAmerica to accept deposits across state lines. Everyone was eager to 'get to work.' But Higgins insisted that the team devote six months to planning the system, evaluating business implications, and anticipating technical challenges - all before it wrote a single line of code. After writing the code, the team spent three months testing and refining it. 'My approach is 50% planning, 25% doing, and 25% testing and training. It's a magic formula...'...Higgins has a second piece of advice: Remember that different projects have lots in common. Project teams often face one-of-a-kind challenges: developing new products, entering unfamiliar markets. But not every challenge, says Higgins, requires a unique plan of operation. Higgins first learned this principle in the army, when he was in charge of supplying a Ranger battalion stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. He led a unit of 120 people that supported 650 Rangers. Higgins and his team had to supply diverse missions in four different climates: mountain, tropical, desert, and arctic. The goal was to have the support group airborne, headed to meet the Rangers with the right equipment, 18 hours after receiving its orders. Under the previous leader, the unit never made that goal: Its best time was 72 hours. Higgins's team eventually did the job in 12 hours. How? 'The previous team always waited until it knew where the mission was headed before assembling the gear,' Higgins says. 'But a lot of what the Rangers need - food, medical supplies, ammunition - is the same no matter where they go.' So Higgins and his unit figured out how to prepackage such supplies and how to pack them onto airplanes with maximum efficiency. 'Focusing on what's common between projects is counterintuitive for most people,' he says. 'But it's worked for us time and again.' Finally, Higgins says, project leaders need to remember that their work isn't just about solving problems and meeting timetables. It's also about maintaining momentum and morale. That's why Higgins pays such careful attention to project rituals. From his earliest days at BankAmerica, Higgins began projects with half-day or full-day kickoff meetings that were part work and part play. After a while, he began throwing celebrations for the completion of projects as well. Today fun and games are a ubiquitous part of project life at the bank. 'We create checkpoints along the way, and whenever we hit one, we have a celebration,' Higgins says. 'If project work isn't fun, people won't want to do it.'"

Current Focus

  • Company Snapshot: Minneapolis-based US Bancorp, with $450 billion in assets as of March 31, 2017, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,091 banking offices in 25 states and 4,838 ATMs, and provides a comprehensive line of banking, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions.
  • What He Brings to the Table: Higgins on his LinkedIn profile describes himself as "a senior executive with a with unique combination of experience across many disciplines. Consistently deliver business results through strong leadership and execution skills. Strong learning agility combined with a collaborative and innovative nature accelerates operational transformation. Builds strong and diverse teams through commitment to associate and management development. Six Sigma Black Belt certified. His specialties, he writes, include:
    • Technology and Operations Management
    • Data Warehouse and Platform Management
    • Operational Risk Management
    • Audit
    • Information Security
    • Business Continuity
    • Process Reengineering
    • Merger/Transition Management
    • Program and Change Management
  • In His Own Words - Reshaping Customer Management: In an April 2017 blog posting to CIO Review, Higgins wrote, "As Chief Information Officer of Technology and Operations Services at U.S. Bank, you might expect me to care most about technology and operations business processes for the successful delivery of technology. While these are certainly critical elements, I believe these are not the most important. I have come to strongly believe everything needs to start with a defined customer and employee experience. Each interaction a customer has with a company presents an opportunity for a good, fair or bad experience. The customer experience and employee support of that experience needs to be the starting point for successful business engagements which are enabled, not driven by, technology and data. Technology and processes matter, but people matter more. This is where customer centric engineering comes in. Listening to customers’ needs and understanding what will make their experience better enhances the overall customer experience. It’s about understanding and solving their pain points, being responsive and making improvements. Customers today have elevated knowledge around technology. With that comes an elevated demand. People know more and expect more. Addressing customer’s unique needs and providing solutions that are best in the industry brings inherent value to our organization. This is increasingly important in the digital economy where the pace of change continues to accelerate. We need to ensure we are bringing our customers along on the journey. Technology can provide many capabilities, but comfort is often not among them. At U.S. Bank, we use customer and employee feedback to continuously improve the way we deliver our technology. Customers and employees want to feel comfortable and have their needs met simply and without complications. Here are a few examples of what we are doing at U.S. Bank to listen to feedback from our customers and employees, aiming to have our technology help them feel more comfortable. We are building a new interface for our tellers to use when engaging with our customers. We solicited feedback from more than 500 tellers and bankers during the design of the project, and we learned what we thought would be very helpful to them was not. Their feedback helped us realize a key feature we overlooked that ended up being essential to the interface functionality. The additional software development we added to the project to build the key feature is well worth the additional time and investment because we know we are building the right solution that will enable them to do their jobs more efficiently. Another example comes from our annual employee engagement survey that helps us understand what we’re doing well and what we can do better. The improvements we make are directly based on employee feedback and help us grow as a company. Through this survey, we heard repeatedly from employees that the current e-mail and calendar solution was not the best tool for them to work most collaboratively and efficiently. Based on that, we invested in delivering the web-based tool for e-mail and calendar to all employees. In January of this year, we started migrating select employees to web app, sought feedback on their user experience, and heard from employees who heavily depend on e-mail and calendar that they needed more functionality. As a result of that feedback, we made the decision to include the more robust desktop client in our implementation to ensure employees had the right e-mail and calendar functionality for their jobs. We are also learning how to make the workspaces for our employees more comfortable and collaborative for the type of work they do, and actively applying what we have learned to some of our real estate projects. In San Francisco, we have a new collaborative workspace that reflects our core values and reinforces our key theme of one U.S. Bank. The workspace includes huddle rooms for employees to discuss, engage and work collaboratively across teams and toward a common objective. As part of this collaborative workspace, our customer experience lab provides space to bring in customers to observe how they use our digital capabilities and have them give immediate, direct feedback. Whether responding to employee feedback to deliver the best technology tools or listening to customers to understanding their unique needs, customer centric engineering is critical to the success of our organization."
  • Innovation
    In His Own Words - Putting the Customer First
    : Higgins in a December 2016 column on the Jobber Tech Talk blog site wrote, "In my role as a technology leader, you expect me to say “technology.” In my role as a Business and Operations leader, you expect me to say “of course, business process.” As one who has worked in both of these roles of the past few decades, my thinking has evolved and the answer is “neither.” I have come to strongly believe everything needs to start with a defined customer and employee experience. Each interaction a customer has with a company presents an opportunity for a good, fair or bad experience. Business and technology leaders need to see the customer experience and employee support of that experience as the starting point for successful business engagements which are enabled, not driven by, technology and data. While all companies want to put the customer front and center, it is often difficult to do. Customer Centric Engineering offers bigger challenges. Today’s customers evaluate their digital experience across many different products, services and companies. For companies to win in the digital market place they must be deliberate about defining a customer experience based on segments and understanding expectations change over time. It’s easy for business and technology leaders to get caught up in the possibilities and bells and whistles, when customers and employees just want things to work. Technology and processes are great, but people matter more. At the basic level, the customer wants to have their needs met, simply and without complications. For example, when the weather turns cold, you want to turn up the heat. It used to be as easy as moving the dial to a new setting. Now, with programmable thermostats, you push a button and nothing happens, so you try another one. By the time you have figured out the right sequence, you’ve worked up a sweat and don’t need to turn it up. While it’s great to have the technology to program the thermostat in your house, in the end people just want to feel comfortable and have their house at the right temperature. While technology can provide many capabilities, ease of use is often not one of them. The objective of any business process must focus on making the customer/user comfortable. Data and technology supplement the process. Once we determine what a customer experience should be, a process can be designed to access data to be used to achieve the desired experience. Only after the experience has been defined can the business process be created and data requirements documented to build good technology solutions. Getting this right, end-to-end, is crucial especially in the digital economy. If you only focus on building a new customer internet entry point for your customers and connect it to existing business processes and backend systems, you will fail to deliver a comfortable customer experience. In fact, it will expose all the failure points in the existing technology and business processes as the customer pushes buttons and still doesn’t get their objective needs met; the result being delays, incomplete data, or worse, reentry of the same data already provided on multiple occasions and a daisy chain of call center hand-offs. To get this work done satisfactorily requires a very different approach. Traditional project deliverables such as business requirements do not provide the necessary information to design a solution. The sequential approach to building the software (waterfall) does not enable continuous feedback nor does it allow you to get to market quickly with a viable solution. We have adopted a workshop-based approach to work differently. The consultants call these digital workshops. I have been to many, and they are not very digital. They are a collaboration of many different functional areas coming together in a facilitated environment to define the customer experience and build a process. All of this is done on whiteboards and flip charts with a lot of sticky notes. After days of work, pictures are taken so formal project deliverables can be produced and reviewed. But with only technologists and business people in the room, there is no telling if the process is intuitive to the customer or explainable by support personnel. For this reason, customer centric engineering should include customers from the beginning and continue throughout the process. This allows constant feedback by those who are supposed to benefit from the change. It is increasingly important in the digital economy, where the pace of change continues to accelerate, that customers be brought along. Such changes must be managed and controlled to allow customers to adapt easily and become comfortable with the new solution. Successful product launches also give adequate attention to employees. They need to be trained on how to use the new technology and data-enabled process to enable them to support both the process and the customer. If a process becomes too complicated, employees can’t explain it and customers become dissatisfied, an uncomfortable situation all around. Therefore, the most productive workshops include employees and customers working together to implement changes. As those most impacted by the change, their input and buy-in is essential for success. In the end, if customers and employees are comfortable, the experience works and no one needs to turn up the heat."
  • Two Mandates: New CEO Andre Cecere told analysts on an October 2017 earnings call, “We are embracing the new reality of constant change and evolving customer behavior. Our ability to leverage technology and innovation to drive growth and improve efficiency will be fundamental component of our success. While the banking environment continues to evolve, our balance sheet is strong and growing. Credit quality is stable, we are winning market share in our businesses and we are delivering positive operating leverage… At its core banking is a relatively simple business. As with anything execution will be the differentiator. The winners in this industry would be those banks that anticipate customer preferences and deliver the product and services they demand in a most convenient and efficient manner. Towards that end, every single leader in this company is focused on two mandates. First, deliver on the promise of one US Bank by putting the customer at the center of every discussion and every decision regardless which door their customer walk through. Second, figure out how to optimize everything we do whether it's optimizing the customer experience, the distribution model or the customer relationship. Figure out the most efficient and most valued way to deliver the highest quality product and services and then do it. If we execute effectively, which I'm confident we'll, results not only the industry leading but improving returns. And we will deliver those results within the parameters of a risk management framework that considers both the current and future environment.” Higgins was appointed CEO in April 2017, replacing Richard Davis, who stepped down after a decade in the role. A company lifer who has led business units, finance and operations, he most recently served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the company. Between 2015 and 2016, Cecere was Vice Chairman and COO of the bank. Prior to that, he served as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer. Cecere has worked at US Bancorp’s various predecessor companies since 1985, holding a number of different financial positions of steadily increasing responsibility and authority. He had served as an Executive Officer of the former US Bancorp, including CFO. After the present-day US Bancorp was formed in February 2001 through the merger of Firstar Corporation and the former US Bancorp, Cecere was appointed Vice Chairman, Wealth Management & Securities Services. Cecere holds an MBA in finance from the University of Minnesota.
  • Internal Communications Revamp: Banks with their “legacy systems” - the ultimate pejorative in Silicon Valley - have a better story to tell than many nonbankers realize, Banking Exchange maintained in an August 2017 news story. According to the article, the stereotypical impression of large banks - constrained by cumbersome infrastructure, risk averse, slow to respond to technology changes - has some basis in fact. But not completely. And change is rippling through banks of all sizes. Ongoing modernization is one reason why bank technologist Doug Biever has stayed at U.S. Bank for 23 years - and still finds the work challenging. Equally important, he said in an interview, is that investments in technology are a “big reason why I’ve been successful in hiring new people.” The company doesn’t just invest in core system maintenance. U.S. Bank makes progressive investments in server virtualization, wireless access, network reconfiguration, and other improvements necessary to support changing customer expectations. Biever is SVP and Managing Director of the Distributed Technology Services team at U.S. Bank.His group runs pretty much everything in IT, other than the mainframe, phones, and desktops. Biever put himself through college working at the bank, first as a teller, then, after switching his major to computer science, working in one of the bank’s data centers. Now, Biever reports to Higgins. Although Biever didn’t use this analogy, banks, in a way, are not unlike the military. The mission for both is critical. While changes in military technology often can be seen on the news, bank technology isn’t much on display, other than mobile apps and chip cards. Yet behind the scenes, bank tech has been changing significantly. Banks’ critical mission is to safeguard and maintain customer deposit accounts—what Biever calls the “Golden Records.” The mainframe is the system that does this. Biever notes that mainframe growth is very predictable as the bank regularly makes major investments to keep it ironclad. His area, on the other hand, is where the most interesting change and innovation is occurring. But even there, banks face a different dynamic than nonbank tech firms. “The stakes are high with us,” he says. “As a bank, one of our biggest assets is customers’ trust. We all know that all it takes is one breach.” Pointing to the Target breach of several years ago, Biever says, “I still shop at Target even though I lost my credit card in that breach. If U.S. Bank loses your credit card or your personal information, however, that’s a different story.” That omnipresent concern over security plays into everything Biever’s group does. For example, U.S. Bank is part way through setting up Wi-Fi for customer and employee use in an initial group of 700 branches. The project began about a year ago, and Biever says the team’s initial take was that it would cost maybe $500 a branch with a fairly simple process: Order some routers and plug them into the bank’s network. “It certainly could be that simple,” Biever says. But when you start investigating what’s required to secure the routers properly, he says, cost and complexity rise. “As soon as you start layering in all the security technology, you’re well over $1,000 per branch.” That’s big money when applied across 3,200 branches. The project, however, will bring much more than a customer benefit. It will enable a “refreshing” of branch technology, as Biever puts it; “rewriting branch applications to be compatible with tablets, wireless printers, etc.” One other plus: The Wi-Fi access points have radios that pick up active mobile phones within a certain range. The radios only acquire the phone identification, not personal data, Biever says. Even that bit of information can be useful for staffing or marketing purposes. The branch tech changes Biever describes will impact the bank’s network infrastructure. U.S. Bank primarily uses private circuits to carry branch communications. “Private circuits,” he says, “are very secure, point-to-point connections that do not traverse the internet. They have limited capacity, however, and are very expensive to expand.” His group is exploring use cases for, and in some cases already installing, alternative networks. There are two primary options: broadband and cellular. The bank has already invested heavily in cellular as a backup network, according to Biever. “It’s been terrific as a backup,” he says. “It’s very inexpensive and easy to deploy; capacity is excellent.” In fact, in some cases where a primary circuit “fails over” to a cellular connection, the performance is better. “The problem with cellular is that you get charged by the megabyte,” says Biever, “so it does become cost prohibitive at a certain point.” But data plans continue to evolve, he adds, just as with consumer usage, so it could eventually make sense to run cellular as the primary circuit. Business broadband offers more bandwidth, says Biever. But it is not inherently secure, as it connects right to the internet. A change to broadband makes economic sense for a variety of reasons, however. One is that the bank currently has to cache software patches or distributions out to its branch servers. It does the same with videos. “If we streamed video during the day over the WAN circuit, it would completely consume the bandwidth and quality would be terrible,” says Biever. Biever says the bank wants to eliminate branch servers to reduce costs, and wants to better leverage cloud applications to enhance the customer experience. Doing those things requires a bigger network connection. Security issues have held up the change so far. However, Biever says, U.S. Bank is working on setting up a secure configuration. It could involve encryption, a virtual private network (a “secure tunnel” back to the data center) along with other operational investments. He adds that they have found other banks have adopted broadband only for high-capacity traffic, such as video, while keeping their private circuits for more “quality-based use cases,” and relying on cellular for “last mile” connections - i.e. protecting against the possibility of a backhoe cutting all network lines while digging up the street outside the bank. Biever says he wouldn’t be surprised if more than 50% of U.S. Bank’s branches eliminate private circuits in time. Some of the more remote locations would likely keep them to ensure quality. “If you replace private with broadband and implement all the security controls,” he says, “you can see an average four-times performance increase at the same cost as the original private circuit.” There are other considerations, however. “Broadband doesn’t support QOS [quality of service] features,” says Biever, “and latency is not as predictive due to all the different ways your network traffic can route over the internet.” Despite the need for banks to maintain ironclad security, Biever agrees that the rise of fintech innovation has upped the ante for all banks. He does think the day is coming when fintechs will be regulated. (See Threads, p. 8, for one fintech that wants to be regulated.) For now, Biever says, the fintech companies are able to do things quicker and cheaper—and better, in some cases. Their widespread use of APIs - application programming interfaces - for example, is something U.S. Bank is taking seriously, he says. “Banks will have to either adapt or just hang it up,” Biever adds.
  • Banking with Alexa: The marketplace for Amazon Skills - apps that work with Amazon's Alexa, the voice recognition engine behind Amazon Echo - includes only two financial institutions so far: American Express and Capital One, American Banker observed in June 2017. But Gareth Gaston, EVP of Omnichannel at U.S. Bank, said the bank is launching voice banking with Alexa. Gaston didn’t give a timetable, but said it would be launched with employees first. U.S. Bank wanted to move ahead on this, he said, because it believes voice banking is part of letting people live their lives and bank in the most convenient way. "I personally find it a pain point now to have to pick up the phone and open the weather app," Gaston said. "Who would have thought that the weather app would be a pain point? Now I just say Alexa, what's the weather today? Why can't I just say Alexa, what's my balance?" Working with Alexa is not as simple as it might seem, however. "You think it's just voice banking, it's just asking for your account balance," Gaston said. "Which account balance? And how do you tell them that? Are your transactions labeled correctly so that as you read out transactions to the customer, they make sense? I'm sure we're going to learn a lot as we go live."
  • Mobile Payments:  The U.S. banking industry is launching its answer to the popular mobile payments app Venmo, in what is likely to be the biggest change in years in how individuals exchange funds digitally, Reuters reported in June 2017. US Bancorp and four of the other largest U.S. banks in June 2017 lit up their segments of a new payments network called Zelle, executives said in interviews. They expect another two dozen banks and credit unions to join over the next year. The long-awaited network will allow tens of millions of bank customers to send money to each other instantly - known as person-to-person payments - with a few taps on their smartphones. That is an improvement over Venmo, which immediately alerts users that a money transfer is in progress, but takes time to shift funds between bank accounts. Customers who use existing bank payment apps may not notice much of a change beyond marketing. Transfers will simply happen faster because the banks are finally linking to each other, executives said. US Bancorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Capital One are the first to plug into Zelle. The network is the product of an industry consortium called Early Warning Services LLC, whose seven owners have more than 86 million U.S. mobile banking customers. Zelle took years to establish because fierce rivals had to come together to make it work. In the interim, Silicon Valley has made inroads into digital payments, particularly with the young customers coveted by banks. In addition to Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, Facebook, Google and Apple all offer payment platforms that allow individuals to send money to each other. The banks want to leap over those sleek but scattered offerings by connecting their critical mass of account holders through a single network. "Fragmentation has been frustrating for consumers," said Paul Finch, CEO of Early Warning. "Inconsistent experiences have made it difficult to send and receive money between banks." In a press release US Bancorp said, "U.S. Bank is integrating Zelle – the fast, easy and secure new way to move money - into the U.S. Bank Mobile App and U.S. Bank Online Banking, making it easier for customers to send money to others without the need for cash or checks. Zelle will appear in the U.S. Bank Mobile App and on starting June 17. The service will be free for U.S. Bank customers." “We’ve all had that moment when you need to pay someone but you don’t have cash on hand or you left your checkbook at home,” said Gareth Gaston, EVP and Head of Omnichannel Banking at U.S. Bank. “Maybe you’ve come across a fantastic collector’s item at a yard sale. Maybe your niece or nephew asked you to contribute to their fundraiser, but they need the money sooner than the next time they’ll see you, or faster than a check could arrive. Maybe you forgot to swing by the ATM on your way home from a night out and you realize you don’t have cash to pay the babysitter. Today, with Zelle, U.S. Bank customers can quickly send money to almost anyone in the country using only their mobile number or email address. Zelle truly creates possibilities that might otherwise be missed.” Gaston announced the launch of Zelle on June 14 at the Digital Banking Conference in Austin, Texas, where he spoke about the work U.S. Bank is doing to transform banking through innovations such as Zelle. “We’re moving digital payments to the mainstream,” Gaston said. “Moving money faster, more safely and conveniently is important to a broad range of customers. It’s not just for millennials. For a growing number of people who are using their mobile devices for just about everything these days, Zelle is a natural fit.”
  • Hires 'Innovation Leader' to Boost AI: U.S. Bank wants to revamp its Innovation group with a new artificial intelligence leader, Bank Innovation reported in May 2017. The new hire will be responsible for establishing an “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning practice within the U.S. Bank Innovation group,” including overseeing strategic product development, product innovation, and strategy efforts within the AI space, according to the posting. The Innovation Leader, according to a job posting will be "accountable for creating and implementing a full business case for new and existing developed products and initiatives.  Recommend and lead product development and pilot activities against horizon 2 and 3 initiatives, 3 years timeline to commercially viable offerings with significant revenue and profit potential. … Probable errors would have a material effect on major functions of the corporation." According to the Bank Innovation article, "The posting seems to indicate an increased focus on AI and machine learning within the bank’s Innovation group, which, led by Dominic Venturo, has been at the epicenter of innovation in the past few years. AI is (or should be) on the roadmap of every major player in the industry, and U.S. Bank is no exception. The bank is building a 'future-proof' defense strategy against cybercrime, Jason Witty, the USB’s Chief Information Security Officer, said previously. That strategy, according to Witty, includes 'offering machine-speed data, using external intelligence, and taking advantage of machine-learning, analytics, and artificial intelligence,' he said during the Credit Suisse Financial Services Forum in February.Moreover, Witty said the bank will launch 'the first actual AI engine' for data analytics in March (two months ago). The bank, however, won’t be sharing any details on the tool until the fourth quarter of this year, a spokeswoman told Bank Innovation at the time. U.S. Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment this time around. In any case, we will keep an eye out for the new AI-driven products to come from U.S. Bank (in '3 years timeline,' as the job posting suggests)."
  • Wins High-Tech Award: The U.S. Bank AP Optimizer is the 2017 recipient of the Monarch Innovation Award for Most Innovative New Product, according to a May 2017 press release. Honored by Barlow Research for value, “stickiness,” ease of use and “wow” factor, the product is the first truly digital accounting and payment solution enabling small and medium businesses to manage cash flow in near real-time. Barlow created the Monarch Awards in 2007 to honor innovation in the financial services industry. The awards recognize financial institutions that provide the most innovative products to business customers and risk takers who promote innovation in their organizations. The AP (Accounts Payable) Optimizer, developed in partnership with cloud accounting software leader Sage and MasterCard, allows any customer of the Sage Live accounting solution to have access to the Optimizer’s comparative data. The data shows how their organization stacks up against its peers and calculates the financial benefit that can be realized by making specific changes. Joint customers of Sage Live and U.S. Bank get additional access to a Consolidated Payables tool that lets customers tell the bank which payment method to use for each vendor and when to pay. For the customer, multiple payment methods (check, virtual card, ACH and wire) are streamlined into one simple and efficient process. “The Monarch Awards are highly respected, due to Barlow’s rigorous judging standards,” said Bradley Matthews, head of Middle Market Product & Marketing for U.S. Bank. “Clearly the reviewers recognized the AP Optimizer’s ground-breaking capability to combine practical, cost saving information with easy-to-execute action to help businesses maximize cash flow. That’s a credit to the entire development team from U.S. Bank and Sage.” This is the second time in six months the AP Optimizer has been recognized by third-party evaluators. It was named 2016 New Product of the Year in the Business Intelligence Group’s BIG Awards for Business in November.
  • The Connected Car and Banking: "Automobiles are more wired than ever," American Banker observed in January 2017. "In December 2016, at a U.S. Bancorp hackathon devoted to applications for the Internet of Things, one of the teams conceptualized a smart-vehicle capability that would allow a car to pay automatically for drive-thru orders. Venturo, had no trouble seeing the benefits. 'From an issuing perspective, the more places we enable customers that have a payment card with us to use their card, the better for' U.S. Bank, he said. While the hackathon version used the phone as a bridge to the car to demonstrate the potential, the idea is that the payment credentials ultimately would be stored in the car itself. When it's time to pay, a message might pop up on the navigation system: 'OK to pay $12.95?' This would be quite an improvement from mobile payments today, when trying to use Apple Pay at a drive-thru usually requires an employee to 'literally hand you a point-of-sale device through the window,' said Venturo.... As consumers' relationships to their vehicles change, banks will need to rethink how they work with vehicle owners. 'Today,' said Venturo, 'we think of a car as a 'one human, one vehicle' thing,' and auto finance reflects this quintessentially American attitude: 95% of loans and leases go to consumers. That has been a plush business model for banks, captive auto lenders and dealers alike. According to Experian, the average auto loan topped $30,000 for the first time in the first quarter of 2016. But the future may lie in shared mobility resources. As the popularity of ride-hailing and ride-sharing services continues to grow, and the auto industry edges ever closer to truly autonomous cars, the belief that nearly every American is going to own a car someday is beginning to break down..."
  • Executive Appointments: U.S. Bank in June 2017 announced that Tim Welsh will join the organization as Vice Chairman of Consumer Banking Sales and Support on July 10. Welsh replaces Kent Stone, who announced his retirement from the company earlier this year. “Tim is a well-known and highly regarded strategic thought leader in the financial services industry,” Cecere said “He is a strong fit for our culture, and his appointment to this role will enable us to continue to position the company for ongoing, sustainable growth.” Welsh will report to Cecere in his new role, and will oversee the company’s overall consumer and small business strategy and product management functions, 24-hour banking, mortgage, and consumer lending and digital activities. Also in June, U.S. Bank announced the appointment of Kevin Weeks as Head of Global Sales for its corporate and institutional trust services division. Weeks most recently served as Head of Issuer Services for Deutsche Bank, and prior to that as global head of sales for Institutional Cash & Securities Services at Deutsche Bank. He is based in New York and will lead an experienced team of corporate trust and custody business development professionals in the United States and Europe. Weeks has more than 25 years of experience in corporate trust and the financial services industry. As Head of Issuer Services at Deutsche Bank he managed the global business plan and service delivery for all issuer service products for capital markets, including structured finance services, conventional debt, project finance, syndicated loan agency and escrows for mergers and acquisitions. As the Global Head of sales at Deutsche Bank, he was responsible for developing and managing the sales strategy for corporate trust, depository services, cash management for financial institutions, domestic custody, agency securities lending and alternative fund services.

Key Challenges

  • Cybersecurity: Bank Innovation reported in February 2017, "Biometrics and behavioral analytics are taking over banking apps for good, and U.S. Bank, recognizing that, has set a target: removing passwords 'altogether' from the login process, and laying the groundwork for that in 2017, according to Jason Witty, the bank’s chief information security officer. 'We want to be innovative, frictionless and customer-centric. And so last year we added voice recognition, where your voice is your password, and fingerprint authentication that our customers were asking about,' he said...This year will be all about facial recognition and pattern matching, Witty added...Cybersecurity concerns are at the core of U.S. Bank’s digital strategy, according to Witty. 'Information security program is a revenue protection function, with an ambition to become revenue enhancing,' he said. 'We are constantly looking to improve the intelligence and be more resilient.' Witty said the bank is building a “future-proof” defense strategy against cybercrime which consists of three points:
    • Protecting against threats (fraudsters and hackers) and managing through new breakthroughs (disruptive technologies and real-time payments).
    • Offering machine-speed data, using external intelligence, and taking advantage of machine-learning, analytics and artificial intelligence.
    • Creating a holistic view of customers and fraud, while enabling real-time decisioning".
  • Quest for a Virtual Assistant: "Three years ago," American Banker noted in January 2017, "US Bank tested a virtual assistant within its mobile app. Customers could search their transactions and pay bills using their voice. The bank decided to forgo any rollout after the test because of reliability issues - the system sometimes returned false or irrelevant information when it failed to understand a request, said ... Chief Innovation Officer, Dominic Venturo.... Today, reliability is much better with voice recognition technology, as Apple, Google, Amazon and Microsoft are all investing heavily in their Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Cortana voice- based assistants. Banks are grappling with new challenges in trying to work with these voice assistants and securing transactions conducted through them. Some are debating whether to work with them at all. 'We still must be thoughtful about what data will bepassed into these third-party systems,' Venturo said. 'Right now we have to evaluate these one by one.'... Still, banks can't afford to stall their efforts around voice, given growing consumer use of the technology in everyday situations. Consumers will be using voice assistants across an increasingly varied array of devices: on smartphones, in connected cars, on wearable devices and on smart home devices like Amazon's Echo, the new Google Home or Apple's rumored Echo competitor. A recent Citigroup survey of general consumers with bank accounts found that 74% of the respondents were already using voice functionality to check weather, send messages and get directions. Growing adoption of voice assistants with these new types of devices will drive banks to explore new customer experiences that leverage touch, voice and other interfaces. Most major banks have rolled out some voice capabilities in their mobile apps, such as allowing customers to log in via a spoken phrase or password. The next important step for voice banking will be bringing voice assistants to mobile banking apps....  In a Javelin survey this summer, half of the respondents - in this case, consumers who have used mobile banking - said they would be interested in using voice control within their mobile banking apps.... But US Bank isn't saying whether it has plans to reconsider voice anytime soon.  As for the step beyond that - letting customers use voice assistants from the tech giants to do banking tasks - banks have been even more hesitant. So far, Capital One is the only major bank that allows customers to check balances and pay bills through Amazon's Echo. Making payments, checking balances and transferring funds with these systems requires sharing account information through them. The technology underpinning virtual assistants such as Alexa in Amazon's Echo is all exclusively owned and tightly controlled by the tech companies that created them. So banks have to resolve the complex challenge of integrating their own applications with each one of these systems individually, Venturo said. And though Amazon, for one, encrypts all the data passing through Alexa, bankers like Venturo said an industry standard around tokenizing or encrypting data that passes through such systems would be helpful...."

Biographical Highlights

  • Born circa 1963.
  • Higgins earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from the University of Vermont in 1985.
  • He went on to earn an MBA from Pacific Lutheran University's School of Business in 1989.
  • He served in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 1989, rising to First Lieutenant.
  • Higgins worked at Shawmut National Bank from 1989 to 1993, rising to Vice President.
  • He joined Bank of America Corporation in 1993 and over the next 18 years held the following positions:
    • Enterprise Information Management Executive
    • Chief Information Security Officer
    • General Auditor, Global Technology and Operations
  • Higgins in 2012 was appointed Chief Information Officer at U.S. Bancorp.

Other Boards and Organizations

  • Member, Board of Directors, Elan Financial Services
  • Member, Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation (Minneapolis)
  • Member, Advisory Council, BITS
  • Member, Governing Body, Minneapolis CIO Executive Summit
  • Member, Board of Advisors, University of Vermont Grossman School of Business
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Contact Information

800 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis, MN, 55402-4302
United States


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Personal Interests

  • Scuba Diving