For years corporations have stagnated when it comes to appointing women to the C-suite, and there has been a push to change the trend of women being woefully underrepresented in the tech field. In the past few years, the intersection of those two areas seems to be where women are gaining ground.
According to a 2020 report from Deloitte, during the past decade, the share of women who are chief innovation (32.4%), chief data analytics or chief digital (28.5%) and chief strategy (25.2%) officers has exceeded the average share of women in traditional C-suite roles. And a 2019 Korn Ferry analysis found the share of women in CIO and CTO positions rose from 16% to 18% between 2018 and 2019, and that the financial services industry has the highest percentage of female CIOs and CTOs at 25%.
Joanne Pearce is among those who have forged this path. Her latest role is serving as the first chief digital officer at NH Mutual Bancorp (NHMB) in Concord, the holding company that is the umbrella for Meredith Village Savings Bank, Merrimack County Savings Bank, NH Trust Financial Advisors and Savings Bank of Walpole.
Pearce will create and implement digital transformation strategies by improving processes internally with regard to efficiency and workflow, and externally with regard to customer experience.
She has worked in banking technology for more than two decades, beginning her career in international relations. After working in Japan for three years, she returned to the U.S. and pursued a graduate school course in management of global information technology. At the time, few women were pursuing that field of study, she says.
“Enrollment of women in technology, not just at the coding level, but also at the management and strategy level is increasing, and that is something I’d like to see more of,” Pearce says. “Even starting in middle school and high school to expose more female students to what you can do with technology. It isn’t all about coding. There’s strategy, design, software development and writing—all focused in an area that would really build a great career.”
Whether customers are using voice-activated telephone banking, online banking or cash management platforms, Pearce is looking at that customer journey and seeing how it could be better. Pearce joined Meredith Village Savings Bank in 2002 as a data security specialist and was promoted in 2006 to vice president of risk. In 2009, she was promoted again to senior vice president and risk management officer. When NHMB was formed in 2013, Pearce was named senior vice president and risk management officer for the full organization.
“Every time we bring on a new bank, the most recent being Savings Bank of Walpole, it also gives us the opportunity, organization-wide, to look at our processes and compare to see what is going to be the best,” she says. Pearce will be charged with making sure each bank is maximizing the benefits of its existing digital applications, while also researching, designing and recommending new solutions for the future.
“The competitive landscape has gotten really fierce,” she says. “Not only are you competing within your own community bank space and with your credit unions, but you are also competing with regional banks, Wells Fargo, Citibank, Bank of America, and there’s also the nonbanks Apple, Facebook, Walmart and fin-techs. It’s about finding what is best to enhance our strategy as an organization.”
For more information, visit nhmutual.com.