The IT Ingredients for a $1 Billion Company

A look into CIO Ron Dinwiddie's plan to transform Texas Trust's IT department.

They explained the situation during the job interview. Texas Trust—a community credit union with fourteen branches and more than 75,000 members—had spent several hundred thousand dollars to install fiber and upgrade network speeds from three to fifteen megabytes. Despite this investment, members, bankers, and executives still complained about speed and reliability. And leaders at Texas Trust had just one last question for their CIO candidate: “Why?” Ron Dinwiddie had an answer for them.

Dinwiddie started his career in the US Navy, where he held numerous information technology roles over twenty-two years. As a civilian, he moved into consulting, project managing, and banking technology. That vast and unique set of experiences instilled in him both a broad view of IT and an appreciation for structure. Right away, he knew that Texas Trust’s quick-fix approach would never work. Instead of correcting infrastructure problems, they had tried to patch problem areas with quick solutions. He knew that small branches with five employees didn’t need more fiber or bandwidth, and he knew what it would take to fix the problem: time and talent.

Shortly after the interview, Texas Trust extended an offer, which Dinwiddie accepted in late 2013. But upon his arrival, the new executive vice president and chief information officer made a discovery—the situation was worse than he thought. He found severely outdated computers loosely joined to a series of forty servers spread throughout the entire enterprise. Each of Texas Trust’s branches had its own server, and servers backed up to other servers. His new colleagues shared their horror stories. Some needed thirty minutes to watch a five-minute video. Others took long breaks in the morning while their computers booted up. Bankers couldn’t visit standard financial websites, and the chief financial officer had trouble opening important spreadsheets.

Dinwiddie’s first job was to rebuild the entire infrastructure, and with Texas Trust on a growth track, the credit union had a lot on the line. On top of that, Texas Trust had $850 million in assets, with aspirations of becoming a $1 billion institution. “Without the right technology, we’d never get there,” Dinwiddie says. “My department’s success was critical to getting Texas Trust where we wanted to go.”

To start, he met with everyone in the C-suite to better understand their pain points related to IT. Then, he talked to senior vice presidents and branch managers. The informal interviews helped Dinwiddie learn the business and prioritize his approach as common themes emerged. Lastly, he met a second time with key leaders to set expectations. The infrastructure rebuild would take approximately eighteen months, but Dinwiddie pledged communication and transparency.

After achieving buy-in, Dinwiddie set out to build his team of consultants and internal employees. “We had to do an entire IT reorganization to get the department on track and aligned with the credit union,” he explains, adding that he inherited job descriptions that included hardware technicians and other outdated positions. The department turned over by 70 percent as Dinwiddie implemented his plan. He hired an IT manager and IT professionals with the skills to help Texas Trust to virtualize servers, with a plan to implement virtual desktops at a later time. Lastly, he promoted one of his IT employees to be a business analyst to interact with Texas Trust’s bankers to discover different ways they use technology tools and how IT can help them automate each process. “I wanted to transform the entire approach and go from plugging leaks to actually contributing to the business,” Dinwiddie says. “If Texas Trust wants to become a billion-dollar credit union, we have to be able to enable and support that growth.”

Together, the technology team worked to virtualize and merge servers while uniting them in a single data center. They updated PCs, replaced an aging phone system, and worked on each machine in a network of 300. In three months, they had replaced all switches and provided better speed and reliability to the entire enterprise.

Dinwiddie had multi-level clearances in the US Navy and has dedicated time to developing his cybersecurity expertise in his civilian career. In 2013, he started discussing related topics with industry peers who later worked to host a summit on the topic. When the Credit Union National Association found out about the meeting, they asked Dinwiddie and his associates to turn the summit into an official annual event, which now takes place each fall.

Texas Trust has now eclipsed the $900 million mark and is pressing on to its $1 billion goal. As it moves forward, Dinwiddie and his teams will work to transition a multichannel experience into a true omnichannel experience and ensure that Credit Union’s members can complete safe and secure financial transactions in either a branch or online.