5 questions with … Sunrise Banks’ CIO Brett Cooksey

Sunrise Banks Chief Information Officer Brett Cooksey is focused on digitization, strategic fintech partnerships and automation for improved customer experience.

The $1.96 billion bank counts more than a dozen fintech partners, including credit builder solution Self and document automation platform Anvil. The bank has “several more partnerships in mind,” Cooksey said.

Bank Automation News recently caught up with Cooksey to discuss Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minn.-based Sunrise Banks’ digitization strategy. What follows is an edited version of that conversation.

Brett Cooksey, CIO, Sunrise Banks

Bank Automation News: How have you prioritized digitization?

Brett Cooksey: Digitization is one of Sunrise’s highest priorities. We are in the last innings of our core system migration to our vendor’s hosted platform. We are in tandem moving our infrastructure to the Microsoft Azure cloud in order to modernize our infrastructure, increase our resiliency, and benefit from the software industry’s shift to cloud investments in products and services. We are implementing a new digital commercial loan origination system.

BAN: What is the bank’s fintech partnership strategy?

BC: Mission alignment is the most important consideration. We are a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), Certified B Corporation and member of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values. We strive to be the most innovative bank empowering financial wellness and want our partners to share our belief in values-based banking. We look for innovative partners that can help us offer affordable and accessible products that support consumers and their communities.

Secondarily, financial viability of the fintech is important. Since they are taking Sunrise banking capabilities to the market, we are responsible for their customers’ experience and the fintech’s ability to maintain our standards and levels of customer service.

We are partnering with several fintechs and have even more potential partnerships in mind.

One example is our collaboration with Self, which offers small credit builder accounts for people who want to build or re-establish their credit. In 2021, Sunrise helped originate 262,995 Self Credit Builder loans for a total of $189.9 million. The average loan size was $722.

BAN: What role does automation play in your approach to digitization?

BC: Automation is a key component but, more importantly, understanding the end-to-end process versus siloed automation leads us to better outcomes. We work with our users to understand their function and activities within the overall process. Once defined, we review with a broader group and our business leadership to better align the digitization with strategic direction. Automation enables our users to handle far more volume by only focusing on exceptions and customer service versus mundane, repeatable tasks.

BAN: Which technologies are you excited for in 2023?

BC: The vendor landscape has pivoted from platforms to ecosystems. Software development kits, fintech development environments and marketplaces are available on most major vendor platforms. With our cloud and core migration projects wrapping up in 2023, we are already exploring opportunities to leverage out-of-the-box integrations with fintechs, strategic partnerships and even publishing our own developed capabilities.

BAN: How would you describe your leadership strategy?

BC: Hire the best, allow them to bring their experience to bear and level up the incumbent team. Clear the path to decision-making and accept that making decisions is more important than being right. But if you learn something new, don’t hesitate to change direction. And if you do fail, make sure you learn.

Bank Automation Summit US 2023, taking place March 2-3 in Charlotte, is a crucial event on automation and automation technology in banking. Learn more and register for Bank Automation Summit US 2023.

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