Gary Devan is the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Mission Federal Credit Union in San Diego. Gary has been with Mission Federal Credit Union (Mission Fed) since 1991. MissionFed has $3.2 billion in assets, 30 branches, and 214,000 members.
Gary is a native San Diegan and graduated from San Diego State University in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in Information Systems. Gary also graduated from Western CUNA Management School in 1997 with High Honors, and was the recipient of the Charles Clark Award for class leadership and academic achievement.
Overall, Gary has 42 years experience in financial institution technology with Mission Fed, Security Pacific National Bank, United States National Bank, Wells Fargo Bank, San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, and Great American Savings & Loan.
Gary currently serves on the Classroom of the Future Foundation Board of Directors. Previously, Gary served on the faculty of the Western CUNA Management School at Pomona College, the Board of Directors for the San Diego Science Alliance (3 years as President), the CO-OP Operations Advisory Board, Corillian Technology Advisory Committee, Integrated Data Systems Advisory Committee, and the Hoover High School Academy of Information Technology Advisory Board. Gary is a former member of the California Automated Clearing House Association’s (CACHA) Operations Committee, responsible for maintaining operational policies of the Direct Deposit program for California financial institutions.
In 2011, Gary was honored with a Top Tech Executive Award by San Diego Magazine, in 2014 was recognized with another Top Tech Executive Honoree and the Cox Exemplary Business Award, and was a Top Tech Award nominee in 2017.
How long have you been working here?
25 years at Mission Federal under different titles: head of IT and other variations, which was recognized as a C-Level about 10 years ago.
Has the focus changed throughout the years?
Slightly; some non-core IT has moved between operations and here, but for the most part it has been pretty stable. The eCommerce section has moved into operations but we collaborate with them along with Marketing, Training, Compliance, and other departments.
What would you say your top 5 focuses are this year?
First, to improve the experience of our customers, whom we call members, which is one of the hot topics of financial institutions right now and which has always been very important to us. We’re focusing on making sure it is an effective, efficient and pleasant experience for our members.
Second, we are focused on regulatory change and ensuring that we are compliant with all the regulations that come down along with that change as well.
Next, Security and information security is always a focus in continuing to address new threats and improving our security posture and protection.
Fourth is management information. Some people will call it big data, and, although we might not need a big data solution, we do need to understand how we can best utilize all the information we have to serve our members and attract new members. Along with that, we work on exactly how we manage information and present information to operations and management.
The last is basically always an ongoing priority: Internal efficiencies and the best practices that are aligned with them, or doing better than the best practices. We are always enhancing our products and services.
When you talk about improving the member experience, what is more important: the personal or automated experience?
It all starts with the personal experience: managing your account, conducting transactions, improving relationships. We make sure we take out any hassle or potential for confusion with our members, while providing education and consulting as well. Overall, we want to make it a pleasant experience for them; whether that’s online or mobile, calling our contact center, or coming into a branch. All member interactions need to have the same positive experience.
We have over 214,000 members, and we are based in and exclusively serve San Diego County. We have 30 local branches, and we are networked with over 30,000 fee-free ATMs nation-wide in the CO-OP Network, including many at 7-Eleven stores.
Any plans for growth through acquisition?
Most of our growth is organic, there are no existing plans for mergers.
What’s your take on public cloud?
It certainly is a hot topic of conversation right now that we continue to look at. We use cloud services for applications, with SaaS (Software as a Service) being what we use right now. We are watching other architectural clouds, but we are still not yet convinced that security is better or service delivery is better through the public cloud. There are two factors that we don’t believe have matured enough yet: insurance coverage and defined legal responsibilities. We haven’t seen anything go to court yet on this, so if information is lost, what is our liability versus the cloud provider? It hasn’t been fully vetted out in my opinion; not in the cloud.
Is IT seen as business partners helping to drive revenue?
It’s evident with the IT lead as the C-Level position, that IT is critical for success; for meeting business objectives, serving our members and meeting their expectations, lowering expenses, and increasing revenue by growing our membership. We have about 35 employees in our IT Department out of a total of over 500 employees at Mission Fed, and IT is frequently part of cross-functional teams working on key projects for the credit union.
Still on the topic of being business partners, how is IT driving innovation within the company?
We are continuing to ensure that our technology architecture, network, and security are of high quality. We have service level delivery requirements that we keep things up and running to a very high standard. From a pure IT architecture position, we are the lead in change in that area. From an applications point of view we do have a committee that IT chairs, with participants from several other senior managers that determine priorities for programming projects. From an executive level, we validate project priorities and we bring topics and issues forth to that level. We ensure that if there is something we are not doing to achieve our strategic objectives, they will bring it to our attention. Now, we are just starting the discussions of crafting an innovation committee. What we’re doing now is making sure our functionality in our electronic delivery channels meet our members needs and are consistent with what the competition is providing.
What makes Mission Federal different?
We have a high level of civic responsibility, our roots being in the educational community. We reach out and support specific activities such as Mission Fed ArtWalk and Junior Achievement which is financial education for children and adults. Every school district can participate. We provide a high level of support in the community. We give away a million dollars every year by matching certain member transaction amounts via random selection. We do weekly and monthly drawings throughout the year and the testimonials we get are heartwarming.
We are hearing so much about the internet of things – what does or could the internet of things for your business look like?
It means a connected world utilizing a device that is active and doing things on it’s own that you told it to do. It’s my watch. It’s my Alexa. It’s any technology and device that will simplify and interact with other devices. It simplifies life. Interfacing with Alexa; we are very close but not quite there yet. On your Apple Watch you can check your balance or transfer money, but the capabilities are pretty limited so far. This is the way the Apple environment works; you will get certain connections just by checking time.
What kind of hiring challenges have you experienced?
The pool and workforce is not sufficient to handle the demand. We find it very challenging to hire skilled programmers who are experienced. Over the last 6 months to a year, we have hired people with good education and talent, but less experience than we originally wanted. So we provide them with a lot of coaching and training. We do outsource certain projects and bring in software providers to do contract work.
What superpower do you want most?
I would have the ability to see every new fraud attempt before it happens. On our website (missionfed.com), we provide members with information about protecting their personal information. Internally, we are utilizing the most appropriate technologies to defend against these attacks.
What side to you order? Curly fries, side salad, sweet potato fries or onion rings?
I would love the curly fries, but by practice and experience I would get side salad, and would want thousand island dressing but usually order oil and vinegar.
If you were stranded on a deserted island what 3 things would you bring and why?
My wife. 2. Water. 3. My iPhone
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
I wanted to be airline pilot. I was in college working toward an aeronautical degree and had just started flight school when I got into a car accident and could no longer get to flight school. My dad got me a job at a bank in the data processing center and I really enjoyed it. That job then caused me to change my major and the course of my career.
I grew up in San Diego; I’m a native. I was in the first graduating class at Patrick Henry High School. While in college at San Diego State, the bank I worked for merged with another bank, which required that I move to Los Angeles. My house was robbed and I hated the drive, the area, and frankly everything about it, so that job only lasted a few months. Then I came back to San Diego, completed my degree at San Diego State, which eventually led me to Mission Fed. I have been here ever since. I have 4 children and 8 grandkids.
If you won the lottery what would you do?
Buy a place in Hawaii, more specifically Maui. It depends on how much I won in the lottery.
What book should we go out and buy tomorrow? What book has inspired you?
I read a lot purely for fun, mostly detective and espionage stories. Two authors I really enjoy are David Balducci and Tom Clancy. I love following a series and the development of characters across multiple books. I love reading the book and then seeing the movie. I have other authors that I read on the side as well, but I’ll generally read the same type of book.
If you could give guidance to any VP, IT Director about how they position their careers what would you tell them?
I would say always work on relationships. IT has always been known as the type job where you just focus on the project, not the people. But IT has changed a lot in the last 10 years. Technology leadership needs to be in the mainstream of the organization, and the only way to do that successfully is to become a team player. That means understanding needs and cooperatively building on those needs; act as the consultant and not as the ruler.