September 25, 2013

The grass isn't always greener. And sometimes, local ties prove to be more valuable than distant riches.

This has been the case for Michael Keslar, CIO for global transaction services and business partners technology at Bank of New York Mellon. Keslar has spent a good portion of his career at the bank, and now $1.6 trillion in daily payments fall under his watchful eyes. In fact, Keslar likes leaving work in his hometown of Pittsburgh feeling like those processes are happening on a reliable platform he developed.

In addition to developing and delivering external applications such as cash and securities processing, Keslar also oversees internal applications for departments like human resources, sales and finance.

One of Keslar's biggest accomplishments comes from determining which platforms were the most effective during the merger of the Bank of New York and Mellon Financial. "My job ... was to assess each organization's technologies and make a recommendation on a long-term strategy for the end-state technology architecture," Keslar adds.

Know Your Roots

Thirty years ago, Keslar turned down a promotion at U.S. Steel that would have relocated him to Kentucky. In subsequent years, he turned down all offers that would relocate him out of his hometown of Pittsburgh. While staying rooted in the Steel City, he was hired at Mellon where he had could use IT to make business processes more efficient.

Jeff Morby, the former vice chairman of Mellon, was an engineer who had crossed over to the business world, so he unofficially mentored Keslar and helped him develop his business technology interests.

"He connected with me because of my interest in technology. I got a lot of exposure to how senior executives think, make decisions ... to the point where I was on the executive floor every day," Keslar says.

After 15 years of success in applying technology to business process, Kevin Shearan, CIO of Mellon at the time, asked Keslar to make the switch from business to technology. "He's the one who had enough confidence in me to give me opportunities that I thought were beyond my skills," says Keslar. "I've always felt that he has been somebody I look back at and say he's made a huge difference in my career."

Set For Growth

Today Keslar manages 2,000 IT employees in Pittsburgh, Boston, Syracuse and New York, and the bank has plans to grow. Keslar will be hiring more interns and recruiting more college graduates for developing technology centers in Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

"I've been involved in those recruiting efforts. I've become very active with the universities," adds Keslar. "We're very committed ... to hire and increase those numbers of hires. When the students are hired here, there's a very structured training program." Keslar serves on the advisory board of Saint Vincent College .

There are at least major benefits to hiring college graduates, says Keslar. The first is that it allows BNY Mellon to cut the costs of hiring consultant or contractor firms. The second is that the knowledge of developing initiatives doesn't leave with the contractor. Also, college grads generally come with a smaller price tag than more experienced workers, while also bringing new ideas and new technology skills to the bank.

Through this program, BNY Mellon has hired 30 new graduates and 40 new interns and plans to continue recruiting along the East Coast.