William Coffey has been the new senior VP and chief technology officer for WSFS for less than three weeks. Accordingly, he’s still adjusting to the culture at the Delaware-based bank, even though he grew up just over the Pennsylvania border in West Chester and attended high school at Salesianum School in Wilmington.
“We’re still in a debate about are you going to the shore, or are you going to the beach,” he said.
That one minor state-line cultural difference aside, Coffey is at home in the region, having spent 19 years working for Vanguard, where he was head of the program management and institutional strategy offices before coming to WSFS.
Since graduating with an MIS degree from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, he’s stayed in the area for the most part, with a period of frequent travel during an internship with Shared Medical Systems (since bought out by Siemans).
“Being the new guy, I went to glamorous places like Fargo, North Dakota in the winter and Hattiesburg, Mississippi in the summer,” he said. He decided he wanted to travel less and settle in the Philadelphia region, getting a job with Verizon that was relatively short-lived because it required a long commute to Virginia.
At Vanguard, as Coffey came up the ranks in project management, he paid attention to the leadership.
“Some of the folks that I wanted to emulate were leaders that you could take from anywhere in the organization and put anywhere else in the organization, and they delivered,” he said. “So I became very delivery focused. In my last 10 years at Vanguard I was rotating between business and technology.”
When he went through the interview process with WSFS, Coffey would go into the bank’s branches and sit down with people who worked there, talking to them about the company and learning about its culture.
“Our mission is ‘we stand for service,'” he said. “It’s the intersection between the human connection and technology. There’s an old saying that there’s nothing more powerful than the human connection, and I think that is really true at in the industry.”
While it’s possible to bank 100% digitally, without ever walking into a bank branch or speaking with a live human, that’s not the direction WSFS — or much of the banking industry — is actually heading. Instead, Coffey said, banks should be friendly neighborhood businesses where everyone knows your name, where branches feel more like living rooms than institutions.
“WSFS is using tech to enhance the human experience,” he said. “COVID has pointed out to us that the need for human connection is a real thing. How do you do the neighborhood thing with technology?”
We’ve seen that technology can be that intersection in all kinds of areas of life. The dreaded Zoom Thanksgiving of 2020 was, for a lot of families, the first time the entire extended family was together — if only virtually — for the holiday. Eventually, banks, like Thanksgiving, will be safer for old-fashioned face-to-face connection. But technology will stay.
“COVID has accelerated different avenues for us,” Coffey said.
You might not want to do your banking through a faceless app, but when you can hit a button and be connected to a real person via video from the comfort of your home — something that has become reality — virtual banking starts to satisfy both the technology and the human sides of business.
“It’s one of the things that I bring into my leadership, but also that I see at WSFS,” Coffey said. “I came to WSFS because it’s regional, innovative and the culture is awesome.”
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