Amy BradyChief Information Officer and Executive Vice President KeyCorp Cleveland, Ohio Sector Representation: Banking
When the president of a Federal Reserve Bank asks you directly to consider becoming a member of the Bank’s board of directors, it is something you think about very seriously.
In March 2019, Amy Brady, chief information officer and executive vice president at KeyCorp, was the moderator of a fireside chat with Cleveland Fed President Loretta J. Mester at Cleveland’s annual International Women’s Day celebration. Just as the two were about to walk on stage and begin the public session, President Mester asked her that important question.
“I was so honored that she would consider, or want, me to join her board,” says Brady. “I did some research on the [Cleveland Fed’s] board, and I looked at how deliberate they [President Mester and her immediate predecessor Sandra Pianalto] have been about having diverse representation on the board of directors—not diversity for diversity’s sake, but diversity with substance. I was very humbled by the fact that she asked me, and I thought it would be a great opportunity.”
In January 2020, Brady began her term as a director. After attending one in-person meeting at the Cleveland Bank, the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Timing is everything
To others, it may seem like the timing of her appointment wasn’t the best, but Brady feels fortunate to be participating and sharing insights during an unprecedented time. Meetings are still being held regularly, but they are taking place virtually via videoconference. Even more so at this historic time, Brady finds it fascinating to hear what the Cleveland Fed’s president and economists are saying and what her fellow directors are sharing about the happenings within their companies through all of this. She also realizes that although the group is made up of experts in their respective fields, no one is an expert in a global pandemic.
“We’re all learning,” Brady says. “We’re all adjusting. And each time we’re together, somebody shares something that I learn from, or that I hadn’t thought about yet.”
She commends the Federal Reserve’s quick response to the pandemic, specifically citing the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility that was announced operational on April 16, 2020. As a banker, Brady truly believes that the Fed’s quick actions have made a difference.
“I never quite fully understood the public service side of what the Federal Reserve does,” she says. “As a banker, what you experience the most of is the examination side. That’s positive as well, but that’s just one piece of what the Federal Reserve does. It’s fascinating to be close to the institution while we’re going through this pandemic as a country. I feel very privileged to be a part of that.”
A banker’s life
Brady started in a commercial banking management training program right out of college and “learned to be a banker.” Back then, she says, financial institutions were looking to hire employees with a diversity of college degrees (she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and music). She got her first job with NBNC (National Bank of North Carolina) in Tampa, Florida. The first 14 years of her career were in retail banking.
In 2000, the bank president asked her to build a research and development group for the organization (NBNC was now Bank of America or BofA). She accepted the challenge and moved to Atlanta for the job. After four years with that department, she was offered a technology role.
“I thought I would do that for a couple of years—because I wanted to learn the technology side—and then move back to the business side,” she recalls. “What I did learn was that technology was the business and was fast changing how financial services was going to serve our clients. I wanted to be a part of that change and I stayed in technology.
“I joined banking because I thought it was a stable career,” she continues. “And I stayed in banking because of the diversity of opportunities.”
Brady flourished with her new challenges and caught the attention of a search firm looking to fill the top technology spot at KeyCorp in Cleveland, a city she had never been to before. She got the job, joined Key in 2012, and moved her family to Cleveland. She was impressed by Beth Mooney, Key’s CEO at the time, and the journey that Key was embarking on, which the bank’s current CEO Chris Gorman is building on.
“I look at Key, and it has all of the products and services and complexities that the BofAs, JPMorgans, etc. have, but with the size, scale, and scope where you can actually get your arms around it and truly make a difference,” Brady remarks. “This opportunity gave me a chance to bring all of the pieces and parts of my career together and help Key and take us to the next level of our performance. It’s been a great move and a great opportunity.”
In her current role, she oversees approximately 5,000 employees within Key’s shared services for technology, operations, data, servicing, cyber and physical security, and procurement. It is her group that is responsible for providing innovative technology to clients, such as mobile and online banking, and voice and chat automation features.
Look for the bright spots
Being responsible for Key’s technology, especially during a global health crisis, has shown her just how fast change has to happen.
“Our clients want to interact in a very digital way,” she says. “They had to. For several weeks there was no physical way that they could interact with their financial institution. The demands are incredible, but the opportunity to really create a difference for our clients is both motivating and inspiring.”
Because of the enormity of the global health crisis, Brady notes that there is “no one that’s immune to having to figure out how to do something different.”
As an example, she recalls a specific situation with the Paycheck Protection Program, a program administered by the Small Business Association. The agency had only ever accepted original signed loan applications, never copies. At a time when clients were adhering to social-distancing edicts and shelter-in-place instructions, it was impossible to get a physical signature on applications and loan documents. Technology had to step in and figure out a way to make digital signatures possible and acceptable.
“We, as an industry, all worked together to say, ‘you have to do this,’” she says. “If nothing else, this pandemic has said to us, ‘how do you use technology for positive change?’”
As a result, the Small Business Association relaxed its rules and began accepting scanned copies of signed documents.
“I coach my teammates to look for the positive of what’s happening and help create the solution,” she continues. “There are solutions to be created out of all of this. I’ve seen some amazing results from people on my team and out of organizations and institutions like the Fed. So there are bright spots.”
Brady is pleased with how things have turned out with her career. After 30 years in banking, she still gets excited about her work, her team, and their varied—and very critical—responsibilities.
“I think I have one of the best jobs at the institution,” she says. “Part of the reason I love it, [is because] it truly is the backbone of the company. I have the really great opportunity to see what’s happening across our institution and connect the dots to really help serve our clients.”
Originally from the Philadelphia area, Brady has come to love what Cleveland has to offer. She, her husband, and two daughters have season tickets to the Browns, and she also enjoys attending Indians baseball games and live theater performances.
Brady is a member of the board of directors of DuPont serving on the Audit and Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability Committees. She is also active in the Cleveland community serving as chairman of the board of Playhouse Square, the largest performing arts center in the US outside of New York City. In addition, Brady serves on the board of directors of the Achievement Centers for Children, Cleveland Leadership Center, and co-chairs the Case Western Reserve University Corporate Visiting Committee.
Putting the right team together is one of Brady’s strong suits at Key. She says: “I think my job is about hiring the best talent, hiring great diversity in the broadest sense—in the traditional sense of gender, race, ethnicity, etc., but also in skill set, thoughts, experiences—and bringing that diversity together to create new solutions. The beauty of my job is to constantly recreate how we’re delivering for our frontline teammates and for our clients. It makes it fun, never boring.”
While her team has been productive working from home for several months during the COVID-19 pandemic, Brady admits that it is not the best work environment. “There are things that aren’t as good,” she says. “We have to remember that. I do miss having my team around a table when we’re having a conversation. Yes, I can have them up on video, but you miss the impromptu kind of sensing, and reading, and seeing how people are doing.
“I think if you’re innovating and creating and doing problem solving, having people together is more effective,” she continues.