In our new series, we talk to our experts about how to navigate what’s next in their industries or fields.
Lance McAlister is a Director for our Charlotte operating group and our Financial Services Practice Lead. He has over 30 years of combined consulting and industry experience, primarily in financial services and banking. Lance currently lives in Charlotte, NC.
What’s your story?
In summary, I have had three major chapters in my 30 plus years career:
• Consulting (Accenture/Andersen Consulting),
• Industry (Bank of America),
• Then back to consulting (Centric).
Upon graduation from Abilene Christian University, I went to work for Andersen Consulting (later Accenture) in Dallas, TX. I worked at Accenture for 12 years on various projects for a variety of clients, but mostly in financial services and leading merger and acquisition programs for several large national banks.
After leaving Accenture, I went to work for one of those large national banks in Charlotte, NC, where I continued to provide internal program and project leadership for several high-profile, complex initiatives, including mergers and acquisitions, conversions, audit remediations and process improvement projects.
I left that position in 2015 to return to consulting with Centric, where I continue to focus my expertise while working with financial services companies, as well as growing the industry space within Centric to expand our capabilities for more clients.
What’s the best feedback you’ve ever received?
I had an assignment when I was at Bank of America that I really didn’t want to do. I knew it would be hard, and I knew that failure was a possibility. One of the Senior Executives on the program pulled me aside and told me how important it was to the bank and shared I really just needed to make it happen.
I took that encouragement and approached it with a sense of “nothing to lose.” It turned out to be one of my best project experiences ever. It was hard, but it taught me to trust in my skills to tackle hard projects, and not every project will be easy, no matter how many times you’ve done it before.
Why did you decide to become part of your field?
I originally studied accounting and then added information systems management to my degree. When I graduated, consulting was still tied closely to Accounting, but something attracted me to the technology side versus the pure accounting side. I have always enjoyed solving problems as a team, and in consulting, especially program and project management, teamwork is vital. I really love team sports.
How are you guiding clients right now?
I am currently guiding clients to be disciplined in how they manage programs and projects. I have noticed that good program management discipline often gets diluted over time and, unfortunately, often comes to light with some high-visibility mistakes. Good program management isn’t rocket science, but it does take diligence, and it does require resources that are wired to be unsatisfied with even the smallest of deviations. I like instilling those concepts to help clients build towards excellence.
What, in your opinion, do companies need the most help with right now?
I think companies still need help in selecting technologies and solutions that are more than just the “flashy new thing” at the moment. Companies need help in making technology and transformation decisions that set them up for 2 to 3 steps down the road. That timeline used to be 5 to 10 years. While that timeframe has reduced significantly, the thought is still the same. You need to solve for where your competition is headed, not where they are. Otherwise, you are always playing catch-up.
What do you think they should be thinking about next?
Being strategically tactical, I think automation is a great solution that is becoming more accessible for most organizations. The ironic point about process automation is your processes themselves have to be optimized – which is age-old.
So, organizations that want to take advantage of process automation benefits, including cost-reduction and the ability to leverage remote or hybrid workforces, will have to plan to take the step to review and optimize their processes first. Automating a bad process is, well, bad.
What are you looking forward to in your industry?
I’m looking forward to the continued disintermediation of technology solutions and services within financial services. There will always be the need for some core systems to maintain large sources of transaction and customer data. However, many core systems are being replaced by smaller systems that can scale but are more nimble and easier to change and adapt. And while that requires integration, emerging technology continues to allow integration to be more modular and interchangeable. This is exciting because large, complex organizations can get exactly what they want and need, versus having to settle for “just ok.”
What do you do when you’re not guiding clients?
My three hobbies outside of work are music, running and watching sports. I play music at church as well as playing in some garage “bands.” I play ‘70s and ‘80s blues and rock primarily. I run about 20-30 miles per week with some running groups in Charlotte, which helps offset my love for Mexican food. And finally, I love watching sports, especially English Premier League soccer. I follow Arsenal, so I experience some highs but many lows. If you follow EPL, you know what I’m talking about!