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Why this serial entrepreneur chose to join a 150-year-old bank

July 22, 2021

Ian Eslick is head of enterprise engineering, technology strategy and modernization at U.S. Bank.

Ian Eslick kept hearing a particular phrase when sharing with friends that he’d be taking on a new role at a new employer in U.S. Bank – but it wasn’t “congratulations.”

“Well,” he laughed, “the first few people I told said the same thing… ‘you’re doing what??’”

Eslick, who’s based in San Francisco, is aware that his LinkedIn page reads more tech than banking. He has founded multiple startups, including chronic cardiology disease care-focused Vital Reactor. He most recently held an engineering leadership role at Amazon Web Services. He has a Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

So, why did he choose two years ago to join a bank that shed its startup label in the late 1860s? He said it’s not the age of our company, but rather the opportunities afforded by our unique size.

“U.S. Bank is small enough to align on a cohesive vision, but also big enough to invest in and execute it,” said Eslick. With $559 billion in assets, our position is larger than regional banks but smaller than sprawling megabanks.

“U.S. Bank is small enough to align on a vision, but also big enough to invest in and execute it.”

Ian Eslick

Along the same lines, Eslick continued, “U.S. Bank’s commitment to transformation gives engineers and technologists like myself an opportunity to have a more profound impact on how we work, on our employees and customers, than we can have in most places.”

As head of enterprise engineering, technology strategy and modernization, Eslick is involved in companywide efforts to make major technology investments that aim to improve user experiences for customers and employees.

One such effort was our participation in the Small Business Administration (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which relied on banks processing loans to help businesses keep their workforces employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the SBA rolled out PPP, Eslick spent early mornings and late nights with a cross-functional team including both senior executives and company engineers to design a business process and build the supporting technology. 

“In a matter of days, the team was able to build a new process that scaled to tens of thousands of loans per week,” said Eslick. As a result of the work, we supported nearly 174,000 business in need with loans that totaled $10.7 billion and helped more than 1.3 million workers. 

Eslick believes PPP was a rare opportunity for senior leadership to experience the potential of Agile technology practices where technology teams are directly contributing to solving business problems.

This is exemplary of the product culture he’s working to build at our company, with the fundamental aim to create tools that thousands of employees and millions of banking customers actually like using. And building that type of culture – one that embraces the disruptive role of technology in banking – means both growing and hiring talent. 

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He aims to hire not just for hard skills but also “systems thinkers” who are able to “negotiate and communicate across organizational boundaries” – he seeks engineers and product leaders who are willing to sign up for interesting, cutting-edge work while contributing to the transformation journey at one of the oldest yet most admired institutions in the country.

“Our leaders understand that this industry is going through a titanic shift,” said Eslick. “[As a result], I have found that this is a grounded, drama-free organization where well-intentioned people are learning together how to do things better.”

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