Getting To Know Mike Smedley - Bank North Head of Enterprise Architecture, Information Security & IT


What are the day-to-day functions of your role?

I wear several hats so no two days are exactly the same but you can look at my general responsibilities in three sections. There’s the Enterprise Architecture piece which is at the front of the process and is responsible for ensuring we’re heading in the direction that we want to head in. You’ve got the IT piece, which is the piece that says “Let’s build all of that” and make sure we’re building things that will be great for both our customers and our colleagues. Then there’s the third part which is the Information Security role which makes sure that everything we’ve got and everything we’re building is safe and secure.

On a day-to-day basis, it could be any one of those things right from blue-sky thinking around where we want the company to go, to looking at lines of code and understanding what systems are doing and fixing bugs or vulnerabilities, so never a dull moment.

Within Financial Services, why is it important that we have clear and robust information security procedures?

You’re dealing with people’s data, particularly their financial data, and it doesn’t get much more sensitive than that. Obviously, security is important for every business and everyone’s data should be treated with a very healthy level of respect, but in Financial Services the impact of a breach would be huge – not only for the customers but also for our reputation in the market and with the regulators. So you have to make sure you really tightly control the data we use, how we use it and manage it and have strong controls and regimes in place.

As Bank North continues to grow, how can we stay protected from data breaches or malicious attacks?

The main thing is making sure our people are educated on what to look out for. It’s a really important message that information security is everybody’s business because the easiest way into a company is through its people via ‘social engineering’ and phishing. As our team grows, we are creating a robust training regime, leading regular awareness training, and springing phishing campaigns on our colleagues – to make sure colleagues know what to look for in a safe environment.

Another important pillar is creating a ‘no-blame’ culture to make sure that people speak up if they’re worried or if something isn’t quite right, allowing us to remediate the issue, rather than hiding things because they feel they may get into trouble. But the main thing is increasing the awareness around using technology safely because it’s a very big and sometimes scary place, we must make sure that everyone is suitably trained, informed, and aware of the risks.

In your role as Head of Enterprise Architecture, how will we ensure that our digital architecture stays aligned with our growth as a business?

Enterprise Architecture is about more than just technology, it’s about how the entire business functions, looking at our business through various lenses. The key thing is to make sure, in particular with technology, that we are looking at it not from how cool the technology is - because sometimes it is very cool - but also what the technology can do for the business.

We approach everything looking through a business lens, which is where the Enterprise Architecture role steps in. You get all of these different lenses on your business (generally the people, the processes, the data, and the technology), line them all up, and the key is to make sure the final picture – how you want your business to operate - is still clear and in focus when looking through all of the lenses. You make sure there’s a clear understanding right from the strategic goal right through to the piece of technology that will help you deliver that and it goes all the way through. So it’s really, really important that all of the bank’s functions have their say on “this is what we want to do, and this is the way we’re going to do it”.

How has banking changed due to cloud computing technology?

I think Cloud has been an absolute game-changer in the past few years and has really made a bank like ours a possibility. Even as little as five years ago, companies who were wanting to operate entirely in the cloud were looked on with a good deal of healthy skepticism – doubly so if that business was in Financial Services. But now, it gives us the opportunity to manage and scale our business with a relatively small team needed in-house. Of course, there are some complications - there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but it’s clear we couldn’t launch a business like ours without the upsides that working in the Cloud brings.

What has been the most exciting thing about working within your role at a start-up bank?

It has to be the item that is any architect’s Holy Grail – the fabled “Blank Sheet Of Paper”! Getting to design something from the ground up is an opportunity (and challenge) that not many people get to do; in an established business there is always the old legacy technology or processes to work around. Combining that with the breadth of what I get involved with as part of a startup and also the culture and opportunity to work with the talented colleagues we have in our business makes it a genuine pleasure to come to work every day.

Outside of work, how do you like to spend your spare time?

At home it’s my wife, my daughter and I, we like to travel a lot, go on lots of holidays and all that good stuff. Music is my passion and I originally started out as a guitarist in a rock band. I’ve now got so many guitars in the house that it’s into double figures so we’re allowed to call it a collection. To the extent where my lockdown project was to extend the garage and put my recording studio in there. I now have my place where I can go and make noise, away from my family so as to not annoy them but also so my wife gets a room back in the house!

I used to do a lot of triathlons, but now I’m recovering from injury (and coping with old age) and trying to get back into that, as well as motorsport which I had a good go at when I was younger but I quickly realised it was far too expensive to keep up with. I now restrict myself to E-Sports and my cars are all proudly painted in Bank North colours!

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Bank North has been Authorised with Restrictions since 24th August 2021, at which point the firm entered a phase known as mobilisation. During this phase, the bank will be undertaking lending activities but will not be accepting customer deposits.