IT Confidential: Schwab's New CIO, Harrah's Big Bet

Schwab hasn't been afraid to mine I.T. ranks for management talent.
There's been a change of leadership at business-technology powerhouse Schwab as CIO Geoffrey Penney retired earlier this month. Penney has "roots back on the East Coast," a spokesman tells Wall Street & Technology, and retired after a seven-year tenure with the San Francisco-based firm. His replacement, nine-year Schwab veteran Gideon Sasson, shows how Schwab hasn't been afraid to mine the IT ranks for general managers. Then-CIO Dawn Lepore lured Sasson from an IBM VP role in 1995 to run the technical development team of the initial eSchwab online-trading unit. In 1997, Sasson was tapped to run the electronic brokerage unit, marking the first time someone other than a CIO had stepped from an IT post to such a broad general-management job at the company. Penney became CIO in 2001 when Lepore made a similar move herself, from CIO to vice chairwoman. Sasson will report to Lepore.

Sometimes, changing titles means nothing more than what words go below your name on the door. But sometimes it changes who's knocking on that door. That's likely to be the case for Dan Caprio, who last week added the title of chief privacy officer for the U.S. Commerce Department. He'll remain deputy assistant secretary for technology policy as well. Caprio has spent his career in government, much of it recently linked to technology, including serving as the Federal Trade Commission's principal tech policy adviser and, since December, co-chairman of the National Cybersecurity Partnership Awareness Task Force. Experience elsewhere suggests this isn't likely to be a door-dressing title for Caprio. At the Department of Homeland Security, chief privacy officer Nuala O'Connor Kelly this year launched an investigation into potential privacy violations surrounding development of CAPPS II, an initiative to help airlines prescreen passengers that ran afoul of privacy practices when airlines gave passenger data to contractors for testing. Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge froze that project last week.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas? Not if you're a member of a frequent players' club like Harrah's Entertainment's Total Rewards, through which the company tracks your gambling (and gives incentives based on it) no matter which Harrah's casino you're playing. That's why Harrah's deal to buy Caesars Entertainment is sure to spark some interesting business-technology strategy sessions. Just a few weeks ago, Caesars shook up its IT leadership to do more to use customer data to drive revenue-moving CIO Bob Conover to a "strategic initiatives" role and promoting Carol Pride to CIO. Harrah's, under CIO Tim Stanley, makes that kind of data-driven marketing the heart of its IT mission. In an industry that's among the most aggressive in its use of customer data, the integration game--adding the 20 million customers in Caesar's database to Total Rewards--will go on long after the deal clears its regulatory hurdles.

John Soat will return to this column spot next week, so send an industry tip to [email protected] or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about your favorite title change or Vegas story, meet him at's Listening Post:

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