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Schwab's New CIO

Geoff Penney, who will replace Dawn Lepore as CIO next month, sums up his feelings about the new job: "I'm very excited, very honored--and a little nervous."
Geoff Penney, who will replace Dawn Lepore as CIO at the Charles Schwab Corp. next month, sums up his feelings about the new job with candor: "I'm very excited, very honored--and a little nervous."

Penney has every reason to be a little nervous. His appointment comes during a difficult time for the financial-services firm, and he'll take over management of day-to-day IT operations from an exec who's widely known in the industry for fostering technologies that helped rank Schwab as the leading online brokerage firm.

Schwab said last week that Lepore--InformationWeek's Chief of the Year for 2000--will become vice chairman of technology and administration. While Lepore will continue to oversee technology at the senior-executive level, she'll also gain oversight of administrative functions such as human resources, legal, payroll, facilities, and corporate communications--functions that were managed by retiring chief administration officer Beth Sawi. Schwab has cut budgets and its workforce this year and doesn't plan to replace Sawi. "I get to stay involved with new technologies and learn some new things, so it's the best of both worlds from my perspective," Lepore says about her new role.

Penney, who still reports to Lepore, is charged with continuing and expanding the customer-focused initiatives spearheaded by Lepore and Schwab president and co-CEO David Pottruck, who shared the InformationWeek Chief of the Year title with Lepore. Schwab will expand its services and technologies for independent investment advisers in the coming year and is planning new online tools for investors.

Penney, who remains an executive VP at the firm, has worked with Lepore since joining Schwab five years ago. His first job with Schwab was managing the financial products and international technology division, and more recently he was manager of client technology. In that role, Penney oversaw development of Web sites and software used by investors. Penney previously served as a senior VP for Fidelity Investments in Boston and managing director for Bankers Trust Co. in London and New York. Says Penney of his the new job, his first as a CIO: "I've pretty much always worked in financial services, but I'm a technologist through and through."