When Dime Bank decided to upgrade more than 50 of its technology systems – a project the 150-year-old financial institution has since described as the most transformative and expensive project in its history – bank leaders knew just who should help lead the way: Crystal Sides.
Although Sides’ primary role at the bank is serving as director of compliance and internal audit, senior vice president (a role she continued to fill over the course of the 18-month project), her background managing tech-related projects at several banks made her a natural pick for co-leader of Dime Bank’s technology upgrade.
First, Sides helped develop the bank’s upgrade plan by evaluating its various processors, looking at them “from a financial standpoint, a customer’s standpoint [and] an operating standpoint to ensure that we made the best move for, first, our customers, and secondly, the bank,” she said.
Then, it was time to implement the plan, a yearlong venture during which Sides was responsible for working directly with the entire bank staff, as well as “at least a dozen” project teams that focused on upgrading systems ranging from internet banking to deposits to loan origination to compliance. Sides also met regularly with the bank’s core processor and its various systems providers.
“Crystal seemed to be on every single committee in addition to co-leader of the project,” said Cheryl Calderado, senior vice president, human resources at Dime Bank. “Her ability to be on top of the big picture yet understanding the details of each little sub-committee she was working with was incredible.”
Calderado continued: “I actually sent her a note at one stage … [that said] ‘You are the most awesome project manager I have ever worked with’ – and I’ve been in banking for 40 years, and I’ve worked with some outstanding project managers.”
Needless to say, the upgrades involved an incredible amount of work, but for Sides, it was a chance to do exactly the kind of work she most enjoys.
“I love watching a plan develop from concept to reality, and I love being part of a success with the team,” she said.
Calderado said Sides brings these same leadership skills to all of her work at the bank, no matter the size or scope of the project.
“She’s a natural leader,” Calderado said. “I’ve seen her with her staff [and] she empowers them, she motivates them. She’s just such a positive person.”
Sides, who says she “grew up in banking,” attributes much of her success to her mentors.
“I hope that I can be a mentor to others in the same way that others have been a mentor to me, and give others the same opportunities that have been given to me,” she said