As the promise of 2022 looms on the horizon, most people are anxious to close the books on what is likely the most unsettling year — from the pandemic to politics to supply chain shortages — we will ever experience. Strong leadership has never been more essential than it is today. To share their best leadership practices, Az Business magazine sat down with Arizona business leaders to watch in 2022, including Chris Kearney, executive vice president and chief information officer for TruWest Credit Union.

READ ALSO: Forbes recognizes TruWest as America’s Best Credit Union in Arizona

Highlights of Chris Kearney interview

IMPACT OF PANDEMIC: “The No. 1 thing we’ve seen is that consumers’ expectations have radically changed. We don’t have to go any further than our own homes to think about that, right? We all enjoy the Amazon experience. You get personalized offers. One or two clicks and the next thing you know, something shows up on your doorstep. So those expectations are now permeating the entire financial services industry, as well as others. And we’re having to adapt very quickly.”

TECHNOLOGICAL EDGE: “In the years preceding the pandemic, we had invested heavily in technologies like virtualization and cloud-based computing, stepped up our security efforts, and even did some work around enabling remote employees. So when March 2020 came around and we had to send everyone home right away, it was just a matter of mobilizing those resources, and the team did a phenomenal job. So really the investments leading up to the pandemic are what enabled us to be successful when the time came.”

PANDEMIC LESSONS LEARNED: “The amount of uncertainty in the marketplace today is unbelievable. And looking back, I think it was always there. We perhaps operated with a level of confidence that, at least in my case, may have been overstated. So now we look at the uncertainty going forward, and I ask myself, ‘How can we prepare for that? How are we continuing to learn? How are we continuing to invest in a way that enables us to be successful in that next event?’”

INDUSTRY OUTLOOK: “Looking forward into 2022, I think it’s all about agility, recognizing that there’s uncertainty in the marketplace, the need to plan for that, and being able to respond. In the financial services industry, one specific thing we’re doing is increasingly working with fintechs. These are startup technology companies typically focused on a specific product or service, and they’re looking to partner with financial institutions that have a strong consumer base. So that’s a way that a midsize organization like TruWest can be successful and offer great products and services, but we don’t have to create all the technology. We can just look for opportunities to partner.”