Nike becomes only Fortune 100 company with gay CIO

Nike, Inc. announced this week that the company would bring on the world's only openly gay CIO at a Fortune 100 company, Anthony Watson, in a move that very clearly signals that Nike intends to significantly up its technology game. Watson also serves on GLAAD's National Board of Directors.

People close to the situation confirmed that Watson, who previously served as Barclays' Managing Director & Chief Information Officer of Europe Middle East Retail & Business Banking and Global Operations, will leave the bank effective February 23, 2014.

Watson leaves Barclays to become the Chief Information Officer of Nike, Inc., the world's largest sports-goods manufacturer, effective April 2014. “We look forward to Anthony joining our team and bringing his deep knowledge, expertise and vision to lead Nike’s overall technology strategy,” said Eric Sprunk, Chief Operating Officer of NIKE, Inc.

Nike is among many Fortune 100 companies that's tapping into a new business trend. According to a recent article in Details magazine, gay men make the best managers. Research shows gay men - by in large - are highly adaptive, intuitive communicators and are great creative at problem solving.

Interestingly, his departure comes hot on the heels of Shaygan Kheradpir’s departure last December. Kheradpir, who was Group Chief Operations & Technology Officer at Barclays, left the bank to become the Chief Executive Officer of Juniper Networks. Watson and Kheradpir are known to be close, with Kheradpir seen as a mentor to Watson during his tenure at Barclays.

Sources in the City of London see this as a big coup for Nike. Watson is considered to be one of a new breed of CIOs that are highly consumer centric, agile, innovative and transformational. Indeed, many view him as one of Europe’s top CIOs.

Market analysts describe Barclays as one of the most innovative banks in the world. Barclays has a technology scale and complexity that significantly dwarfs that of Nike’s. The 325-year-old bank is considered one of the toughest places to work in the city of London.

A strong leader, Watson has over 17 years of experience in managing highly complex, large-scale technology ecosystems with high data processing requirements serving tens of millions of customers daily, across a global and geographically dispersed environment. Add to the mix that Watson is the only openly gay CIO at a Fortune 100 Company in the world; his extensive and successful track record becomes even more impressive.

In April 2013, CIO UK magazine named Watson 6th in its listing of the 100 most transformative CIOs in or from the UK. In July 2013, the Guardian listed him as the 26th (out of 100) most influential gay person in the world, and in October 2013, he was named by the Financial Times as the 9th (out of 50) most influential gay business leader in Europe, the only technologist listed.

The UK’s loss will be the US’s gain. Watson’s departure from the UK will be a serious blow for the technology industry, reeling from several other high profile UK CIO departures – not least of all Kheradpir’s. Watson, known not just for his technical prowess and his strong business acumen but also for being one of the few champions of diversity and inclusion within the technology and financial services space.

Watson is a prolific technology commentator. His thinking and writings are highly popular amongst CIOs. In particular, he has made several highly prevalent contributions to CIO UK Magazine itself, including; Barclays CIO wants to be the Google of Banks, Beyond Big Data: The Appliance of Data Science and most recently Cyber Security is Job No:1.

Watson has spent over five years at Barclays, joining the bank in early 2009. Prior to Barclays, he was Senior Vice President & Global Head of Technology Services at Wells Fargo, running technology for the bank across 44 countries. Previously, he worked for Microsoft and First-e Bancorp, Europe’s first Internet bank. He is currently a member of the board and non-executive director at DGS plc, a digital customer acquisition company listed on the London Stock Exchange, a national board member of GLAAD, a US-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender equality organization, and Chair of the European Diversity Awards, the world’s largest award ceremony that recognises and celebrates people, organizations and companies that make a difference in the field of diversity and inclusion.