ANZ wants leaders, not builders of bank IT

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ANZ wants leaders, not builders of bank IT
Anne Weatherston Credit: ANZ Bank

Vendors play growing role in platform development.

ANZ Bank’s chief information officer has urged banking technologists to adapt to business-focussed roles as organisations outsource IT systems development.

Speaking at a CEDA event last week, Anne Weatherston said banks were pressed to improve effectiveness, efficiency and customer centricity in today’s tight economic climate.

IT vendors had the culture and budget for innovation, she said, and platforms underpinning future core banking transformations would be “largely vendor-supplied”.

But vendor relationships had to be managed, she said, with vendors performing against "a tight set of metrics, in terms of response times and service outcomes".

Software by SAP and Systematics featured heavily in ongoing core banking modernisation projects at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and ANZ’s New Zealand business.

Weatherston expressed a preference for off-the-shelf, industry-standard software in July, when she unveiled the bank’s six-year systems architecture and upgrade strategy.

She told the CEDA gathering that technologists would "need to adapt and change”, echoing her address to the Banktech summit in July.

“The change is less about designing and building a technology solution, and much more about influencing the business design to conform to the platform requirements.

“The role of technologists in financial services will increasingly become the leadership and design of platform implementation to enable new business models and integration with other relevant applications.”

Weatherston said technology would be a “key enabler of the new financial services industry” – but only if deployed to support business outcomes.

ANZ’s aim to marry business and IT was reflected in an restructure announced last month that grouped technology staff into five teams: global retail, commercial and wealth; institutional; group; New Zealand; and Asia-Pacific, Europe and America.

“Effectively, what we’ve done is structured IT into the logical components of a functional view of our bank model,” Weatherston explained.

“What we’re seeking to do it to build deep subject matter expertise in each of these domains that can work closely with the business to assist on the bringing together of the business and IT architecture.”

Weatherston said change management strategies were needed to address the concerns of IT and business people facing “an uncomfortable learning curve” and fears of losing control.

“This will not be an easy transformation and at heart the challenge will be the traditional culture of the organisation, not least the relationship between business and technology in banks.”

Efficiency and the cloud

Weatherston highlighted virtualisation and grid computing as means by which organisations might achieve more computing power and infrastructure for less cost.

Subsidiary ANZ Wealth was expected to roll out virtual desktops to 1400 staff by April as a pilot for the wider ANZ group -- a move that could save it up to $2 million a year on real estate.

Cloud computing could “offer an equivalent opportunity for software services” in time and would likely be a “fact of life” in five years’ time, Weatherston said.

But the cloud computing industry had to mature before becoming “particularly relevant for large complex banks … at a large scale”, she said.

Although the cloud was “relevant to small and medium businesses” today, the industry was still evolving, she said, and the “jury [was] still out” with financial services regulator APRA.

In an open letter last November, APRA urged financial services institutions to view cloud computing as a new form of outsourcing or offshoring that required its tick of approval.

The regulator has also commenced work on a data management guide that will encourage institutions to define “critical data” and classify their various data holdings.

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