NICTA and CommBank team up for data project

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NICTA and CommBank team up for data project
Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte

Application will help bank foresee opportunities.

National ICT Australia (NICTA) will operate out to at least 2016, thanks to a $42 million funding injection officially announced on Wednesday by Assistant Minister for the Digital Economy Kate Lundy.

The announcement was welcomed by Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte, as the bank has been working with NICTA for nearly two years on what he described as “one of the world’s leading applications in financial services”.

Around 15 staff from NICTA’s 120-strong data analytics team have been visiting the CBA’s Sussex Street headquarters to work on the system during 18 months of development.

“We have basically created the first scale instance of an application of its type here in Australia,” Harte explained to iTnews. “We are using it to look at how we work with customers as well as how the organisation overall operates."

Internal CBA data is paired with publically available information, even meteorological data, to inform the bank’s strategy, he said.

“If we look at what is happening on social media we can foresee public events like a concert. They often have these concerts in odd areas that don’t have ATMs. We want to know this so we can provide our facilities, such as mobile branches, at the event.

“Or we could look at seasonal travel patterns to promote travel insurance or travel money cards, because we know when a travel period is coming up and we know that certain post codes tend to go to certain locations.

“For example most people in one area go to Fiji, but most people in another go to Hawaii. We could partner with travel companies to offer travel money and travel insurance as part of a package to these particular regions,” he said.

The future of the application “depends on how this project goes,” said Harte, after commending NICTA’s focus on wealth creation and "spinning out" innovative groups into commercial operations.

“In some instances we might be a customer [of a solution provider] and in some instances we might be an investor and a customer, so we could potentially have an interest in spinning out that company,” he said.

Hugh Durrant-Whyte, CEO at NICTA, confirmed an interest in turning the team working on the CBA analytics tool, called Ambiata, into a commercial entity.

“Hopefully they will set up a business that is monetisable and that works in more than just the finance area,” he said.

Durrant-Whyte also warned that the continuation of projects like the successful CBA collaboration, and the availability of the kind of skills pool that the bank has been able to call upon as a result, relied on sustainable funding beyond the 2016 cut-off of this latest instalment.

“The funding levels are about right. What we need right now is certainty. It takes time to develop these technologies and it takes a minimum of three years to train a PhD student,” he said.

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