ANZ hits eLearning market

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After a hush-hush development period, the ANZ Bank has set up a commercial electronic learning operation to sell online training services to external companies.

Launched in June, the new ANZ Online Training Services group builds on the bank's internal corporate learning infrastructure.

The group offers a hosted elearning management suite environment through a web-based application service provider (ASP) model.

ANZ's head of online training services Peter Tilton said the group aimed to provide all business consulting, training and implementation services, and currently employed eight full-time staff, with six specialist contracted consultants.

Though training was not core banking business, Tilton said the online training process was "certainly core to the operational side" of the ANZ's business, and was "an area where we've had considerable success".

Training was an area where the ANZ expected to be able to generate strong revenue and a strong contribution to profit.

Tilton said only the biggest of corporate players could afford to pay the upfront licence fees and the high implementation costs of the large, off-the-shelf eLearning packages. The ANZ's web-based ASP model aimed to compete through faster, cheaper implementation times and smaller, per-seat fees.

Tilton said the group was targeting potential customers with 500 to 5,000 employees - a size that had significant training requirements, but which were not large enough to enjoy the economies of scale of large enterprises.

"That sized company has not been able to afford the kind of Rolls Royce training models to put behind their firewalls," Tilton said.

Tilton said the bank had conducted 175,000 online training courses since 1999. While electronic learning systems had been used extensively among bank employees, ANZ had also used its online systems to train its hundreds - or even thousands - of channel partners, who can range from car dealerships to mortgage originators.

The ANZ-branded commercial service will operate entirely separately from its internal training infrastructure, known as eTrain.

Tilton said the company had started development on the commercial offering late last year. He said the market opportunity had been created by the prohibitive cost of internal eLearning implementations.

The ANZ plans to re-use internal content, although it has partnered with external content developers to assist commercial customers.

Tilton said the bank had so far signed one large, unnamed customer, and expects to have signed three to four more by the end of the year. Customers were expected to come primarily from the financial services sector, although Tilton said the company had been surprised by the level of interest from the retail and manufacturing sectors.

Tilton would not reveal how much the bank had invested in the commercial eLearning operation. He said online learning systems could be provided for about 20 percent of the equivalent cost of face-to-face learning.

"But I think the thing that gets left out of the ROI equation is time to market," Tilton said. "I think you actually get bigger (savings) by being able to get your products to market faster."

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