Westpac’s highly regarded chief information officer Dave Curran will leave the banking giant after four years, retiring at the end of January 2019.
The top tech spot will be filled by Citibank’s global consumer banking CTO Craig Bright, who is currently based in New York. He previously spent nine years working as CIO and general manager of technology at NAB.
Curran’s departure comes as Westpac finalises one of the most complex and arguably difficult banking transformations in Australia that resulted in billions of dollars of legacy platforms being replaced, upgraded or retired without junking the institution's core banking platform.
Like ANZ and Suncorp, Westpac has traditionally used veteran the Hogan core system which has proved enduringly resilient in terms of architecture over the last two decades.
The decision by Westpac and Curran not to opt for a massive core banking overhaul in the same way that the Commonwealth Bank successfully executed was seen by many as brave and risky at the time, but has since proved highly prescient given troubles at other institutions.
Curran, however, did not come to Westpac without an advantage.
He was previously second in command of technology at the Commonwealth Bank, coming on board alongside radical change agent Michael Harte to spearhead the CBA’s core overhaul.
Both Harte and Curran were recruited by then CBA chief executive Ralph Norris, himself a tech chief at Auckland Savings Bank and self-confessed assembler coder who returned criticism about the limitations of eftpos by saying he helped write it.
Privately, Norris was frank that one of the reasons he had hired Curran, a former consultant, was because he wanted integrator Accenture kept firmly in line on a project that was too big to fail.
Westpac moved quickly after the departure of Harte to snap-up Curran after a number of challenging years on the technology front triggered in part by a historic dependency on IBM’s systems dating back to a billion dollar, ten-year outsourcing deal now regarded as a major flop.
Getting Westpac back on terra firma in terms of technology strategy and readying the institution for a future of persistent upgrades and innovation was Curran’s primary mission, one that both he and Westpac feel has largely been accomplished.
“Since joining Westpac in 2014, Dave has led a fundamental step change in advancing Westpac’s technology capabilities, helping us to continue to improve the customer experience while simultaneously improving productivity and risk management, Westpac chief executive Brian Hartzer said.
“This has included the implementation of a number of major transformation projects, such as the Group’s Customer Service Hub, which is already in pilot and an infrastructure and operations initiative that includes moving Westpac’s technology capabilities to the cloud.
“Importantly, under Dave’s leadership, the stability and efficiency of our underlying technology infrastructure has been materially strengthened, which has reduced outages and improved cyber security."
Future looks Bright
Westpac's chief described Curran's replacement as a "highly respected global business and technology leader, with more than 30 years’ experience in technology and financial services."
"He is a well-rounded executive, with both a consulting background and deep global banking experience across various banks in strategic and operational leadership roles."
Former colleagues of Bright told iTnews that Westpac’s new tech leadership hire was “a complete coup” adding that it was likely many senior technology staff at other banks would be keen to work for him.
Bright’s decision to head overseas after a stint at the NAB was followed by a period of tumult and bloodletting at the Melbourne bank as it conspicuously struggled to come to grips with the development of a new Oracle-based core system.
Importantly, much of Bright’s career path has centred around infrastructure delivery and modernisation, an area that has become critical to maintaining a competitive advantage in delivering cloud and software-defined services.
“Throughout his career, he has been part of some of the world’s leading banking transformation programs, and is now at the forefront of future-thinking on digital, mobile and data & analytics strategies for one of the world’s largest banks,” Westpac’s chief Hartzer said of Bright.
“I’m delighted that an individual of Craig’s calibre will be joining our executive team.”
Bright’s current role at Citi has him running technology strategy and architecture its massive consumer (retail) division, a role Westpac observed has him running cloud, DevOps and production.
Westpac was certainly not shy in calling out Bright’s Australian tech heritage noting that he started out with the State Electricity Commission of Victoria as a systems engineer.
Bright commences at Westpac in December.
More to come.