The CIO also has to have vision.
In Harte’s case, he believes banks have to spend big on IT to “re-architect the entire customer relationship.”
That might involve refusing to answer some tough questions. He couldn’t say for sure whether a bank could achieve return on investment on new mobile or social platforms. Near Field Communication, for example, provides no additional profit, only greater stickiness, which is harder to measure in dollar terms.
But he feels there is no choice. A deeper relationship with customers has to be “accelerated”, he said, to “prevent others from coming into the network and aggregating data to build richer relationships.”
Google might not compete with the Commonwealth bank directly on products, for example, but it might build a richer relationship that is related to the bank’s services.
Any deeper relationship with customers had to fall back on trust, he said.
“That's a conundrum: the world is radically open, and at the same time people are becoming increasingly private.”
Harte intends to build a behavioural and risk profile of every CommBank customer, to reward loyalty and adjust offers to suit individuals. The next killer app would be a free “cyber vault” to manage a customer’s online identity.
Banks should be a consumer’s most trusted partner, he said.
“We have to deserve that trust,” he said. “We have to keep all channels open. We have to respect the information we have, never resell it in any format, give a guarantee around security and maintain privacy with every individual.”
The question is: will Michael Harte be around to see it happen at the Commonwealth Bank?
He didn’t hesitate when asked if he would consider another technology transformation elsewhere.
He would like to give “two or three more years to deliver more value” to CommBank he said, before he would consider “ doing what I have done for the last six years somewhere else.”
As attendees filed out moments later, many must have wondered whether they had ever been so brazen.
Expect a run on cotton white shirts.