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An Interview with Adam Bennett, Chief Information Officer, National Australia Bank (NAB)

FST Media, 30 Mar 2011

FST Media: National Australia Bank (NAB) recently joined the Open Data Centre Alliance, a global cloud computing advocacy group. What cloud-based IT initiatives are in the pipeline for the bank in the year ahead? 

 

Bennett: There are polarised views on cloud computing: there are those who see it as the new frontier, and those who see it as a new name for an old idea. NAB is the only Australian company to join the Open Data Centre Alliance as a Steering Committee member. We intend to leverage this experience to determine the best way forward for cloud computing, not only for NAB but for the industry as a whole, while being considerate of the obligations we have to our customers and regulators.

 

FST Media: NAB’s core banking overhaul initiative, Next Generation (NextGen), is underway. How is this progressing; and what are the project’s key business objectives and deliverables?

 

Bennett: The NextGen program continues to progress very well. NextGen will build a new banking platform that is a significant upgrade of all of our banking, finance and risk systems, processes, tools and distribution channels, and is designed to make it easier for our customers to deal with us and easier for our people to do their jobs. We will then progressively migrate customers to this platform. Release one is complete and included the implementation of UBank – that continues to grow and was awarded Best Online Savings Account 2010 by Money Magazine and recognised for innovation excellence at the 2010 Canstar Cannex Awards. Releases two and three will occur over the next three years.

 

FST Media: To what extent are you involved in developing the IT roadmap of NAB’s branchless, online term deposit service, UBank? 

 

Bennett: I was involved in the initial thinking that gave rise to UBank when I was GM Group Development for NAB in 2007.  Now that I am CIO, I ensure that my team continues to play a critical part in maintaining the innovation that is critical to UBank’s continued success.  I am very proud of the fact that UBank has become Australia’s tenth biggest deposit taker in only two years; is at the forefront of innovation across technology, process and social media; and is continuing to set new industry benchmarks.

 

FST Media: What lessons have been learned from NAB’s late 2010 technology outages; and what strategies have been put forth to improve this part of the business going forward? 

 

Bennett: We are already in the process of implementing a number of programs that will enable our IT environment to become more simple, flexible and robust.  The NextGen platform will build on this and replace ageing legacy systems and infrastructure and also provide many improvements to our systems. This transformation journey began in 2009 and was a response to the fact that our system - as is typical across our industry – required an upgrade. In some cases these programs will take a few years to complete. In relation to the issue you refer to, we also engaged a number of third party experts to review our environment and we will continue to employ any other necessary improvements and controls that are recommended by them.

 

FST Media: NAB’s carbon neutrality achievement is supported by green IT initiatives such as technology collaboration and tri-generation data centre plants. How do you instil an acceptance and understanding for sustainable business and IT practices across such a large organisation?

 

Bennett: NAB committed to being carbon neutral in 2010 and worked very hard to do this. Taking a sustainable approach to managing our business is important not only for the environment, but for the long-term growth and resilience of our business. I think it resonates with our people that saving power and money while doing something to assist the environment has a double dividend. We have been lucky at NAB to have the commitment of senior executives across all of our business units who personally got behind these programs to drive them forward. We have provided our people with opportunities to get involved to reduce their impact on the environment both at work and at home.

 

I am personally very committed to leveraging my role to make a real and sustainable difference.  I am proud of the fact that one of our most significant energy efficiency investments has been a tri-generation facility for one of our major technology data centres. It saves around 20,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year – this is equivalent to 1,400 households and is an overall reduction in NAB’s carbon footprint of 10%. 

 

FST Media: NAB has gained significant traction with its mobile channel. What do you see as the next frontier of mobile banking at NAB?

 

Bennett: Our customers' response to our iPhone and Android apps in direct channels has been fantastic. NAB mobile banking has seen 250% growth in usage over the past six months, making it our fastest growing channel. We expect this evolution to rapidly continue and we will remain at the forefront of this technology.

 

At NAB we are continuing to experiment across the platforms' capabilities – browser, apps, voice, Near Field Communications (NFC) etc – so that we can find solutions that will provide customers choice about how they want to interact. We are also looking at evolving and improving the mobile version of nab.com.au. When 4G mobile networks roll out in Australia new opportunities will be created to interact and communicate with customers. The capability of the devices will also be a big driver of change.

 

FST Media: What are your top IT priorities for the next 12 to 18 months?

 

Bennett: We have very clear priorities in helping NAB get back to number one. As the function that provides technical support across NAB, we are focused on providing service delivery excellence to our colleagues and have developed a number of transformation programs that will simplify, improve and upgrade our processes and systems not just in technology but across all our operations support. We have outsourced the management of our infrastructure to IBM, which now manages our hosting and workplace environments across our NAB, MLC and NAB Wealth, Wholesale, Aviva and Advantage brands.  Our network transformation will modernise our network to support improved capacity, lower costs and provide greater scalability. There is also a large piece of work underway on getting ready for NextGen.

 

FST Media: What emerging technologies do you feel are changing the face of retail banking?

 

Bennett: While online and mobile channels will become even more important than they are today, particularly for transactional banking, I believe the impact of changing technologies will be different for each individual. For some, retail outlets will continue to be for more meaningful interactions, such as seeking financial advice. There is undoubtedly an expectation that connectedness, reliability and the ability to integrate information from different sources will become increasingly relevant; and already we are seeing a rise in the use of solutions such as Skype, wireless and social on-line media channels such as Facebook and so on.

 

FST Media: As CIO, what steps do you take to ensure you consistently reconcile technology investment with NAB’s business priorities?

 

Bennett: Reconciling NAB’s business priorities with technology investment is always a balancing act that requires a solid understanding of where the business is headed and how best to shape the future systems landscape. I work with various governance forums to ensure that investment in new capabilities such as NextGen is appropriately balanced against investment that is critical for maintaining the stability of our existing systems. We have invested in a number of programs and will also be looking to better leverage the expertise of our investment in supplier partnerships to achieve business priorities.

 

FST Media: Every IT leader, particularly at your level, has a legacy they wish to be remembered for. What is yours? 

 

Bennett: I am pragmatic about whether people are remembered or not over the course of corporate history, however if I am to be remembered, I would like it be as a leader in the general sense. Someone who left the technology function in better shape than when he started – someone who created a  more scaleable, flexible and responsive information systems environment, with people who were engaged and energised to work for NAB because they believed the best days for the organisation lay ahead.


An Interview with Adam Bennett

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Leading IT executives share insights on emerging trends: Hong Kong’s Technology and Innovation – The Future of Financial Services
Byline: Michael Pollack, FST Media

Pioneer takes the plunge into social media
Byline: By Michael Pollack, FST Media

New CIO at Westpac announced: restructure a sign of the times?
Byline: By Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Socialising banking: unravelling the complexities of engagement
Byline: By Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

CBA throws down the payments gauntlet
Byline: By Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Innovating from within: the power of employee engagement over technology
Byline: By Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Disconnect between IT and management revealed
Byline: By Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Industry standards must keep pace with Cloud adoption
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Internal cultural shift critical to cloud success: ANZ Wealth and Westpac
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Tighter risk control needed for banks, says rogue trader
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Citigroup A/NZ appoints new head of operations and tech
Source: Chloe Herrick, CIO Australia

Study: Banks cant measure real-time risk
Source: Chris Kentouris, Bank Investment Consultant

Banking industry goes on the attack
Source: Phil Jacob, Herald Sun

ANZ annouces practice sales facility; targets growth
Source: Chris Kennedy, Money Management

BT reserved on Count bid
Source: Kate Kachor, Investor Daily

Top 35 banks on Facebook
Source: The Financial Brand

Will NFC technology drive mobile payments initiatives?
Source: Justin Bomberowitz, BostInnovation

Achieving multi-channel delivery systems ranked number one in NZ
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

CBA boosts its super offerings with Count Financial buy
Source: Scott Murdoch, The Australian

Banks face rising online competition
Source: Chris Zappone, Sydney Morning Herald

Cloud risks outweigh benefits: ISACA
Source: Beverley Head, iTWire

Rabos Greg McAweeney takes the direct approach
Source: Peter Taylor, Herald Sun

CUA appoints new CIO from KPMG
Source: Suzanne Tindal, ZDNet Australia

Metlife only a phone call away
Source: Rachel Davis, Financial Standard

Westpac proves Azure cloudbursting
Source: Stephen Withers, iTWire

AUSTRAC spends $2.5m on Exadata upgrade
Source: Ry Crozier, iTnews

New BoQ chief executive Stuart Grimshaw says expansion has worked
Source: Andrew Fraser, The Australian

Bank of Queensland Finance rebuilds IT systems
Source: Liz Tay, iTnews

ANZ to complete NZ consolidation next year
Source: Liz Tay, iTnews

MLC announces insurance upgrades
Source: Chris Kennedy, Money Management

Suncorp chief saves praise for IT
Source: Ry Crozier, iTnews

After NAB, Barclays, Craig Bright heads to US with Citigroup
Source: Fran Foo, The Australian

Bankings switching flick
Source: Charis Palmer, Technology Spectator

European bank job bloodbath hits 67,000
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Technical glitch hits NAB, Westpac customers
Source: The Daily Telegraph

Commonwealth Bank promises mobile buzz
Source: Beverley Head, iT Wire

CommBank to kill legacy core next year
Source: Luke Hopewell

Commbank spends $93m to integrate Bankwest IT
Source: Liz Tay, iT news

Talent war heats up
Source: Mark Phillips, CIO Australia

IT industry braces for more market turmoil
Source: Brett Winterford, iT news

Financial markets to spend $18 billion on IT in Asia-Pacific by 2015
Source: Georgina Swan, CIO Australia

2016: All in the Cloud?
Source: Mark Phillips, CIO Australia

Treasurer called to step in on EFTPOS fees
Source: Michael Lee, ZDNet Australia

Fanning flames on the financial social media fire
Source: The Financial Brand

IIIS: Cloud brings stability to Suncorp IT
Source: Hamish Barwick, Computerworld

CIO shake-up at BT Financial and IAG
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media

Manila calling for your ANZ debts
Source: Michael Janda, ABC Online

Social media lends banks a helping hand
Source: Business Review

4 mobile trends every bank should understand
Source: Dan Wiegand, Bank Systems & Technology

NAB picks up spoils of lost Axa bid
Source: Bianca Hartge-Hazelman, The Australian Financial Review

Customers dont buy banks branding: survey
Source: Rachel Donkin, The West Australian

Narev succession points to a shift in CBA strategy
Source: Eric Johnston and Peter Ker, The Sydney Morning Herald

Bank of Melbourne aiming to walk with giants
Source: Stephen McMahon, Herald Sun

Westpac payments glitch resolved
Source: Glenda Kwek, The Sydney Morning Herald

ANZ Bank standardises software development
Source: Liz Tay, iT news

ANZ IT puts singular focus for catching up
Source: Fran Foo, The Australian

CBAs dated IT systems forced its hand, says ANZ
Source: Renai LeMay, Delimiter

ANZ bans iPad use for board members
Source: Australian Financial Review

Westpac banks on consolidation: the bank chose BMC tools to aid its transformation
Source: Jennifer Foreshew, The Australian

Westpac plans to hit rivals hard
Source: Eric Johnston, The Sydney Morning Herald

Westpac presses $70 million review button
Source: Paul McIntyre, Adnews

NAB asks want an ATM in your loungeroom?
Source: Finextra

Our peers had outperformed us: NAB
Byline: Melanie Timbrell, FST Media




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