An Interview with Craig Sims


Pollack: What are your top IT priorities over the next 12 to 18 months?


Sims: The New Zealand Simplification project, which will move ANZ and the National Bank onto a single IT system, is our top priority this calendar year.


Having one IT system will radically simplify our business and help us deliver better services and products to customers. This will help meet our goal of ANZ being New Zealand’s best bank.


We’re also working on payments changes, focusing on lifecycle management of IT assets, providing secure, stable high quality services and enhancing ANZ’s technology capabilities to meet business needs.


Once New Zealand Simplification is complete, we’ll be able to easily introduce new services to all ANZ NZ clients (currently, we need to do this twice as we’re running two sets of systems) and we’ll focus on multi channel banking developments, like smartphone apps and mobile banking enhancements.


Pollack: ANZ New Zealand undertook a major integration project with the National Bank last year. How has the move to a single platform streamlined operations?


Sims: The project’s timeframe has been extended. We are making good progress, and are already delivering significant improvements for customers. Our goal is one system that makes banking simple for our customers, and easy for us to deliver the banking experiences they want.


Last year we completed a review on the implementation phase of the project. It showed we needed more time to fully test our systems ahead of going live with implementation.


We are now in the thick of the test phase, and this year we’re concentrating on testing and rehearsing for conversion.
We’ve extended our timelines because the project is complex and it’s critical that we get things right. We don’t want to put our service at risk.


In moving to a single core system, we’ve already:


1. Reduced complexity for ANZ and National Bank customers by simplifying our product suite, including successfully decommissioning around 80 products


2. Migrated over 380,000 customers to the simplified suite of products, which are now more relevant to customer needs and more competitive.


3. Completed initial staff training on systems and processes to ensure National Bank and ANZ staff are fully up to speed and can continue to seamlessly support customers.


4. Made more than 100 functional releases, adding value and increased functionality for new products and some existing products. This clears the way for conversion activity in 2012.


We’re on the right track as shown by our increases in customer satisfaction, and ANZ and The National Bank gaining first and second places, respectively, in the Sunday Star-Times Canstar Cannex Bank of the Year Awards.


Pollack: ANZ’s goMoney mobile application pioneered Person-to-Person (P2P) payments. What does the future hold for banking via portable devices?


Sims: We’re pretty excited about the opportunities we see in this area. Smartphone penetration in New Zealand is expected to be well over 60 per cent within two years, with Android and Apple operating systems dominating market share.


Customers expect to be able to do their banking anywhere, anytime. We’re making sure we’re the bank that meets this demand.


The trends are all positive; mobile views of the ANZ and NBNZ websites are increasing month-on-month. Interestingly, we’re finding Android views are growing at a much faster rate than any other operating system.


ANZ is actively developing an Android app to meet customer demand and we’re looking to roll out further ANZ goMoney enhancements once the NZ Simplification project is complete.


Pollack: Do you see social media as a worthwhile retail banking channel and, if so, how can it best be utilised?


Sims: Social media is a great way to connect people and communities, and ANZ is building its presence in this space.

Currently, we’re tweeting regularly and we’ll be on YouTube and Facebook shortly.


Pollack: ANZ CIO Anne Weatherston has said that cloud computing is not a priority for the organisation because regulators in Australia are not comfortable with the concept. How has the technology been received by regulators in New Zealand?


Sims: Cloud computing offers some interesting possibilities, but it’s not a focus for our business at this point. Financial services regulators here and in Australia have significant concerns about being able to ensure customer security via clouds.


Data security and integrity is critical to ANZ, so we’re not looking to explore this approach as an option for our New Zealand business. However, we will watch this space closely as it continues to evolve.


Pollack: What are the immediate objectives of ANZ NZ’s planned increase in IT security expenditure?


Sims: This year’s focus is strongly on our ‘Log, Monitor, Respond’ capability. This means identifying security related events, correlating them to any similar previous events and reporting and responding quickly.


We are also improving our capability in the asset lifecycle management area and improving our configuration compliance management.


Looking ahead to 2013, we’ll continue our focus on these areas and concentrate on Access and Identity management. We are implementing a system to manage and automate staff system access and how this access is maintained as they move around ANZ.


Pollack: What do you see as the top IT trends in the market at the moment?


Sims: Broadly speaking, I’m seeing four key trends playing out:


1. The ‘consumerisation’ of IT: today, IT demand is driven by what’s wanted on the high street just as much as by what’s needed by big business. As devices like Apple TV make it into the nation’s living rooms and smartphones do everything from pay for a meal out to helping you find your nearest ATM or branch, people expect banks to keep pace with how they are using technology. The possibilities are huge, but need to be balanced against delivering banking to customers in a convenient and secure way.


2. Cloud computing and software as a service: while cloud computing isn’t for ANZ at this stage, we are seeing vendors approaching us with newer, more innovative ways of hosting services.


3. Mobile Payments and peer-to-peer (P2P): these channels are now mainstream and are great examples of consumers shaping IT. Traditional banking channels are blending and blurring as new ways of offering services open up. It’s getting easier and easier for consumers to access everything they need via their phone or computer, and that’s creating some exciting possibilities in how we apply tech solutions to meet their banking needs.


4. Simplification: we are seeing more and more organisations doing what we are doing and getting back to basics to try and unpeel decades of complexity in their architecture. We hope we are ahead of the curve. We believe this is going to introduce a step change in how we operate, making it far simpler to offer the key services our customers want via channels that are the most convenient for them.


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


Sims: Personally, I’m not worried about legacies. What the team and I do collectively to deliver better banking to New Zealanders is what matters.


There have been some radical industry changes over the last 20 years that mean this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Banks have gone from operating fairly straightforward branch based banking models in the 90s to being multi-channel providers working under complex regulatory and capital management frameworks today.


Our customers don’t care about this though; they just want to be able to get on and do their banking in ways that work for them.


At ANZ, technology has a really big part to play in making this happen. We’re responsible for developing the systems that let our customers bank when and how they want, and providing technology that’s great quality, stable and simple to use. All of the team are focused on this, and delivering the NZ Simplification project later this year will help us provide even better banking to our customers.