An interview with Dave Curran


Westpac’s Group Chief Information Officer speaks to Westpac about how Westpac Live has delivered value to the business.

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

Curran: First of all, may I start by saying how excited I am to have a CEO who is so tech-savvy and who, from his first day on the job, has recognised the importance of technology in the successful delivery of our company’s vision to be one of the world’s greatest service companies.  

In terms of investment priorities, the integrity, security and reliability of our technology is paramount. Beyond that, our strategic agenda is to bring to life new digital capabilities that will give our customers the best possible service experience – where, when, how and in the brand they want it. To do this, I will be investing in my team’s capabilities, the architectures that support the bank and the ongoing security and resilience of our systems. 

FST Media: What is your vision for the future success of Westpac’s core-platform refresh?

Curran: As I spoke about at your conference in Sydney last November, we are focused on building a  Customer Service Hub  to centralise all of our customer information. This will put the customer firmly at the centre of everything we do, enabling us to have a better understanding of our customers, and to provide them with the best possible service to suit their individual needs. 

FST Media: What are the long-term benefits for Westpac’s role in incubating startups through ReInventure, and how will you measure success?

Curran: We see many key long-term benefits through our work with Reinventure. Firstly, it enables us to be nimble in the startup space, which is typically hard to do when you are a large bank. Secondly, it allows us to have a portfolio of activities that we can draw from and leverage across the Group as opportunities arise. Thirdly, it is a great mechanism to keep us current with what is happening more broadly in the fintech industry. We will measure success through monitoring the return that our investments bring, and by identifying new services that we can introduce to our business.

FST Media: Where do you see cloud adoption in financial services in five years?

Curran: Over the next five years I think we will see a real separation between the banks that “could and did” and those that “could not and did not” adapt and leverage the benefits of the digital revolution: social, mobile, analytics and cloud. I personally believe that the successful banks of the twenty first century will be the ones that genuinely adopt and leverage cloud, to benefit their customers, shareholders and employees. My vision is for the Westpac Group to be at the forefront on cloud, not just in terms of adoption of services from the cloud but provision of services into the cloud. I see adoption of cloud services as helping to drive efficiency – think creating internal platform as a service (PAAS) capabilities to drive cost savings and provide better services to customers through improving variety, agility and availability.

I also see a real opportunity for us to think like a 200 year-old startup and find new ways to service our customers on line by providing new services in to the cloud for other companies to use. This is all about getting involved in transactions that are happening outside of the traditional banking world. Banks are part of the fabric that helps communities grow, and I want us to look at ways to open our closed world and provide banking services to our customers in the places that are convenient and most relevant to them.

At the same time we need to maintain customer trust and that is why the protection and security of our customers is a key priority for me and my team. The benefits of the digital revolution, like cloud, bring with them a wealth of opportunities, but they also bring new challenges, and we need to be aware of and alert to these, and remain ever-vigilant in protecting our customers.

FST Media: How has Westpac Live delivered value to the business and how will you measure success?

Curran: Our customers’ needs are changing rapidly. This is being driven by the fast-paced changes to the technology surrounding us all. As new digital products come on to the market, our customers are adapting and expecting more and more from us as a result. We designed Westpac Live to not only respond to, but also anticipate, our customers’ needs. It has redefined digital banking for our customers, providing a seamless and consistent experience as they move between their devices – mobile, tablet and desktop. We have measured our success through the way our customers have embraced Westpac Live. Three million personal customers and about 300,000 business customers (with more business customers coming on board every day) are using Westpac Live – giving them easy access to, and control over, their finances on-the-go. It is a market-leading offering and has won a number of awards including Best Innovative Online Banking Service in Money Magazine’s 2015 Best of the Best Innovation awards and a Good Design Award.

FST Media: What is your most effective customer acquisition channel and why?

Curran: At Westpac Group we are focused on serving our customers through any channel, anywhere, in the brand that best suits their needs. In this digital age, what is most important is anticipating our customers changing needs and responding quickly to those needs. We will continue to do that, whether it be through new online and mobile digital offerings, or locally, through the branch networks and bankers in our brands.

FST Media: What advice would you give to aspiring technology chiefs?

Curran: The most important thing to recognise is that the historical split between the technology and business functions in your company no longer exists. As such, I have four pieces of advice for aspiring leaders. Firstly, take the time to deeply understand the business you work in. Secondly, help educate the business you work in about the technologies that it can leverage, to provide the best service to customers. Thirdly, the Australian technology industry is way too short on leadership right now, so if you are an aspiring technology chief, you should focus on building your leadership skills, growing your networks, and thinking deeply about the ways you can add value to your business and the technology industry – if you do this the opportunities will be limitless. Lastly, and most importantly, have fun!

FST Media: Every leader has a legacy they wish to be remembered for, what is yours?

Curran: I believe that banking is a genuinely honorable business. We are part of the fabric that helps our communities prosper and grow. Over time, the industry in general had lost touch with this, but I think it is back on track now, particularly at Westpac where we are focused on being one of the world’s best customer service companies. I would be very proud of a legacy that showed that I helped simplify banking, so that the industry could truly become a customer service industry.