An Interview with Richard Harris


Sainsbury: What are your top IT priorities for the next 12-18 months?

Harris: The key priority for retail banking at VIB is over-hauling our online banking, mobile banking and payments gateway.

Sainsbury: What attracted you to move from roles in Japan and Australia to one based in Vietnam?

Harris: The opportunity to move to a developing market where just 20 per cent of the population have a bank account was very exciting to me. The ability to influence a bank the size of VIB in a market like Vietnam, at this stage of its development, was an opportunity I found difficult to knock back. Additionally, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is a 20 per cent shareholder of VIB. Their commitment to invest in a significant Capability Transfer Programme allowed the best of both worlds – a local bank in a local market with support from a globally-ranked Top 20 bank.

Sainsbury: What key trends do you see shaping the banking sector in Vietnam into the future?

Harris: There is a huge growth in the use of banks; Internet usage and smart phones will change the nature of banking and payment in Vietnam. Also, the appetite for smarter payment options for utilities changing quickly. For example, in 2012 VIB started collecting bills for Electricity Vietnam over the phone and in-branch, providing an alternative payment option for the 30 million households that normally sit at home waiting for bill collector to visit.

Sainsbury: How do the socio-economic differences between Australia/ Japan and Vietnam influence your approach to IT?

Harris: That is a great question. I am amazed at how quickly and cost effectively we can deliver innovative solutions in Vietnam. We have a very tech savvy workforce, a result of our young country (the median age in Vietnam is just 27, compared with 36 to 39 in Australia and Japan).  In addition, the partnership with CBA helps bring the experience and expertise to this market. We have three senior CBA IT resources at VIB full-time, including the CIO.

Sainsbury: What opportunities do you see for leveraging IT to enhance the retail banking experience?

Harris: We are looking to use IT to deliver a multi-channel approach that increases convenience to the customer. This will allow VIB to live the vision of being ‘the most customer-centric and innovative bank in Vietnam’. We have recently launched our leading smart phone application, which offers customers innovative new services, including the ability to pay utility bills. We are now working on a new internet banking platform and further enhanced payment options.

Sainsbury: You’ve got a close relationship with Commonwealth Bank in Australia. As CBA is a renowned technology innovator, what benefits has this brought VIB?

Harris: The partnership with CBA has been a huge part of our early success. In addition to my role, CBA has provided VIB with their CIO on secondment; two additional senior IT resources; and an expert in online banking. Together, the team is leveraging all the learning’s of CBA and adapting these to a bank of VIB’s size and maturity. You will see a lot of exciting changes at VIB over the next 12 months as a direct result of this partnership.

Sainsbury: How do you foster innovation within your team?

Harris: In Vietnam it is particularly important to make all staff, no matter where they sit in the hierarchy, comfortable to have a voice and raise ideas. We have made significant efforts to ensure that our team is able to do so. In the case of our online initiatives, we have provided a huge amount of customer feedback, including filming the joys and frustrations of real customer interactions.

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

Harris: Creating assets and a culture of innovation that ensures VIB sets the standard as the number one alternate channels bank in Vietnam.

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