Interview with Paul Rickard, Executive General Manager Premium Business Services and CIO, Commonwealth Bank


SHARWOOD: Security and stability are two of the main consideration for business banking customers. How do those concerns impact on your strategy for using electronic channels?


RICKARD: Security and stability are absolute requirements for electronic channels. They are not ‘optional extras’. They don’t impact on the strategic importance we place on being the leader in the provision of on-line services – however, they do have a major impact on the architectural design of the systems and of course, the development and testing effort.


SHARWOOD: What do you envisage to be the most disruptive trends facing the banking sector at the moment and why?


RICKARD: The banking sector always faces challenges but there is no question we are currently operating in a particularly volatile environment. However, the landscape is clearly starting to change. The US economy is slowing and the effects of the US sub-prime crisis are playing out – the contagion effect is increased funding costs and increasingly expensive global debt markets. These challenges serve to make our work more important to the continued success of the Group achieving its vision of being Australia’s finest financial services organisation by excelling in customer service.


SHARWOOD: Does Web 2.0 impact the way you think about how to provide banking services online?


RICKARD: It is well known that the Commonwealth Bank is committed to working toward being the finest online banking and financial services provider. We are constantly exploring new ways to exploit new technology but recognise that they must add value and support our customers. It is important to understand new technology and developments so we can exploit them but equally we should not get caught up in hype. Generally, I believe that customer needs will continue to evolve and particularly as it relates to the internet, we are in a period of rapid technological change and innovation.


SHARWOOD: You are in the very fortunate position of being in an organization which is led by a former IT executive. Has the technology focus of the CBA in the past 5 years made your job any easier?


RICKARD: Our CEO, Ralph Norris, who has been with the Group two and a half years understands technology which is a fantastic positive for our IT professionals. He is committed to ensuring we have the best systems to deliver excellence in customer service and he has made technology one of five priorities underpinning the Group’s strategy.


SHARWOOD: The Commonwealth Bank recently ended its long term outsourcing relationship with EDS. What is the bank’s attitude to outsourcing at the moment?


RICKARD: We have a very strong and close relationship with EDS and they will continue to provide mainframe, midrange and desktop services at least until 2012. In the application space, our approach is to have a small panel of preferred vendors and we are using the services of HCL, Tata and IBM. We have a ‘multi-sourcing strategy’, and look to leverage those competencies externally when and where it makes sense. Our experience to date is this approach makes good business sense and enables us to leverage technology capabilities and expertise effectively and efficiently.


SHARWOOD: What are your top three initiatives for your division within the next 12 to 18 months?


RICKARD: In my sphere of the Bank we have a number of key projects at various stages of development and implementation. I am particularly enthusiastic about the industry initiative with Bpay and the other major banks and what it will mean for our customers. Our work on our payment systems for EMV (Eurocard, Mastercard,Visa) will usher a new standard for chip based credit and debit cards, including contactless payments. Enhancements to our CommBiz system – the leading online transactional system for business clients in Australia – are also in the pipeline. It’s a busy time which will bring genuine value add to the Bank.


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


RICKARD: CommSec is already part of my legacy, however, I will add to that by saying that the Commonwealth Bank has the best online transaction systems for business and institutional clients in the Asia/Pacific region.