by Julian Goldsmith

CIO Profile: Nationwide’s Tony Prestedge on why he has no CIO

May 07, 20124 mins
CareersIT Leadership

See also: Tony Prestedge on transformation Tony Prestedge on technology

Nationwide Building Society is undergoing a £1bn business transformation programme, overseen by its COO Tony Prestedge. One of the most significant changes during the transformation programme has been in strategic sourcing, in terms of relationships with Accenture, TCS and IBM as principle application development support and testing partners.

This has been a big shift with a move from 90 per cent in-house IT staff to a world where broadly 40 per cent are permanent staff, 40 per cent are employed by strategic partners and 20 per cent come from the contract market.

Prestedge admits he has yet to focus heavily on the impact of tech on working practices. The virtual desktop will give employees more freedom to access systems outside the workplace, subject to the relevant security requirements, he says.

Deployment of smartphone technology is happening slowly at the building society, and it does have a paperless boardroom, with tablets improving board interaction outside of formal meetings.

It doesn’t take long to see that Prestedge has a deep understanding of what it takes to transform a banking organisation that can only be gained by a career’s worth of experience in the industry.

Prestedge spent most of his career at Barclays Bank, before a move to Portman in 2004 where he was in charge of technology and transformation and customer processing.

Portman merged with Nationwide in 2006, and Prestedge led the integration of the two businesses over the next 12 months.

Prior to leaving Barclays for Portman, Prestedge was a member of the retail board and MD of home finance, including the bank’s mortgage business.

“It was an end-to-end P&L business in terms of strategy, product development and pricing,” he recalls.

Transformational remit

For a long while now, Prestedge’s remit has been large-scale operational management always with a strong transformation bias and technology has necessarily been a strong component of that transformation.

Prestedge joined Nationwide in 2007 on the board as group development director, in charge of group strategy and planning, group corporate affairs HR and change management.

He was appointed COO in November 2009, accountable for operational strategy and architecture, business transformation, enterprise application development, customer operations, infrastructure services, governance and risk.

From the start, Prestedge went about radically rearranging the operations management infrastructure. He chose to merge operational and capacity planning, group operating model development, business architecture, IT strategy and architecture as a single direct report.

“I think it’s really important that architecture as a capability and IT strategy is a subset of the business plan,” he says.

He appointed a business transformation director accountable for technology as well as transformation, and separated out the direct report in enterprise development into analysis design build and test.

He appointed a group services director, Deborah Bailey, to be accountable for IT operations and datacentre management, but also for payments because, as Prestedge maintains, in banking you can’t separate the two.

Finally, he created a direct report in charge of customer operations and product processing.

“I think I’ve ended up with much stronger integration between the corporate strategy and the investment decisions you make in IT,” says Prestedge.

“It means the ability to argue for investment in IT is enabled because you are having the conversation about technology requirements alongside business requirements. You have a single view of your benefit flow, a single investment management process and an ability to prioritise based on business outcomes,” he explains.

“This requires a much more disciplined management style because you have to bring people to the table to collaborate on an enterprise-wide basis.”

This dissolution of the CIO’s role may be good for embedding technology in the business, but isn’t the downside a loss of technical expertise?

Prestedge disagrees, saying he is able to determine what software choices are available because he has worked on the integration processes. As a business line leader, Prestedge says you cannot improve your processes or functions without understanding the technology that enables them.

IT is just another consideration alongside those of employees and products.

“Am I a coder? No,” he announces. “Do I feel any less credible as a COO with a responsibility for technology? No I don’t.”