by Byron Connolly

A look back at last year’s CIO50: #3 Tim Thurman, Australian Securities Exchange

Jul 27, 2017
CareersFinancial Services IndustryInnovation

CIO Australia is running its second annual CIO50 list which recognises Australia’s top 50 IT most innovative and effective IT chiefs who are influencing change across their organisations.

This year’s top 50 CIO list will be judged by some of Australia’s leading IT and digital minds. Our illustrious judging panel in 2017 includes the Australian government’s former chief digital officer and now Stone Chalk ‘expert in residence’ Paul Shetler; and former Microsoft Australia MD and now CEO, strategic innovation at Suncorp, Pip Marlow.

Nominate for the 2017 CIO50

We take a look back at last year’s top 25. Today, we profile Tim Thurman, the former chief information officer at The Australian Securities Exchange who slotted in at number 3.

Read ‘s story below:

#3: Tim Thurman, former chief information officer, Australian Securities Exchange

Over the past two years, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has been implementing a $50 million transformation strategy which has seen it replace every piece of its core technology. This has included four clearing systems, six risk systems, and all the underlying applications that support them.

CIO Tim Thurman has been driving this program, which has three years remaining. Thurman says when the transformation is complete, the ASX will be one of the most “ground-breaking exchanges on the planet”, driving efficiencies for capital markets and opening Australian markets for business on a global scale.

The initial drivers for the transformation project were to bring the ASX and SFE Corporation (which merged with the ASX in 2006) together from a technical point of view, says Thurman.

“We did a great job with the brand but the next step was [to merge] technically and it was a big challenge to figure out how to do that – the ASX is one of very few vertically integrated exchanges in the world.

“To grow the business, we needed to have the technology to support the business. Having two separate stacks of technology that were ageing – we couldn’t do a whole lot quickly and be more agile,” he says.

The most critical piece of technology that needed replacing was the ASX’s client-facing Trade24 trading platform, which was more than 15 years old.

“This was the most critical piece of technology we had to replace because that was very client-facing,” says Thurman. “Our goal was to create a better experience for our customers with a state-of-the-art platform.”

Another key initiative has been the replacement of a default management service, which has moved from a slow, manual process to one which runs in seconds across multiple asset classes.

A new derivatives platform was also delivered to clients in August for a three-month trial period before it is put into production in January 2017. Thurman says this platform allows the ASX’s global and domestic clients to use global trading models that in the past have not been used in Australia.

In addition to this, the ASX has commenced its post-trade strategy, which involves consolidating all of its clearing systems down to a single platform.

“This in itself has been two-and-a-half years’ work,” he says.

Thurman admits that managing risk and ensuring systems are running smoothly when operating in a 24-hour market is challenging.

“The biggest challenge any organisation has is starting the journey. When I got here, we put together a pretty detailed transition strategy. It took a long time for the organisation to understand and be comfortable with it. When you tell people you are going to swap out every core piece of technology, they get very nervous,” Thurman says.

Meeting business and technology with a “full blown” transformation strategy is about making compromises, says Thurman. To ensure there is transparency across the portfolio work, Thurman and the executive team meet once a month to review project status and act more as an “escalation point.”

Individual business streams, including the technology department, meet every two weeks and these streams manage the budget and resources across the business.

“On large scale projects, we have a leadership team which has 100 per cent responsibility on achieving the objectives and delivering the technical strategy,” Thurman says. “This team has a 10 to 15 minute standup every day.”

Move to an Agile methodology

The ASX, its customers and vendors have moved from a traditional Waterfall software development approach to a very Agile methodology, says Thurman.

“We started off with one project and very quickly worked our way to implementing Agile on one of our biggest projects, the replacement of our trading platforms,” he says.

This required an ASX-wide organisational change and more importantly, a culture change as Waterfall processes were all the IT team knew. This impact was potentially huge as it would not only affect the technology group but the entire company.

“Three years later, we are now getting it but we have a long way to go as Agile is a ‘fit-for-purpose’ process. To facilitate the cultural change, technology has gone through several organisational changes to align with the services and business. Our business alignment is taking place now and could not have happened any sooner.”

Thurman says that the ASX has now matured enough to take it to the next level, which consists of fully integrated product lines containing the business and the delivery arm of technology.

“We knew we would have challenges and some people would need to leave the ASX but we needed to bring in new blood. We had commitment for change at board level and we had a top down approach. This alone set us up for success but at the end of the day, it comes down to the teams, the people and their attitudes. We have taken the people of ASX on a transformational journey and it’s working,” he says.

Unique innovations in the trading world

The ASX earlier this year invested $14.9 million to acquire a five per cent equity interested in Digital Asset, which develops distributed ledger technology similar to the Bitcoin blockchain. In August, the ASX completed the first phase of work on a potential blockchain-based replacement for its CHESS system, which provides clearing and settlement services.

“We thought we would experiment with Blockchain to understand how it fits into our technology strategy. We are working hard on this one. We have a really good vision of how we want to use it [the blockchain]. We are going through the design and a proof of concept that worked very well and we are going into the build now,” says Thurman.

“We are the only [exchange] in the post-trade world that is going to have a solution for production. Ours will replace the existing post-trade environment, which is CHESS.”

Meanwhile, the ASX is looking at potentially applying machine learning technologies to its market announcement service. But the jury is still out and the organisation will work with its peer exchanges to gain more insight into how they use these technologies, says Thurman.

“I’m a big believer in not reinventing the wheel. If it [technology] exists today and it works, I will take it and revolutionise on top of it.”