by Byron Connolly

A look back at last year’s CIO50: #9 Kim Wenn, Tabcorp

Jul 18, 2017
Big DataCareersCEO

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 Kim Wenn, chief information officer at Tabcorp who slotted in at number 9.

Read Kim’s story below:

#14: Kim Wenn, chief information officer, Tabcorp

It’s not often that a CIO is asked to drive the startup of a completely new business inside his or her organisation. But Tabcorp’s Kim Wenn is one of those CIOs.

“It’s a bit unusual but it’s a credit to our CEO [David Attenborough] who really understands that the business we are in is technology,” Wenn tellsCIO Australia.

Over the past 12 months, Wenn drove Sun Bets, the largest global venture the multi-billion dollar gaming and wagering organisation has undertaken in its 22-year history.

Sun Bets is a consumer-based virtualised wagering environment that enables Tabcorp to take its wagering business into other global jurisdictions, particularly the $7 billion UK online gaming market. Since its launch in August, more than 50,000 customers have registered and commenced trading with the organisation.

“As a CIO, I have a broad gambit now where I am starting to look after the international expansion of our business,” says Wenn. “Domestically, we are doing very well but we want to be a lot bigger than we are so part of that growth strategy is also around domestic opportunities.”

In August, Tabcorp – along with partner News UK – launched the Sun Bets online gambling business in the highly competitive UK and Ireland markets.

“We’ve seen an uplift in brand awareness across the UK – we had an 84 per cent conversion from a customer commencing registration to going all the way through and placing a bet with us. This is unheard of in our industry,” says Wenn.

Creating a joint venture with News UK has provided Tabcorp with a distinct competitive advantage as the newcomer in a highly competitive environment.

News UK’s assets include The Sun newspaper which has more than 10 million readers weekly and one million football fans engage actively through The Sun Dream fantasy football competition, which Sun Bets will tap into, Wenn says.

Tabcorp has tapped its Australian resources to support its new UK business in a truly global operation. Technology for the new business was built in Australia and the team is primarily based in Melbourne and Sydney and the products have been delivered in the UK and Ireland. Sun Bets is also 100 per cent in the cloud, meaning the offering can be rolled out in any country worldwide.

Digital team helps drive innovation

In recent years, Wenn has established a dedicated internal digital team in Sydney that operates relatively separate to the rest of the technology group but remains under her leadership. This allows the team to introduce new, agile ways of working and create closer collaboration with key business stakeholders.

This digital team played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Sun Bets business, Wenn says.

“The digital team is now looking to apply many of the learnings and ways of working to the wider Tabcorp technology so that the team operates in a much more integrated manner,” she says.

For Wenn, innovation is about understanding the business’ challenges and formulating creative solutions to solve its problems.

‘It’s also about understanding emerging technologies and knowing the business well enough to say, ‘hey this emerging technology, let’s say machine-based learning could play a role in our trading operations.’ Understand the business well enough – look at these technologies to help grow the business’ revenue or reduce cost. Innovation for innovation’s sake is pointless,” she says.

Knowing what the customer wants is also crucial, she says. “We try to understand everything that we do through the lens of the customer and provide new and interesting ways for them to transact with us.”

Using cutting-edge beacon technology, Tabcorp is enabling its customers to play Keno mobile devices. The NSW regulatory body stipulates that players must be within the walls of a venue to play and this innovative technology allows venues to pinpoint a player location and disable the game play as soon as they step out of the venue.

Tabcorp has also initiated a ‘proof of concept’ for the rollout of facial recognition technologies to provide an even more personalised experience for players.

Finally, Wenn highlights that responsible gaming is important to the organisation. In 2015, the organisation was awarded a score of 100 per cent in the responsible gambling category of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

“We have adopted technology to help recognise particular betting patterns and predict potential problem gambling issues,” Wenn says. This new technology allows the business to identify problem gambling at an early stage and enables the right people to contact customers and offer assistance in any issues.”

Despite this year being a year of transformation in the technology space for Tabcorp, core systems and processes in Australia remain a key priority.

The Spring Racing Carnival is the busiest time of the year for Tabcorp – no other wagering operator in the world manages the amount of transactions Tabcorp manages over an extended period of time.

On Melbourne Cup Day in November 2015, Tabcorp’s systems were processing a record 3,019 transactions per second. These major Australian race days are vital in Tabcorp’s revenue stream and in order to keep performance at its best, there has been extensive work to increase the size of the technology team and in attracting the right talent.

“The establishment and growth of the internal digital team allows innovation to flourish while maintaining a high standard of core operational systems,” Wenn says.

At the time of writing, Wenn was heading back to London after the Spring Racing Carnival in Australia to discuss strategy for 2017. “We need to make sure the operating model is polished and we need to look at the next exciting thing for the technology team to build,” she says.

The diversity battle

Wenn is passionate about attracting women to the science and technology fields. Although she believes the tech sector is making progress on the awareness front, she feels that current actions are not sufficient.

‘My really strong belief is unless we can get Year 8 and Year 9 girls to understand what a career in technology is going to mean for them, then we aer going to lose the battle,” she says.

“Unfortunately, when some Year 9 girls are making subject selections for Year 10, they are more interested in meeting the boys down at McDonalds or the colour of their nail polish rather than doing maths as a hard subject.”

Further action is required to fix the problem, she says.

Wenn is involved in formal programs through Tabcorp including a women’s mentoring program which four groups have completed. Wenn also supports a “Women in Wagering” group in her team which meets monthly to discuss challenges in the sector.