by George Nott

ANZ CIO: ‘We want to be a more open bank’

Jul 05, 2016
Business IntelligenceCollaboration SoftwareCompliance

From across the street, passers-by can see what’s happening on all three floors of ANZ’s glass-clad Martin Place branch. The big-screen self-service stations, the tablet tables, the angular sofas – the whole space brightly lit and on full display.

Unveiled in May, the new flagship is a fitting location for Scott Collary’s first media roundtable as ANZ’s CIO. He tells the gathered journalists: “We want to be a more open bank.”

That goes beyond media relations. ANZ is making APIs open source and supporting the developer community in creating new uses for its latest devices. It is releasing an internal modelling language called Sysl for free. It is giving customers access to the same digital platforms that staff use for improved self-service. It’s CEO has gone public about partnering with fintech groups. There are beanbags.

ANZ’s openness doesn’t quite mean leaving the vault door ajar. It’s still a bank so, as Collary puts it, “we can’t expose everything to everybody” but it is developing tooling and techniques to make it easier to connect to its legacy systems, and building APIs on the assumption they may be released externally.

“I want the inside of ANZ to look like the outside world from a technology perspective,” Collary says. “If [platforms are] proprietary and closed and we have to rely on just our capacity to extend and build, you get a limited impact from that, but the rest of the world’s moving in a different way – it’s more open, accessible, developer communities, open source – and you’re going to see us do more of that.”

Tech transformation

Collary joined ANZ at the end of 2014 from Citibank, where he was a CIO responsible for consumer banking tech in North America.

After taking several months “just understanding how the company worked” he then began looking at how the bank’s development teams designed and deployed new technology.

“Historically we have built [innovations] individually in New Zealand, Australia and Asia,” explains Collary.

“What we’re looking at more and more is enterprise capability – instead of building a notification service three different times, for three different places, we’re building it once then through APIs and other integration capabilities we’re exposing it to everybody.”

There’s been a transformation, Collary says, from building technology that’s “built to last, really proprietary, heavily structured, based on processes” to a model of “continuous delivery”.

A year after Collary joined the business, ANZ named its new CEO, Shayne Elliott. His appointment further elevated the focus on technology, says Collary, making it “a bigger part of what we do”. That’s set to continue with former Google Australia and New Zealand boss Maile Carnegie joining the bank as group executive digital banking later this month.

Although the approach to tech is changing, the core banking systems will not, said Collary, despite overhauls at ANZ’s rivals. The existing CSC Hogan system was simply “not a hindrance” and would not be considered for an update until “we hit a point where it can’t do something”.

“We’re doing all this great, cool, innovative stuff and it doesn’t factor, the core, at all frankly,” he says.

Cool stuff like being the first Australian bank to offer Apple Pay. There was an online and mobile banking facelift at the end of last year. An all-in-one MPOS device will be released in the coming months.

Break the stalemate

Many of those recent releases have been borne out of the Agile working methods Collary and his colleagues have brought to the bank.

“Things like Apple Pay and Android Pay, some of the new features and functionality we’ve rolled out on our desktops in our branchs, was all done in a more Agile environment,” he says.

Agile is about changing the process end-to-end; from securing funding to building capacity, and creating a culture of continuous improvement, he says.

Digital and channels run with ‘true agility’ and even those groups linked to core systems can benefit from Agile ways of working. They still have kanban walls, daily stand-ups, retrospectives and collaboration. His team are working though the technology stack “picking off the things” that can benefit from automation and continuous integration.

The working environment has also been adapted to suit Agile methods. Business technology and operations teams have been brought together. Carnegie is sure to feel at home among the new pods, scrum zones, mood-lit chill-out areas and beanbags.

As Chris Venter, head of consumer digital technology, explains: “[Those offices] look very non-bank. These are the kind of things you need to attract the right kind of digital talent to an organisation like ANZ. To try and break the stalemate of the view of being a traditional bank.”

Innovation plus trust

Although innovation and agility is key, Collary says, releases have to be solid and trusted.

“Customers of the bank…they trust us with their money, they trust us with their data and they want us to keep it secure and private. And so that has to be our primary consideration. If you get too far out ahead where some of those things may not be completely locked down and trusted and understood – I think you’re putting too much at risk.

“For us, we’re going to be innovative, we’re going to push but we’re also going to keep a really strong handle on data security, privacy, fiducial responsibility. We’re going to test and learn. Fail fast and fix.

“We’re not going to put ourselves in a position to tell the customer – ‘look we tried it, it worked eight out of 10 months’ or ’10 out of 12 months your statements were right, two they weren’t right’. We can’t do that, right?! As a bank you just can’t say ’99 out of 100 transactions are going to work. Sorry we were just trying something new.’”

‘Make technology easier’ for employees

Internally, ANZ is progressing well in its company-wide Windows 10 deployment. To ease the headache of time-consuming upgrades, Collary’s team developed a ‘push-button’ update.

“[It’s a] capability that allows employees, at their leisure, when it’s good for them, to hit a button and two hours later the whole desktop or laptop’s upgraded.”

“It gets us out of this major push across 63,000 desktops that’s time consuming, expensive and not always at the convenience of the employee.”

More applications are being rolled out and upgraded and they’re now available via an ‘internal app store’.

“We’ve taken a ‘make technology easier’ approach for the staff to get them more comfortable with some of the things we’re rolling out,” explains Collary.

Surface Pros are also being piloted and there have been improvements to an employee app so workers can check their leave balance and time-sheets.

“In some large building we’ve created that ‘genius bar’ concept with a couple of tech folks just around the buildings where people can ask questions and find out how to use things better and if they have a problem they can be immediately taken care of right there,” says Collary. “The response from the staff in those building has been fantastic.”

The bank has also rewritten contracts with major suppliers to take advantage of their RD work. ANZ were an early adopter of IBM’s Watson and extended its collaboration with Big Blue with a $450 million contract in September.

Let it loose

CEO Elliott said in October: “At ANZ, building a digital bank isn’t the real challenge we face. Building agile people and a supporting culture which can recognise new trends and adapt to the ever changing needs of our customers is.”

The appointment of Collary seems to be on track with this aim. As Venter said of his style: “[It’s] been a really great change to see Scott introduce the mindset of allowing us to take all the creativity that we’ve got within our teams and let it loose.”

“At the end of the day, we’ll be a more open bank, that’s what we have to be to evolve,” added Collary. “We didn’t do events like this, we didn’t talk openly and transparently. We want to change that.”