Your transformation plans should ‘scare you’: CBA’s IT chief

CBA’s chief information officer, David Whiteing has delivered a blunt warning to his fellow technology and business leaders: If your current business transformation plans don’t scare you, they’re not bold enough and you’ll be left behind.

Whiteing – who took to the stage at the AIIA’s banking and finance forum yesterday – said the technology choices leaders are making should scare them, as well as the capabilities required to deliver results.

He said tech execs may look at their existing teams and “realise that half of them have to be retrained” or “you have to go and recruit new graduates who’ve got these skills.”

He also suggested that plans should be scary because “business leaders haven’t worked out that they are at the edge of a cliff and about to take the next step.”

“I don’t care what the level is but you should be afraid at some level and you should be excited because it’s a different world that it creates hellip; it creates a job if you are a technology person that is so relevant to the future of the company.

“When people talk about robotics and machine learning and AI, you should feel confident that you’re going to be the last person that’s left in the company not the first person that’s going to be leaving.”

CBA is investing heavily in machine-to-machine and AI technologies. Whiteing told the audience that more than half of all transactions processed through CommBank’s Salesforce platform are now ‘machine-to-machine and event-driven.'

Whiteing said CBA ‘will probably hit a target' of delivering more than 100 million conversations per week using this method as the bank strives to improve customer engagement.

During his wide-ranging presentation, Whiteing addressed the ongoing tech skills crisis quoting research published by the Australian Council of Education, which indicates that the maths and science literacy scores of our 15-year olds continues to go down year-on-year.

“Meanwhile, China, Singapore, and Hong Kong are sharply trending up hellip; on an exponential curve. 31 per cent of Chinese students are performing at an elite level and 56 per cent are performing at a high level in these two topics,” he said.

“The equivalent for Australian students is 4 per cent and 15 per cent,” he said.

He then highlighted that 22 per cent of university graduates in Australia in 2002 were from a STEM background. That figure is now 15 per cent, he said.

CommBank is running a campaign where customers are asked questions when they withdraw cash from an ATM. This is the first phase of a campaign the bank is running to determine what is on customers’ minds, Whiteing said.

“One of the questions we ask people is, “Do our kids have the skills they need for tomorrow?” 50 per cent of our customers have answered ‘no’,” he said.

Whiteing pointed out that more than three-quarters of Australia's economic growth in the next 20 years will come from the technology sector.

"It should terrifying all of us that it may be exclusive growth. That is, it's not available to a lot of Australians because of choices we are making today."

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