Jacqueline Guichelaar is general manager of the technology operations group at National Australia Bank (NAB). Here she shares her views on attending her first Sibos event, industry collaboration between bank IT professionals and opportunities for technology vendors to better align with banks' priorities.
Technology Operations supports delivery of infrastructure services to the group’s Retail Banking, Wealth Management, and Institutional Markets & Services as well as other NAB Group divisions, such as the Bank of New Zealand. Guichelaar's area of responsibility spans more than 350 employees and the bank's IT infrastructure in the Australian and Asia Pacific region, as well as components of the UK banking business.
Finextra: This is your first Sibos event, and comes just four months after joining NAB from Deutsche Bank. What are you hoping to achieve at the event, and how does this align with your current strategy at NAB?
JG: I'm particularly interested to find out during the event what some of the larger banks are doing in terms of managing high transaction volumes – what Swift tools and processes they use and how they approach it differently to the smaller banks, many of which are now reaching a point where they encounter scale challenges.
Meeting peers from other banks is at the top of my agenda over the course of the week, and both the day and evening events provide a great opportunity to network.
I'm always looking for opportunities to improve, either in the processing side, the cost side or the products and services we deliver to customers. With technology, the more people you can find who are targeting the same kind of strategy you are, the more comfortable you are that you're on the right track. So IT management within banks tend to be more open to collaboration and have less competitive issues.
You sometimes get the view that there might be sensitive areas. But normally the types of discussion I have with senior IT people from other banks are quite collaborative. Usually both parties have something to gain. For example, at Deutsche Bank, I had an informal network of peers at European banks that would get together or catch up over the phone to discuss what we're doing with technology in general, data centre strategies, that kind of thing – just learning from each other. And since joining NAB I've begun to establish relationships with peer organisations here – the likes of Macquarie Bank, ANZ and Westpac.
Finextra: What kind of trends are you seeing in technology-related strategy at NAB and the industry generally?
JG: I think the operational efficiency agenda is still very important for most banks, whether small and large, whatever their region. Also, finding ways to launch new products and service to market faster, and getting technology to lead the bank rather than just being responsive to business requests. This requires a bit of a change in mind-set and culture. On the IT side we need to be aware we're not just running technology, we're actually running a bank. We need to consider how to use technology to transform what the bank needs to do, not by taking a back seat, but by leading. Just because you work in the technology area it doesn't mean you can't take a lead role.
At NAB over the last four months I've been working internally on this kind of transformation, and there is realisation and nodding heads that this is what needs to happen.
Finextra: Have you seen any indicators of successful change so far?
JG: The seeds are starting to grow. We're finding the technology voice is now being invited to the table in business discussions. It comes with time, and developing relationships and business understanding. It requires the business to understand that having technologists involved adds value to their agenda. But it also requires the technologists to understand that agenda. We need to not just be thinking about what's happening in mainframe technology, but also what does the retail bank need to be doing to be competitive in the market?
Finextra: What technology developments will help banks address their operational efficiency needs in the coming years?
JG: Definitely commoditisation. Banks want their technology to be more cost-effective, easily deployable and reliable. And the industry is shifting in that direction, with things like on-demand, pay-as-you-use models. But this needs to be more than just processing power, and be combined with bank technologists thinking about how it is used to serve and drive the business. Some global banks have made initial headway, but I don’t think anyone's really cracked it yet.
Utility computing needs a lot more focus and investment. It's not what it could be. I think there's been a bit of a mismatch in appetite. Several years ago the vendors started making a big noise about utility style, pay-as-you go computing, but there probably wasn’t a huge amount of demand. Now I think that appetite has grown, particularly in the financial sector, but the vendors aren't pushing it as hard.
It's also about investment and partnership. If you've got a foundation today, you need to find the right two partners to invest more in it, and make it become what it could be. I don't think anyone's done that yet, although a bank and a vendor working together would be well placed to drive it forward.
Finextra: Are there any other areas of interest for you at the exhibition, such as technology that NAB is looking at?
JG: I'm interested in how to run banking operations more effectively, and whether there are tools you can buy off the shelf that really fit the bank's needs. It's not really banking or payment systems – it's quite a fundamental, broad reaching requirement, kind of like an ERP for the IT world, and I think there are only several tools that address this in any way.
I want to run operations more effectively and really understand what's going on end-to-end – not only from a back-end technology point of view, but also to the front office, service levels and impact on the business. I want to know this before I look at developing or introducing tools for managing things better, because unless I can actually see everything end-to-end from a business process level I don't know where I should be trying to improve.