Changing of the guard: National Australia Bank

Summary:Get an insider's look at the recent history and potential imminent future of the National Australia Bank's technology operation in the second of our Changing of the guards series examining generational change in the nation's big four banks.

The new bank

The idea of reworking the systems which make the bank tick is a daunting one, and one which new group CEO Cameron Clyne might not necessarily have chosen. Clyne was announced as former NAB group CEO John Stewart's replacement in July last year.

Clyne moved over from being CEO of the bank's New Zealand operations, although he had previously worked within the Australian operations as executive general manager of group development. Before that he had worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers and at IBM's consulting arm.

Changing of the guard

This extensive overview of the National Australia Bank's technology operation is part of's Changing of the guard series, which looks in detail at the use of technology in Australia's four largest banks, following a series of executive appointments that have resulted in an almost complete turnover of banking technology tsars. The remaining profiles will be published over the next few weeks.

It didn't take long for Clyne to adjust the management to his liking, replacing Tredenick with former colleague Adam Bennett as CIO. Speculation abounded that it was Satyam's fall, injuring NAB's offshoring construct, which had doomed Tredenick to be left by the wayside.

Not so, according to sources close to the bank. Tredenick and Clyne had simply never gotten along back when he was executive general manager of group development, they said. Meanwhile, new CIO Adam Bennett had been with Clyne since his days at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The pair's biographies run along parallel lines. Bennett had been general manager of banking delivery services at the Bank of New Zealand under Clyne, before which he was general manager group development in Australia.

Before joining the group in 2005, Bennett worked at Capgemini and Ernst & Young and spent over 12 years in consulting with PricewaterhouseCoopers and IBM. Given this, it's unsurprising that one former bank employee called him "Cameron's man". He also expressed concern about Bennett's lack of IT background.

Yet others in the industry see Bennett's appointment as positive, with one source describing him as "fundamentally different to Michelle", claiming Tredenick was unapproachable even for direct reports, not listening to their concerns, let alone others in the organisation. Bennett, on the other hand, is said to listen to employees, even those who aren't his direct reports, digging down into the organisation to get views.

There are those in the industry who question whether Tredenick's core banking revamp plans sit well with Clyne, as the bank commissioned a review of the strategy. Speculation has focused on the idea that although Ernst & Young found the core banking renewal necessary, the consultancy said the planned execution left something to be desired.

However, the bank has said that recommendations of the report are being finalised and an update will be provided to the board next month. As such any such speculation is unfounded. "Any comments presupposing the outcomes are purely speculation and not based on fact," a spokesperson for the bank says.

The review was an "interim checkpoint" of the program, according to the spokesperson, and there would be more of them at key points in the project life cycle. As to whispers that the planning process was behind schedule, the spokesperson said the project was tracking to plan and since it was a multi-year program, there was no start and end time frame for planning.

Alternate agendas

The core banking renewal will always depend on support from the upper echelons, and given his history with Clyne, Bennett should have it. Yet there are other projects on the bank's mind.

Former group CEO John Stewart had a regional focus, as shown by comments in an interview with CIO magazine. "When I came here, IT was centralised; it had great strategies but it didn't work. So what I did was devolve IT into the businesses and it has been very successful. It is really important to get this one right," Stewart said to the publication.

There are those in the industry who question whether Tredenick's core banking revamp plans sit well with Clyne, as the bank commissioned a review of the strategy.

Clyne, on the other hand, is said to prefer a group focus, a legacy of his years being executive general manager group development. Thus it seems logical that one of his first steps was to combine the group and Australian CEO roles, with the result that NAB's Australian CEO Ahmed Fahour was moved to another role and later left the bank.

Therefore it could also suit the executive that one of the items on his agenda is the development of ServCo, an internal services company that aims to consolidate to one way of doing things across the globe in terms of terminology, tools and processes. One example would be negotiating with one supplier across all regions within procurement.

ServCo is headed up by Glenn King, the same executive who is currently heading the core banking revamp, according to NAB. King moved over from a key operations role at NAB's UK operation, Yorkshire Bank. The bank would not comment on speculation that it would soon be looking for a separate head for the core banking project.

Given that the same executive is currently heading up both efforts and that it seems likely that IT would have a role in helping with a plan to consolidate processes across the group, this could indicate that the bank's Next Generation Platform could be complicated by alternate goals. Bennett will need to be able to untangle the requirements of both to be able to produce the outcomes the banks want.

Yet he will have to step cautiously, as shown by the failure of NAB's achingly similar Integrated Systems Implementation project, which looked to form a single platform for the group. Bennett will need to use any connection he has with Clyne to make sure the bank's IT stays on the rails because the last thing the bank needs in the middle of the global financial crisis is another expensive write-down.

Topics: CXO, Banking, Oracle


Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for t... Full Bio

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