St George CIO flags June retirement

update St George Bank chief information officer John Loebenstein will retire at the end of June this year, with the bank restructuring its technology division in his wake.Loebenstein has been with St George for 12 years, and has overseen key IT projects such as the integration of St George's IT systems with those of Advance and BankSA after the groups' merger in 1997, and St George's Y2K, GST and Best Bank projects.

update St George Bank chief information officer John Loebenstein will retire at the end of June this year, with the bank restructuring its technology division in his wake.

Loebenstein has been with St George for 12 years, and has overseen key IT projects such as the integration of St George's IT systems with those of Advance and BankSA after the groups' merger in 1997, and St George's Y2K, GST and Best Bank projects.

John Loebenstein

"As a consequence of John's retirement, the Group has taken the opportunity to realign its organisational structure to support its longer-term customer focus strategy," St George said in a statement today, noting it would create a new Group Technology and Operations division headed by the bank's former head of Group Strategy, Peter Clare.

That new combined division would ensure "a fully integrated approach to processing and customer service improvements across the group," St George said, with the bank's chief executive Gail Kelly noting it was "clear that technology and operations are interdependent".

Peter Clare

Kelly said in the statement the restructuring would be effective from 2 April this year. She also thanked Loebenstein for his "wonderful contribution" to St George over the past 12 years, and wished him every happiness in the future. "He is both a friend and a strong team member and we will miss him," Kelly said.

Loebenstein's replacement Clare took on the Group Strategy portfolio at St George in February 2002, coming from the Commonwealth Bank where he was responsible for the integration of Colonial Ltd. He previously held a number of senior operational roles.

High-flyer
Loebenstein has long been one of Australia's highest-profile CIOs, and has not hesitated to speak his mind on issues affecting the nation's IT management community.

For example, in late 2005 the CIO publicly warned organisations against blaming the IT department for inadequate returns on a project, when the performance of the group as a whole should instead be evaluated.

In a period which has seen some CIOs lose their direct reporting role to their organisation's chief executive, Loebenstein has advocated the need for CIOs to sit at the management table. IT professionals could be poor communicators at times, Loebenstein told a conference in early 2003. "Start breaking down barriers, start talking to each other," he urged.

Kelly today said Loebenstein had left "a very strong platform" and would also be remembered for "significantly strengthening and improving IT-business unit engagement."

The executive has more than 30 years experience in the IT industry, working in South Africa and the United Kingdom as well as Australia. His St George biography says Loebenstein has had a particular career focus on business systems and customer requirements, "achieved through efficient project management".

Loebenstein's last reported remuneration at St George was AU$1.291 million in 2006, with a substantial proportion of in incentive payments based on goals reached.

St George's last annual report for the year ended 30 September 2006 stated the bank had in the last year in the past year continued to build on a large customer relationship management platform installed in 2005. The bank also re-negotiated key supplier agreements and signed a landmark partnership with IBM for some back-office processing functions.

In addition, in the last 18 months St George has substantially upgraded its Internet banking platform, introduced a text message transaction verification service, upgraded its business intelligence and ID management toolsets, wrapped up a branch telephony refresh and upgraded its data network.

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