Tech drives NAB's $2 billion turnaround

The National Australia Bank has laid down a new, three-year information technology strategic plan to underpin an AU$1.8 billion investment designed to revitalise the troubled institution.

The National Australia Bank has laid down a new, three-year information technology strategic plan to underpin an AU$1.8 billion investment designed to revitalise the troubled institution.

Michelle Tredenick, NAB chief information officer for Australia told ZDNet Australia the just-completed document would help the bank move into the rebuild stage of its turnaround program, which is designed to cut costs, boost efficiency and improve customer service.

"The AU$1.8 billion program will very much be enabled by technology," she said.

The plan has three components: transforming the underlying platforms, architecture and asset base for technology at the NAB; achieving best in class technology delivery capabilities in key areas and governing and managing IT more effectively.

Some programs to deliver on these were already underway, Tredenick said.

The financial institution recently completed a 10-month overhaul of its IT unit, integrating five technology groups into one operating under a decentralised model to let tech staff stay close to individual businesses and help them realise their goals, she said.

To deliver on projects supporting the mammoth investment, Tredenick said the NAB would probably have to increase its IT headcount from the present 2,000 using either contractors, outsourcers or hiring new employees.

Key projects already underway include a new platform designed to give tellers a "broader" view of the customer, his or her interactions with the bank and automate customer referrals. Rollout was two-thirds complete and launch is expected by end-2005 or early 2006, she said.

To reduce loan application consideration times by 35 percent, it has set aside AU$20 million to re-engineer consumer lending processes, including the technology elements. The project is around 20 percent underway, she said.

Other projects on the books under the first 12 months of the revamp include implementing a strategic management information platform which would improve executives' insight into the performance of its businesses, a desktop and network infrastructure replacement project, and a "Total Finance" offering to higher-end customers that would integrate information about their wealth management and banking business holdings with NAB product data.

Tredenick said the organisation was preparing an RFP (request for proposal) for the enterprise-wide desktop replacement project, which replaces three previous initiatives across the Australian operations and affects 30,000-odd staff. The NAB has already settled on Microsoft Windows XP as the standard operating system across the bank, replacing a mix of Microsoft platforms.

The bank's turnaround program, devised in 2004, aims to see the institution reach "truly competitive" status by 2008. The NAB recorded a deeply difficult year last year, with a sharp decline in cash earnings reflecting what senior executives described as an over-complex cost structure, restrictive policies, poor compliance processes and lack of clarity in culture.

"Stabilisation" measures in the IT area undertaken under the strategic plan include cancellation of projections, a rationalisation of duplication, write-offs and reductions in amortisation and depreciation, NAB executives said in a presentation in Melbourne yesterday.

Rebuilding benefits in 2007/2008 would include simplification of the NAB's architecture, improvement of IT delivery capabilities and negotiation of better supplier contracts.

The bank holds its Teradata customer relationship management system as one of its key business strengths in the retail area.

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