AMP on getting Australian regulators onside for AWS shift

Financial services company AMP was one of the first Australian companies to turn to the cloud giant, but being at the bleeding edge meant it had to make a case for regulators.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Five years ago, Australia hadn't quite grappled with the concept of storing data on the internet somewhere. The country's government and regulators were also playing catch-up with what exactly this magical cloud was, and whether it was secure.

When Amazon Web Services (AWS) launched its Sydney region in November 2012, financial services company AMP wanted in.

But it first had to build a case for the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), the regulator that oversees banks, credit unions, building societies, insurance companies, and most members of the superannuation industry.

Although AMP's CTO Chris Bell is fresh in his role, he touched on what those before him had to do in order to send Australian data to the AWS cloud.

"The focus of the regulator is making sure that we have control of our data and we're understanding resiliency and stability of the platforms that we were putting into the cloud -- that's critical for our end customers," Bell told ZDNet.

"Like any big IT program or material outsource, we do have to have that dialogue with the regulator, so that's a critical and ongoing conversation ... it's something we spend a lot of time focusing on."

But at the time, AMP was breaking new ground, so it had to prove its case to APRA and "get them over the line", especially when it came to trust and security. Bell said the importance of engaging in dialogue with the regular can't be underestimated.

"That's been huge for us as an organisation, because really we have a cloud-first strategy now, so we were making big bets in other areas such as software-as-a-service with things like Salesforce and Office 365," he added.

Read also: Commonwealth pushes public cloud by default

AWS played a big part in convincing the regulator its infrastructure was secure.

"Obviously this being a new region compared with other areas of the globe, they were able to bring in some expertise and help with that," Bell told ZDNet.

"I think really the dialogue is starting to shift, and I think there's definitely a lot more trust with the regulator -- certainly I can only speak from an AMP perspective in terms of what we're doing -- but in general, there's a level of comfort around organisations running workloads in the cloud, and that's great for us and something we'll continue pushing."

Bell said it was clear to AMP back in 2012 that cloud was going to be a big part of its technology, in particular due to the cost, agility, and innovation the platform promised.

"The first couple of years we had some really good, early wins on the board, so we took something like 50 percent of our x86 infrastructure out of the ecosystem by moving to AWS -- we took 30 percent off the bottom line in terms of infrastructure cost in that move," he explained.

"That was a real proof-point to our business and technology organisation that this was a safe bet and something we should continue to invest in."

Having focused a lot on automation where manual tasks were concerned, Bell said the future will see AMP leverage AWS to perform advance use cases around customer sentiment and also around customer profiling.

"We've established a centre of excellence that sits within the CTO function and that team's role is really to look forward toward the new capabilities that are coming down the pipe from Amazon and how do we fold those into the strategy, and how do we really leverage those skills and capabilities," he explained.

For the 2017 financial year, AMP reported AU$848 million in after-tax profit -- a AU$1.19 billion swing from FY16's AU$344 million loss.

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