CommBank core overhaul on track

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia's core banking project is progressing on track and on time, according to SAP's local head Tim Ebbeck.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia's core banking project is progressing on track and on time, according to SAP's local head Tim Ebbeck.

Tim Ebbeck
(Credit: SAP)

"On time, on budget and on track for value delivery," he said of the project that will have SAP's system at its core. "Six months after they signed a contract with us they had their first product out on the new core banking platform," he said. "Not talking about it, not designing it, not architecting it. Out. Working." According to Ebbeck many people didn't seem to realise how far ahead Commonwealth Bank was with the project.

It had gone so smoothly that many didn't know a changeover had occurred, according to Ebbeck. "The people actually using this don't know it's actually the new integrated core banking system," he said. "There's actually products out there running today on that new platform and it's not just in one part of the business isolated over here — it's part of their core offering."

So far, the Commonwealth Bank has publicly announced the launch of term deposit products and a new front for NetBank — although that triumph was dulled slightly by the NetBank issues the bank dealt with at the end of the financial year. Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte has said that the bank hopes to get the whole core banking program done in three and a half years, angling to gain a first mover advantage.

Fittingly then, Commonwealth Bank was the first to announce its decision to modernise the banking systems which sit at the core of its business. National Australia Bank has also announced plans, but after embarking on phase one of the project — creating a system for its new online bank with Oracle — the bank hasn't gone public with the next step.

NAB had brought in consultants Ernst & Young to track the progress of the project and there were reports that the report the firm had given was not positive. However, a spokesperson for the bank said the check was routine and that the project is moving to plan.

Yet Commonwealth Bank won't wait for banks to catch up. "It's all right to talk about a platform, it's another to actually deliver one," Ebbeck said. "I know for a fact that Commonwealth Bank is actually doing so."

Ebbeck feels confident enough about how the project is going to take on another banking customer for the same type of work.

"If you'd asked me this question 12 months ago, my honest answer would have been that I wouldn't do another one right now. I don't think it would be right for SAP and I don't think it would be right for either customer. I don't think that's true any longer," he said.

Westpac and the Australia and New Zealand Banking group are yet to decide which core banking system they will run with when they decide to upgrade, although ANZ has said that will be a while coming in Australia.

Ebbeck believes the Commonwealth Bank experience is an ace in SAP's pocket. "I'd contend that Commonwealth Bank is a case study in business transformation globally," he said. "I'd never seen a project run as well and efficiently with an eye to value delivery as distinct to just specification delivery."


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