Former Telstra CIO Jeff Smith has been appointed group executive, Information Technology of the new financial giant created by the multi-billion dollar merger of insurers Suncorp and Promina.
"We expect to achieve significant synergies in the IT area, and Jeff has the skills and track record to deliver these," said Suncorp's chief executive John Mulcahy as he announced his new executive team this morning in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange. The team will start work tomorrow.
"Technology will be crucial to the merged group, so we expect Jeff's experience delivering similar large-scale integrations means he will be well placed to deliver a range of competitive future platforms for the merged group."
Smith will recognise at least one familiar face as he joins Suncorp -- former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski, who helmed the telco during Smith's tenure as CIO -- is currently a non-executive director at the insurer.
Smith has a 22-year history in the IT industry, with his most high-profile role seeing him operate as the CIO of Australia's largest telco Telstra for three years to March 2005. Smith pushed the cause of open-source software within the company, and oversaw the ongoing integration and consolidation of Telstra's internal IT systems.
Since that time, Smith has worked as an executive director of local baby technology supplier Majitek, which sells enterprise services based around grid computing, virtualisation, software as a service, digital asset leasing and service oriented architecture technologies. A spokesperson for Suncorp said he believed Smith had now left Majitek.
Majitek was primarily created by the founding members of Sausage Software, one of Australia's early dot-com successes that sold the Hot Dog Web editing software.
Filling a gap
Suncorp has been without a dedicated head of its technology function since July 2006, when the company's long-serving CIO Hemant Kogekar left. The financial services giant moved IT into an expanded Central Services portfolio at that point, lumping it alongside human resources, marketing and other functions.
The Central Services division was headed by Diana Eilert, Suncorp's former group executive of its General Insurance division. However, Suncorp today said Eilert would leave the company.
Smith will face the daunting task over the next few years of integrating Suncorp and Promina's separate and extensive technology systems. Suncorp has said total integration costs of the merger are expected to be circa AU$395 million, with the consolidation of assets (including IT) between the two companies expected to deliver net savings of AU$225 million per annum.
The new company will operate under the Suncorp banner (but maintain individual branding in some of its divisions) and have some 16,000 staff working in over 450 offices, branches and agencies across Australia and New Zealand, serving more than eight million customers.