Fintech startups should be respected, not feared: NAB CEO

NAB boss Andrew Thorburn has said his company is a fintech company that can offer a chance of steady funding, and an opportunity to change the banking industry.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

National Australia Bank (NAB) chief executive Andrew Thorburn has said his company is looking to make faster, bigger, better changes, and to do that, it needs to embrace the hunger found within fintech companies.

"I actually think we are a fintech company ourselves. I think we have the mindset of a fintech company, and I actually think we have a lot of the assets of a fintech company," Thorburn said at an IBM forum in Sydney yesterday.

"Fintech companies -- the smaller, emerging ones -- they're hungry, they want to make an impact, they find an opportunity, and they go after it. And that's the sort of hunger we need inside our own company.

"They should be respected, but not feared."

Thorburn said the banking industry has a record of innovation, having handled the arrival of the internet to create services and products that are taken for granted, and that it needs to do it again.

"I think we've got brands, we've got customers, we've got technology assets, and I think we've got the ability to hire people who want to work in a large company where that sort of funding can be steady and reliable, and where there is an opportunity to not just change the company, but change an industry already there."

The NAB CEO said he is confident of the bank's action matching his words.

"We are putting money, resources, and we are starting to get the drive and the purpose as to why we need to do this -- it's starting to line up," he said.

"It is a great time to be in banking, because there are so many challenges, and there are huge opportunities for the bank."

Also speaking at the event was IBM president and CEO Ginni Rometty, who was keen to push the company's cognitive computing vision, the poster child of which is its Watson product.

"I am very confident about this, five years from now, you will find every important decision ... be aided in some way by cognition systems in the background," she said.

"I think it is an opportunity. I think regardless of your role, everyone is going to be disrupted again."

Cognitive computing would see uptake in big data and security applications, the CEO said.

"I think without it, your business has no chance of keeping up with this flood of data, the tsunami that is being created."

The CEO was visiting Australia and catching up with major clients of Big Blue, only two months after the company won a long-running court case against the Queensland government over the bungling of Queensland Health's payroll system.

The state government originally settled with IBM in early 2011 over the debacle, in exchange for IBM fixing the system; however, former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman announced in December 2014 that the state was taking legal action against the tech giant.

Another former Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, admitted last May that the state government was at fault for the malfunction of the health payroll system and it was not the failure of hardware or software.

In its latest released set of financial results, IBM Australia reported a 47 percent drop to AU$82 million in pre-tax profit for the year ended December 31, 2015.

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