New IT head takes St George's reins ahead of merger

St George has formally appointed its current acting IT head, Paul Newham, to take the CIO reins full time — just as the company gears up for a merger with Westpac and the ensuing IT hangover.

St George has formally appointed its current acting IT head, Paul Newham, to take the CIO reins full time — just as the company gears up for a merger with Westpac and the ensuing IT hangover.

Newham has been acting group executive for group technology and operations since the end of last year. Previously he was the general manager for group operations.

Newham's appointment is the second change in IT leadership since the beginning of last year, when long-standing CIO John Loebenstein bowed out and was subsequently replaced by Peter Clare.

At the same time, the company structure was also overhauled, with technology and operations combined into one division.

The new combined department was put forward to ensure "a fully integrated approach to processing and customer service improvements across the group," St George said, with the bank's chief executive Gail Kelly noting it was "clear that technology and operations are interdependent".

Newham may also face a combining of divisions in his tenure, if the merger of St George and Westpac goes ahead, which will create one of the private sector's "biggest IT shops", Michael Warrilow, director of research firm Hydrasight, told ZDNet.com.au recently.

Newham can expect to be busy for years to come, with Warrilow predicting last week that the banks' respective IT departments will be tied up for at least 24 months.

Unable for comment today, Newham was busy conducting due diligence for the merger, according to a spokesperson for the bank.

Newham may also receive significant investment in his department, with Gail Kelly hinting at an expansion of the new entity's IT capability should the merger be approved.

"The increased scale and integration of operations would drive further investment in our back office processes," said Kelly in a statement.

However, Newham will not have to deal with core banking system modernisation as his Commonwealth Bank counterpart CIO Michael Harte is tackling if St George holds to its plans, laid out in its half-year results, to continue relying on old systems.

"Overall our core technology platforms continue to perform well and have the capacity to meet the growing needs of the business," the results said.

The bank will, however, be updating its network. The next 18 months will also see it working with Optus to switch to the telco's complete IP network, Optus Evolve.

Marcus Browne contributed to this report.