Technology strategy in banking: constantly evolving

All big organisations constantly revise their technology strategies to deal with a rapidly evolving environment. Banking is no different. In fact the rate of technological change in financial services probably outstrips that of most other industries.

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ANZ Group Executive Technology Gerard Florian

But when we evolve those strategies, we must serve both internal and external customers - and to do that we have to work hard to understand them and their needs. As a technology group within a bank we also need to ensure our work is clearly aligned with the strategy of the business.

"Technology will continue to touch every aspect of the business and we must understand the customer and what matters to them more completely than ever before, both internal and external.”

So when I’m asked about ANZ's technology strategy and the key pillars we focus on, the priority for the group technology function is our strategy must line up with where the business wants to get to.

Our chief executive Shayne Elliott has identified four key areas of our business strategy: creating propositions our customers love; building platforms that give us opportunities to scale; looking for partnerships in an increasingly digital world; and focusing on the importance of our people and our purpose.

To be aligned with that the technology group needs to be both an enabler and a driver. After the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic there has been a realisation technology needs to have a bigger seat at the table in most big organisations.

People recognise the importance of technology and that means our group has to have strong opinions on how to capitalise on that realisation to deliver better outcomes for our customers.

A major part of our objective is supporting the adaptive, nimble business ANZ adopted several years ago. A more agile workforce has different technology needs. So less of the traditional monolithic technology stacks and more of an understanding of key components.

Moving on from the big bang

We must think about how we might use areas such as cloud, about things like integration and at the way in which we build the points of integration between those components.

We also need to think about things like the tools bankers and customers require when we make investments – while we continuously evaluate our environment.

Critically what we are doing is not a big bang project, not a one-off thing to go and build any more. It's building an adaptive technology stack that will support a business that is becoming more adaptive.

We have made great strides in this regard.

One area we’ve also focused on is doing a better job of convincing the business of the relevance of technology. Historically not everyone has been always happy with some of their experiences.

Our job is to get in front of those issues and explain to the business the value of the work we do. It’s been a long path but I believe the technology group is a well-respected part of ANZ and we know our work will make a material difference for our customers.

Making sure they have a seamless experience, whether they're retail, business or institutional customers, and whether it's through applications like ANZ Plus or our movement into new payment services.

Technology will continue to touch every aspect of the business and we must understand the customer and what matters to them more completely than ever before, from both an internal and external perspective.

We analyse those needs and work out how technology can make a difference. A good internal example is rolling out Microsoft Teams during COVID-19. It would have been easy just to roll it out, turn it on and say job done.

But spending time with our staff we got a better idea of the challenges they faced. We then developed and ran a range of education programs to specifically address those challenges.

We were creative about how we engaged staff in order to get them through that early work-from-home period. We now have a very high adoption rate across Teams across the organisation.

A new world in the cloud

One other key area of focus is our migration to the cloud. We’ve got a clear plan and are well into the process of migrating our technology estate to the cloud.

We would expect that over the next three to five years the majority of our estate will be in the cloud. We certainly believe in the fundamental principles around cloud as far as automation, elasticity, availability and resilience.

There will be some components we won't move to the cloud for a range of reasons. So it will be a hybrid strategy to use external cloud providers but also have a cloud-like environment with our own data centre for those applications we choose not to move. 

Another interesting development in cloud has come from the ANZ Plus proposition which launched recently. It’s been a helpful catalyst for what we were already doing in cloud.

ANZ Plus gave us an opportunity to think differently about how we combine a number of technologies or components using the cloud as a foundation. That allowed us to work with new infrastructure and also new application providers.

These included companies in the financial services areas such as Zafin but also organisations such as Salesforce which has a lot of experience in cloud. ANZ Plus enabled us to effectively build some key components of our technology stack, starting with the customer and working back.

Given the complexity of that environment and the amount of the cloud-based componentry, what we learnt can be applied elsewhere in the organisation.

So the benefit of ANZ Plus for the broader technology group has been two-fold. The procedures and ideas we developed will be reusable elsewhere within ANZ.

But also our people learnt new skills developing ANZ Plus. Some of those people will end up working in areas outside of ANZ Plus and applying those new skills there. The organisation will benefit significantly from that innovation which can have significant flow-on effects.

Gerard Florian is Group Executive for Technology at ANZ

This article was adapted from a podcast originally published by IT News

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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