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Transaction transformation

Like many banks in Australia, ME Bank is undertaking a technology transformation designed to lower costs and improve customer services. In this case however it doesn't have bricks and mortar branches to worry about.

ME Bank is owned by 30 Australian industry superannuation funds and brings banking services to 280,000 customers including unions and employment associations. It can supply anything from an ATM to a mobile video kiosk with a banking staff member to assist customers.

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ME Bank CIO, Kathryn Hawkins, is charged with delivering four phases, 15 projects and 24 solutions over four years. The project began in 2010 and aims to make ME Bank quicker to market, provide customers with the best experience, reduce costs and have an improved work environment for staff.

Phase one involved the implementation of technology that would support integration, business process management and security.

"The second year involved the selection of the core banking system and we have progressed along that path," she said. "This year we have completed the [core banking] design and we are now entering the final stages with that system.

"We've also delivered the first phase of our intranet reporting portal. As you can imagine, we're building an enterprise data model, so we need to be sure we're ready to go and use the tools to analyse the data."

CIOs to watch: ME Bank's Kathryn Hawkins

Hawkins has also found time to utilise the bank's new business process management platform and automate its Everyday Transaction account. Set to be released in August 2013, the bank is now testing the account.

"Every day you worry about something but I am very happy with where we are at the moment with the transformation," she said.

In addition, ME Bank is currently rolling out Windows Server 2012 and SQL. For almost 10 years, it depended on two core banking systems: A Windows SQL-based product called NTBS that managed all savings and deposits; and a Solaris-based solution called ULTRACS for loans and transactions products.

By deploying its core banking system using Windows and SQL Server, ME Bank can avoid major future upgrade costs. It has decommissioned the mixed Windows-Solaris environment.

"Everything about what we are doing is to improve efficiency and create agility so we needed to get onto one platform," said Hawkins. "It is about lowering our costs and need to have multiple databases."

Turning to cloud computing, she said the bank is keen to look at using a private cloud but has to go through the right processes with banking regulators. "Everyone is frightened of what they don't know but I think it [cloud] is the right step forward," Hawkins commented.

Having joined ME Bank in January 2011 from a not-for-profit organisation called Masonic Homes, she has some learnt important lessons about IT transformation. The key is for CIOs to have good governance across project timings and costs.

"You should ensure that this governance includes good buy in from every level of the organisation right through to the board," she said. "You also need an effective decision-making process and they need to be the best decisions you can make at that time. Openness and transparency with projects is also important."

For this reason, Hawkins prefers to call the program a business rather than technology transformation because it is driven by the whole organisation. This also means she spends "a lot of time" with directors and has a board technology committee.

Some tips from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) have helped round out the transformation too, she added. "We often talk to them about things relating to the transformation. CBA's transformation program was successful so we wanted to get some advice, which the group was happy to provide."

Follow Hamish Barwick on Twitter: @HamishBarwick

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