Westpac CIO: How my ‘200-year-old startup’ stays agile

There's more to it than just adding widgets, established companies need to leverage their legacy

Westpac CIO Dave Curran (left) with IBM managing director ANZ Kerry Purcell

Westpac CIO Dave Curran (left) with IBM managing director ANZ Kerry Purcell

Remaining agile is one of the biggest challenges facing CIOs today, says Westpac Group tech chief Dave Curran.

Describing his bank as a ‘200-year-old startup’, Curran said larger organisations needed to both work with Agile methodologies while leveraging their legacy processes.

“We’ve all gone Agile,” he told IBM’s Think Forum in Sydney. “And we’re all trying to make that happen, we’re all trying to build things [using] Agile [methodologies]. But unless we free up the logic in our organisation, unless we API enable it, cloud enable it ... then you end up just being agile – you’ve just rearranged your website, you’ve just added a new widget to your mobile [app], you’ve done a little more insight.

“But you haven’t actually leveraged the core DNA and logic you’ve been building up over decades and centuries. And that race is on, because if you don’t someone else is going to do it.”

Larger companies should be primed for change like start-ups but could fend off disruptors with their might and experience.

“You don’t live to 200 years as a company unless you’re adaptable, unless you change,” he said. “We’re in a digital revolution right now, it’s the next wave of change that we’re facing, and if we don’t think like a start-up … then we will be disrupted by everybody else. You can’t lose your legacy, you can’t lose your history and you can’t lose your passion for your customers.”

“We’re going to be continued to be nibbled away at by the start-ups and the disruptors. We have advantage – we have scale and experience and depth of knowledge – how do we turn that around and bring that agility to the customers how they need it rather than how we want to sell it? That’s the biggest challenge.”

Curran also explained how the bank’s information security efforts were increasingly introspective.

“Security used to be – protect the perimeter. Then it was – lock your front door and put the alarms on. Now we’re assuming they’re inside. Now you put sensors inside the house and make sure the safe is put behind a picture.

“The same thing is happening in the world we work in that – assume they’re inside, go looking, find them but before you find them, make sure you’ve hidden what’s really important so they can’t find it.”

Data, Curran said, was increasingly a company’s most valuable asset.

“Why do people rob banks? It’s where the money is. Why do people break into organisations? It’s where the data is. Data has become the biggest asset in your company.

“The flipside is how you protect it has become number one in terms of how you protect your business.”

Last year, Westpac Group announced it would be increasing its annual investment spend by 20 per cent to $1.3 billion with the bulk of it dedicated to technology, digital and simplification projects.

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