By Glenn Hodgeman on 3rd February 2015
Do the Australian banks get the Fintech revolution, well Brian Hartzer does. After working for Westpac in Sydney as their Global Head of Credit Trading for over 4.5 years. I have been watching closely the handover of the CEO reins from the much admired Gail Kelly to now Brian Hartzer. As of today, Hartzer has officially taken over Westpac, and as expected has announced his new management structure. Those changes in fact were not substantial, except for one, the CIO David Curran now reports directly to him.
But so what, I hear you ask, having a CIO report directly to a CEO can’t be unusual? Maybe not, but how many of those Bank CEO’s genuinally would have the background and skill set to fully comprehend the enormity of the changes that IT is bringing to their industry? Well, it seems to me, Hartzer might just have those qualities.
In a really interesting article this morning in the AFR by James Eyers, he quotes Hartzer as being committed to “continuing to push the boundaries as we adopt digital technologies”.
Sounds like it might be a lot of new CEO rheteric that I have heard before? Yet Hartzer’s, background in technology goes all the way to his teenage years. Where he taught himself to program computers and later in fact started to teach coding. Before joining banking he worked for over 10 years as a consultant in the banking industry, more recently with very senior roles at RBS and at ANZ.
In the P2P space, many players were quite excited that Westpac was the first bank in Australia to make an equity investment in the Australian P2P lender SocietyOne. This stake was via their venture capital group Reinventure. Though, the investment is relatively small, it provides the bank an opportunity to see the new business models of P2P. To evaluate the technology and processes and really judge the customer opportunity.
Whether in fact Westpac can successfully harness and significantly transform their IT, that is another question. But what they have now, is a leader in Hartzer, who not only understands the potential for technology to revolutise the industry. But Hartzer is now one of the new generation of business leaders, who truly understands that properly harnessing the power of IT, can service their customers in a completely different way.