Update: This article has been updated with additional statements from Westpac regarding the position of Westpac CIO Clive Whincup.
news Westpac Banking Group has dramatically shaken up its senior IT executive team, slicing some responsibilities away from previous top IT dog Clive Whincup and reportedly making its chief technology officer Jeff Jacobs redundant.
Previously the bank’s group general manager of service delivery in its technology division, Whincup was appointed chief information officer in early December 2011, to replace prior CIO Bob McKinnon. Before joining Westpac in May 2009, Whincup had been director of service delivery, group infrastructure and IT operations for Lloyds TSB UK. Before that he was CIO for Lloyds’ UK retail bank. He has 25 years’ experience in the IT and financial services sector, including at other banks such as the Bank of Scotland and the Banca Popolare de Milano in Italy.
As CIO, Whincup had been responsible for the bank’s overall IT operations and reported to Westpac chief operating officer John Arthur (McKinnon had reported directly to Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly).
However, in a statement released today, the bank said the executive would lead what it described as its “new Innovation & Strategy and Enterprise Architecture functions”, as well as being accountable for developing the strategic roadmap for Westpac’s future technology requirements along with further building a culture of innovation across the Westpac Group.
The move essentially means a demotion for Whincup, as the bank’s General Manager of Investments & Business Partnering Les Vance has been promoted over his head to the role of chief operating officer, Technology, which, according to Westpac, “will focus on the day-to-day running of technology and the delivery of the technology change agenda”.
In a statement issued to Delimiter following the publication of this article, Westpac emphasised the expanded nature of Whincup’s role. The bank said: “Clive will have responsibility for overall innovation and strategic thinking for technology and the Group. His role includes responsibility for business architecture, enterprise architecture, digital enablement and development, WorkSmart program, Information Security, engineering and core banking strategy.”
It is believed that all existing chief information officers in the Westpac Group will also maintain a matrix reporting line through Whincup.
Westpac’s statement to Delimiter didn’t include information on the future of Westpac CTO Jeff Jacobs, whose remit saw him setting the technology direction for the bank over the past two and a half years, according to his LinkedIn profile. That profile states: “The CTO function covers Strategy, Enterprise Architecture, Solution Architecture for all business domains, Engineering, Governance, Planning and the Information Security Group.”
However, according to a statement the bank provided to Business Insider, which appears to have reported this story first this week, as a result of the changes, Jacobs’ role “will no longer exist”. The changes appear to see Whincup taking over much of the responsibility for Jacobs’ position.
Following the publication of this article, the bank also issued the following statement to Delimiter regarding Jacobs: “As a result of these changes Jeff’s role will no longer exist. Jeff has made a significant contribution to Group Technology over the past six years, playing a major role in the development and execution of our IT strategy in 2009 and, more recently, in laying out the Technology roadmap for 2017. He will continue to work with Clive during this transition.”
Unlike Whincup and Jacobs, Vance does not appear to have a direct history in IT management, having instead having a history in the legal and financial sectors as well as with gaming giant TAB.
This news, coupled with the loss of prior Westpac CIO Bob McKinnon several years ago, represents a significant weakening of Westpac’s top-level IT management expertise when it comes to technology. Whincup and Jacobs had, between them, been holding the reins of the bank’s major IT projects and at least had a direct relationship with the bank’s COO, if not its CEO as McKinnon had done.
The appointment of an executive to lead Westpac’s technology operation without a direct focus on the IT management career path will come as a severe disappointment to the bank’s extensive IT workforce, and sees Whincup marginalised into the enterprise architecture area; a critical one for any bank, but one without direct oversight of IT projects. From here, it looks like Whincup will be working on architecture and “innovation”, but not getting his fingers too dirty on the big banking overhaul projects which are so critical to the bank’s future.
I think this kind of shift has been coming at Westpac for a while, and it’s not surprising. However, it is disappointing. Westpac is not Commonwealth Bank, which has a brand new core banking platform which it is leveraging to the maximum. Nor is it National Australia Bank, which has a massive concrete project in this area with Oracle. Westpac is a little ahead with respect to its IT than ANZ Bank, which appears to be treating technology development as a taboo subject at the moment, but it’s not very far ahead.
With the appointment of a non-IT specialist executive to lead its technology portfolio, Westpac is signalling that it will now take a conservative approach to the development of its technology infrastructure. I suspect many at the bank will find that extremely frustrating. I suspect Bob McKinnon is looking at the whole situation right now and either laughing or crying.
Image credit: Still from Gladiator