Westpac CIO Whincup to lead Woolworths’ IT



news Westpac chief information officer Clive Whincup is set to leave his position just weeks after it was revealed the bank had dramatically shaken up its senior IT executive team, with retail giant Woolworths having reportedly confirmed the executive as its new CIO to replace outgoing IT chief Daniel Beecham.

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.

However, in early January this year, Westpac confirmed a restructure of its senior IT ranks. As part of the restructure, Whincup’s role was to be diminished. The executive was to lead what the bank 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 meant a demotion for Whincup, as the bank’s General Manager of Investments & Business Partnering Les Vance had 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”. Westpac also made its CTO Jeff Jacobs redundant at the time.

This afternoon it was confirmed that Whincup would not remain with the bank. “Clive Whincup will be leaving Westpac to take up a new role,” Westpac said in a statement issued this afternoon. “Clive has played an important role in the delivery of Westpac’s technology strategy. We very much wish him all the best for the future.”

“Paul Spiteri will act as interim CIO, while we conduct an internal and external search. Paul is currently the CIO for our Payments and Shared Services. There will be no impact to the IT Leadership team. Paul has acted as Clive’s delegate on a number of occasions so is familiar with the team and the responsibilities of the role.”

Subsequently, quoting a spokesperson from Woolworths, the Financial Review reported this afternoon that Whincup would take the recently vacated role of chief information officer at the retail giant.

The role has been empty since October, when UK retail chain Morrisons poached long-term Woolworths CIO Dan Beecham, in a move aimed at applying the executive’s substantial skills in retail IT transformation to IT systems Morrisons itself has admitted are severely aged.

Beecham has been CIO at Woolworths for the past six and a half years, in which time he helped oversee one of Australia’s largest technology transformation projects, Project Refresh, which totally overhauled the retailer’s supply chain distribution systems, tying Woolworths closer to its many partners and gaining it a substantial advantage in the delivery of fresh food and in cutting back-end costs, compared to rivals such as Coles.

However, the executive didn’t stop there. Over the past several years, Woolworths has been engaged in a number of smaller technology projects which have again positioned it as an innovation leader when it comes to the use of IT solutions in retail. In April this year, for example, Woolworths revealed it had decided to shift its 26,000 employees to the cloud-based Google Apps platform.

That move followed a decision in August last year to deploy Gmail to Woolworths store managers, and the retail giant also deployed Apple’s iPad tablet to the same staff, as well as switching away from the BlackBerry platform for its corporate smartphone fleet and onto Apple’s iPhone handset.

Beecham has also pushed Woolworths to further cut its IT costs over the past several years. In January this year, the company kicked off a significant IT infrastructure outsourcing initiative involving Indian giant WiPro, while in April 2010 it revealed plans to break up its long-term telecommunications contract with Telstra into smaller parts, in an effort to achieve better scalability of services and cost savings.

Very interesting little situation here. Whincup must have personally known of the possibility of winning the Woolworths role for quite some time; he would almost certainly have been in discussions with the retailer before Christmas. With this in mind, one wonders whether the role had actually been confirmed some time ago, and Westpac’s move to restructure Whincup’s role at the bank was done with his departure in mind.

If Whincup had been confirmed in the role and Westpac knew, then it’s a good move for all concerned. Whincup didn’t lose any power and now adds another premium CIO role at another one of Australia’s largest companies to his belt. And Westpac gets to restructure its IT executives the way it wanted. But if Westpac didn’t know, then this is a great victory for Whincup. His Westpac role being watered down, he exited at the perfect time to another premium role. Fantastic. And more power to him. He will now join the exalted ranks of IT executives who have held the CIO role at two of Australia’s largest companies.

As a side note: Kudos to Financial Review IT editor Paul Smith, an old colleague of mine who picked up this story a little before I did. Dammit. I was close to scooping this, but not close enough ;)

Image credit (headshot): Clive Whincup