Kiwibank IT aims to lead, not bleed

The cut-price Kiwibank has not and will not cut its cloth stingily in the IT department, says Ron van de Riet, head of IT.

The cut-price Kiwibank has not and will not cut its cloth stingily in the IT department, says Ron van de Riet, head of IT.

Rather, it has exploited technology to the maximum safe extent; “leading edge but not bleeding edge”. The bank's aim is “reducing the cost-to-income ratio” as far as possible in its business operations.

Van de Riet, who stepped in at the beginning of the year from a similar post with BNZ Finance, favours internal application development rather than package buying. The latter is often a false economy, he says. Packages acquired from different sources rarely fit perfectly together and do not usually fit perfectly into a pre-established architecture, which the bank now has in place. “That’s why some banks are doing badly in their IT.” He wouldn't elaborate.

Kiwibank’s core banking functions are performed by a package, Ultracs, from Australian company Ultradata. “I was not party to that, but I agree with the choice,” he says. He describes Ultracs as a mainframe-type back-end solution, which is appropriate in his view. The bank is investing heavily in Citrix, with Windows CE at the terminals. Full web-enablement, with a front-end browser and Java at the back end is not yet a sufficiently “robust” technology, he says.

“I certainly have no disagreement with the architecture or the road-map [for the future]," van de Riet adds. “I could criticise and unpick, but I’m fairly satisfied.”

That future includes investment in imaging of “every document”, workflow control and data warehousing. He also sees a key role for an executive information system, offering quick overview of the business with drill-down capability, as a means of keeping tight control of the business.

Internet banking is already up, with the ability for customers to transfer funds from their accounts to “any other account”. Obvious developments like Kiwibank credit cards are in the near-term future.

From his staff, he seeks a top-to-bottom understanding of the task, from the business processes of a bank right down to the coding. Such people are not as scarce or difficult to acquire as supposed, he says. With many New Zealand banks moving their IT offshore, IT staffing in the industry is a buyer's market, he says.

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