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Simon Pomeroy of Westpac NZ: Inside the digital suite

Divina Paredes | May 30, 2014
A background in human resources led Simon Pomeroy to one of the most in demand executive roles today. He lifts the lid on what it is like to be chief digital officer in one of the largest enterprises in New Zealand, and in a very competitive sector.

Simon Pomeroy of Westpac

The role of chief digital officer is "at the peak of its hype", says Gartner. The analyst firm's latest CIO survey estimates 7 per cent of companies across the globe have a CDO, but its CEO survey suggests the number could be higher.

"Regardless of the exact figures, we know that the role is currently on a steep upward trajectory in almost all industries, public and private sector, B2B and business-to-consumer (B2C), large and small," note Gartner analysts Dave Aron and Ken McGee.

Westpac New Zealand is one such company. In January, Simon Pomeroy moved into the newly-created role of chief digital officer.

Since then, Westpac has announced a raft of digital initiatives with Pomeroy and his team at the helm. It is trialling Google Glass and Beacon and progressively rolling out a central Internet banking platform. It is also the first bank in Australia and New Zealand, and just among a handful in the world, to sign an agreement with Samsung to work jointly on digital banking innovations, with Samsung giving Westpac early access to its smart devices.

Pomeroy recently spoke to CIO New Zealand editor Divina Paredes to explain what the role entails and why an earlier grounding in human resources, not technology, gave him the optimum training for the role.

CIO: You just came back from a visit to Silicon Valley and the East Coast in the United States. What are the insights you gained in that trip that are helping you now?
Yes, the senior management team at Westpac visited Apple Google, and PayPal in the West Coast What was immediately apparent was these organisations have a strong culture of growing innovation in their business, and the way they are developing solutions through customer lens.

We also spent a couple of days on the East Coast and we met with strategic partners like IBM and MasterCard. We saw the innovation they are driving and how we can bring that to New Zealand.

Westpac is very aligned in terms of customer centricity, keeping things simple and doing things incrementally. But [also] really thinking about how we are future proofing for our customers.

It is all about the customer experience and it's all about driving solutions that customers are adopting. The way the Internet now is really transforming the way we consume is just evident throughout Silicon Valley. And it's not about technology, technology is just the enabler.

It's about the change in behaviour, essentially, of customers using the Internet to consume. And you're seeing that particularly through mobility. And I often say to people "we've had an online banking solution for about 14 years". We've had a mobile banking solution for less than two [years], and we've got half our online customers now using mobile to bank. We did a survey about 12 months ago and more than 60 per cent of our customers said they would be using a mobile device to bank over the next three years, with more than 80 per cent say they'd be doing it in five. That's a staggering amount of customers.


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