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We mean business

Tim Mendham | Oct. 25, 2013
Having academic qualifications and experience in other fields helps RAMS' CIO Bettina Wilcox take an interdisciplinary approach to her job

There are disruptive technologies, where a new idea or product radically changes 'set' practices and approaches. And then there are disruptive organisations, where new or altered companies bring fresh ideas and new blood to industries, often to the chagrin of existing established players.

One of the more disruptive organisations of recent years has been RAMS.

Formed as Registered Australian Mortgage Securities in 1991, with the RAMS Home Loans brand launched to the retail market in 1995, the company was initially almost a virtual organisation, based on a call centre, a website and a team of mobile home loan managers. It did not have shopfront operations until 2002.

From the start, the company set about an aggressive approach to home loans, and as a specialist organisation, it offered lower interest rates at a time when the large banks were satisfied - even complacent - with a situation where there was little competition in the mortgage market and high margins. RAMS put an end to that.

But like a lot of companies, especially those with an entrepreneurial bent, RAMS faced difficulties in the global financial crisis, and in 2008 the RAMS brand and distribution business were bought by Westpac. But it still exists as an independent entity, RAMS Financial Group, and it still means business.

As does its CIO, Bettina Wilcox.

"Technology is simply part of the business," she says. "It's all about adding value to the business and shareholders, so all activity is related to the overall business goals."

To emphasise that business-as-opposed-to-technology approach, Wilcox's academic qualifications comprise Bachelor degrees in Business and in Law.

Prior to moving into IT, Wilcox was on the graduate training program for the Commonwealth Bank and spent time in the lending area (business and retail). But she realised that the technology sector was where she wanted to be and accepted a role with IT services firm EDS, where she spent 11 years in a number of local and international roles.

"Business and technology are changing at a fast pace, I believe that adaptability and leadership skills are key to success in any discipline. Having academic qualifications and experience in other fields helps me to take an interdisciplinary approach to my job."

In her current role, "interdisciplinary" means strong relationships with other C-level executives. Reporting to the CEO, Wilcox stresses that technology is not an island; its relevance and success depends on its focus on business outcomes.

"So strong relationships with other areas within the team are crucial," Wilcox says. "All the projects we work on involve other C-level executives and other areas of the business. I don't believe that technology and technology projects can exist in isolation. All projects have a business impact. All areas are important."


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