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Monday, 28 May 2012 16:15

Commbank floats free cloud vault


Commonwealth Bank is piloting a free cloud based storage system for its customers – called NetBank Vault – which will allow customers to store important digital documents online.

While the bank’s branding its service as an online vault – it looks and smells a lot like the digital mailbox services announced in March by Digital Post Australia (a joint venture forged by Computershare, Salmat and Zumbox) and Australia Post. But while those services are free to all, users of NetBank Vault have to be users of Commonwealth’s NetBank online banking services.

Trialled this month through CBA’s My NetBank Labs site, the service is offered as an opt-in for customers, and is free. The bank isn’t saying exactly how much storage customers might be allocated, but indicates customers might be able to store up 1,000 files in their vault.

The bank however warned that at least at the trial phase it’s not taking any responsibility for lost or corrupted files, so customers need to keep their own copy as well.

NetBank Vault was one of a series of innovations flagged at a technology update held by the bank in Sydney today. With the completion of its core bank revamp now in its sights, the bank is keen to remind the marketplace of the sorts of innovation that real time core banking platform allows.

The last 45,000 Commonwealth Bank accounts will be transitioned onto the new core banking platform in July according to Dave Curran, CBA’s self-described “plumber” and programme director of the core revamp. Eleven million accounts have already been migrated to the new core platform, with the project scheduled for completion in December.

Asked what would happen to the 1,000 strong IT team which has been working on the core programme, Mr Curran said that a portfolio of new IT programmes was in planning which would soak up some of the skills, while other people would move back into the business. “We are not planning a massive reduction,” he said.

In addition according to CBA chief information officer Michael Harte, CBA’s New Zealand bank ASB, and BankWest will transition to the new core platform in 2013, and 2014 respectively. Mr Harte said some CBA core banking staff were likely to be deployed onto those programmes.

Throughout this morning’s presentation to analysts and media the new real time banking core platform based on SAP technologies – which has cost the bank $1.1 billion - was constantly affirmed as a critical innovation engine for CBA. It would also “make it even harder for new challengers” according to Mr Harte, indicating that the bank sees its competition as coming not just from traditional banking rivals, but new players entering the financial services space.

The bank also took the opportunity to reaffirm the success of its payments app, Kaching, which has now been downloaded onto 300,000 mobile devices – the latest version was released a week ago. A version of the app is also likely to be rolled out by ASB in New Zealand.

CBA chief marketing officer Andy Lark pledged that if everything goes to plan the long awaited Android version of the Kaching app will be launched in four to six weeks – although it won’t have an NFC enabled case to allow contactless payment, in part because of the multiple form factors of Android phones, and also because of a lack of clarity from Google with regard to NFC.

As to the long wait for Android users Mr Lark said; “This is not another release of Angry birds…customers hold us to a high standard in terms of availability.” Security is also a key issue for the bank, and although the Android platform has been identified as a particular target for mobile malware, Mr Lark said that data from the real time core helped the bank identify potential problems or fraud very quickly and then act to correct any problems.

He added that as a further security measure the bank was working with a number of start-ups in the US to explore how biometrics – particularly retina scans or fingerprint scans – could be used for Kaching access control as early as 2013. In addition; “Basic facial recognition coupled with global positioning systems hold great promise,” he said.

In terms of CBA’s total technology investment to date, Mr Harte provided more insight, saying that the bank had between 2006 and 2012 invested at a rate of more than 1 billion a year – with 75 per cent of that spending targeted at IT. The core programme had taken up 25-30 per cent, compliance costs another 30 per cent, with the remainder devoted to strategic technology investment.

Over the last five years the bank’s technology operations have also become increasingly streamlined. Where five years ago 50 per cent of its total IT spending went to infrastructure, that had now been reduced to 26 per cent of the overall IT budget.

Mr Harte said that in that time period the bank had consolidated the number of data centres it operates from 23 to two, and in the last six years had improved systems reliability from a situation where the bank endured 70 Sev 1 failures each year, to the current rate of seven a year.

In terms of customer information Mr Harte said the bank currently had access to more than 5 petabytes of customer data which could be mined for value.


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