The Banker: CIO of the year

I was idly leafing through my December copy of The Banker in which 2007 awards were liberally sprinkled upon the great and the good of the banking industry.  But for such an IT driven industry, I was amazed to find that only one award existed bearing any relation to technology.

José María Fuster of Grupo Santander won “CIO of the year”.  Even in the title, The Banker mistakenly named the award Chief Investment Officer of the year – oops!  I guess that getting some parts of the banking industry out of the old oak-panelled rooms and into the modern world will take another generation!

Meanwhile, no such delay for Grupo Santander whose SOA inspired “Alhambra” multi-channel core banking system (to replace the already successful “Partenon” platform) appears to be steaming ahead and if reports are to be believed, will be something of a kick up the banking industry’s behind.

Like HSBC, Santander’s reputation is to build rather than buy.  For Santander, this decision seems to be related to competitive advantage, not cost.  If one buys an external system, one benefits from all the experience that the vendor has gleaned from working with other organisations.  However, this can create a lowest common denominator.  This may be OK in non-core parts of an enterprise, if you just want to make sure that you are no worse than any of your competitors, and to do so at least cost.  This can free your corporate energy to focus on building competitive advantage at the front end, via marketing for example.

But if you are using your systems and processes as a route to competitive advantage then build is surely better.

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