Building competitive advantage

Building competitive advantage

Westpac Life New Zealand, the insurance arm of Westpac New Zealand, received the Overall Information Technology award from IT research firm Ventana in December last year for its work with business intelligence tools within the organisation.

Gerard O'Hara, head of programme delivery at Westpac, says the bank's business intelligence system gives it insight into the data it collects from its 1.2 million New Zealand customers.

O'Hara has been in his role for the past two years, and before that he worked as a programme director for Westpac.

According to Westpac, around 900,000 of its customers use one of its online tools to manage their finances, and O'Hara says each transaction gives the bank a better understanding of market trends and customer behaviour.

He says Westpac uses Informatica as its data integration tool to extract, translate, and load information from its data warehouse. Microstrategy is then used to aggregate and dashboard this data for stakeholders within the business.

Data can be collected from project delivery schedules, bank card transactions, and insurance policies, among other things. This information is used to make forecasts on insurance trends, but can also be used by customer service agents to provide recommended products for them to upsell to a Westpac customer.

Business managers can search inside the aggregated information for what is relevant to their areas of responsibility.

"It's deployed across a business unit, and aggregates and shows the same data across the business," says O'Hara. "The business has a richer wealth of data and the ability to analyse how it might impact us."

As part of Westpac's enterprise social media strategy, the company also uses the same systems to scrape social networks and gauge user sentiment towards its brand.

O'Hara says that while there was very little problem of data becoming siloed within the company, the dashboarding makes understanding the information less complicated.

"This is a way for us to get a competitive advantage. The better our knowledge of our data is the more we're likely to deliver on key goals," says O'Hara.

O'Hara says that the most important aspect of managing and analysing big data is its governance. "Like all data warehouse practices, there has to be a focus on data governance and data ownership. We've put in place policies to identify roles responsible for maintaining pieces of it. We try to carry this across the business consistently," he says.

Over the past 10 months, O'Hara says there has been a focus on shoring up the integrity of infrastructure hosting the data.

Westpac's data is hosted in a datacentre on Nelson Street in Auckland, which Westpac CIO Peter Fletcher describes as "aging". Westpac started a datacentre refresh late last year, and is currently migrating its systems into Gen-i's Tier 3 facility on Mayoral Drive.

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