Simon Pomeroy of Westpac NZ: Inside the digital suite

Simon Pomeroy of Westpac NZ: Inside the digital suite

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.

Read more: Wanted: project managers

CIO: How did you get into this role?

My career started in recruitment. I spent 1997 to 2005 in an external recruitment role. That allowed me to really understand people and how you can help people develop their careers, change their lives effectively through to the jobs and the decisions they take around jobs, and also the value that recruitment can deliver. This was how I used to talk about recruitment: If you make the right decisions as an organisation with the talent you bring in... You might need to spend $50,000 hiring someone, but the right person is going to bring you $5 million to $10 million worth of incremental value, or drive your retention through your organisation of 20 per cent higher. It was enhancing lives, enhancing organisations.

I then moved to Air New Zealand. At that stage, recruitment was fairly broken at the airline. It wasn't aligned to [then CEO] Rob Fyfe's vision of what he wanted the experience to be. So I went in and helped transform the recruitment and talent function. Then I moved into a role, which was completely alien, around customer experience and loyalty .The reason why I was moved into that role (as head of customer loyalty) was because again, it's that understanding of people.

The crucial thing for me was we moved from flying planes…to flying people. That’s always resonated with me. It's not about technology, it's about the customer’s mobility and technology is the enabler. That strategy then was to say "You've got an airplane with 200 people on it flying to or from Australia to New Zealand.

“Every single person on that plane has a different need to travel, has a different experience, is either going to work, coming back from work, going to see a loved one, possibly going to bury a loved one. And so, how you deliver that experience is very personal and very unique. The second thing is when things go wrong – how do you recover from situations?”

I came into Westpac to run the customer experience program. That’s where the whole Symphony strategy came out. It was about delivering this personalised experience around financial services and helping customers to grow financially, helping customers to be able to retire, helping them in the first home, using data in a very smart way to be able to have those kinds of real-time one-to-one conversation with customers in a targeted and timely way. But also, making sure that when you interact with a customer, you ask them if they've got feedback.

Read more: The CIO’s blindside

If it's positive feedback, we can then go and give recognition to our internal staff for the way they've managed that customer so you can use it to really drive praise. And when a situation hasn’t gone right for a customer, we can then get our teams to close that out and make sure we actually recover that situation. We're seeing a huge change in our net promoter score, our customer sentiment score. People want to be listened to and heard, but they also want you to do something about it when you ask them that question.

I did that for a year. We were already working on the customer transformation around Symphony, then picked up all the digital channels. So we started running that and then in January of this year, I became chief digital officer.

I think the reason why this has worked [is] I don't profess to be overly technical and I think that we don't want digital to be technical. The fundamental difference between ourselves and other organisations is that digital doesn't sit in technology here, it sits outside of technology. It almost sits in between technology and marketing and sales. It sits where it needs to sit to deliver customer outcomes. And then it uses marketing and products and technical to deliver the solutions, which are very much aligned into customers.

So digital really needs to enable our customers and enable our staff. And we're really seeing big differences. Again, with the Symphony strategy we created a dashboard that sits in our CRM system that gives a single view of the customer. It actually gives our staff the ability to view what products a customer has and doesn't have with us, what their recent experiences have been like with the bank, their customer sentiment, the scores that we get back from customers. That single view enables them to have a really targeted next best conversations with a customer when they come into a branch or in a call centre.

Read more: Fletcher Building tops CIO100 ranking

The fundamental difference between ourselves and other organisations is that digital doesn't sit in technology… It almost sits in between technology and marketing and sales. It sits where it needs to sit to deliver customer outcomes.

Simon Pomeroy, Westpac New Zealand

With our Beacon strategy, when you walk into a branch now and you get recognised, your picture pops up and the next best conversation strategy pops up. These are things that make staff feeling really engaged, because it's enabling them in the same way that it enables customers to get their outcomes.

The great thing about the strategy that we've got with Internet banking, and also wearable devices, is that we've developed proof of concepts and we've developed prototypes and we're testing them. That means when Google Glass is launched in New Zealand in a year’s time, we will have a year’s worth of refinement and testing on staff before we put the solution into the hands into our main customer base. We'll be leading the market, because rather than just delivering a solution, we'll have 12 months of refining that solution before it goes into the hands of all of our customers. Again, a fundamentally different approach.

CIO: How do you keep abreast of what's happening in the marketplace and business technology?

I always go in [to visit Westpac branches] and I always put myself as a customer. I always look at the solutions that we bring out as a customer. But when I go into a branch or I call the contact centre, I don't tell them who I am. And so I get to see it as a customer. All our executive team spends time out in branches and with the contact centre.

Going on trips, like the one recently to the United States, working as part of that collaborative leadership team, is really important, as well as reading. I get daily updates from a whole range of places that gives me insights into what people are doing in all industries.

The key for us, as well, is don't necessarily look at what's been happening in banking. We look at what's happening in places like Google, Samsung, Apple, and Amazon; in organisations that we believe are thought leaders in this space.

We benchmark ourselves against other banks. We work with Finalta, a research company (a subsidiary of McKinsey & Co) that looks at us against our peers globally. They surveyed more than 64 banks around the world and they give us the feedback based on how we're doing. Westpac New Zealand is among the leaders in Finalta’s global peer group at driving uptake of digital banking. Westpac New Zealand has delivered the fastest observed growth in mobile banking over all 64 banks globally that we've been reviewed against.

We are working with best in breed organisations globally. Collaborating with people like Samsung has been very exciting. These are big businesses with global footprints that are endorsing what we're doing.

The other thing about it that I think is really crucial is the partners that we work with to build the cornerstones of our strategy are New Zealand based businesses: SilverStripe, which developed a lot of our Web solutions; Alphero, which developed a lot of our mobile solutions;, Affinity ID, which runs our Symphony program.

We want to be the best digital bank globally, but we also want to really help grow New Zealand. Peter Clare is very passionate about us working with really good local partners; that our success helps drive their success. And so it's a great position to be in. We celebrate their success as being best in breed globally, as well.

Our aspiration is to be the best digital bank in New Zealand by the end of the year, and the world by the end of next year. Again, Peter Clare has set the challenge, and we're well on the way to doing that. I can see no reason why we wouldn't be in the top five or 10 digital banks globally by the end of this current year.

Send news tips and comments to

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

Follow CIO New Zealand on Twitter:@cio_nz

Sign up for CIO newsletters for regular updates on CIO news, views and events.

Join us on Facebook.

Join the CIO New Zealand group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags innovationchange managementGartnercareercollaborationC-SuiteCEOdigitalAir New ZealandConsumerisation of IT | BYODchief digital officerceo and ciorob fyfeCIO100Simon PomeroyWestpac New Zealanddigital suitePeter Clare

More about AffinityAir New ZealandAmazon Web ServicesAppleFacebookGartnerGoogleIBM AustraliaPayPalSamsungWestWestpacWestpac

Show Comments