Million-dollar CIO lands at MBF

Almost two years to the day after he was unceremoniously severed by cost cutting measures at AMP, the only CIO known to have commanded a salary of $1.375 million Down Under is returning to Australia.

After serving his time as CIO of the 11,000-screen UK financial services giant Prudential, Warwick Foster will take the helm as CIO of health care insurer MBF in the first week of October.

Foster will oversee a $40 million IT restructure to standardise the insurer's health care-related IT functions on the Perot Systems' Diamond platform, and replaces Peter Lavender who parted company with MBF in July.

While it is unlikely Foster's remuneration package will be quite as spectacular as the one he extracted from AMP, it signals the recovery of Australian IT executive landscape sufficient to lure back some of the high-profile talent that flew north to greener pastures when Australian IT job numbers went south with budgets .

MBF spokesman David Jones said the company had gone through a rigorous process of selecting a new CIO and welcomed Foster aboard, but refused to divulge salary details.

Jones said he was not aware of Foster's previous salary.

He said MBF's new system aimed to make it the most efficient insurer in the health care space, adding that MBF had already sweated some of its IT assets for some 25 years.

"We have squeezed every drop of capacity out of the old services," Jones said.

MBF's current head of IT David Smith, who is retained on a contract consulting basis, said the insurer was in the process of migrating its "home grown" health insurance administration system away from its legacy Fujitsu mainframe system, and had already transferred financials onto Oracle 9i.

"From a business point of view, it's pretty inflexible in terms of introducing new products to market. We need something more contemporary," Smith said of the legacy system.

Citrix devices will deliver the new Diamond system to MBF desktops. However, because new insurance products, such as IAG's recently divested health insurance component, are being prepared, cutover will occur on a staggered schedule.

"It's not really consolidating existing applications because all this stuff is currently on the mainframe environment. It's a gradual rollout that will happen for the rest of the financial year. There's a whole lot of different parts of the business that we also have to migrate over that we haven't yet mapped in gory detail," Smith said – adding he will have to get some salary negotiation tips from his successor.

Foster is currently in the UK and was unable to be contacted.

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