National-ANZ back-end merger likely

The future of the National Bank of New Zealand's IT systems and staff remains uncertain following ANZ's announcement that it will buy the bank.

In a statement, ANZ chief executive John McFarlane told Computerworld that "it would not make sense to run two core systems and the integration teams, comprising top management from both banks, will be exploring the options to make sure we find the system that best suits both banks' customers".

That review will be done in consultation with New Zealand's Reserve Bank, which has laid down certain conditions under which a takeover must go ahead, including the proviso that locally incorporated banks retain legal authority to control all functions. A Reserve Bank spokesperson, Paul Jackman, said the bank would need to be satisfied that any IT rationalisation didn't compromise that requirement.

Customers are unlikely to notice many IT changes in the meantime, McFarlane says. "Front-end systems will largely remain."

Back-end rationalisation wouldn't necessarily mean things will be run from Australia, McFarlane says. "Over the medium term, it's not lost on us that New Zealand has lower costs, so we can see merit in giving consideration to basing some group technology or operations functions in New Zealand."

However, financial and information workers' union (NZ) general secretary Andrew Casidy says its members are worried about the possible impact. "It doesn't seem logical that the bank will continue with two separate IT systems."

He draws a distinction between National's continued use of inhouse staff and ANZ's decision to outsource some IT functions. "ANZ has outsourced significantly across the Tasman and it seems fairly unlikely that they'd want to retain the National Bank's systems if the strategy is to leverage off transtasman ANZ systems.

"Having said that, the merger is being tagged as being focused on revenue, not costs."

After the purchase was announced, ANZ said it hoped to achieve savings of $126 million over the next three years from the merger.

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