Excellent customer service and cost effectiveness in driving the business forward are the two overlying themes for IT at HBOS, according to Heather Jackson, group services director, at the bank. “It is no longer about just running IT and managing a budget,” she says. “We are lifting the bar on customer service, on cost effectiveness and also on capabilities – capability of our service offering and our people.”

Over the last two years HBOS has been in a technical optimisation phase, consolidating much of its IT infrastructure, datacentres, mainframes and midrange systems. It has also been rolling out IP/VPN to provide considerable additional bandwidth to its corporate and branch sites, and is currently in the process of upgrading its Windows NT systems to XP. “Our infrastructure rationalisation continues with the dual themes of more for less and better service,” says Jackson.

The next two years will see the financial services company move into an exploitation phase to drive out additional value from its asset base. It will be providing competitive advantage from improved availability and simplified architectures, while continuing to reduce costs.

The bank will also be strengthening and enhancing its existing controls relating to risk to limit any potential losses. In terms of security it will be looking at a public key infrastructure (PKI) and secure email. It will also be enhancing its intrusion detection and prevention systems, and web services security standards will be introduced as the technology becomes more prevalent.

In the midrange arena further consolidation in the iSeries will take place, allowing some of the bank’s European operations to be centralised to the European datacentres in west Yorkshire. The opportunity to replace non-strategic platforms like Tandem and Teradata will also be considered.

Some of the major projects the bank will be working on over the coming 12 months include information management, mainly for compliance and to satisfy regulatory rules. It will also be working on the payment transformation programme to develop a new platform to provide more functionality and to support greater volumes while addressing the ever-increasing need to make faster electronic payments. In the international arena HBOS intends to grow its operations while taking advantage of the group’s scale and capability around the globe.

“Regulatory requirements and security still play a big role,” Jackson says. “But going forward, the simpler software landscape that comes from merger and rationalisation means that regulatory demands will have less impact on taking masses of capability out from our development agenda. We are also seeing regulation as a means to deliver a better business solution that adds value to business operations as well as meeting the regulatory demands.”

In terms of introducing new technology, the bank will be benchmarking Linux and trying to determine which platforms should use it. The bank already believes that significant business benefits could be delivered by Linux.

"“We are lifting the bar on customer service, on cost effectiveness and also on capabilities – capability of our service offering and our people”"

Heather Jackson, group services director, HBOS

Recent acquisitions and technology refreshes have already introduced Linux by default – for example with MLP and VoIP. HBOS will also look to enhance its wireless capabilities, providing alternative working practices for employees and reducing the overheads of some of its fixed asset base.

The bank will be implementing Microsoft .Net as it moves away from VB6 and DNA, but will continue to invest in IBM Assembler and Cobol mainframe systems, which still offer cost and scale advantages. In some of its satellite businesses it will be increasing its Java applications.

“In the end we are focusing on what I believe are the right things,” says Jackson. “HBOS IT is massive, with more than 5,000 people geographically dispersed. We are using more common approaches and processes to become super cost effective, and are sharing the best services and practice wherever we can.”

In the next 12 months HBOS will be changing its cost base, and changing the balance of overall spend to enable business and revenue growth rather than to maintain and develop existing systems.

“Our strategy of investing in only those IT changes that deliver real business value means that we have a very clear view of what we need to deliver over the next year,” says Jackson. “Our main priorities are delivering excellent service, assisting our business to grow, and bringing technology innovation to the implementation of business strategy.”