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City IT: make suppliers strategic partners, says City COO

Brian McKenna

Relations between financial companies and suppliers are at "their worst ever" in 2007, a leading chief operations officer told delegates to the City IT conference.

Ian Cramb, COO for Citibank's consumer division, said that suppliers should be treated as strategic partners, not just as entities to squeeze in negotiation. "You need to tell suppliers what you want to do, what your top five or ten projects are".

Speaking in a personal capacity, he said that relations between suppliers and financial services companies seem to have been at their worst in 2007.

The last one to two per cent of the deal is the typical conversation focus rather than service, he said.

"We have been badly burnt by three letter acronym projects in recent years. SOA (service-oriented architecture), for example seems just the latest TLA (three-letter acronym) designed to sell product. There is a lot of bad blood."

He reported on a Citibank CRM (customer relationship management) implementation experience. All of the project's signatories had left the bank by the time it came under his purview as CIO. It was a project that IT was delivering just because it had been signed off in the past. "Many delegates here will have similar stories", he said.

Cramb urged an end to talk of a division between business and technology. "Technology runs financial companies today: there is no divide". Citibank "has more storage space than Google", he said.

He said it is better to retrain than discard IT staff who have been left behind in an offshoring or outsourcing deal. Even if the technologies they specialise in have been superceded, they are still "an essential link" to the new, outsourced programmers.

Other advice included making a virtue out of excellent network security or fraud policy. "Tell your customers about it", he said, reporting that Citibank guarantees that the bank will pay back money defrauded from customers. "That is what we had been doing anyway, so we put that fact on the website".





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