Here's Why CBA Has Been Sending Staff To MIT For 5 Years And Why It's Scaling The Program Back

The Commonwealth Bank is scaling back a five-year MIT training program that has raised 500 functional managers into strategic leadership roles.

CIO Michael Harte told Business Insider the bank began sending technology staff to the prestigious US university since as far back as 2006, which is when he joined the bank from New York’s PNC Financial Services Group.

A formal MIT training program has been in place since CBA pooled its IT staff into Harte’s Enterprise Services division in 2008.

“At that time [in 2006], our people reflected a very Australia-centric view,” he said, when asked why the bank chose MIT over the many management and technical universities in Australia.

“I needed them to see different points of view; different ideas around experimentation, governance, leadership, strategic thinking. So we embarked on sending 500 people through that program and it raised them out of functional management into strategic leadership.

“Now they know how to value ideas and how to get those ideas fast to market. They invest in IT, they understand accountability in terms of decision rights, governance models, new business models. They got that from MIT.”

Harte said the bank now planned to involve a wider range of academic institutions and businesses in staff training, including universities in Australia, the US and Europe.

He added that staff could request to educate themselves however they liked, as long as they could tell the bank the purpose of their idea and how it would create value for CBA.

“We’re phasing out that [MIT] program now that we’ve done that for 5 years and we are getting involved in UTS and Queensland University of Technology and Melbourne [University],” Harte said.

“We’re including start-up companies and including large corporations, academic institutions, all in one ecosystem where we can inspire creativity, where we can get people to think differently, do differently, have this rapid experimentation, and create new products and services in service of our customers.

“We’ll send [staff] everywhere over the world. We get involved in Stanford University, New York University, Harvard University, Princeton University, INSEAD in France, IMD in Switzerland, Cambridge and Oxford.

“It’s not a domestic or international bias – it’s open to everyone and everything. You can’t just grow it all from home; home-grown means you have to bring in outside influences to enhance the growth domestically.”

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