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HSBC picks Oracle Fusion to 'equip for the future'

CFO explains why moving to the cloud changed HSBC for the better

HSBC is starting to reap the benefits of its first foray into the cloud, after deciding to revamp its back office finance systems without doing it "the HSBC way".

Joanna Fielding, CFO of HSBC Global Services, triggered the technology refresh after joining the bank two years ago, to gradually transform back office technology for its corporate investment and retail banking arms.

The Banking Act 2009 meant HSBC had had to ringfence the two divisions, and Fielding wanted to introduce one uniform back office for the two that would be delivered through the Global Services body, rather than the divisions running duplicated on-premise systems and paper-based processes.

"We didn't want to take a technology and change it to the way HSBC had always done things, we wanted to take a technology and change HSBC to do things differently," she explained on stage at Oracle's Modern Business Experience conference in London today.

Working with implementation partner Deloitte as well as Oracle, HSBC began swapping its legacy finance systems for Oracle Fusion, cloud kit that encompasses ERP and enterprise performance management (EPM), an ongoing process designed to give HSBC more transparency over costs and, in Fielding's words, to "equip it for the future".

"We're implementing financials; so ERP fixed assets, expenses, procure-to-pay [EPM], intercompany planning and BI," she said. Procurement and intercompany planning software will also run across the whole bank, not only in Global Services.

"If we'd done it on-premise we'd have just done it the HSBC way, and probably recreated the legacy on a new technology," Fielding admitted.

But cloud brought its own challenges, with changing people's mindsets top of Fielding's to-do list.

She said: "There's over 150 years of legacy so people will think the way they've always done things is the best way of doing them, even though they didn't like it to start with.

"You have to really work hard at bringing people with you on the journey because it is tough and even though they didn't like the paper-based process they had before, actually getting them to do something electronically is not that easy."

Convincing them wasn't an easy task, and Fielding said having the leadership on side is crucial. "We're moving at pace so having very senior leaders standing behind me, saying this is the right thing to do no matter when you come across bumps along the way, that was really important," she said.

So far HSBC has implemented the enterprise planning elements of Oracle Fusion globally, seven months after the implementation began, and HSBC's Oracle ERP assets went live eight months into the project, and procurement went live this week in the UK. Next, Oracle's UK billing cloud services will go live in April, before HSBC continues with the global roll out.

Fielding said: "We are moving really quickly. Even though we run some pretty large data centres ourselves we couldn't have stood up the environment as quickly as we did with the Oracle Cloud.

"We wanted to keep our technology current, so going to the cloud forces us to do that and we need to do that quickly."

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