They said it couldn't be done!
In the early 1960s, the idea of processing cheque and deposit transactions electronically was top of mind for BNZ. Without help from technology, staff were looking at longer and longer hours to cope with the growing number of transactions. BNZ also realised that moving to computers before the conversion to Decimal Currency would eliminate the need to replace or upgrade the ageing LSD (old currency) ledger machines.
The job of ‘looking into computers’ for BNZ was given to Gordon Hogg. He talked to banks in England and the USA, then he delved into the world of Burroughs and IBM.
Gordon quickly saw that everybody was basically doing the same thing, but on their own. The lack of integration suggested an opportunity for New Zealand – an EDP (electronic data processing) facility that all the banks could use. Gordon presented his idea to the Board. His plan involved establishing two EDP centres: one in Auckland, the other in Wellington. They would be furnished with the latest IBM 360-30 computers.
The Chairman of IBM Australia was convinced that what Gordon planned to do with the computers couldn’t be done. Gordon, however was confident, in fact, he staked his job on it. “If I don’t succeed”, he told the Bank’s GM, “you can sack me”. The Board gave the go ahead at the end of 1964. After 18 months of programming, the centres opened simultaneously. The effect on branch workloads was immediate.
Bruce Smith, Deputy General Manager at the time, recalled the change: “I used to pass the Wellington branch on my way home at about 6 o’clock. They’d still be there posting on their ledgers. After the EDP centres opened, I would go down at 6 o’clock and there wouldn’t be a soul in the office – they’d gone at half past four.”
Just under 70% of all BNZ branches were converted to computers prior to the decimal currency change over on the 10 July 1967.
Late in 1967, the EDP facilities were extended to include the remaining New Zealand trading banks. At the same time, the two EDP facilities were given a corporate identity – Databank.
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