Moving email to the cloud is just the beginning for TD Bank

TD Bank has been on a growth spurt so rapid that its technology has been challenged to keep up.

Through the 1990s, it was Canada’s smallest bank, but now it’s country’s second largest. “Not too many companies have been through that much growth,” said Jeff Henderson, who became TD’s executive vice-president and CIO just over a year ago. The bank’s investors are happy, of course. But “if you’re in the technology group you’re not so happy.”

At the keynote kicking off Microsoft Corp.’s Cloud Roadshow in Toronto Monday, Henderson outlined how TD has changed its priorities around technology with three key areas of focus: rationalization, standardization, and modernization. This means looking at the entire technology stack at the bank and understanding where it can reduce its footprint. Also, adopting a standard platform for technology that doesn’t provide the financial institution with competitive advantage.

Customization adds to complexity, which adds to cost, said Henderson. Any changes being made would be for the longer term, and as a blue chip company, TD needed a partner it was comfortable with. “It made sense to start by migrating our email environment.” As of the end of October, approximately 98,000 employee mailboxes are now on Office 365.

“The conversion has gone well and the impact has been very minimal,” he said. Employees have been vocal about the improved performance of their email compared to what was previously deployed across TD, which actually varied, and often heavily customized, complex and hence costly, said Henderson, who estimates the cost to provide each employee with email has dropped by 50 per cent.

“It provided us an opportunity to reduce our footprint.” But more significantly, he said, it represented a culture shift for TD, which has nearly 100,000 employees who all feel they are important and different, but email is an area where providing a standardized platform makes sense. “Everyone gets the same solution no matter who you are,” said Henderson.

There has been some pushback, he acknowledged, but ultimately it doesn’t make sense for TD staff to be managing email in its own data centre. The cultural transformation means the bank is looking for other opportunities to leverage the cloud. “It requires a lot of changes to processes and technology groups,” said Henderson. “Areas that have customization don’t really need customization.”

Henderson said the highly-regulated financial institution pored through Microsoft’s control designs so it could become comfortable with the security stack. Julia White, general manager, cloud platforms product management at Microsoft, said when TD approached Microsoft about its move to the cloud, it didn’t meet all of the requirements initially, so it worked in partnership to understand the government regulations to make sure its security stack and its method of handling data were compliant.

Opening two data centres in Canada is part Microsoft’s effort to be compliant, and White said the litigation regarding emails stored in Dublin were critical to meeting the data residency needs of regional customers. “We know it’s important for the industry to move forward,” she said. “And everyone is going to benefit.” This includes competitors.

As part of its efforts to provide customers with tools that can be used to better secure their information as they use more mobile devices and adopt cloud computing facilities, Microsoft announced this week it had acquired Secure Islands.

Beyond email, which White said more enterprises are getting out of the business of running, there are many opportunities at TD where custom applications could be replaced by a single SaaS option running in the Microsoft cloud.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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