Whether it’s transforming Australia’s leading provider of financial services or the largest financial services group in the Nordics, Joseph Edwin has driven lasting organisational change around the world. We sat down with Joseph to hear more about his career, his thoughts on the future of transformation, and how he’s helping to mentor a new generation of business leaders.
Not many people have had a globe-spanning career quite like Jospeh Edwin has. Spanning opportunities in the Nordics, Australia, the US and now the UK, Joseph has played pivotal roles helping to transform top financial enterprises. He’s now an Expert Partner at Bain & Company, where he focuses on large-scale transformation strategy for some of the world’s top brands.
So chatting to Joseph was, of course, an absolute pleasure. We learned about how to keep the transformation show on the road, even when it takes years to complete and key project leaders change during the process. We also heard about how Joseph is helping to mentor the next generation of innovators.
Elsewhere in the episode, learn about:
[01:47] The Wild West of Silicon Vally in the 00s
[06:36] The Current Hubs for Tech Innovation Globally
[09:59] The Key Ingredients for Transformation Success
[12:19] Why Commonwealth Bank Adopted Public Cloud Early
[15:55] Handling Organisational Change During a Transformation
[23:42] Having the Right Mindset for Transforming a Company
[27:07] The Next Big Thing for Transformation: AI & Quantum Computing
[31:05] Mentoring the Next Generation of Innovators
The full podcast is available now on all major streaming services, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and more.
Craig McCartney: Our guest is Joseph Edwin, Expert Partner at Bain & Company, and also Investment Director at Bikeworks, which is part of the social business trust. Joseph is an experienced CIO and technology-led transformation executive with many years of global experience under his belt, managing technology within complex organizations and delivering very large technology-led transformation programs starting in Silicon Valley through traveling and working in Australia, moving to the Nordics and UK.
Craig McCartney: Joseph had worked with companies such as Commonwealth Bank and also Nordea. At Bain, he is helping very large enterprise clients deliver these transformation projects. I am very excited to learn more about this experience and offer and share insight that Joseph has experienced along his journey. I’m looking forward to speaking with you. Nice to meet you, Joseph. Thanks for being here.
Joseph Edwin: Thank you for the opportunity. It is my pleasure to be here.
Craig McCartney: I’m looking forward to unpacking some of that introduction. From a high-level perspective, can you give us an overview of your career highlights?
Joseph Edwin: I grew up in India where I finished my university and then ended up in Wisconsin in the middle of a very cold winter in 1996. I’d never seen snow before in my life. It was quite an eye-opening experience. In the mid-‘90s was when the internet was starting to take shape. My job was to run the website for a university in Wisconsin. This then led me to a couple of stints with startups in Silicon Valley, a fantastic experience I might add, which was followed by fifteen years in Australia, where I first got into banking and work for Commonwealth Bank of Australia, also known as CBA.
At CBA, I was a tech executive in a variety of roles, mainly focused on technology-enabled transformation. One highlight of my career there was transitioning concept, which is Australia’s largest online share trading platform to the public cloud back in 2014. Subsequent to that, I went to Copenhagen to work for Nordea Bank and head up their core systems transformation for over six years. I joined Bain & Company in London in mid-2021 where I’m a partner in the financial services and tech practices and focus on most aspects of technology in financial services but primarily on large and complex transformation journeys.
Craig McCartney: Let’s talk a little bit about Silicon Valley in the early 2000s. It’s often compared to the Wild West in terms of the startups and technology. Do you have any stories or moments that stand out there or any special memories?
Joseph Edwin: Going into the Valley for my interview and walking around the heart of Silicon Valley, seeing all these companies I’d only heard about was a very fascinating experience to start with. In the late ‘90s, Silicon Valley was in the dot-com frenzy as you would recall, and I guess most of our readers would be familiar with that. It was interesting. Anybody could get a job and the salaries there were going through the roof. There are stories every day about people with zero expertise in technology, moving to the Valley and getting $100,000 plus a year’s salaries with basic experience.
The reality was the basics of business were absent in many of these startups that had been built up under the dot-com umbrella and everything became dot-com business. When the music stopped and the bus came, the real businesses versus those that simply piped dreams became very obvious. I was there at that time during the dot-com bust in my second stint in the Valley. You could see the Valley emptying, from spending two hours commuting from San Francisco into Santa Clara, which is a 50-mile distance every day to now taking 35 to 40 minutes. That start the difference.
One of the biggest failures at that time was a company called eToys. Some of our readers may be familiar with them. This was a toy business that said, “We’ll sell toys online.” The amount of money that was pumped into this company was amazing. I’ll be honest. I was stupid enough to buy the shares in this firm and I lost all of them. The company went out of business.
It’s a fascinating time. We’re seeing some parallels with what’s happening in the tech space. The industry has learned a lot from it but there’s yet an opportunity for businesses to focus on the bottom line and establish resilient businesses that will grow with this new trend that we’re seeing with Web 3.0. Otherwise, we may see a repeat of the same.
Craig McCartney: Do you think eToys would be a successful business in terms of the climate and eCommerce?There are many other factors to be considered for any business to be successful. Click To Tweet
Joseph Edwin: I’ll be honest. I don’t fully understand the business model there. They were replicating the success of Amazon like many others selling books or toys online. There are many other factors to be considered for any business to be successful. Customer behavior is probably one of the most important things to understand, “Why would someone buy your product online? Is it compelling? How does it differentiate from an in-person experience in a store?” If you can replicate something, which makes sense, then you will be successful. Focusing on the customer is the important message there.
Craig McCartney: You’ve done a lot of traveling. Are there any places in particular that you see as hubs for tech that people should move to or if they wanted to get into tech and go through?
Joseph Edwin: Silicon Valley still has a lot of caches. It’s the place where a lot of the innovation is happening, despite all the hype that we hear about. San Francisco is no longer the same city that it was when I was living there with all the things that we hear about it in the media but it still is a hub. It attracts some of the world’s best talent. Being surrounded by that much intelligence and experience is amazing for anyone starting up a career in tech.
Over the years, we’ve seen many of the hubs open up globally. New York and London are both fantastic places for tech and particularly FinTech. Going back to my experience in the Nordics, Stockholm and Copenhagen are also hotbeds of innovation, not just in the tech space but in other aspects of other industries. I’m in both cities and kick well above their weight so some of my friends say they have such amazing companies that have been founded in those two locations. Spotify is coming out of Stockholm. Lego is coming out of Denmark and then many other success stories.
All of those cities are fantastic places to go. I have not been to Israel but I know Tel Aviv is an absolute, fantastic place for innovation as well. I love to go there at some point. If you are a person who loves warm weather and beaches, I would not look past Sydney. That’s a stunning place to live from a lifestyle point of view but also a place where there’s a lot of cool stuff coming out and amazing companies. Also, many of the incumbents, the banks and other industries are spending a lot of money using tech to grow their business, drive the digital transformation of their business and create new business models.
Craig McCartney: Tell us then moving into what you’re doing in the UK for Bain. Can you tell us what your role entails? What’s your day-to-day? I’m guessing it changes a lot but if you could do a summary, that’d be great.
Joseph Edwin: For those that don’t know Bain & Company, we are a premier management consultancy. We work alongside our clients as one team with a shared ambition to achieve extraordinary results. Many of the global leaders that our clients come to us to solve challenges in strategy, marketing, organizational models, operations, information technology, digital transformation strategy and sustainability, which is another very fast-moving business for us. Corporate finance is a very important part of what we do as much as acquisitions and helping private equity firms with due diligence and other stuff like that. This is across all industries and geographies.
In my role, I primarily advise executive management and boards of our clients on how to successfully navigate the tech-enabled transformation. We have developed various tools over time that helped us accelerate transformation in a very structured fashion. We deploy the best of our best talent from across the globe to help our clients. I’m working with clients in Mexico, the Middle East and Canada. We assembled the best people we have with the right talent to advise our clients and help them succeed in whatever transformation journey that they’re taking. I also advise our clients on the tech strategy, operating model and cost transformation as well.
Craig McCartney: On those larger projects that you’re working on, are you being brought in on a proactive or is it more of a reactive basis? Are you there to save the transformation project or is it more of a strategic decision to bring you in before the transformation project starts?
Joseph Edwin: We see both scenarios. We would prefer that our clients bring us in at the start to help set things up well and avoid very costly mistakes. Our research shows that 70% of transformation programs either do not succeed at all or significantly under-deliver on the original ambition. Our job and real goal are to help our clients avoid being part of that statistic.
Sometimes boards or management call us and say, “The program is not going very well. Can you help set things back on track?” Sometimes we get called in right at the start when a big decision has been taken and they want us to advise them on how to set things up because perhaps they haven’t got the deep expertise in running such large transformations internally.
That often is the case. Most organizations don’t have many years of battle scars on their backs from having done complex transformations. There are not many people like that have done it successfully. Bringing people like us who are practitioners and have a very structured, methodical approach, we can deploy together with a client and come in to help set things up.
One thing we do is teach the client how to succeed. We don’t go in there to come and run the projects. That’s not our game. We’re too expensive to be offering that service but we will help figure out what are the missing ingredients in your transformation journey? How do you get those things under control? What are the structures you should have? How do you reset your ways of working if that’s not panning out, for example?
More importantly, making sure that there is an absolute 100% strong business sponsorship and focus from the top management on transformations like this because these big transformations demand that attention from senior management and making sure the right framework from a governance point of view is in place, the right reviews are being done periodically, the right KPIs are being measured and reported regularly. These are key ingredients in success. Making sure that they’re all in place is what we mainly do.
Craig McCartney: I liked the way you phrased that they’re your battle scars. Let’s talk about your transformation battle scars and your history because some of your stories enabled you to get to a position that you’re in to advise these senior executives. Looking back at Commonwealth Bank, what convinced you to dock the public cloud? You adopted it very early there at Commonwealth Bank. Was there a specific moment or an event that made you realize that that was the best way forward?
Joseph Edwin: From 2010 onwards, the cloud was starting to become quite a regular part of the vernacular around technology. We had a very forward-thinking CIO at that time, Michael Hart, who changed the game quite a lot in the tech space, especially in banking in Australia. He was a very vocal advocate of adopting the cutting-edge technology that the cloud was bringing to the table.
If I take the CommSec example very specifically, three things come to mind. Firstly, there was an opportunity for us to change the game around the cycles of a hardware refresh. Most CIOs would be very familiar with this, which is that you have a lot of old infrastructures, aging and costs have been depreciated but you need to upgrade that. Each time you try and do an upgrade, it’s a very expensive exercise.
You sweat that asset out for 7 or 8 years or whatever the case may be in your cycle, then you start that again. These lumpy investments happen periodically, which you have to plan for and sometimes they come in at the wrong time. Fighting for budgets inside an organization is tough. It’s not uncommon for organizations to delay this. Eventually, what happens is you see a failure and then that triggers, “Let’s spend the money to fix it.”
You don’t want to get into that space. The whole idea of evergreen technology is part of the thought process. We saw an opportunity secondly, to transform the costs of our infrastructure worth millions. We were spending a lot of money on infrastructure that had been built up for when the stock market was pumping. CommSec being the largest trading venue in Australia with over 50% market share gets a lot of activity. On a volatile day, we see 2, 3 or 4 times the amount of trades on an average day and the hardware needs to be able to care for that.
Pre-cloud, you’d build up infrastructure to support that spike so that your platforms keep running. What cloud gave us the opportunity was to deal with that seasonality without having to pay a fixed cost constantly for something that’s not being utilized. The whole idea of being able to scale elastically was very attractive for us and given trading is a very episodic business. Some days certain news items trigger a certain seller for a massive buying opportunity for people streaming to the market. Your platform needs to be able to handle that.
We saw a huge opportunity to take fixed costs out and convert that to a variable cost base to handle the spikes that we see periodically. Thirdly, the timing was great because after GFC, there was a big lull in the stock markets and the volumes are down 60% to 70%. We were sitting on all this infrastructure, which was not being utilized, coming up for a refresh. We felt it was the right time from a risk perspective to go on this journey, convert our infrastructure to the cloud, reap the benefits of that and also possess concept from a growth point of view and cost point of view for the future. It’s been amazing.
Craig McCartney: You speak of your time in the Nordics quite fondly. You do a lot of work with Nordea, especially on navigating a core banking modernization. Can you tell us a little bit about the biggest challenges, wins and how you use Agile methodology?
Joseph Edwin: Any such large transformation is very complex and requires a lot of focus and attention from the organization, particularly from management. Keeping the attention of management that is focused on running the bank and business while you undertake this very long-running process of transforming the organization is a tricky balance to achieve in most places. Luckily, we were in the midst of a broader transformation culturally, as well as an organization. For some time, that attention was there.
In the midst of all that, how do you sustain the energy of hundreds of people that are going through this process of delivering the change? How do you keep the interest of the organization and the management? A key ingredient in my view and this is part of the playbook that we promote with our clients at Bain as well is focused on breaking your journey into smaller iterations of success. At the end of each iteration, you deliver something of value. When I say value, it’s the true value in the sense of something that the customer or the employees would experience as a benefit from having delivered this transformation.If you can replicate something which makes sense, you will be successful. Click To Tweet
Each time you deliver a successful outcome, you’re buying the right to continue the program and journey. You earn the trust and build a stronger foundation on which you can keep iterating and adding more successes on top. My advice to most organizations that are undertaking such transformations would be, don’t go for the big outcome at the end of 5 or 6 years but instead break the journey, this long marathon into shorter. Let’s call it sprints. I’m borrowing a term from the Agile Playbook. The idea at the end of each sprint is that there is something that you can see tangibly delivered.
Applying Agile in this context is also not easy. We were at the start of a journey where no one, as far as I know, had undertaken the core systems transformation using Agile at that point in time. A lot of people were skeptical about that but I’d also gone through a very similar journey in my previous bank, Commonwealth Bank. In there, we applied a traditional waterfall approach to deliver a core transformation.
I could see the benefit we could gain from breaking the journey into smaller traditions and de-risk the whole journey. Your plan at two speeds effectively. You are planning for the immediate 5 or 6 months period ahead of you at a very detailed level. You also plan long-range. What’s your roadmap looking like? What are some of those moments of truth that will happen along the way? What are some of your big dependencies with other change activities that are underway inside the organization that you need to plan around? All these need to be taken into account.
Getting that balance of short-term and long-term planning took us a few rounds of iterations. We learned a lot from that. Changing the way of working for 500 or 600 people to all operate in a certain rhythm is very difficult. We had periods when there were people who were very textbook Agile, “We should do agile this way,” versus Agile gives you a series of ideas on how you should operate that’s not prescriptive. The trick is in the word itself, Agile. You have to have an agile adaptive mindset when you’re implementing the methodology as well because you keep learning from every step and keep adjusting.
It’s not different from sailing, for example, where you’re sailing and the wind is blowing in a certain direction. You tack in a certain way and suddenly, the wind changes. You have to make some slight adjustments. You constantly trimming the sails to keep the boat moving forward. It’s the same. You have to keep trimming and adjusting constantly because you’ll keep learning from every step that you take. The mistake a lot of organizations make is, “This is agile. We have to use this framework and stick within the framework.” There’s no flexibility. That’s the wrong mindset to bring into an Agile implementation and it creates a lot of detractors as opposed to supports.
Craig McCartney: You’ve touched on management a couple of times there in terms of the onset. Management fluctuates a little bit at Nordea while you were working. They had three CEO changes. There is a lot of turbulence around during that time with all those changes. How do you keep your eye on the ball? What were the challenges for you when a new manager or CIO would come in? Do you have to re-pitch in this transformation idea or is it something they just go, “We keep on going with that until it’s done?” What was the picture you could paint around that?
Joseph Edwin: Every time leadership changes, there are new ideas, new ways of thinking, new strategies and new objectives that are set. It’s not natural. It’s valid. We experienced the same during the journey that I was at Nordea. One of the things you have to do on a journey that is going to take many years to complete is to go back and keep reminding, “Why did we start this journey? What’s the reason why we undertaking core systems transformation?”
Keep reminding people about that because as time passes, the corporate memory starts getting diluted more and more. People forget why you started the journey five years down the track. People are like, “We still not finished yet. What’s going on? Maybe we should do something different.” People want to genuinely try and help but often forget why they started this journey.
Going back to why it is extremely important, that’s part of the playbook that every leader should use. Always start with why. When you undertake a change or any transformation, be very clear on the purpose behind your transformation and align everybody inside the organization, particularly senior management around that because if you have people that are thinking differently about know why you’re doing this, then you constantly get asked questions being challenged on the approach you’re taking, perhaps a scope gets changed. People say, “Maybe we should do something differently. Build a bank on the side,” for example, in the core systems transformation. That’s a common thing people ask. Bring it back to the why. “We started this transformation journey because of X, Y, Z.”
In our case, the systems were, “We had four of everything. One in every country.” Consolidating to create a common platform was a key reason why we were doing this, addressing resilience and stability issues of all platforms, continuity of technology, because the technology is very old and there are not many people left who know how to operate this anymore. How do you provide long-term sustainable platforms on which the bank can grow and digitalize? That was the purpose behind it. It’s about protecting your current business and stabilizing things to let it grow in the future.
Going back to that again was a key part of that. I would say two characteristics, tenacity and resilience. I was there for a purpose, which has helped the bank succeed in this transformation journey. I did not feel that until that is in very good shape and I’m in a place to move on to something else. I didn’t want to leave with a sense of I haven’t finished the journey or didn’t set it up correctly.
That’s how I operate. Since your objective hadn’t changed and there was still a lot to do, it didn’t matter that the management or the organization around me was changing. “The task at hand was still valid so let’s keep going.” Plus, I felt that I’d convinced several people that I’ve worked with elsewhere to come and join me in helping Nordea navigate this complex transformation. I couldn’t just leave them hanging. There’s a sense of loyalty towards people that you work with closely. You build these strong relationships and keep working together in other places.
Craig McCartney: You’re very well placed to answer this question because you have grown up, worked and traveled in many different areas. What are the challenges around the culture that you see in organizations? Are there any differences between the US, Australians and the Europeans when it comes to transformation? Are there any similarities or stock differences?
Joseph Edwin: I could not recognize the cultural differences. It will be foolish of anybody to go into these settings. I have had the privilege to work in four different work cultures globally, the US, Australia and Nordic. The Nordic was not one culture. There are 4 countries and 4 sets of values in many ways. Then the UK. More and more, what we see is organizations extremely diverse. It’s not like you’re going into a UK culture and going into an organization here. Many cultures are coming together. The whole definition of culture in that sense is also changing quite rapidly. My view is the best way for organizations, as well as individuals going into organizations to succeed in this, is to be humble firstly.
As an individual, coming into an organization to drive a transformation, don’t come in with a sense that you know all the answers. That’s the wrong thing to do. You have been broadened with the experience you have but that experience is only valid as far as the context is recognized and respected. Spend your first few months understanding the organization. Meet as many people as you can to understand what’s going on and why are things the way they are. Start gently prodding them in different directions and say, “Have you considered this?” The one phrase I learned in the Nordics, which they use very interestingly is, “What do I know?” An idea that you might be putting on the table is, “What do I know? Have you considered this?”
That disarms people, let people drop their guard and be willing to listen to you. If you broaden that across an entire organization and you consider all the people that you want to rally in a different direction potentially, you can’t be directive anymore. This is what the Nordics are particularly good at. It’s a very egalitarian bottom-up culture where the value systems of the people individually are respected a lot. There’s a lot of room for people to discuss and agree on. Yes, that does create a small problem, which takes quite a long time to get people to align. At some point, you have to pull the trigger and say you’re moving forward with the change but give space to people to figure out their role and pathway inside that transformation.
Start with the why. The advice to CEOs and leaders of organizations would be, “Please describe to the people why are you doing this transformation? What’s in it for the organization, the customer and the employee? How does the work that the employee is doing impact that positively? What will be at the end of the rainbow? What’s the pot of gold?” Make it tangible because these are people that have lived and experienced maybe own products. Describe it in a way that they understand what that transformation leads to, particularly from the experience point of view. That will make a big difference if you start with the why.
Craig McCartney: Let’s move on to the future. What’s next for transformation? What do you see is the next big thing coming down the line since digital transformation? Are there any technologies that you’re excited about or showing a keen interest in?
Joseph Edwin: Firstly, there’s still a lot to be done fixing what’s there with all the good stuff that’s been developed over the decades, getting to a much more digital setup in organizations. Journey-led design of your customer experience is a language that more people are starting to use. It’s about showing empathy. What’s the experience you want the customer to have digitally? There’s still a lot to be done in that space, even before you start thinking about the new technologies.
Since the question is about where are we heading and what’s coming down the pipe, artificial intelligence is one thing I’m excited about because it has a lot of applicability to transformation, applying technology to solve complex business problems and letting machines make decisions on problems that normally if a human is doing is impacted by things like being tired, fatigue and other distractions.
Machines don’t have those problems. You program them, feed them information and then the artificial intelligence builds its knowledge base over time and gets smarter in making decisions. There’s a lot of evidence that AI-based decisions are much better and more profitable for organizations than human-made decisions. We are seeing that already. We’ve done some work with some banks in Europe where we deployed models on pricing and found that the model was delivering a much better bottom line result and a better outcome for the customer than when humans were involved.
For me, methodically deploying AI is one of the best things that we should keep watching, looking at investing and people need to put time into learning about. What does that mean? It’s a very difficult topic for even the smartest people. I would not profess to understand it very well. There are a lot of statistics and other mathematical models behind it, which some people are much better suited to understand. Every manager or executive is obliged to understand what power does that give you as an organization? How can you apply that in your business? How can you make the lives of your customers better? How can you make the lives of employees better by using technology? That’s one.
The second one that I’m watching is blockchain and that whole space of Web3.0. It’s a very nebulous space. Cryptocurrencies and Bitcoins have gained some notoriety over the last few years. There are a lot of misconceptions about that but the tech industry hasn’t done a great job explaining why this is important and how this can change the game in the future. It’s probably at the same stage that the internet was at the outset mid-90s. It’s an infrastructure that’s been deployed. People don’t understand. It’s very technical.
“What do we do with this?” There are a lot of other things that have come in like NFTs, which have created a lot of hype around this and people trading cryptocurrencies to make a lot of money. A lot of them have no application, no real value but the hype is driving it, which is why there’s a lot of frenzy around some of these things, which reminds me of what was happening in the late 90s with dot-com and something for us to be worried about, to some extent.Not recognizing cultural differences will be foolish of anybody going into these sorts of settings. Click To Tweet
Underneath that is a very fantastic technology and capability that will change the game but we have to still watch the space, spend time learning about it and figure out how we can apply that in the context of our businesses and take it forward. The third one would be quantum computing. In a complex space emerging rapidly, changes are happening but also a big driver of automation down the future and speeding up the pace at which decisions will be made by machines in the future. A combination of AI and quantum computing is going to be a very powerful setup in the future.
Craig McCartney: We’ve spoken about your past and the future. Let’s talk a little bit about something you’re passionate about and that’s around mentoring. Why did you decide to start mentoring and coaching alongside all these other responsibilities? Your day is pretty busy. How do you find the time? What drove you to do that?
Joseph Edwin: Firstly, we as leaders have an obligation to nurture the next generation of leaders, especially from the underrepresented groups. In tech, it’s well understood. The participation of women, especially at the senior levels is very low. How do we nurture the more diverse next generation of leaders, especially from a gender point of view?
Tech is one aspect of that. I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from seeing someone achieve success in their lives. To have played a small part in that success is even more joyful. There’s a lot of experience that I’ve gained, having worked in different cultures, regions globally and organizations. There’s no point holding onto that. Sharing it widely with people that are curious and have a genuine thirst to learn is a big part of that.
I sometimes reflect on my journey growing up and the people that have supported me, given me advice and guided me through some of my challenges. It’s paying it forward rather to people that are going to go through the same challenges in their lives and make a great carry out having been led in the right direction by various people.
Normally, people that I know are not just seeking mentoring from one person. They’re talking to other people. I encourage you to take in diverse perspectives and listen to multiple people, even people that you don’t talk to directly. Listen to what the thought process is. Listen to some of these famous personalities in the industry you’re interested in and see how they think. That’s as much part of creating a fully rounded personality and experience versus just one way of thinking.
Craig McCartney: What are the elements of your role or experience that would you focus on when you’re looking to up-skill more junior members?
Joseph Edwin: It depends upon the individual and situation. Some need guidance on content, “How do I do this? How do I learn about this? How do I execute my job better? I want to learn this particular capability.” That will be quite one case that we see. Others are looking for guidance on solving complex issues that I may have dealt with throughout my career.
In my discussions with them, I would talk about the situation and what happened. How do I deal with it? It may not be 100% match in terms of the situation but a lot of what you do in one situation, you can apply in a very similar other situation as well. It’s about imparting those experiences and battle scars. Share that with people so they can perhaps avoid making the mistakes I’ve made and have an easier part going forward.
Sometimes, it’s purely need-based. We are working on a problem. If I think about my earlier jobs, we’ve hired some young talent and groomed them to become the next set of experts in a particular part of the technology that we were deploying. There are some curious people out there. If you empower them and guide them to learn the right way, then they can be massive assets for you as an organization but also you’ll see them succeed and that also brings satisfaction.
Craig McCartney: Have you got any advice for any aspiring CIO, CTO or anyone that’s using technology to better their businesses and looking to get into the C-Suite role?
Joseph Edwin: Firstly, focusing on technology is going to be detrimental. You need to have your technology chops, as they say. However, for you to succeed as a CIO, you need to understand the business. Whichever industry you want to focus on, whether it’s banking or consumer goods, learn everything you can learn about that business because the more you can speak the language of the business, you understand the drivers for growth, challenges that the business faces, customer behaviors, all those things play into how you decide to deploy technology to solve the problems.
If you don’t speak the language of the business, it’s very difficult. You have to drop the jargon, keep that for your discussions with your people and focus on what the business outcome technology is going to enable. That’s the language business executives understand. That’s how they will engage with you and what’s going to make you successful.
Craig McCartney: Let’s move on to our final round. Perhaps we should move to the front because this is where we look at what makes you a bit more human and more personality behind the guests on the show. I should ask you a couple of quick-fire questions. Answer them. It’s getting to know you a bit better. It adds a little bit of color to the show. Do you have a guilty technology pleasure?
Joseph Edwin: I bought a very nice pair of Bose noise-canceling headphones when I was living in Copenhagen. I was flying around a lot for work. That helps me drown out the noise around me and focus. I love that.
Craig McCartney: What are you listening to on the headphones then?
Joseph Edwin: Everything. I have a very eclectic taste in music. It depends upon the mood. Sometimes I feel like listening to jazz and blues. At the time, I’ll be listening to classical music and then I’ll go to pop. I love international tunes. I listen to a lot of music, which is a mix of Spanish, Italian and Middle Eastern music. It doesn’t matter. It’s the tunes that make it for me the music itself behind it.
Craig McCartney: In terms of how your family, friends and your colleagues, how would they describe what you do? Is there a difference between how your friends or family? What do they think you do?
Joseph Edwin: It depends upon who you ask. Some perhaps only will know exactly what I do but problem-solver is how I would describe the work to them when I talk about the type of work I undertake.
Craig McCartney: Do you have any essential desk items that you have to have on your desk?
Joseph Edwin: I keep my phone very close to me. There’s a lot of information that’s flying around constantly that I like to stay on top of. That’s always there by my side. Given we spend so much time on Zoom calls, I keep my Jabra desk speaker phone next to me because wearing a headset for 5 or 6 hours a day becomes a bit tiring after a while. Having that next to me makes it much easier.
Craig McCartney: You mentioned it’s crypto NFTs. Do you dabble in that realm? Do you own, used and traded any NFTs?
Joseph Edwin: I haven’t bought any NFTs yet but I do hold a very tiny portion of a couple of cryptocurrencies. I was probably more afraid about losing money than anything else but then I said, “Let’s put some play money into it and see what happens.” I’ve been looking at the space for a long time but there were a lot of security issues in the mid-2010s when this started to become prevalent. There were a few very famous hacks of Bitcoin exchanges and that put me off that. Things are better. I’m a bit more willing to do it but no NFTs yet. I hope to get into some of that.
Craig McCartney: Have you read any good books or seen any good shows that inspired you?
Joseph Edwin: One book, which I came across, is called Kings of Shanghai. It’s a fantastic book about two families that shaped modern China, Hong Kong and Shanghai. These were two Jewish families from Iraq of all places, I had no idea, that migrated out of the country via India, established businesses in those two locations and survived all kinds of challenges. It’s a great story about resilience. I recommend that as a book to read.
Craig McCartney: We’ll look into it. Thank you so much, Joseph. You’ve been a wonderful guest. I have loved having you.
Joseph Edwin: Thanks. It was my pleasure
Craig McCartney: That brings us to the end of another episode. Like and subscribe wherever you get your show, and be sure to check out the next set of guests that we’ve got coming. Thank you very much.
Deploying AI in a methodical way is absolutely one of the best things that we should keep investing in. We should put time into learning about what that means […] what powers that gives you as an organisation, and how you can apply that to make the lives of your customers better.
Bain & Company
Expert Partner, Bain & Company
Joseph Edwin is an expert partner and a member of Bain & Company’s EMEA Financial Services and Enterprise Technology leadership teams. Joseph has particularly deep expertise in large-scale, technology-enabled transformations and is a thought leader on core banking modernisation. He helps guide enterprises through multi-year transformation programs, advising them on developing and executing IT strategy, transforming technology operating models, and scaling delivery models in a pragmatic manner. Joseph was previously Head of Core Banking Transformation at Nordea and, before that, CIO at Commonwealth Bank.
Welcome to The CEO.digital Show, a new peer-to-peer podcast series where we’ll be talking to influential thought leaders about how tech is continuing to change the way the world does business.
The CEO.digital Show is brought to you by host Craig McCartney. Each week, we’ll be interviewing major thought and industry leaders to learn how they are embracing new technologies and strategies to create new value and success for their companies. Find us on all major podcast streaming platforms.