Technology | Innovation

State of the Nation: We do not have a monopoly on skills - Commonwealth Bank Managing Director and CEO Ian Narev

Technology is opening up economies and markets creating promising long term prospects for the Australian economy, Commonwealth Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive, Ian Narev has told a CEDA audience at the State of the Nation 2015 conference.

“There’s always a however and the however is despite our natural advantages, the ability to exploit opportunities does not fall into our lap. It requires good policy and good investment,” he said.

“In addition, we need a national focus on skills. In our observation we can sometimes get a little bit complacent about this in terms of our relative advantages.

“We often characterise Australia as the skills economy and somewhat haughtily look at the other economies in the region and describe them as the cheap labour economies. So the competition as such is pitched against our skills, versus the labour cost arbitrage.

“But, the skills of the best people in these economies are equal to the skills of the best people in any economy.

“So let’s not kids ourselves, we do not have a monopoly of skills in the region.

“We have to understand that to take the advantages we have in Australia, we are going to need to invest in the skills of the future to make sure our economy adapts successfully to the future.

“So what are those skill requirements as they relate to education? We are not education experts…what we are though is an employer to over 50,000 people, and a provider of financial services to hundreds of thousands of other businesses across Australia who are creating the employment opportunities of the next decade and beyond.

“Based on those observations, we see a few different needs and opportunities arising from the increased prevalence of technology in our economy.

“There is a base level of technology literacy that every student, every one of our kids, is going to need.

“In the same way as we think about the foundational skills…we need to understand that even today, in our workforce…you are needing to work with technology…to serve your customers better and to be more productive, so a base level of technology for every kid no matter what job they’re going to go into, in what company, is going to be critical.

“Beyond that, we are going to need to grow a cadre of coders, technology thinkers who are able to perform the true technology advantage functions in Commonwealth Bank, in other banks, in other companies, in other small businesses.

“In other words… (we need to) make sure that the educational system can help build the skills…of really outstanding software engineers, coders, who are going to create the competitive advantage of the future.

“We also need to understand the impact of technology on teaching methods themselves…good schools are thinking about modern learning environments where they can harness technology to improve learning, even of the ‘old’ skills.

“Finally, we’re still going to need good skills in apprenticeships. We talk a lot about the need for coders, we talk a lot about the need for software engineers but if we go back to that prescription I previously talked about that people want to live here, invest here, visit here and have their children educated here, services are still critically important…we must not ignore those either.

“So the investment in schools is to help build the foundations of improved outcomes for schools.

“Better schools make a better country.”

Mr Narev also said that as a corporate with a stake in Australia’s economic prosperity who wants to see schools strengthened and skills built, the areas where Commonwealth Bank can contribute and add value is through investments and initiatives which share their understanding of financial literacy and how to build financial literacy in school children as well as how to make technology work at scale.