News Corporation senior vice president and global CIO Loran Fite began periodically reinventing himself years before the term entered the popular vernacular. Fite made such a habit of switching careers in his youth that by the time he moved to Australia to join Westpac as CIO in 1994, the US national had picked up expertise in a host of different roles and industries. And throughout his career, whenever his career direction changed, that change was driven by one guiding principle: "Always go with the people you think you can learn from."
So when family ties and the high cost of housing in the Sydney suburb of Mosman finally drew Fite away from Westpac again and back to his native United States in late 1999, the offer to join NewsCorp proved irresistible for two reasons. First, he knew nothing about any of NewsCorp's global businesses - a powerful lure for a man of Fite's temperament; and second, it was a chance to work with some "wonderful" people, including senior executive vice president Lachlan Murdoch.
"In my younger days we didn't have this term Â'reinvent yourself', so I not only didn't know how to do it, I didn't know the term. But what I would do periodically, I would go and take a whole different career," Fite says. "So I've had a background in telecoms and in financial services and aerospace and consulting and the airlines and whatever.
"One thing that intrigued me about the offer [to join NewsCorp] was the people: always you want to go where you think you can learn from the people. The other thing was that we have a lot of very different businesses and I knew nothing about any of them, and that was an exciting thing to me." That NewsCorp was equally excited to be taking on a man steeped in ignorance about its businesses can only be a tribute to Fite's reputation and nous.
News Corporation took Fite on in January 2000 to oversee all information technology at its global operations, including technology research and development and care of both internal and external communications systems. He's charged with creation of a flexible world-class communications network for the company's employees, the setting of worldwide standards for all hardware and software to be used within the company, and identification of e-commerce opportunities and assistance in creating systems to maximise revenue generation at new e-commerce operations.
NewsCorp's gain was Westpac's loss. A veteran of the Bank of Montreal and the Wells Fargo Bank, Fite made such a huge splash at Westpac after joining it in 1994 that his bosses fought hard to keep him when he finally decided it was time to go. He had joined a bank where IT's reputation was an issue, IT was still misaligned with parts of the business and the mistrust between IT and business management was evident. Within three weeks of his arrival Fite cut $12 million out of Westpac's IT budget - without firing anyone or bringing in anyone new. (Fite still maintains that his predecessor was an honest and skilled manager who left a good management team and good staff.) That year the IT group met its financial plan and also dramatically exceeded performance objectives.
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