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Gavin Michael: The Lloyds TSB Global Villager

Gavin Michael: The Lloyds TSB Global Villager

Commuting between Australia and the UK is just another challenge for Gavin Michael, the CIO of retail banking at Lloyds TSB

When he isn't in his South Bank office with its views of the City across the River Thames, Gavin Michael can often be found on a plane between London and Sydney.

It's a commute that puts three hours on the M25 well into context. But home is where the heart is, and the genial Australian who is CIO at the UK's Retail Banking and General Insurance arm of Lloyds TSB, would never see his wife Susan if they weren't prepared to take it in turns to clock up the air miles.

He wears the mileage lightly, despite a long, lean frame that surely makes extra legroom a necessity. "We will be moving here soon but at the moment it's the only way," he says.

"We have our own VoIP server at home. I'm passionate about the technology, of course. But for Susan, it's just a way she can call me for free and know that the phone bill won't hurt. As an Australian, you get so used to having to travel long distances anyway. Fortunately I can sleep easily on the plane, and I've just got into a routine over the last two years."

Michael's arrival at Lloyds TSB in October 2006 -- initially as CTO -- was a kind of homecoming. He was born in London to Australian parents in 1965. So when the call came that persuaded him to leave his job as general manager for strategy and architecture at National Australia Bank and start those regular 13,500-mile commutes, it wasn't a complete leap into the unknown, and realized Michael's ambition to develop his career with one of the City of London's biggest concerns.

"I had a real desire to work in the financial services capital of the world," he says. "Lloyds TSB is the number one current account-holding bank on the high street. We have 16 million customers and there are only 21 million people in Australia. Put in that context, the scale on which we operate fascinates me. And it was always about wanting to work with the biggest.

"I don't think there's that huge a difference between the adoption rates of technology in the two markets. When I look back at the issues and problems, there are a lot of similarities. Things are more aggressive here, which is more about market forces and customer demand; the consumer infrastructure, broadband and high bandwidth speeds, is more developed although Australia is catching up. With a large population, things can move faster."

Michael moved into the CIO's seat in February after just 14 months as CTO, a promotion preceded by his appointment to the Retail Bank Executive Committee in January. To the casual observer, it looks like the classic, smooth, upward trajectory of the well-planned career.

But his arrival in the financial services sector, and most recently at the nexus where technology and business are most closely aligned, is a relatively recent development in a high-velocity CV. Michael could equally well have been an academic: in 1996 his PhD thesis in Computer Science at the Australian National University in Canberra was noted for making a substantial contribution to learning.

He then spent seven years cutting a swathe through the big names of the IT vendor community -- Fujitsu, Bell Labs, IBM, internet infrastructure software firm 724 Solutions, then IBM again -- initially as an engineer and eventually as a consultant, before National Australia Bank headhunted him to lead the development of a service-oriented architecture in 2003.

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