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Bank of England appoints third CIO in just 12 months

Accenture veteran Sushil Saluja is latest interim IT leader...

The Bank of England quietly appointed another interim Chief Information Officer (CIO) over the summer – hiring Accenture veteran Sushil Saluja to run “all aspects of technology and programme delivery” as well as take responsibility for its “IT Cyber Security Division”; he also joins the Bank’s RTGS/CHAPS Board.

CIO Robert Elsey left the Bank of England in 2021 after six years, for a role as Group CTO at the Co-op. The Bank advertised for an interim CIO under a 9-12-month contract in early July 2021. That role was filled by former BoE Head of Digital Platforms Oliver Tweedie, who is on paternity leave as of July 2022.

The BoE declined to say why it had not hired a permanent CIO as initially planned. Whilst Saluja is well known and respected across the industry, the central bank has now had three CIOs in less than 12 months and given that this is an interim tenure, could end up with a fourth in under two years at a time of demanding digital transformation at the central bank, including reform of its £700 billion/day settlement infrastructure.

Who is Sushi Saluja?

Sushil Saluja was appointed in July 2022, LinkedIn and BOE data show.

Saluja spent 30 years at Accenture, including as global head of payments and more recently, as head of financial services for EMEA, Africa and LatAm. He is also a senior advisor to the City of London Corporation, a British Council board member, and Chairman of charity "Heart of the City".

Now the BoE's "Interim Executive Director for Technology and CIO", he has previously emphasised in a Telegraph column that banking sector “success won’t be by making the right ‘gamble’ today on blockchain or a fintech collaboration, but in changing the culture and vision of an institution. That’s extremely difficult but the future will belong to agile banks that can respond quickly to changes in technology and customers’ needs.”

The role had been advertised in December 2021. The central bank had said the incoming CIO would be responsible for the "introduction of new, more resilient data centres; supporting the development of a new Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) System; updating the Bank’s internal systems and, with the Executive Director of Data Analytics, modernising the Bank’s data and analytics infrastructure and capabilities…”

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RTGS modernisation efforts are likely to be a core priority for the CIO.

RTGS is an accounting system that allows eligible institutions to hold reserves balances at the Bank, and settle obligations to each other. Over £700 billion settles in the UK RTGS every working day. The Bank provides sterling settlement services for Bacs, CHAPS, Cheque & Credit, CREST, Faster Payments, LINK and Visa.Despite the name, it is far from real-time: Bacs net settlement takes place once a day. Cheque & Credit operates on a three-day cycle. Faster Payments settles three times every business day in RTGS, LINK in 24-hour cycles and Visa likewise. The RTGS renewal programme aims to speed this up and improve access.

Plans to rebuild the RTGS’s architecture have been under active discussion since at least 2017. The BOE appointed Saluja's former employer Accenture in July 2020 in a £150 million contract to help build and deliver the planned new system, with the aim of boosting resilience, facilitating innovation, and overcoming a reliance on legacy technology that is heavily dependent on batch-processing, with limited real-time data monitoring.

Work is focussed on so-called Message Network Agnostic Design (MNAD) which will allow payment messages to be sent in any secure, ISO20022 compliant format over any appropriate physical network.

(The aim is not to replace SWIFT, but to "allow participants to choose networks based on their use cases" BoE minutes show -- also revealing that discussions on this remain challenging and in their early stages, with banking industry attendees in a recent workshop "repeat[ing] a desire from previous industry engagement to avoid a file-based system, due to complications arising from multiple charges associated with a single debit on an account. The potential cost-efficiencies that providing an end-to-end resilience layer [an alternative route for participants during a SWIFT outage] could realise over building and maintaining a cold channel were also discussed. Discussion was also invited on alternatives to a file based transfer solution. In addition to the preference for an actively used alternate network, some attendees also highlighted the possibility of using a high availability API.")

See also: Online payments fraud to hit $343 billion