Last year, Commonwealth Bank set itself the aggressive recruitment target of appointing 100 new engineers each month in a bid to help the bank deliver against its strategy of providing global best digital experiences to customers.

Less than 12 months later and the bank has well and truly surpassed its target – appointing 820 new engineers across a range of disciplines including cyber, data/AI and cloud.

This year, the bank has set itself an even bigger recruitment target. To help deliver against the evolving and increasingly complex digital needs of its customers, CBA has set itself the goal of appointing 1,000 new engineers this year – and so far it is right on track by hiring over 100 engineers every month in Australia. 

Further, to support and oversee this growing network of engineers, the bank has expanded its team of ‘Distinguished Engineers’.

In June last year, the bank announced its plans to create a new network of ‘Distinguished Engineers’. Those with this title would represent the pinnacle of the engineering profession and be responsible for helping the bank deliver against its strategy of becoming a global leader in technology.

Commonwealth Bank’s Chief Information Officer Technology, Brendan Hopper, was the first person given the newly created title. Since that time, the bank’s team of Distinguished Engineers has swelled to 9.

Most recently, the bank appointed industry stalwart, Phillip Grasso-Nguyen, as a Distinguished Engineer and General Manager for Engineering Technology.

With more than 25 years’ experience, Mr Grasso-Nguyen has worked for many different tech companies, including the last 14 years at global giant Google, where he held various senior positions in software development as well as networking and site reliability engineering.

"When I announced my move to CBA, I was met with a lot of shock. People didn’t understand the appeal of working for a large bank," Mr Grasso-Nguyen said.

“For me, it’s an exciting opportunity to work beside really smart people and contribute to solving complex problems that have the potential to impact millions of Australians. That sounds like a winning combination to me.”

As a newly appointed Distinguished Engineer, Mr Grasso-Nguyen is required to provide technical and thought leadership to help the bank deliver on its technology strategy.

“Being a Distinguished Engineer isn’t just about experience, it’s about giving our engineers a voice through strong leadership and mentoring so they are empowered to grow their careers and create new innovative products and services for our customers,” Mr Grasso-Nguyen said.

“I want to infuse the best parts of culture from big tech companies and start-ups with the rigour and security of a regulated financial institution”

For example, Grasso-Nguyen is embedding best practice lessons learnt at Google to uplift the reliability principles at the bank using Site Reliability Engineering (SRE).

“Tech giants and large software firms are rapidly trying to adapt SRE practices to the next level and I’m here to help apply SRE the right way for our customers by uplifting our practices, hiring the right talent and growing that talent.”

As an ex-Googler, Mr Grasso-Nguyen said he is an advocate for experimentation and building a life-long learning mindset. He recently hired an all-star team of female engineering leaders and is driving never-seen-before automation across the bank to create the best developer experience for the bank’s engineers.

“We want to be the best technology-led bank in Australia, if not the world. We can’t do this by going down the same paths that we’re familiar with. We need to push for more diversity and inclusion and attract people who don’t necessarily look and think like us…then empower them to experiment and be comfortable with failing, learning and iterating. It’s the only way we can truly innovate and become the bank of tomorrow,” he said.

Grasso-Nguyen believes diversity in thinking and a curious mindset is what unites the engineering community at CommBank and is using data and analytics to enhance the engineering hiring and promotions process to see more inclusion.

“To me, a big tech culture is about putting people’s growth at the front and centre of your employee experience. We’re working on building an engineering mindset where we focus on outcomes, spend less time on meetings and PowerPoint presentations, and more time on writing or reviewing code and solving engineering challenges. It’s about making it easier for our engineers to do their job with the right set of tools. There’s no one size-fits approach which makes the journey we’re on so much more rewarding."