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Appointments: Oracle chief predicts surge in trading exchanges

By Graeme Kennedy

Friday 28th July 2000

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FAST MOVER: Leigh Warren says New Zealand could move faster than Australia in introducing trading exchanges
New Zealand business can expect major developments in internet trading exchanges in the next 12 months and will move faster than Australia into the next phase of the e-commerce phenomenon, Oracle's new country manager Leigh Warren says.

The huge overseas growth in exchanges had changed the way companies dealt with each other and those not equipped to do business electronically in the future were seriously under threat, Mr Warren said.

"Traditionally, people bought and sold in mechanical fashion but then the exchanges opened up, the process became transparent and any organisation can join a trading exchange with very simple technology - suddenly, anyone can trade with anyone else, anywhere.

"There will be a small number of exchanges in New Zealand in the next year to service the marketplace across the board. New Zealand has the opportunities and can move faster because it is smaller and less complex.

"In Australia, 16 organisations are already trying to put together a horizontal exchange, Corprocure, to service the market there but here in New Zealand, we could move faster."

Across-the-board exchanges would become springboards for specialised operations with access to the vast opportunities available in the global business community, he said.

"There seems to be some pent-up demand for exchanges in the New Zealand market. We are seeing a lot of interest and we've got to make sure New Zealand is not left behind," Mr Warren said.

"The world's biggest commercial e.com software and application supplier, Oracle was started in 1978 by its flamboyant chairman Larry Ellison, who this year overtook rival Microsoft boss Bill Gates as the world's richest businessman.

San Francisco-based Mr Ellison has stolen several Team New Zealand crew for his challenge for the next America's Cup and in 1998 his racing yacht Sayonara, skippered by Chris Dixon, took line honours in the killer Sydney-Hobart race. He also races sports cars and owns a Mig fighter.

Oracle is the force behind the US auto-exchange started by Ford and joined by General Motors. Oracle's systems power the world's top-10 internet sites, including Amazon and Yahoo. Revenues last year were up 20% to $US13 billion while profits rose 76% to $US3 billion.

"The exchanges facilitate business-to-business growth and accelerate the market move to electronic trading. The growth has become the catalyst for people to move to trading electronically - and if they don't play on it they'll be out of the game," Mr Warren said.

"While the e.com business appeared to have 'lost some of its bubble,'" Mr Warren said those in the industry with sound business plans and the right fundamentals would survive.

"There has been a bit of a shake-down. The whole development came a bit early and got carried away with itself with too much money offered to too many people without good business plans - it was too easy to start a business without having to get to the return stage and too easy to get capital. It has come down to earth and that's a good thing," he said.

Mr Warren qualified as a biochemist with a diploma of clinical chemistry in the UK and worked for four years in hospital laboratories before realising his interests lay in the business side of the industry. He moved into sales and marketing, selling the technology he had used in the labs.

"Even at that early stage, we were into the computers and chips starting to be integrated into laboratory equipment and getting into the computer business was a natural progression for me."

Mr Warren joined Burroughs - which later became part of Unisys - and moved to South Africa as product director before transferring to Tandem as South African managing director. He started his own business and management consultancy in Johannesburg in 1996.

He joined Oracle as South Africa managing director in 1998 and in his first year doubled revenues by working with partners, forming alliances and focusing on large clients.

"I wanted to move from South Africa but stay with Oracle to take on the challenge of recreating some of the growth we had had there. The industry is changing and developing so quickly we've got to make sure we are not left behind - every market, including New Zealand, is trying to keep ahead as change becomes part of the game."

Mr Warren said New Zealand had become an "exciting" market for Oracle since the company came here in the 1980s, with a wide coverage in applications, database and system development for a solid base of major customers, including the Dairy Group, Dairy Board, Telecom and New Zealand Post.

"New Zealanders are early adopters of new technology and we look at it as a test market."

Leigh Warren
Position: Managing director, Oracle New Zealand
Age: 42
Marital status: Married, two children
Pastimes: Golf, running, reading

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