Westpac New Zealand is halfway through spending $15 million to refresh online banking in a format that works with just about any device.
The bank is moving away from what Simon Pomeroy, who heads the bank’s digital banking and customer experience division describes as a proliferation of apps which he says quickly becomes counterproductive: “Like carrying too many cards in your wallet”.
He says instead of choosing to build a series of apps for each smartphone, tablet and PC, the bank settled on a responsive web design that instantly adapts to whatever device a customer chooses to use. In his words, the new online system is ‘device agnostic’.
He says this approach means customers get the same online banking experience however they reach Westpac. At the same time, what the bank now calls its ‘central platform’ can be quickly updated to accommodate new products or features. In fact, Pomeroy says Westpac plans a series of rolling upgrades over the next 12 months which will see new features added every four to six weeks.
Although the new online service works with large size PC screens, it was designed in the knowledge that banking has shifted from branch, to desktop computers and from there to mobile devices. Pomeroy says the idea that online banking is mainly about desktops is now antiquated.
He says we use different devices throughout the day and that until now mobile banking apps or websites have typically offered only a small set of features compared to the desktop versions. He says: “Banking functionality tends to drop with mobile and tablets – we think that’s wrong”.
Which explains why Westpac’s new system gives tablet and smartphone users full access to all the features found in more traditional online banking services.
Let a thousand flowers bloom
Westpac New Zealand claims leadership in this area. The bank says it was the first to commit to iPad banking – a move which Pomeroy says paid huge dividends. It says the new online system will be an an industry first, enabling all online banking functions across all devices.
That’s a fair boast, but in truth all the major banks are embarked on ambitious customer-focused technology drives. In 2013, banks are competing on their digital products. It means we are seeing a flowering of innovation and creativity and some great ideas.
One of the interesting aspects Westpac showed during the demonstration of the new online system is the way task operate more naturally.
For example, instead of moving to a separate set of screens to move money from one account to another account, you simply select the to and from accounts while in the main banking screen, then enter the amount of money to move. It takes about three clicks to perform a task that previous took eight or nine. In the big scheme of things that may not be a huge productivity gain, but it does make for a more frictionless online banking experience – you’re less likely to come away from the screen in a frazzled state.