NAB shifting towards a continuous digital delivery strategy

The bank's digital general manager Todd Copeland has said NAB focused on the customer experience with its new internet banking app.

Customers of the National Australia Bank (NAB) have received an update to the iOS internet banking app this week, with the rollout of the new platform now complete across the two major smartphone operating systems.

Speaking with ZDNet, NAB executive general manager of digital Todd Copeland said the bank launched not just an app, rather a "complete experience"; one that is sitting on top of a new digital backbone.

Copeland said digital banking is core to NAB customers' everyday banking needs, with the bank recording over 50 million internet banking logins across its digital platforms monthly, of which around 70 percent are via mobile devices.

As a result, NAB took the update very seriously.

"One of the things that has changed is how we actually look at both delivering experiences but doing it in a way that we can actually stay in sync with what customers want," Copeland said.

"If you go back to internet banking when it was first created, back in the late 90s -- that's 17-18 years of architecture and technology development that happened.

"I'm sure you're not using a Nokia 3810 anymore, so things have moved on a little bit, and what we needed to do was completely re-engineer."

The updated app went live for Android users three weeks ago in a phased rollout that Copeland said was necessary to guarantee the success of the overhaul.

"We needed to, as we launched this to customers, test and make sure there was no customer impact and we could actually deliver the best possible experience," he said.

"We took a risk-based delivery approach and went with Android first because it was a smaller customer base and we had the flexibility to some extent within the Android platform to run what we call a 'closed' beta."

The bank chose this approach so it could monitor performance progressively, which Copeland said allowed NAB to adjust accordingly before pressing the big green button.

nab-internet-banking-app.jpg

NAB's new Internet Banking app

Screenshot: Asha McLean/ZDNet

With the updated app comes a whole bunch of new features, including the ability for customers to transfer funds using the recipient's mobile number -- a move in line with an instantaneous payment project the Reserve Bank of Australia will launch next year.

Another feature is Visa card customisation that sees users able to temporarily block cards, turn off online shopping, disable PayWave functionality, and prevent cash withdrawals from ATMs.

Customers are also able to instantly use newly approved personal Visa credit cards with a digital contract feature through NAB Pay for contactless transactions less than AU$100, negating the need for a physical card.

In building its new app, Copeland said NAB worked really closely with Visa, holding joint "innovation jams" in both Singapore and San Francisco.

"That was all about how do we put control back into our customers' hands," he added. "It's a customer journey -- for want of a better term -- through that experience."

Following the claim from NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn in June that the bank now considers itself a fintech company, the organisation focused heavily on customer involvement with its new app.

"We know there's a small number of features where customers spend 80 percent of their time so our focus was around things like account balance lookup, making a payment, etc -- these core functions within the app are where we spent a lot of time and did a lot of testing with customers," Copeland said.

"Through that time we got lots of feedback so those screen designs were also complementary to the customer flow.

"Customers were telling us it was taking too long to log in so we have halved the login time and saved customers 77 years of time if you add that up for a year from our customer base."

He conceded however that it is not really a feature, more an expectation of customers wanting to use the app quickly, to "get in and get out".

"We know that 40 percent of our customers logged in and out of the app within 30 seconds," he explained, adding that more than 500 new screens had been designed for the new app.

"So we have rebuilt essentially our core banking platform into that architecture and that has taken several years but we now have over 300 APIs that we've built and that we can now externalise to our customers."

Most of the work that was performed by the bank behind the scenes was all internal, with Copeland overseeing a team of about 800 people in NAB's Digital Delivery Centre. The centre is the result of moving staff out of four different buildings into one, and now focusing on eight core digital platforms.

"This is a differentiator for us ... how do we actually make sure that we build that knowledge in-house. We have an internal design team; we have internal developers, platform ownership. We run in a full agile operation," he said.

"That is how we need to remain competitive but also be able to meet customer expectation of the speed they now expect their life to be run.

"True competitiveness is not going to come from how many features you build, it's going to come from the speed and the execution that you're doing it in and it's actually meeting your customers expectations."

Copeland joked that the way the bank is now run is very different to 158 years ago when it first started, with 95 percent of all interactions via a digital channel.

Despite the fanfare of the new release, Copeland said the app is never going to remain constant.

"What you see here is the first instance of the experience as it is today ... what we built is the ability to actually create, change, and put into the app within a 24-hour window," he explained.

"It's not a project that is going to end; it is continuous, and this is just the way businesses need to run.

"As we finish this we're continuing to drop the next releases and we've got a whole range of things we're going to continue to deploy."

Copeland said NAB has a rich road map of things it wants to do, but it is more important that they deliver them at the right point in time, when customers want to use them.

"We will balance that with flooding customers with new things all at once. We could push a lot of things that don't actually get used," he said.

"We need to do that in the right way and that is low effort and high return with respect to great experience, so we won't compromise that but we will also not wait to get everything lined up and bundle it into a nice traditional release that we will do once a year.

"It's going to be an ongoing release of capability."

Last month, NAB experienced three system outages in the space of seven days.

The first hit its internet banking, customer call centres, and payments processing as a result of a "number of system outages" experienced the night before.

The bank's customers Australia-wide were then prevented from using their bank cards in ATMs or at EFTPOS terminals, with the outage also affecting NAB merchant terminals and its health claims and payments system (HICAPS), a payment solution for health care providers.

The third outage meant customers were unable to access their internet banking.

The bank also reported a 94.4 percent statutory profit slump to AU$352 million for the 2016 financial year, citing technology investments as a main contributing factor.

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