Westpac brings location alerts to 'Jack Russell on speed' bank app

Summary:Westpac plans to target travelling customers next month when it releases new features to its mobile banking app.

Westpac banking group's mobile app has been treated to a number of updates over the last few years, and it occurs so frequently that Travis Tyler, who heads up the bank's mobile department, has described the company's mobile journey, so far, is equivalent of a "jack russell, two years old, on speed".

Based on last year's full-year results , the mobile app has now attracted over two million active users that produces over AU$4 billion in transactions every month.

Speaking at the Forrester CIO Summit 2014 in Sydney, Tyler said the next step for its mobile application is launching features next month for customers who are travelling overseas.

The new feature will prompt customers when they are at the airport to inform Westpac that they are going overseas to ensure the bank will not cancel their card in fear of fraudulent use.

Another aspect to this new feature will include giving travellers a "nudge" when they land a reminder about the bank's global ATM alliance, for example with Bank of America in the United States, which means customers will be able to get free cash withdrawals.

"We're starting to bring things to life and do things we weren't able to do in a cost effective way, in context and at scale," Tyler said.

According to Tyler, this forms part of the bank's three phases of the mobile journey, which it has been undertaking. The start-up phase was mainly focused on testing, learning, and getting to market first.

The second phase was "shadow mode", where it was about figuring out how to bring in a mobile application so that it combined what the bank was already doing in its branches, call centres, and its website. Having been able to do that, Tyler said 60 percent of Westpac's digital customers, representing a third of the bank's customers, are now using mobile.

"Interestingly, far more payments, in fact more than 40 percent are now going through a mobile device, which shows us that they are getting more comfortable with the security element of our mobile app, but it is also still the number one barrier to adoption," he said.

"What we also saw during shadow mode was, we started to capture data we hadn't seen before in terms of the minutes customers spend interacting with us, but also the frequency drove advocacy."

The mobile application has also enhanced the bank's interaction with its customers, but without cannibalising its relationship with customers through its website. Tyler said typically a digital customer would interact with the bank 10 times a month, but with the mobile app this has increased to 25, resulting in only one lost interaction on the desktop.

"We saw true incremental interactions and value from that," he said.

Tyler also noted that the introduction of mobile banking has seen an increasing demand for "get me out trouble" services, such as reporting lost or stolen cards, or increasing spending limits at checkout, all of which have been driven by customer demand. He said 60 percent of those services are now coming through mobile.

At the same time, the bank's app has been able to create opportunistic value from "dead space". For example, the bank is now selling upwards of 40 percent of products such as credit cards, personal loans, deposit accounts, and superannuation, through mobile.

"If you get the right experience, and in the right context, people will invest that time because they're waiting at a bus stop or in queue," Tyler said. "During those modes, you need to identify what those mobile wallets moments are, and what are some of those value added activities that you could be doing, and build it in a simple and contextual way, and they will adopt it."

Tyler continued and said the bank has now entered the third phase of its mobile journey, referred to as the "new business mode", where the bank is beginning to experiment with new form of technologies, such as wearables.

"We're looking at how do we disrupt our own business and start to extend to different parts of the value chain," he said.

A few weeks ago, as part of this new phase, Westpac launched LiveChat, a feature targeted at Gen-Y and the millennials, who are comfortable with interacting with Westpac in this way.

"We see it as a great opportunity to introduce our greatest assets — our people — and to have broader conversations around what we offer," Tyler said.

"There's a misconception that youth aren't interested in physical banking, but it's just that they just don't need it yet. A recent UK study showed that under 25s expect to have a higher need than your over 55s for physical banking in the future."

Topics: Mobility, Apps, Australia, Banking

About

Since completing a degree in journalism, Aimee has had her fair share of covering various topics, including business, retail, manufacturing, and travel. She continues to expand her repertoire as a tech journalist with ZDNet.

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