Australian banks begin publishing quarterly retail payment service reliability reports

The Reserve Bank said availability of individual retail payment services provided by Australia's banks and payment providers was 'generally high' during the September quarter.

The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has published its first quarterly statistical disclosures on the reliability of banking payment services to households and businesses in a bid to increase transparency about retail payment service reliability.

The new disclosures are being published on the websites of individual service providers, including large and smaller banks, such as Australia's big four banks, and more specialised payments providers like Teachers Mutual Bank.

Each disclosure details the quarterly statistics on significant outages and availability of individual services including ATMs, cardholder payments, access to accounts using online baking, branches, card acceptance for businesses, and fast and next business day account transfers.  

"It is vital for the smooth functioning of day-to-day economic activity that retail payments providers maintain reliable services for their customers. The new reliability disclosures are intended to support this objective," RBA assistant governor Michele Bullock said.

"The Reserve Bank thanks institutions for their active efforts in developing and disclosing these standardised statistics."

Based on data from July to September, availability of individual retail payment services was "generally high", according to RBA. It also noted that outage time for some providers' online banking and fast account transfer services was high.

Examining the data more closely, Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), for instance, reported only having 100% service availability for transactions over-the-counter in a branch and for next business day transfers during quarter.

CBA also experienced significant outages, resulting in its cardholder payment system being impacted for 18 hours and 46 minutes, while card acceptance for businesses was hit by a significant outage for 8 hours and 43 minutes during the quarter.

The results [PDF] from ANZ were not too dissimilar, with 100% service availability recorded only for ATM services and next business day transfers. There was also an 11 hours and 25 minutes outage during the quarter that impacted customers who tried accessing accounts using online banking.

Meanwhile, Westpac and National Australia Bank escaped the September quarter fairly unscathed, each scoring nearly 100% availability for all of its services during the period.

"It's pleasing to see the investment we have made returning better results for our customers at a critical time for many of them as they open-up and the economic recovery takes shape," NAB CTO Steve Day said.

"Over the last three to four years we've invested heavily to strengthen our technology foundations, to deliver a more resilient and flexible technology environment for our colleagues and customers.

"While this work is continuous, we are seeing the results of this investment and focus. We have invested in cloud public technology, 68% of our tech workforce is now in-sourced and we're de-coupling years of legacy technology systems to help us achieve this environment.

"Examples like the migration of our Business Banking online customer platform, NAB Connect, to the cloud has improved resilience, performance and reliability of that application, and we've seen a strong improvement in positive customer feedback as a result."

In other banking news, CBA is expanding its personalised retail shopping offering with its venture arm x15 Ventures by introducing a deal discovery app called Cheddar. It will use artificial intelligence to personalise offers to target Gen Z and Millennial shoppers.

The bank has also integrated ecommerce website Little Birdie into its CommBank app.

Little Birdie is a one-stop shop website that will give CommBank app users access to Australian brands and retailers, including Myer, Big W, and The Iconic. It was launched in August, after CBA invested AU$30 million into the online shopping startup.

Like Cheddar, CBA will use transactional data together with AI to tailor the experience of Little Birdie for its customers.

"As customers look to their bank for help with more than banking and money management, our shopping offering, including our partnership with Little Birdie, is a natural extension of this, delivering real value to customers and merchants through great offers," a CBA spokesperson told ZDNet.

Earlier this month, CBA purchased a minority stake in Silicon Valley-based AI firm H2O.ai with the hope it will help the bank tailor the banking experience for customers.

While the bank has not disclosed the size of its investment, the bank was the lead investor in H2O.ai's $100 million Series E growth funding rounding.   

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