Commonwealth Bank's data-cleansing project: A customer problem

The yellow bank has multiple accounts on customers, but it's making cleaning up their problem.

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Image: Asha Barbaschow/ZDNet

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) is embarking on an internal project that will see it identify instances where customers have more than one account.

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Deputy CEO David Cohen described the project as helping customers identify where they have multiple accounts with the bank, opting to involve the customer, rather than automatically consolidating any duplicates.

"That project is not yet completed, it's underway, and the idea there is to help them identify and consolidate those accounts with us," Cohen told the House Standing Committee on Economics inquiry into the Big Four banks.

Cohen said he is unsure how many customers fall under this category, but expects there to be a number in that camp.

"It's not an automatic consolidation, because we think ultimately, it's up to the customer to choose. And so what we do is notify the customer -- the intention under this project is to be able to notify the customer of the existence of multiple accounts, and let them know about the fact that they can be combined," he said.

See also: How CommBank is training its machine learning Customer Engagement Engine

But the yellow bank isn't sure how exactly customers will be notified of this duplication.

"Because the project is underway, we haven't finalised it yet, so that's one of the things we're looking at is exactly what are the best methods of notifying … we haven't made a final determination as to all those methods," Cohen continued.

CEO Matt Comyn confirmed this wouldn't be done via email, as CBA doesn't typically email customers with any detailed information due to the number of email scams that get circulated.

"As you're probably aware, there's a lot of scams that go around to say to log on, so we're just very wary about exactly how we use those channels. But broadly, we would seek to engage with customers," he explained.

Earlier this month, CBA CTO Matt Pancino said having had the opportunity to reflect on the slew of regulatory issues that the bank has faced in the last two years, it has begun to look at how it can use data the right way to restore customer trust.  

"Personally, and the way the bank views it -- and the way to think about our bank strategy -- is we will have to treat customers' data with the same care and diligence as we manage their money. That's what the future of trust actually looks like for us," he said, speaking at the Future of Financial Services event in Sydney.

For the 2019 financial year, Commonwealth Bank reported AU$8.6 billion in statutory net profit after tax, slipping 8.1% from the AU$9.3 billion that was recorded a year prior.

Operating expenses increased slightly for the bank by 2.5% to $11 billion. Of that amount, AU$1.9 billion was spent on information technology services, 8% more than FY18, primarily due to increased IT infrastructure costs, risk and compliance spend, and software license costs.

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