​ING Direct attributes 163,000 customer gain to improved digital experience

The financial services institution posted AU$295 million in after-tax profit and upped its customer count to 1.7 million during 2016.

ING Direct in Australia has released its financial results for 2016, reporting AU$295 million in statutory after-tax profit off the back of attracting 163,000 new customers during the 12-month period.

According to ING CEO Uday Sareen, the bank's customer growth came as a result of ING further developing its digital offerings and launching a new online banking platform in 2016.

"Bank customer inertia is declining as people are more willing to move for a better digital experience," Sareen said. "People are increasingly looking for a seamless digital experience from their service providers and the onus is on banks to provide that experience."

Now boasting 1.7 million customers, ING also saw an increase in uptake of its Orange Everyday payment account, growing 39 percent and breaking through the 500,000 users mark in 2016.

With the majority of ING's customer interactions via its mobile app, Sareen said that more than half of the company's new customers came from the recommendations of existing customers.

"We are now Australia's fifth-largest retail bank in both household balances and mortgages," he added. "8 percent of Australians are likely to switch banks in the next 12 months, whereas 14 percent of customers have switched banks over the past three years. This is a big opportunity for customers."

Sareen also said ING will continue to develop more products and services as part of the bank's focused primary bank strategy.

ING launched Apple Pay last month for its Orange Everyday customers.

According to ING Direct executive director of Customers John Arnott, the decision to employ the iPhone maker's digital wallet was a result of high demand from its customers.

"At ING Direct, we are digital first, and increasingly mobile first. Our customers are the most digitally engaged of any bank in this country, with 74 percent of their interactions with us through our mobile app -- that's almost 200,000 interactions through mobile each day," Arnott explained.

"Our customers embrace mobile technology to make many aspects of their lives quick, easy, and convenient, and this will undoubtedly extend to how they pay.

"Approximately 70 percent of our Orange Everyday customers who use our app connect with us through an iOS device, and they've been asking us for Apple Pay. We're delighted to be able to deliver."

Apple Pay was launched in Australia in November 2015, with American Express the only financial institution partner joining the iPhone maker's near-field communication (NFC) payments at the time.

Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) was then the first bank in Australia -- and the only financial institution in New Zealand -- to integrate Apple Pay, with ANZ CEO Shayne Elliott admitting in April that the launch was in direct response to the "hounding" he received from customers on Twitter and via email.

ANZ is the only member of Australia's big four to embrace Apple Pay; however, member-owned financial services provider CUA made the service available to its members in October, along with Woolworths Employees' Credit Union, Defence Bank, Bank Australia, Police Bank, and others.

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Westpac Banking Corporation, the National Australia Bank (NAB), and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank have been seeking regulatory approval to collectively negotiate with third-party mobile providers such as Apple on conditions relating to competition, best practice standards, and efficiency.

ING Direct also launched Android Pay in August.