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Westpac Live hits 2.7 million people in digital services drive

Westpac's new mobile and online platform Westpac Live has been rolled out to more than 2.7 million customers, with the bank employing new digital platforms to back its ongoing customer-centric strategy.

Westpac Banking Corporation migrated 2.7 million of its retail customers onto its Westpac Retail & Business Banking division's new mobile platform, dubbed "Westpac Live", during the financial year ending 30 September.

Over the course of the year, the bank has introduced a number of large-scale digital platforms, including fingerprint-recognition technology for mobile banking across its businesses, St George, Bank of Melbourne, BankSA, and RAMS, and introduced a "live chat" service on the Westpac Live mobile app, along with its Westpac Get Cash emergency cash service.

It also rolled out its Mobile PayWay platform during the year, allowing business customers to use their mobile devices as a merchant terminal, and upgraded 202 branches to digitally connect with financial services specialists across business banking.

Westpac CEO Gail Kelly said that the new digital services were introduced as part of an AU$470 million investment in growth and productivity as it works to evolve into a more "customer-centric" organisation.

"This was not only a year of significant delivery, but also one in which we accomplished a substantial step change in our strategic agenda," Kelly told shareholders in a statement (PDF). "Rapid developments in digital and mobile technologies are providing us with greater opportunities to build a more customer-centric organisation.

"We have invested AU$470 million during the year on initiatives targeting growth and productivity, including the development of innovative products and services. This is fundamentally transforming our business and providing customers with easier, simpler services and greater control over how they manage their finances.

"Just as importantly, the implementation of our customer service revolution is resulting in streamlined processes that are driving down customer complaints, with a reduction of 27 percent achieved in AFS [Australian Financial Services] alone," she said.

The company reported a 12 percent increase in statutory net profit for the financial year, to AU$7.56 billion — and recorded a cash profit of AU$7.63 billion, up 8 percent from the previous year.

Total investment spend for the year was AU$1.068 billion, with 44 percent directed to Kelly's "growth and productivity" initiatives, 32 percent on regulatory change, and 24 percent — around AU$258 million — on "other technology programs".

Westpac said its "other technology" spend included significant upgrades to security applications, the general ledger and payroll systems, and further migration of server infrastructure into its new datacentre.

The company said it spent AU$495 million on software for the financial year, plus AU$392 million on technology and information services, while its software amortisation for the 12-month period increased by AU$90 million, and its hardware depreciation expenses rose by AU$11 million.

However, it also said that the impact of operating cost growth — before investment impact — was offset by AU$219 million in productivity savings.

Meanwhile, Westpac said it completed the first stage of its new BT Wealth platform, dubbed "Panorama", which is hoped will "simplify and enhance" the management and administration of customers' finances.

In September, Westpac announced that it launched itself into the "service revolution" phase of its strategy, where it claims to make its customers the centre of all of its business decisions.

To mark the beginning of this phase, the company opened The Hive , an 800-square-metre innovation hub based in the Sydney suburb of Kogarah, which the bank claims took around three months to set up and cost about AU$4 million.

Westpac's annual results follow the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's (CBA) record cash profit of AU$8.68 billion for the financial year, revealing that 47 percent of its transactions, by value, are now handled online.

CBA, also a big spender in technology, reported in August that it handled 4.9 million balance views on mobile devices in June this year, with 756,000 similar views completed at the start of the fiscal year in June.

During that time period, the bank also launched its revamped CommBank app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8 that saw a merger of its CommBank and Kaching apps.