Westpac posts AU$7.99b yearly profit, sends digital Customer Service Hub live

In delivering its AU$7.99 billion after-tax FY17 profit, Westpac has announced the first transactions have been conducted on its Customer Service Hub -- the bank's largest digital transformation program.

Westpac has processed its first live home loans through its new technology platform, the Customer Service Hub, with the bank saying the initiative aimed at speeding up and simplifying the home loan process as its largest transformation program to date.

In a statement, Westpac's chief executive of Consumer Bank George Frazis said the process to send and receive all customer loan documents currently takes 12 days, using the hub, finalising a home loan will happen digitally in less than a day.

"This is at the heart of Customer Service Hub -- a frictionless, faster home loan experience that guides and supports the customer through the key moments of buying a home, no matter how they choose to engage with the bank," he said.

"From accepting a home loan online, to personalising the terms and conditions to the customers' loan requirements, and tracking the home loan application anywhere, anytime -- these are just some features of the Customer Service Hub that will enable a customer to know what is happening at every step of their home buying journey."

In re-engineering the home loan process, Westpac hopes to digitise the end-to-end home loan origination process by 2020.

For the 2017 financial year, the bank reported AU$7.99 billion in after-tax profit, on revenue of AU$21.8 billion, an increase of 4 percent year-on-year.

As of September 30, 2017, Westpac boasted 13.8 million customers; 4.53 million were considered digitally active, with 72 percent of them using a mobile platform.

Branch transactions during the 12-month period dropped by 4 percent to 21.7 million, while digital transactions increased to 304 million; the bank also closed 59 branches during the year, resulting in 500 employees being let go.

In the last six months, Westpac enabled cardless withdrawals from its ATM fleet and allowed the activation of cards through the app using the card's NFC chip.

The bank also transitioned more than 10,000 of its staff into working in an agile environment.

Although building out tech from within, Westpac said it is actively responding to digital threats and opportunities through other areas in a bid to encourage digital innovation "inside, adjacent, and outside" the group.

"In this way Westpac can both learn directly, and gain access to emerging fintech developments," the bank told shareholders.

One example includes sponsoring the innovation ecosystem through fintech hub Stone & Chalk, which the bank said allows it to partner with the fintech community and "bring the best of the outside in".

Additionally, through its AU$100 million venture capital firm Reinventure, Westpac has made 16 investments covering areas such as blockchain and digital currencies, payments, peer-to-peer lending, as well as big data and data analytics.

Some companies Westpac highlighted as game-changers include Sydney's big data startup Data Republic and San Francisco-based online platform for buying, selling, transferring, and storing digital currency, Coinbase.

The bank also this year entered into a "strategic" relationship with Australian-listed payments firm Zipmoney, investing AU$40 million by way of a private share placement in August to allow the integration of the fintech's products and services across Westpac's network throughout Australia, as well as other initiatives including the provision of in-development business-to-business products and services.

On partnering with startups, Westpac recently joined a consortium comprised of Australia Post, EnergyAustralia, Optus, and others as founding members of CoVentured, a platform looking to connect corporates with startups that can help solve some of their innovation challenges. The bank also joined a blockchain proof-of-concept under development by financial messaging service SWIFT.

In April, the bank went live with Samsung Pay, opening up the phone-based wallet to debit and credit card cardholders across both Mastercard and Visa. This came a year after it launched Android Pay, in addition to Westpac's own tap and pay function, which was unveiled to customers in 2014.

The bank then announced last month the December launch of PayWear, its own payment-enabled wearable devices that allow customers to tap and pay without their wallet or smartphone on all contactless-enabled terminals.

During the year, the bank also launched the social media-based Westpac Keyboard, which was shortly removed from iOS devices in July at the request of Apple.

Customers of Westpac, as well as St George, BankSA, and Bank of Melbourne, are now able to log into internet banking on their new iPhone X using Apple's Face ID facial recognition function.

In a blog post made early Saturday morning, Travis Tyler, GM of Consumer Digital at Westpac, revealed the bank is planning to update its apps to support facial recognition for Android in the future, should the functionality become available.

"The uptake of fingerprint log in for supported devices has only continued to grow, particularly among millennials, as the technology becomes more readily available," Tyler wrote. "Now it's the next evolution of biometrics in banking, where customer interactions are less about what they can remember and more about who they are. It's only likely to further grow as data is opened up.

"The next phase will involve how your digital footprint is becoming your digital DNA, with you everywhere you go and helping keep your data and money safe."

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia also announced the Face ID function on Friday afternoon.

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