NAB remains persistent in technology push

National Australia Bank has seen a decline in its cash earnings for the 2014 full year to September 30, 2014, but the bank remains confident that its technology strategy will help drive success.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Technology will continue to be a "critical enabler" for National Australia Bank (NAB) as it persists in executing a customer-focused strategy.

NAB has reported for the 2014 full year that on a statutory basis, net profit attributable to owners of the company was AU$5.3 billion, a 1.1 percent decrease from the previous year. Cash earnings declined to AU$5.18 billion during the year, which is 9.8 percent below the September 2013 full year.

Despite the declines, NAB group chief executive officer Andrew Thorburn remains optimistic, with the belief that technology will play a key role in pushing the company's success.

"I am pleased to announce that over 2015 and 2016, the benefits of our banking platform upgrade will become increasingly apparent to our retail banking customers, and around one third of our business customers who take out new personal banking products," he said.

NAB saw year-on-year spend in Australian banking and wealth increase by AU$98 million due to additional spend on compliance and infrastructure projects.

During 2014, the group continued to make upgrades across its digital channels, with particular focus on improving the customer's banking experience and mobile capability. For instance, upgrades were made to the Australian banking payments infrastructure to enable intraday settlement; a number of the banks' product information databases were consolidated into one to enable staff to service customers more quickly, reducing the number of branch support calls to customer contact centres; and an additional two NAB smart stores that give customers the choice to use the self-service channels onsite were rolled out.

Additionally, NAB completed the delivery of its core banking foundation, which included the migration of 300,000 UBank customers, and deployed a new credit risk engine that led to the decommissioning of 37 legacy servers.

The spend on New Zealand banking also increased by AU$40 million or 98 percent to AU$81 million, driven by spend on infrastructure, mainly on Nextgen NZ.

The Nextgen project commenced in 2009, with Oracle selected to provide the backbone of the system. In its full-year filings, NAB said that with its Nextgen program is nearing completion, an external review has found in its preliminary findings that the benefits of the program have been delivered to date, and smaller, more frequent drops of capabilities will be required.

Thorburn also noted that the company has accelerated exiting from non-core businesses, such as its NAB UK portfolio and Great Western Bank business.

Last month, NAB unveiled that due to a string of misconduct by its UK business, it was predicted that its cash earnings for the full year would be affected.

Based on NAB's current timetable for technology delivery, 2015-16 will see the complete rollout of NAB view, a single customer view for business bankers that is expected to improve sales conversions and deepen relations, and the launch of the NAB Now platform for small business customers so they are able to complete sales anytime, anywhere, and be able to accept card payments from a smartphone or tablet.

"Benefits include a single application for multiple products, loan application progress checked online or via regular updates, and faster approval times. Future decisions on how we invest in technology will be based on what our customers needed, what we can afford, and what is doable," Thorburn said.

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