NAB touts cloud shift as full-year underlying profit drops 12 percent to AU$9b

National Australia Bank has reported a 5 percent increase in statutory net profit, but a 12 percent dip in its underlying profit.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

For the year to September 30, National Australia Bank (NAB) has reported a 12 percent drop in its underlying profit to AU$9 billion, despite a 6 percent jump in revenue to AU$19 billion and a 5 percent jump in statutory net profit to AU$5.55 billion.

"We are making progress to be a better bank for our customers, employees, and owners. While 2018 has been a challenging year, our transformation is on track and benefits are emerging as we become simpler and faster," NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn said.

Over the course of the fiscal year, the bank spent just shy of AU$500 million on technology and investment, and created a new technology leadership team with 10 executives.

The organisation's shift to a cloud-first strategy saw 70 applications moved during the year, with the last 50 days of the year accounting for 30 application shifts, and the bank touting cost savings of up to 60 percent per application -- however, this only represents 3 percent of the bank's applications.

NAB added that it had reduced its overall number of applications by 5 percent, completed its Smart ATM rollout, and reduced the number of critical incidents on its infrastructure by 95 percent compared to the first half of 2014.

During the year, NAB launched Cloud Guild, an internal program that offers up Amazon Web Services (AWS) skills training. As a result, the bank said it has trained over 3,000 people and certified 300 engineers. NAB now claims to have the highest number of "cloud-certified practitioners and certified cloud engineers" in Australia and New Zealand.

NAB Ventures saw its capital double to AU$100 million this year, with the investment arm tracking over 1,750 companies, qualifying 500 opportunities, and eventually making only 12 investments.

The bank said it experienced a 39 percent increase in its business-focused NAB Connect app since March, and the percentage of its business customers using the app grew from 3 percent to 25 percent. On the consumer side, its app saw 17.5 million payments using Australia's New Payments Platform, 288,000 overseas travel notifications, and 11.6 million Look Who's Charging uses.

Over the last 12 months, NAB has been working with local Australian company Look Who's Charging, with general manager of NAB Labs Jonathan Davey telling Sibos in Sydney last month that the bank has been working with very early stage companies to deliver a better customer experience.

"One of the real issues we've been trying to address here is the experience that a customer has when they look at a transaction list and wonder what were some of those merchants that are listed in that particular transaction list," he said.

"Look Who's Charging has some artificial intelligence that allows us to be able to match a merchant's ID to the trading name of a company to be able to present that information to our customers in a digital channel."

Davey said this delivers an improved customer experience, also reducing the number of inbound calls.

"It has allowed us to be able to bring in new capabilities more quickly by working with a third party," he said.

NAB also launched a virtual assistant in September, armed with pre-programmed responses to 1,000 questions, that is projected to remove 1 million calls to its call centre by 2020.

In May, NAB chief technology and operations officer Patrick Wright told ZDNet that the bank would not be upgrading its core banking for some time.

"If I have a core system that works, that calculates interest and does good record keeping for my customers, and I can create APIs around it, why would I spend the time, effort, and money changing it?" Wright told ZDNet.

"I'm going to choose to innovate around my customer rather than become an internally focused company -- it's far better for me and it's better for my people, as they want to innovate around the customer, they don't want to go work on a backend system that's 53 years old.

"Honestly, it's not going to move the needle, what's going to move the needle is creating customer value propositions that are compelling and different and interesting, not changing how interest is calculated on a credit card."

Two month later, the bank appointed David Fairman to the role of chief security officer, who will report to Wright.

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