Westpac 'digitisation' program helps bank to AU$3.6b profit

Westpac banking group today announced a net profit for the six month to the end of March of AU$3.6b, and revealed it has now completed the first stage of its SIPs program.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

A ten percent increase year-on-year in six-month profit to the end of March of AU$3,622 million was announced by Westpac today, with the bank's focus on customer service and technology being highlighted in the bank's results.

"I am pleased with this result and the momentum we have built across the Group. It is a strong performance and reflects the consistent execution of our strategy, which has customers at its centre," Westpac Group chief executive officer, Gail Kelly.

"Westpac is responding proactively and strongly to digitisation, and we have delivered a range of new products and services to meet customers' changing needs."

During the six months, the bank said it launched a new online banking platform, new contactless payment functionality for Samsung Galaxy and Note devices, launched the first phase of its BT Panorama platform in the form of BT Cash, and continues to roll out merchant terminals with WiFi and 3G connectivity.

The bank's branches continued to be upgraded, with video conferencing technology being available for small business customers, and Smart ATM deployment continuing, bringing the bank total to around 730. In Westpac NZ, deposits with Smart ATMs increased by 25 percent, and now make up 25 percent of all deposits.

Online customers now total 1.77 across Westpac retail and St George, with numbers up across all brands in the group portfolio. The number of mobile banking customers was up 8 percent for Westpac retail, up 10.1 percent for St George, and up 16 percent to 254,000 customers for Westpac New Zealand.

Investment in technology and the group's Strategic Investment Priorities (SIPs) program continued at pace, as the group spend a total of AU$471 million across its technology, software, and technical services for the half. For the second half of 2013, the group spent AU$457 million in the same areas, and AU$390 million for the same half last year.

Spending in technical and information services was up AU$19 million, with both technology and software line items down by 4 and 1 percent respectively.

During the half, the bank revealed it had made upgrades to security applications, general ledger and payroll systems, as well as progressing the migration of server infrastructure into Westpac’s new data centre.

As the bank moves in phase two of its SIP program, the results said that the focus for the remainder of 2014 would be increasing its infrastructure in Asia, simplifying desktop for branch and call centre staff, upgrading the payments system to lower transaction time, and upgrading the group's wealth platform.

Westpac announced last week that it would follow the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's lead and roll out cardless ATM withdrawals across its network of 2000 ATMs. Westpac did not announce when it would complete the roll out, but the Commonwealth Bank is due to complete its deployment by the end of May.

In November, Westpac revealed the future of its core banking infrastructure in its bank's full-year financial results. The plan will see Westpac and St George first share a common infrastructure access layer currently used by Westpac, before St George is moved onto the latest version of its CSC-made Hogan core bank platform, Celeriti, with Westpac joining St George on Celeriti thereafter.

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