Westpac digital drive helping contain costs

Westpac digital drive helping contain costs

Interim cash profit of more than $4 billion follows busy six months in transformation effort

Westpac customers are flocking to online banking, allowing the group to contain costs by closing branches, the company said in its interim financial report this morning.

The bank posted an interim cash profit of more than $4 billion, coming in the wake of a busy six months in its digital transformation.

“This is a solid result given the current complex operating environment,” Westpac Group CEO Brian Hartzer said in a statement.

“We’ve digitised more processes, which is improving service for customers while also bringing costs down. We’ve launched a number of new systems including Samsung Pay, SuperCheck, and our new wealth system Panorama; and we’ve added around 100 new online features to assist customers,” he added.

The number of digital transactions made by Australian consumer and business customers had increased from the first half of 2016 to this half by eight per cent to 287 million. The number of ‘digitally active customers’ had also increased, up seven per cent in March this year compared with the same month last year.

Digital sales had fallen slightly however, impacted by lower credit card balance transfers, the bank said.

Customers’ move to digital channels had seen the number of branch transactions fall by 9 per cent since the last half, continuing a steady trend. “Further digital adoption has enabled the Group to continue its network reconfiguration” the bank said, resulting in the closure of 45 branches over the last six months.

Overall, the bank had found productivity savings during the period of $118 million.

Wide view

The group’s wealth division Panorama system is now “largely completed” the bank said, and now has the capability to support financial advisers in managing their clients superannuation. Together with a recently launched self-managed fund, the new capability has contributed to funds under administration on the system of $3.9billion.

The Panorama wealth management platform integrates a range of investment options – managed portfolios, managed funds, term deposits, BT cash and listed securities as well as SMSF administration.

The system has significantly changed the way BT Financial Group (Westpac’s wealth management arm) delivers services by allowing customers to access their investment and SMSF needs on one, digital platform.

As it continues working towards creating a single-view of customers across systems, the bank recently appointed Oracle for the foundation of its Customer Service Hub which is moving from “design phases into development” the bank said.

The bank had also been able to automate a slew of manual processes, it said, such as implementing mobile personal loan applications, and auto form-filling for staff conducting business customer reviews.

Active response

The last six months have also seen a number of digital service releases, including the Westpac keyboard for easier payments within social chat apps including Facebook and Instagram; an expense splitter for St George customers; and ‘quick transfers’ which allows customers to transfer between accounts without needing to log on to online banking.

In April, Westpac became the first major bank to offer mobile payments via Samsung Pay. In March, it was one of a group of banks to lose its fight with Apple over the iPhone-maker’s payments platform.

The bank was “actively responding to new digital opportunities” it said in its investor presentation today, backing various innovation accelerators, including its internal Hotbox program, fintech space Stone & Chalk and distributed ledger group R3.

In January, Westpac Group upped its stake in QuintessenceLabs to enable the homegrown quantum cyber security company to further expand its global reach.

Investment continues in mortgage broker disruptor Uno and cloud claiming and payments platform Lantern Pay, and the bank has committed $100m to independent venture capital fund Reinventure which allowed it to “gain insights into emerging fintech business models”.

"The Group has continued to use advances in digital technologies to improve the customer experience, enhance productivity and reduce risk," the bank said.

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