Westpac digital honcho Simon Pomeroy on how and why Westpac's striving to be the world's best digital bank

Westpac digital honcho Simon Pomeroy on how and why Westpac's striving to be the world's best digital bank

By Gareth Vaughan

Westpac’s publicly stated aim of being New Zealand’s best digital bank this year, and then the world’s best next year, is basically about giving customers what they want, says chief digital officer Simon Pomeroy.

Pomeroy told interest.co.nz in a Double Shot interview Westpac saying it wants to be the best digital bank is a lot more than a public relations stunt, despite what rivals and cynics might think.

“If you look at the change in customer behaviour, and the trends in customer behaviour, particularly around the adoption of new technology, this is not a PR stunt,” Pomeroy said.

“For us we looked at the change in customers, particularly towards mobile banking around two years ago, and for us it was more around where do we want to be? It was really a case of saying how do we want to drive digital banking but integrate it into the whole of our banking experience?”

“So (CEO) Peter Clare came on board just under two years ago and really set the challenge to us to say if this is where our customers are, and want to be, how do we drive this change through the bank?” Pomeroy said.

“So we've set ourselves out to say that we want to be the best digital bank in New Zealand by the end of this year, and the best digital bank in the world by the end of 2015. And I think we're well on the way to achieving that.”

How do you measure success?

Asked how Westpac would measure whether it was the best, and who it needs to overtake both in New Zealand and internationally to achieve its goals, Pomeroy said ultimately customers would tell Westpac staff if it’s the best digital bank.

“If I look back at the challenge we set out two years ago it was really a case of looking at internet banking and saying why don't we have an online banking platform that gives customers the ability to do all their banking online?” Pomeroy said.

“And then the second question was if customers can do all their banking online, why can't they do it through any device whether it's a mobile phone, tablet or PC?”

A “proof of point” on the strategy for Westpac is its $15 million “device agnostic” online banking platform. Launched last year, Pomeroy said 30,000 customers are now using this and it’ll be rolled out to all customers by the end of August.

“And that capability means we will give our customers the ability to do 90% of the things they can do in a branch today online by August this year. And that to me is a major proof point as to why we will be the best digital bank in New Zealand,” he said.

'It's not about apps'

Meanwhile, Pomeroy said he doesn't view digital banking as being about applications, per se.

"It's actually about how do you think about digital to both extend the services that can be achieved today in banking, but also to further deepen and strengthen your customer relationships?"

Westpac has "four key pillars" to its digital strategy, which Pomeroy says will drive "significant" revenue for the bank if achieved.

"The first is to really deliver an online banking capability that allows customers to be able to activate and apply for all the services they can through the branch today online. The second is to make it faster and easier for customers to be able to do their banking though whichever channel they choose to use, whether that's a digital channel or a human channel or a mixture of both. The third thing is better recognising customers as individuals and really understanding their needs far greater and then really delivering to those needs. The fourth one is taking feedback and acting on that feedback."

"And I think if you can achieve that, and we're certainly on the way to achieving that, then better ability to serve, understand and manage customers will drive revenue to the bank both through digital channels on their own, but also as a mixture of customers using digital channels and human channels together," said Pomeroy.

He gave the example of Westpac allowing people to apply - and get approval - for home loans via their mobile phones.

"That's now driving about 15% of total applications we get for home lending. That in itself is a big achievement in the space of only 18 months. But when I look at those numbers, 40% of those customers are what we call new to bank. So they are customers that aren't Westpac customers today," Pomeroy said.

"And so your ability to be able to manage and deepen existing relationships, and bring new customers to the bank through online channels, will create a significant revenue stream and is creating a significant revenue stream to the bank today."

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I'd describe this strategy as reactionary, rather than visionary as Westpac likes to frame it. Its not overly difficult for a bank to serve their content up for mobile clients, it would be foolish for them to no do so. What is probably a greater task is convincing internal IT of the providence of doing so.

Yes, most of this is bog standard CEO dribble.  Nothing revolutionary about  "understanding their needs far greater and then really delivering to those needs."

pretty much.  as soon as the CEO says "this is not a publicity stunt" you know it is.