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Westpac launches device-agnostic 'central platform' for mobile, online banking

Harley Ogier | Sept. 26, 2013
Aims to offer a full-featured banking experience across smartphones, tablets and PCs to its customers in Australia and New Zealand.

Westpac unveiled today its new digital and mobile strategy, which aims to offer a full-featured banking experience across smartphones, tablets and PCs.

"Our strategy is to be different from our peers, but only to be different from our peers because we believe that's the way that our customers are interacting with us more and more, and to deliver the best digital solutions for our customers," says general manager retail bank Ian Blair.

According to Blair, Westpac is making an investment of over $15 million over next 18 months in order to realise its new online and mobile banking strategy.

"Banking is changing at a million miles an hour", Blair explained. "Customers have got new needs and behaviours that are evolving all the time", most of which are driven by new technology such as smartphones and tablets.

"They key part for us with this central platform is the ability to extend the services we can offer from our current PC offering across all devices", Pomeroy said, "and develop new services in the next six months to do 90-95 per cent off things that can be done through the branch or the contact centre today.

"One thing we're not trying to drive ... is the proliferation of more and more apps ... customers don't want that." Pomeroy said. "We want to create that single platform that's device agnostic."

Computerworld watched the product demonstrated on a MacBook laptop, and had hands-on time with it running via the browser on an Apple iPad, iPhone and Samsung Galaxy smartphone. All versions are currently delivered as an HTML 5 web app, designed to be fully responsive to tablet and smartphone screen sizes.

When released to consumers, the iOS and Android versions will be wrapped as app store/play store apps, and make use of native functionality where necessary (for example, future versions may make use of the new iPhone 5S's fingerprint reader for security).

While it appears to be a fairly standard online banking suite, one particularly notable feature is Westpac's 'Timeline' view, which shows past and future activity across all accounts. A limited timeline view is shown as a pane on the homepage of the desktop and tablet versions, with a more detailed view available as a tab on those devices and on smartphones.

On September 13, the service was launched to 5000 Westpac staff members as an internal trial. It will launch to 50,000 select customers in October, a further 350,000 in November, and will be live for all Westpac customers in January 2014.

New functionality will be delivered every six to eight weeks via an agile development process, said Pomeroy, about a 40 per cent faster rate of development than previously achieved by the company. Behind the system is a core team of around 20 developers, and a technology team which is elastic in size, with around 40 members nominally.


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