CBA invests heavily in tech-for-trust image rebuild

CBA invests heavily in tech-for-trust image rebuild

Commonwealth Bank of Australia is to roll out a heavily-personalised revamped version of its mobile banking app, using machine learning to analyse 157 billion data points in real time to remind customers of upcoming bills and credit statements.

The Australian bank is bidding to repair its image as a trustworthy institution following a damning Royal Commission report into questionable ethics at the country's biggest institution.

In a speech to the Trans-Tasman Business Circle, CEO Matt Comyn bigged up the mobile app overhaul as a prime example of the use of technology to help customers avoid overdraft fees and the accumulation of interest on their credit card bills. Currently under trial with staff internally, the new app will be rolled out to customers over the coming months, with a big emphasis on the personalised aspect.

"When you log into the app it will be personalised and you can set both a look and feel behind it," says Comyn. "But also it will show you on the home screen the most relevant thing for you. That could be how your spending compares with last month. It might be reminding you about when your credit card payment is coming up. It could be telling you to take action because you have overdrawn your account. It could be helping you pick up where you left off in an application, and it could be providing all sorts of other improvements which are hopefully going to help you make as a customer much better decisions."

Powering the upgrade at the back end will be 200 machine-learning models delivering an approximately three billion personalised messages to customers over the next 12 months.

Comyn says the overdraft alerts alone will save customers an estimated $150 million in fees over the next 12 months.

The tech element will be reinforced by learnings in behavioural science, achieved by the bank through a partnership with Harvard Business school. Comyn points to forthcoming publication by the bank's behavioural economics team of "ground breaking research, particularly around how you can improve customer behaviours based on the timing of both when income is paid as well as when bills are due and received".

Comyn says that the improvements the bank is working on will require significant investment.

"We plan to invest a little over $5 billion over the next five years," he says. "Much of that work will go into investments directly in technology, making either our systems more safe, sound and secure, more reliable, but importantly in many of the ways that I spoke about today where we can add real value and improve the outcomes for our customers."

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