The Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has the highest digital engagement of any bank in Australia by some margin with the latest evolution of the CommBank App, launched in July, increasingly becoming the primary touch point for its customers. Currently, 5.6 million people log into the app more than 7.4 million times every day. This is in addition to the seven million active customers who regularly use its NetBank platform.
The latest redesigned product, CommBank App 4.0, uses machine learning, deep data analytics and behavioural science to deliver an innovative, hyper personalised mobile experience for its customers.
Leading the redesigned app is chief digital officer and chief information officer at CBA’s Retail Bank, Pete Steel. He says that despite the app already being market-leading by most industry standards, there were several factors that prompted the redesign.
The first is the pace of technological change within and outside banking is increasing momentum. Secondly, long gone are the days when CBA was only competing against other banks; it is now competing against startups and ‘big tech’ so its digital experiences now need to compete on a global scale, says Steel.
Thirdly, customers’ expectations are changing and are increasingly being set outside of banking. They want to do more than just view and transact money online, they want their digital banking experiences to be personalised, smart and helpful, he says.
Steel says the app has accelerated a change in ethos within the bank and goes against traditional commercial orthodoxy by making it easier for customers to manage their finances by reducing fees or shifting to less profitable products.
“For example, we have put features like fee alerts front and centre with the new app, reminding customers about upcoming items so that they avoid unnecessary fees. At the same time, we are suggesting ways in which customers might use their tax refund to improve their financial position,” he says.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities help deliver personalised experiences. This year, the app will send more than 3 billion personalised messages to customers using 157 billion data points and 200 advanced machine learning models through its customer engagement engine.
“Putting personalisation at the core of the new offering means we are able to offer a hyper-targeted app experience to each of our customers with notifications and content tailored to their needs. This makes for a more relevant, engaging and surprising digital banking experience,” he says.
During development, engineers and technical teams joined UX designers, behavioural scientists and external partners to deliver a uniquely personalised app with high engagement and real customer benefit, says Steel.
“Our in-house behavioural science team – which is unmatched in the Australian market and has few peers globally – partnered with Harvard’s STAR Lab and the University of Melbourne to develop many of the features within the new app. We continue to bring a number of new features to the app, developed against a rigorous, data-driven experimentation framework with a selection of global thought leaders on topics such as financial well being and inclusion,” says Steel.
Focus on open collaboration
Steel has been a strong advocate for creating good customer outcomes and digital experiences, both of which are core to shaping how CBA approaches the future of banking.
He influences the bank’s direction for excellence in customer outcomes by encouraging deeper collaboration across its digital, retail and business units. To facilitate this, he recently led and implemented structural changes which promote cross-functional partnerships to digital delivery. This ensures digital, technology and business units work together and are engaged across all decision-making stages to better support and co-design customer solutions.
Steel says his leadership style is anchored in trust, leading from the front to embed culture across teams.
“I openly provide feedback to peers, leaders and the team. I request constructive challenge and openly discuss my own failings to encourage a culture which is based on self-reflection, emotional security and high performance,” he says.
Steel focuses on talent, offering growth and development opportunities to ensure his teams reach their full potential. For example, he mentors staff and leadership team to think more strategically and with a global perspective in their decision making. He also holds quarterly offsite meetings which deepen the leadership quality, team dynamics and create vulnerability and connection with his leadership team.
Finally, Steel promotes diversity and inclusion across CommBank, and is recognised within the bank for his leadership on gender equality. During recent restructures, he advocated and maintained parity levels across his teams, promoting several female executive managers into general manager roles and has mentored them during their transitions.
Among the technology teams at the bank, he has the greatest gender equality numbers with an even 50 per cent split between men and women in his leadership team, and senior leadership positions in his teams.
“I maintain robust and effective communication to ensure the bank is not only informed about the role of technology in achieving organisational objectives.”
Finally, Steel established a ‘Best in Digital’ executive steering group focused on how digital and technology is driving outcomes. This forum gives members of the leadership team (as well as some other senior stakeholders) an opportunity to have a conversation about key digital themes – everything from an in-depth analysis of how the business is tracking against specific digital and technology goals to digital deep dives (for example, an analysis of global digital offerings and how they compare to CBA).
“I communicate these messages to the wider group through a regular newsletter which highlights all new digital features or experiments being delivered in our customer or staff-facing assets,” says Steel.
“I hold a regular innovation forum where members of my team provide short, informative updates on new features or products delivered in the previous few months. Finally, I hold regular Town Hall meetings for key stakeholders across the bank where the team can provide an in-depth update on a particular portfolio or focus area to ensure the bank is ‘aligned directionally’ on these topics.”