Westpac brings native iOS banking app to first 120,000 users

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Westpac brings native iOS banking app to first 120,000 users
Image credit: Westpac

Two year ION project bears fruit.

Westpac has started the phased rollout of a new native iOS mobile banking app to 120,000 “digitally active” customers ahead of a broader launch of the app early next year.

iTnews revealed work on the native iOS mobile banking app back in May, which is intended to replace a web app that had both desktop and mobile frontends.

In a blog post this week, Westpac said the work was being conducted by a team called ION, which stands for ‘innovation on native’.

At its peak, ION involved around 200 people drawn from GroupTech - Westpac’s IT organisation - and its consumer bank division.

There was two years of effort involved in getting the native iOS app ready to launch; a native Android version will also follow.

The app “marks the bank’s first entirely new app since mobile banking began taking off about a decade ago and was developed with the assistance of tech giants Apple and Google,” the bank said.

Westpac’s head of consumer digital technology Chris Bradford said the app is “more integrated” with iOS and designed to enable additional features “to be easily ‘bolted on’ over time”. 

“I don’t really call it an app, I call it a digital platform because it’s not just the app,” he said.

“The app is what you see and is, I guess, the beautiful experience a customer uses, but there’s a lot of intelligence that actually sits behind it as well. 

“Because of the technology available 10 years or so ago, it was a bit difficult to build in the old app and a bit cumbersome.”

Native iOS integration will allow, for example, customers to “add a payment to Siri suggestions to make future payments without even having to be in the app,” Westpac said.

Bradford said working closely with Apple and Google helped the bank to “better understand device capabilities and deliver leading design, usability and customer experience.”

He said the bank had used software including LaunchDarkly, Headspin and AppDynamics to test new features and experiences, and ultimately to “streamline” the ION project.

Bradford added that Covid-19 had encouraged more customers to bank online and on mobiles.

In addition, the rise of neobanks in Australia meant that more traditional players like Westpac needed to up their digital game to compete with new experiences on offer from new entrants that could move fast and were unencumbered by older systems and investments.

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