Westpac reveals architecture underpinning new mobile banking apps

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Westpac reveals architecture underpinning new mobile banking apps

Phased iOS app rollout to conclude 'by the end of March'.

Westpac has started the broader rollout of its native iOS mobile banking app following deployment to a pilot group of 120,000 "digitally active" customers late last year.

The app is now expected to be available "to all iPhone customers by the end of March", with an Android version still scheduled to appear later this year.

The iOS app, rebuilt from the ground up under project ION (innovation on native), is the result of two years of iterative development and testing.

In a Westpac podcast this week, head of digital technology in the bank's tech division Chris Bradford said most of the time it took to deliver the new app was "spent understanding what customers really wanted.”

"This meant that we continuously iterated the design until we felt that we'd actually met the customers' needs, and then we started building the app," Bradford said.

“To give you a sense of scale, we had some 40 rounds of usability testing, and around 200 customer focus groups.

“We had about 280 people across the course of the project working on the app," he added, an upgrade on earlier estimates of "around 200". 

Bradford said the platform powering the app is scalable and will - among other things - allow the bank to deliver a native Android version of the app "much quicker than it did to deliver" the iOS version.

He said it is underpinned by DevOps and continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices, which would lead to "regular ongoing deployments of the app".

The bank is also using AppDynamics to monitor the customer experience.

"[The underlying platform] uses proactive monitoring and measurement tools, such as AppDynamics, which allows us to respond and resolve customer issues faster than ever," Bradford said.

“Another example is the AppDynamics tool can be used to give us insights into what our customers are actually doing in the app - how they're traversing through the various customer journeys, identifying pages that don't necessarily perform as we expected, and so on.”

Bradford added that the bank had worked "really closely with a number of security software vendors such as Guardsquare", a mobile application security vendor.

The platform also has "data and insights" functionality used to personalise the customer experience.

“What we see is the app being able to help customers in the moment that they need help the most, for example, we'll be able to use an event-based architecture and our underlying data engines to interact with customers in the moment," Bradford said.

“The platform is also modular, which means that we can take experiences from within the app and extend them to other ecosystems.

“This allows customers to do their banking in the context of what they're actually doing, without having to go into the app.

"This is already a big trend in places like China where apps like WeChat are used by customers to do their banking, and we anticipate that this will permeate into Australia more and more over time. 

"We've already started this with Siri banking, which you can use the Siri ecosystem on your phone to do your banking with Westpac."

Martin King, head of digital services in Westpac's consumer bank, said that the user profile of digital services generally had shifted during Covid, with strong growth in sign-ups from existing customers "in the 45 or older age group".

By being temporarily unable to visit branches, King said that customers were effectively "forced to explore ... digital" services and were exposed to the "breadth" of the services being offered.

“If I think about that in the context of the new mobile app, we've actually been doing some comparisons of customers using the old app and the new app and we've seen around a 25 percent increase in the use of self-service features in the new app," he said.

“It means that the design of the new app is really good and customers are able to find what they need to and secondly, they're taking the time to explore and really find the things in the app that they need to do."

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