BEHIND THE NUMBERS: more power in the hands of ANZ Plus customers

ANZ Plus, the bank’s new retail platform, was soft-launched in March and by the end of May more than 100 new features and feature improvements will have been added to that minimum viable product.

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Our engineers are constantly improving the savings and transaction account proposition and building out its digital capability and functionality. We’ve taken a modular approach that allows us to adapt and change as the environment changes - quickly, safely and at a low cost.

“Increasingly, customers want to see more than just a list of what they’ve spent, they want to understand and analyse where their money is going.”

The benefits of the new technology stack we built to power ANZ Plus are already apparent.

To date, the focus has been on providing tools and insights to help improve our customers’ financial wellbeing but there is a profound architectural difference in what ANZ Plus does compared with our previous digital offerings that’s worth highlighting.

It centres on how we deliver data and insights to the customer. This is something all banks do but the ANZ Plus app does it in a very different way – a way we believe will generate enduring value.

At the outset it’s worth remembering the massive shift in banking that started about a decade ago. In 2010 most people were using internet banking regularly. Then smart phones arrived.

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Instead of banking periodically – weekly or even monthly – we moved to “always-on banking”.

Today we use our phones to pay for a whole range of things but we’re also constantly connected and watching our money. In fact, people are much more likely to log into their mobile banking app to view their balance or recent transactions than move money.

Changing customer needs

Self-service banking has moved irrevocably from transactional to informational. People want to be able to move money, any time, any day. But people also want to better understand their financial data.

Now many banking apps have a design that harks back to the transactional era. They're not designed for “always-on banking”. They're not designed primarily to be informational.

Mostly they follow the same pattern: you log in and get a snapshot of your transactions in chronological order. There's a basic summary, not much richer than an ATM receipt. And while you can poke around to guess how you're managing your money, most bank apps aren’t optimised to be informational.

Despite having incredibly powerful smart phones, each banking app primarily renders customers’ data from a web server. Sure, the major banks have made their apps more aesthetically pleasing but in most cases the data shown is just a fancier version of a paper statement.

Increasingly, customers want to see more than just a list of what they’ve spent. They want to understand and analyse where their money is going. They want to search for transactions – and not just a date range. They want them automatically categorised, available in a snapshot summary and much more.

They want informative, detailed names for transactions – not trying to interpret old-school merchant descriptions that can be meaningless. They also want to determine and name their own categories; not just use the ones the banks decide.

Due to its customer-centred design, engineering and new technology stack, these are all things that ANZ Plus can do with ease, starting with our iOS app.

With ANZ Plus your transaction history is clear and simple, it gives customers easy to understand descriptions of your spending, with store names, company logos, contact details and even maps.

The powerful ANZ Plus search tool also allows customers to locate and group transactions faster and more easily.

No more guessing

Customers can search by category, merchant, tag, month, year, location or transaction type (card, direct debit, transfer, ATM, interest, salary) or a combination of these to narrow the search. For example, they can search for all transactions from Byron Bay in January or all ATM withdrawals made in March.

Customers will no longer have to guess how much they spent eating out or streaming movies from five different platforms last month.

If customers want to group transactions or make it easier to find a transaction later, they can create a tag. Tags are customisable and multiple tags can be used for each transaction, meaning they can track spending on anything from big ticket items like school fees to more discretionary items like takeaway food or coffee.

Some banks have patched their apps to make them seem to be more usable but it’s largely cosmetic - makeovers, searches that are a little better and some transaction categories. But with ANZ Plus we rethought the architecture, so this kind of richer functionality is there.

The older style architecture normally has everything served from an old mainframe which is optimised for fast but inflexible queries. It’s harder to change those old banking systems to include extra data about the transaction beyond a date, amount and description.

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Even with a powerful mainframe-backed search, it’s still expensive to allow customers to search transaction data across more than two years – or using highly customised queries. Some banks added customer-engagement databases on their web servers that add flexibility – but these are often an adjunct and not deeply integrated into the mobile app.

This historical approach is also dependent upon fetching all the data for the customer every time it’s requested. Sure, this works - but you can see the constraints when doing lots and lots of searches.   

On the phone

ANZ Plus has a different architecture where customer banking data is loaded onto the phone, using very minimal phone storage. It happens in the background rather than when you log in (because, once you’ve logged in, the phone is authenticated with your biometrics so it can safely be stored).

Transactions are stored on the phone which means ANZ Plus can do things some other banks can’t. Customers can search, organise, categorise, tag, group, aggregate, summarise and filter – almost all while offline

ANZ Plus customers can check their outgoings in the spending bubbles on the main screen that quickly and dynamically show a composite view of expenditure that changes in real time. We’ve built a robust, safe and reliable client-side database which is helping customers to improve their financial wellbeing.

The power of storing the transactions safely on the phone means customers don’t have to log in to see transactions, don’t need an internet connection to see a transaction and don’t need external bank infrastructure to see what they spent today or yesterday.

Banking has moved from the transactional to the informational and it’s only with a rethink of the architecture that we can truly meet future customer needs.

Tim Hogarth is Chief Technology Officer at ANZ and Wayne Spiteri is Engineering Lead at ANZx

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