Supporting customers in the digital age



NAB Executive General Manager Business Transformation, Anne Bennett, today delivered the following speech at the FST Media ‘Future of Financial Services’ event in Sydney.




Good morning,

Thank you FST Media for the opportunity to share with you the proactive strategy NAB is taking to change the future of financial services for our customers.

NAB is 159 years old, making us one of Australia’s oldest companies. From our humble beginnings as a small bank servicing the goldfields of Victoria with a dozen employees, NAB now employs more than 30,000 people.

Over those 159 years, the world of banking has changed. Dramatically. My grandmothers, grandmother Emma Barlow was born in this same era and not only was her dress and mode of transport more hoop skirt and horse and cart than ICONIC and UBER, but her currency was gold sovereign or half sovereign not cypto-currency traded on blockchain or tap and go with a smartphone or smart watch.

One thing that hasn’t changed in those 159 years is NAB’s passion to deliver for our customers. Our customers at the heart of our business each and every day.

To take a recent quote from our CEO, Andrew Thorburn: “…customers are our lifeblood; without customers we have no bank.  More than this, we strive for our customers to trust and respect us”.

But to live this, NAB, like so many companies represented here today, has needed to acknowledge the changing landscape and the ways in which customer behaviours are evolving with technological advances. It’s no surprise to hear that we’re moving at a faster pace than ever before.

So much so, that today’s customers no longer just compare us to other banks.

They compare us to other experiences across the digital world.

If you asked someone 10 years ago if they’d get into a car, that wasn’t a taxi, with a stranger, who would take them from one side of the city to the other, all via a few clicks on a Smart Phone – what do you think their response would have been?

Now, we think nothing of staying at a stranger’s house having gone there in a stranger’s car without ever having handed physical money from one person to another.

When it comes to digital disruption and changing customer expectations, McKinsey & Company said it best:

“Banks aren’t being disrupted by fintech technology, they’re being disrupted by customer expectations.”




For too long, the banking sector has been doing things the same way over and over, without addressing complexities and simplifying processes for customers.

Yet if banks are going to not just meet, but exceed, customer expectations and deliver world-class experiences that surpass the likes of Uber, Tencent, AirBNB or the more than 200 fintechs now licensed in Australia, we need to change the way we do things.

And we need to do it at speed.

As the World Bank noted the largest movie house owns no cinemas, the world’s largest taxi company owns no taxis and increasingly, large phone companies own no telco infrastructure. What then is the future asset for Banks?

It’s experience.

At NAB we’re embracing the digital era where we see mobile devices as today’s ‘real estate’.  With double the number of mobile logins into NAB banking over the last three years and 75 per cent of Australians using smartphones with almost 100% in the 18 to 55-year-old age group – this is the new battleground for delivering the best experience.

And, with customer experience as the new asset banks are competing for, it is fortunate that we have an advantage over new competitors by already owning space on that first screen of our customers’ phones.

We have been taking up the challenge to provide the experiences that today’s customers are looking for while maintaining the relationship touch that great-great-grandma Emma was used to. It’s the ultimate offensive move against emerging and rapidly moving fintechs or big global tech giants trying to fill the gap.

And this was a key message delivered by our CEO Andrew Thorburn in NAB’s results announcement last week.  NAB will be investing an additional $1.5 billion to our investment slate over the next three years, to $4.5 billion – because the world is changing, our customers’ needs are changing and we are changing too.

We need to make NAB simpler and faster. And to do this we have torn up the rule book on the way we have traditionally done things. We have recognised that our workforce needs to adapt and evolve with the necessary skills and experience that the digital age needs.

In 1999 – as Internet Banking was launched – we had just two cyber security employees – now have a team of more than 200.

10 years ago we had one employee looking at UX for, we now have around 100 people working in our experience design team.

With that in mind, our workforce will also continue to rapidly evolve. We announced last week that around 6000 current jobs will go, but around 2000 new digital and technology roles will be created by 2020.

This will see NAB have a flatter structure which drives creativity, fosters innovative thought and ensures quicker decision-making.

As part of this updated strategy, we will now immediately look to appoint 600 new digital and technology specialists – into core areas such as DevOps, Engineering, Architecture, Security, UX and Data.

Though I should point out that while we’re throwing away the rule book on the way things are traditionally done, we haven’t forgotten that customers trust us to keep their money safe, protect their assets and to be there for them when they need us most.

But by tearing up that other rule book, we’ve been able to look at key banking experiences in a new and different way, with our very own blank canvas.

The way we’re re-imagining experiences, and how we can best support our customers, is radically changing the way we work through a program we call ‘Customer Journeys’.




Our Customer Journey teams are looking at major life events that customers share with us.  Whether that’s finding their first home then applying for a home loan, or applying for a business loan, we’ve started with a blank canvass on how to best support our customers through those experiences.

Imagine a sunny Saturday morning you are on the front lawn of the auction for your dream home, the hammer comes down and the successful bidder is you!

From that moment until your new keys are in your hand, NAB is right there in the palm of your hand helping you realise your property ownership dream. It is these experiences that NAB’s customer journey teams are aspiring to build.

And we’ve chosen this approach for a few key reasons.

We recognised the need to change and move faster to not only meet, but to exceed customer expectations.

We had a strong ambition to be customer-centric but we needed a methodology and momentum to drive us there.

NAB’s Customer Journey teams are made up of a diverse range of skills, coming from right across the bank, empowering our people to make decisions faster and to deliver changes more quickly.

We bring together bankers, product specialists, risk experts, marketing leaders, digital developers and UX designers from all across NAB, all working in the one room to redesign some of the most important experiences our customers have with us day on day.

They are effectively, “mini NABs”, working end-to-end from the design of the customer experience to landing that experience in to the hands of our customers.

And these teams leverage a method that combines Agile, Human-Centred Design and Lean to create their own operating rhythm and deliver at the speed that we need to. NAB’s journey teams escalate any roadblocks within 24 hours – with all unresolved roadblocks with our CEO in 72 hours.

In 2016, the State of DevOps Report showed that high performing teams working to agile had continuous delivery with higher output, more stable systems and they were 2.2 times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work.

But even though we’re rapidly and radically changing the way we work to put better and more innovative experiences into the hands of customers, in all honesty it’s been a three year journey.




Customer Journeys is really building on the shoulders of those who have gone before us and laid down two critical building blocks in our organisation.

The first, NAB Labs fostered the delivery of disruptive innovation to market, faster than what had ever been done before.

While NAB Labs has been a centre of excellence for delivery of innovation new initiatives within NAB, rapidly testing and learning with more than 30+ experiments & proof of concepts in the last 12 months alone, it’s also played a crucial role in changing our internal culture and mindset.

NAB Labs has played a pivotal role in embedding design thinking and a human-centred design approach into NAB’s DNA so that we can anticipate trends and design for the future.

Since establishment in 2014, we estimate that more than 5000 people have been exposed to human-centred design practice and the benefits it can bring to their thought process and problem solving.

Customer centricity has been an embedded part of NAB since our goldfield days of 1858, what we have added in the last three years is a measurement system, NPS . This is the critical second block on which the Customer Journey teams now stand.

The Net Promoter System is how customer performance is measured at NAB and allows bankers and journey teams to act quickly to near real-time customer feedback.

Using the words of our customers to prioritise what NAB fixes, in three years, we’ve eliminated almost 400 common customer pain points through a dedicated program of work.

What we’re doing today through Customer Journeys is part of a broader, fundamental program of change that embraces a shift from never wanting to fail to being willing to fail fast.

Crucial to our success is to have the best and the brightest people on this journey with us.

The people for NAB are those who are bold, willing to be challenged, work as one team, and who, importantly, want to tackle problems in order to deliver better customer experiences.

We want to attract great people to our multidisciplinary teams that result in new ways of thinking.

And the great news is, we’re already seeing the results.  Our employees have a better experience working on initiatives, with continuous input into the outcomes.

They can see these outcomes, benefits, and learnings; lightning fast.

And what’s even more satisfying is that they can see the positive impact in making life easier for our bankers and ultimately, and always, for our customers.

I’ve worked in Banking for more than 20 years and I can honestly say that customer journeys as a way of working is delivering more rapidly for our customers than any time before.

We’re delivering change at 2-3 times the speed we would normally deliver under traditional methods.  And we’re delivering something new into the hands of our customers every 90 days.




To deliver for our customers, our shareholders and each other, NAB needs great strategic clarity, a united sense of purpose and strong leadership.  And we have that.

NAB has a clear vision – to be Australia and New Zealand’s Most Respected Bank.

And all our people, including those in our Journey teams, have embraced our purpose “to back the bold who move Australia forward”.

For the Journey teams, that’s the essence of how we make life easier for our bankers and customers.

We make it easy for them to do business with us.

We see ourselves playing a critical role in helping our bankers and customers be bold and move forward. Whether that’s the local muffin store that makes the best coffee as well as muffins and was expanding to another location, or global companies growing their e-commerce offering – NAB backs these customers to grow and pioneer in new markets or new ways.

As Australia’s largest business bank, NAB is focused on making Australian businesses successful. We have 19,000 medium business customers and over 400,000 small business customers.

So it’s fair to say that a number of our Customer Journeys are centred on improving the customer experience for our business customers.

One highlight is the significantly improved on-boarding process for small business owners.

We recognised that opening a business transaction account online was, at times, painful.  This sometimes involved several branch visits, consultations with different bankers and it could even take up to six days for the account to be ready to use.

But through our Customer Journeys team, we implemented a change to make it easier and faster for our customers to apply for business accounts online.

Blending robotics and knowing the moments that matter most to the 97% of businesses in Australia that are small businesses; small business customers can now open a business transaction account online in under 10 minutes.

Gone is the six day wait.

Typically, something this size and complexity would take months to implement.

But under Customer Journeys, with agile, cross-functional and co-located teams at the core, it was deployed within five weeks.




Now before I move on, I’m wondering if any of you have asked ‘why is the sky blue?’ or ‘how much does a horse weigh?’ Or maybe you’ve asked someone to find your lost sock.

Well, if you haven’t some of our business customers certainly have!

With NAB managing 275 million service interactions each year, it’s fair to assume not all the answers relating to banking needs were being met online.

And in today’s digital age, this was failing customer expectations.

So in a first for Australian banking, we’ve introduced the Virtual Banker for our business customers.

The Virtual Banker is NAB’s AI chatbot.  It started by answering a limited number of questions about business credit cards.  Today, it has the capability to answer over 280 questions, with 37,000 variations on a number of topics. Digitally. 24/7.

AI-related technologies are delivering more customer experiences with each passing day. In 2016, there were 322 venture capital deals totalling $3.6 billion investment into AI and machine learning – a 10 fold increase in the last 10 years.

So while NAB’s Virtual Banker doesn’t yet know why the sky is blue, how much a horse weighs or where you left your sock, it’s helping make life easier for our business customers with their everyday banking questions.

Over the past year, our seven Customer Journeys have delivered 45 initiatives, positively impacting more than 4 million consumer customers and more than 200,000 businesses.

Plus, as a bonus, we’ve saved our bankers hundreds of hours and we’ve realised significant cost benefits.

But it really does, and always will, come back to the customer.  After all, I’m sure everyone in this room has a burning ambition to deliver leading experiences for your customers.




At NAB, we want to know we’re making a difference.  And we are.

Firstly, our NPS in key segments has improved significantly.

In two of many examples, opening a new consumer savings account has increased its NPS from +23 to +49.  And NPS for opening a new business transaction account has moved from -5 to +25.

And with our customers becoming greater advocates, NAB is well on its way to meet stretch revenue and cost reduction targets in Customer Journeys.

But we’re still in the early stages of our Customer Journeys transformation.

While we currently have seven Customer Journeys mobilised with nearly 1000 people across those teams, our aim is to have 20 Journeys in action by 2020.

And yes, we’re making solid progress. But we also know we still have much work to do to get to where we want to go.

And as with any change there have been challenges to overcome.

The war for the best talent is fierce.  Securing resources at pace, especially with high demand skills such as Human Centred Design, scrum masters and digital developers, has been a strong focus for our teams, and continues to be. We want the very best people at NAB.

And finally we need to maintain the pace of delivery to achieve our target of 20 Journeys, which means constantly challenging the traditional way of working.

We’re all facing into the digital era and to succeed we all need to take all our customers with us.

At NAB, we’re committed to providing customer experiences that are easy, personal and supportive and in the digital age.

Whilst we maintain the relationship touch that my grandmother’s grandmother knew NAB best for we are building for today’s generation and tomorrow’s – using AI, robotics and digital experiences to stay as relevant to my children as we will be to my grandchildren’s grandchildren.

It’s not yet perfect, but we’re continuing to invest to make it right.

I’m incredibly privileged for this opportunity to work with a dynamic, customer-obsessed team, who are all committed to move our customers, and Australia, forward in today’s digital age.

Thank you.

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