Internet banking turns twenty

Patricia Babalis

By Patricia Babalis

3 min read

The birth of internet banking in Australia began twenty years ago this December with Westpac group launching an online service that was downloaded by 350 customers in the first month.  From that point onwards it has been an exponentially growing method of managing personal banking with Australian’s embracing the platform for its ease and convenience.

Twenty years on from the launch the Westpac group has over 5.8 million customers that use their services using online banking to access online savings accounts and more. Ian Muir, Westpac Head of Customer Experience for Digital, and the brainchild behind Westpac’s internet banking platform which launched in 1998, has seen the design of internet banking evolve to the user friendly service we use today.

“This may be hard to believe, but the usual process back then was to mail out floppy disks with software to our customers to install onto their PC so they could access their bank account details,” said Mr Muir.

“I wanted to create a customer solution beyond sending out floppy disks and build an internet banking system which applied the practice of usability and human centred design which we used to develop Westpac’s website. This technique allowed us to create a fully functional internet banking system which was revolutionary at the time.”

Not only is online banking now a fixture of the way we manage our funds but mobile banking is becoming increasingly one of the most popular ways to engage with banks.  ING DIRECT in particular has noticed a massive growth in customer’s adoption of mobile banking in the past 12 months.

“Approximately 7 out of 10 ING DIRECT customers are now banking via mobile, up 83% in the last 12 months and over 150,000 customers interact with us only via the mobile app – that’s a growth of 56% in 12 months,” said CEO Vaughan Rictor.

“At the same time, we’re also seeing greater mobile engagement among our customer base, with more than 50% banking via mobile at least once a week, and average mobile interactions rising by 65% over the past year.”

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This begs the question of how online and mobile banking will continue to evolve in the future to keep up with modern fast paced lifestyles and evolving needs. While there may be uncertainty in this area what is certain is that it will soon be very difficult to revert to branch banking with closures imminent in 2016.

Bank SA’s CEO Nick Reade told ABC news in November that 20 regional branches would be closing due to very low demand from customers.

"We're seeing an unprecedented shift to electronic channels for customers using the banking services," he said.

"In addition to things like ATMs and EFTPOS we're seeing a rapid take-up of digital [with] internet banking and mobile banking.

"Across the entire BankSA network only 5 per cent of customers' transactions are now in a branch and in regional SA that is around 3 per cent — and it's 3 per cent in the branches we're talking about."

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