ANZ unveils pared back service offering in its ‘Plus’ debut

ANZ Plus Launch

ANZ Bank has debuted a new digital banking service, ANZ Plus – the first customer-facing service to be launched on its ANZx platform – providing, it says, a springboard to “redefine the bank’s retail business”.

The service boasts a dedicated, new app (so far, Apple-only), rapid customer on-boarding, automated spend categorisation and bill prediction, and a raft of new security and fraud protection features.

“Smart, secure and built on a new banking platform, ANZ Plus is designed to give Australians more visibility and control of their money,” the bank said in its release statement.

New customers will “in minutes” be able to set up their accounts, authenticated through either an Australian passport or driver’s licence, and a ‘selfie’. Existing customers will slowly be migrated to the new service, with ANZ also hoping to lure customers over with a “modern, new, super competitive” service.

The bank will initially offer two new products through Plus: an everyday transaction account and a ‘multi-goal’ savings account; home loan, credit card and SME services are expected to be offered in due course.

Money and savings management appears the core focus of the initial Plus service offering, with its ‘multi-goal savings’ account enabling customers to set up and track 99 separate savings goals, and newly designed a Spending Summary Tile feature (which automatically categorises spending, such as ‘Shopping’ or ‘Eating Out’, based on recent transactions) – perhaps ANZ’s own effort to challenge the Millennial and Gen Z-oriented Afterpay Money app (itself built on Westpac’s own Banking as a Service platform, with money management features at its front and centre).

ANZ appears to want to go one better on personal (or ‘personnel’) touch, however. The bank will offer Plus customers direct access, via an in-app chat facility, to dedicated coaches for “expert support” in money management and financial wellbeing.

ANZ Australian retail chief Maile Carnegie stressed the centrality of the Plus’s money management features, noting that it has been specially designed to “help our customers improve their financial wellbeing”.

“With tools to help customers make financially healthy choices, a multi-goal savings account and coaches to provide expert support, ANZ Plus makes doing your banking insightful and simple,” Carnegie said.

The service will take advantage of machine learning to analyse spending data, learning to predict regular payments such as those for rent or streaming service subscriptions.

The ANZ Plus debut, nevertheless, presents few bells and whistles beyond this. As it stands, the service offers no access to the New Payments Platform (or PayID) nor to BPAY, no Apple Pay, and, curiously, no dedicated Android app (they will have to join a waitlist).

Speaking at the ANZ Plus launch, ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott billed the release as “the beginning of a multi-year plan to provide modern, digital products and services for our customers, and significantly better systems and processes for ANZ”.

“This is not a traditional ‘core-banking’ replacement,” Elliot stressed, but the bottom-up “design [of] a new retail bank, without the constraints of existing technology… [and] focused on improving the financial wellbeing of our customers”.

“Now we have these scalable new technology platforms in place, we can adapt to the needs of customers quickly and add new features and functionality on a regular basis, including new products.

He added that ANZ Plus would enable “significant improvements” in how ANZ services its customers, meet its obligations, and “manage our products both now and into the future”.

The development of the new front-line service has no doubt seen substantial efficiency gains realised at in the back-office.

“[The] simpler ANZ Plus service has already eliminated 58 service activities currently performed manually by our people,” Elliot said on a Bluenotes blog post coinciding with the ANZ Plus launch.

“This means we will be 30 per cent more efficient in [the] back-office and the work should lead to a 45 per cent reduction in complaints volume.”

“We’ve gone from this technology stack that was, frankly, inflexible, slow and extremely costly to maintain to our new Plus platform that is nimble, adaptable, and cheaper [to] run. We’ve improved the quality of the data and we’ve simplified our products.”

Banking on solid foundations

While off to a rather muted start, ANZ appears to be laying the foundations for the exponential growth of its ANZx-backed Plus service, supported no less by a newly unlocked rapid development cycle that will enable its development team “to release a range of new features each month, safely and at low cost”.

Elliott anticipates the new platform will deliver potentially hundreds of new features over the next months.

“In March we are releasing 94 new features, in April 87 and May 73 – features like joining the bank with a foreign passport or enabling customers to see real-time expense predictions or allowing customers to check which merchants, like Netflix or the local gym, for example, have their card on file,” Elliot said.

“Previously, we would struggle to launch one new feature per month.”

He likened this phased development approach to “building a skyscraper”.

“[All] the hard work is beneath the ground but once the building emerges, if well-engineered, it will grow quickly and be loved by those who use it.”

Carnegie echoed these sentiments, noting that ANZ Plus marks the beginning of a multi-year plan to not only ensure a steady stream of new and improved products and services, but also to drive efficiencies in back-end systems and processes.

“We’re referring to [ANZ Plus] as a platform and a fundamental both rebuild and rewiring of all of the aspects that will underpin the future Australian Retail business,” Carnegie said.

“Yes, it’s technology, that’s obviously critical. But it’s also the data. It’s the people, it’s the culture, it’s the systems and the processes.”

A development force

More than 1,000 people were hired to “rebuild” the new platform – largely from design, engineering and data backgrounds, according to Carnegie.

The service is underpinned by around 20 new technologies, Carnegie said, with around half of those built in-house. The rest has been sourced from established software development houses, including Salesforce for its CRM and Twilio for the contact centre.

Among those built in-house include ‘Fabric’, a digital engagement platform, and ‘Xplore’, which helps the bank manage controls and the performance of the business.

This transformation was focused, Carnegie stressed, on the simplification of hundreds of products, systems, processes, and technologies.

“What we’ve done is avoided what is very tempting to do, which is just to put a veneer of change over the top of that ‘spaghetti in silos’, as some people call it,” Carnegie said.

“This is a platform that is just not fit to win in [the] future. The future is going to be won by people who know how to leverage data and technology more efficiently.”