Westpac looks to future

Any declaration by a bank to cut its staff levels and reduce branches is never well received by the media or general public and debate often rages about decisions like the Westpac announcement last week to shed 3,000 staff.

However, in 1998 Westpac had found that just 18 per cent of its retail banking transactions were taking place across the counter through its branch system which currently makes up 80 per cent of its overall distribution system. It was a sure sign that it was time to invest heavily in the distributions systems of tomorrow.

It’s an accepted truism that Australian consumers are among the fastest in the world to adopt new technologies. As Westpac cuts its traditional distribution systems by approximately 10 per cent over the next two years, savings can be directed towards new electronic commerce and internet banking platforms. Westpac’s new chief executive, Dr David Morgan, says Westpac has no way of knowing which banking platform will become the preferred method but it is hedging its bets with investment in products and delivery mechanisms based on internet protocol (IP) technology platforms such as:

*Launchpad – an internet service allowing financial planners / advisers to access managed fund and superannuation products sold by Westpac Financial Services.

*E-Market – a service enabling small business retailers to obtain proceeds of credit card sales over the internet & a similar IP-based service which will allow retailers to conduct most of their daily transaction through their office computer over the internet.

*Wireless Applications Protocol (WAP) – Westpac is poised to invest in WAP, a new internet based technology that allows people to use mobile phones and palm top computers to access the internet and therefore conduct banking transactions through WAP-based internet banking services.

The arrival of such now accepted banking methods such as Automatic Teller Machines and EFTPOS facilities quietly heralded a change in the way consumers conducted their daily banking transactions. Whether we like it or not, e-commerce has arrived on the back of these and Westpac is positioning itself to take every advantage.