Commonwealth Bank (CBA) has laid clear its goal of becoming digital-first and delivering highly personalised products and services to make customers lives easier.

In this week’s iTNews Podcast, CBA’s Chief Digital Officer, Fredrik Lindström, and CIO for Technology and Distinguished Engineer, Brendan Hopper, spoke of how the bank will achieve its digital goals by uplifting its core technology and engineering teams.

According to Mr Lindström, when he first joined the bank just over one year ago, he could see the ratio of engineers to non-engineers within his workforce was not where it needed to be if the bank was to deliver against its goal of producing more highly personalised products and services. 

“It was probably down towards the high 30 per cent numbers. If you believe that to do digital you need to produce software, it is probably not a good ratio. To be productive, I figured we needed to get to a much, much higher number,” Mr Lindström said.

While “upsizing significantly” on the workforce front, the bank is arguably doing even more behind-the-scenes to restructure the way its teams develop products and services in order to deliver global best and highly personalised digital experiences for its customers.

“We’re in the process of structuring ourselves in the way a tech company does,” Brendan Hopper said. “We're trying to align ourselves front to back so that engineering teams can be in control of their own products and feel a sense of pride in what they're building.”

Mr Lindström agreed saying the closer CBA’s engineers can get to the actual problem, the more interesting the work becomes and they can actually see the impact they are having towards the bank’s customers and the community.

“You want to be part of the problem solving and understanding what outcomes you deliver,” Mr Lindström said.

As CBA continues to accelerate its digital strategy in a bid to provide customers with one of the best digital experiences of any company globally, both Mr Lindström and Mr Hopper said that the appetite to lead with technology starts from the top.

“If you look to the interest of even someone like our CEO Matt Comyn takes in technology, I don't think you'll find that in many places in banking, it is just astonishing,” Mr Lindström said.

“It is a super interesting environment and it is a super interesting time. It is not just banking, it is all over. Digitalization is coming, big time. As engineers and as technologists, the place that we have in all that is just to me astonishing and fantastic,” he said.

When speaking about the challenges in delivering on this digital first strategy that involves the rapid personalisation for customers, Mr Lindstrom said apps are still what people associate with digital banking.

“Apps came about with the iPhone in 2007 and has been predominant in the digital context since, but there's an expiry date to that…somewhere in the future, there is a world where banking will be part of an interconnected ecosystem,” he said.

This was reinforced at CBA’s recent financial results when CEO Matt Comyn said the bank was committed to turbocharging its push beyond traditional banking products to create an ecosystem of services and products for retail and business customers, and using the latest technology to anticipate customer needs.

“Now we need to figure out exactly what role we play there and how we transition into that…so that's one thing that we're working on,” Mr Lindström continued.

Mr Lindström also said the future digital banking services are also likely to be much more personalised than they are today.

“We are investing a lot into personalisation, driven by the fact that I think personalised experiences are at least as important and appreciated in the digital world as they are in the physical world,” he said.

Mr Hopper said that the bank is also looking to other digital-first experiences for inspiration in how it may be able to deliver banking services in the future and gave an example of the Domino’s Pizza app as a model where some aspects may be cross applicable to a banking context.

“I love the fact you can order a pizza and watch it get cooked. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you can look at it, you see on the map where it is, and you see it on your screen before you hear the [delivery] bike come down the street,” Hopper said.

“I think in the next couple of years, we're are going start getting there for banking…I'd love to be able to have a home loan that you see 'cook' and the minimum amount of manual processes [displayed to the customer].

“Being able to give our customers the ability to look at where they are in a process and have that absolute transparency … in the same way they'd order a pizza I think is going to be fundamental.”

To listen to the full iTNews Podcast interview with CBA’s Fredrik Lindström and Brendan Hopper, click here. To read on the bank’s bold new engineering and technology recruitment drive, click here