Last year, Commonwealth Bank’s Chief Executive Officer Matt Comyn unveiled the bank’s new strategy: to build tomorrow’s bank today.

To help achieve this strategy, one of the bank’s key priorities is to deliver reimagined products and services as well as global best digital experiences and technology.

Delivering global best technology is no easy feat, especially considering the pace of tech innovation. But, Commonwealth Bank is determined to offer the richest tech proposition to its customers. 

So what does a rich tech proposition look like and, from an innovation perspective, what’s next for the bank?

To answer that question, CBA Newsroom spoke with the bank’s Chief Data and Analytics Officer, Dr Andrew McMullan. According to Dr McMullan, the bank is determined to be the “best in the world at understanding our customers” and creating “excellent experiences for them”.

Dr McMullan said the bank’s Customer Engagement Engine (CEE) – powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – was one of the key tools the bank was using to better understand its customers every day and, in turn, deliver better and more personalised experiences.

“Our Customer Engagement Engine makes over 35 million decisions every single day. Looking into the future, we want to ensure every single one of those decisions is better and more personal. We want to continue to use our technology to better understand our customers and make the future brighter for every individual,” Dr McMullan said.

Since it was first implemented, the CEE has helped to significantly transform the way the bank interacts with customers.

Built on a Pegasystems stack, the CEE was designed to have proactive, needs-based conversations with customers. First deployed across the branch network some years ago, the CEE has been dialled up significantly in recent years and is now integrated across all the bank’s key channels.

As a result, the bank can now provide a range of important real-time information and support to customers thanks to the CEE.

Specifically, CommBank has been able to leverage the CEE and its AI capabilities to create a purpose-built data weather model that can provide customers who have been impacted by natural disasters with same-day tailored support solutions.

The technology solution uses custom-built algorithms to monitor, in real-time, a mix of data points from official emergency sources and weather alert systems to offer same-day 1:1 support to those customers impacted by natural disasters.

“Using the power of our Customer Engagement Engine we can connect with customers who may be impacted and also offer support that aligns to their needs, such as deferring a loan or offering an emergency overdraft,” Dr McMullan said.

Further, the bank has been able to leverage its CEE and AI capabilities to detect and prevent abusive behaviours in transaction descriptions. In 2021, CBA became one of the first banks to develop a new AI model that can proactively identify instances of technology-facilitated abuse, a targeted form of domestic and family violence. The AI model complements the bank’s automatic block filter that was implemented in 2020 across its digital banking channels to stop transaction descriptions that include threatening, harassing or abusive language.

Through its use of AI and the CEE, the bank has also been able to start better understanding the needs of its customers, connecting them with relevant benefits and rebates through the Benefits finder feature in the CommBank app.

Today, more than 2 million claims have been commenced by Australians through the Benefits finder feature, which provides retail customers and small businesses with access to more than 400 different benefits and rebates. 

Dr McMullan said Benefits finder was a great example of how the bank’s use of AI and its CEE is helping to change the lives of customers.  

“We recently had a pensioner customer visit a branch to get a personal loan to replace her fridge. She didn’t want to take out a personal loan, because she didn’t know if she could afford to repay it, but she desperately needed to replace her fridge,” he said.

“The branch employee was able to tell the customer about the appliance replacement scheme benefit that was available through the Benefits finder feature. In addition, the employee was able to help the customer – through Benefits finder – access some unclaimed money. Using the discount and the unclaimed money, the customer was actually able to purchase the fridge without taking out a loan.

“She was so happy with the help that was provided to her, that she actually returned to her branch a few days later to share some of the groceries she had just bought to fill her new fridge with.”

Dr McMullan said using the CEE to deliver personalised, exceptional customer experiences at scale was something the bank was particularly proud of.

CBA Newsroom also spoke with the bank’s Group Lead CEE Delivery, Victoria Wood, who said the best thing about the CEE is that it is constantly learning based on the information customers provide.

“One of the great things about the CEE is the customer tells us. We are informed by the customer about their preferences, such as their preferred channel of communication. The CEE then uses that information to ensure the next experience the customer has with us is more personalised and more tailored to their needs,” Ms Wood said.

Utilising the CEE and the bank’s AI capabilities, Ms Wood said CBA has the opportunity to continually improve its understanding of what customers want and need and then deliver that to them.

“We have a lot of opportunity to provide our customers with better and more personal experiences, and that is exactly what we are going to do,” she said.