How Westpac is playing a people game enabled by tech

In the current climate of automation, optimisation and personalisation, transformation is inevitable for organisations around the world. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all path. At last year’s Adobe Symposium in Sydney, Erin McKenzie sat down with Westpac senior manager of digital sales and strategy Tessa O’Rorke to hear her thoughts on how the bank is moving into the future with data and building trust alongside capability.

Can you explain your role at Westpac

I look after what we call our digital sales and strategy, and that encompasses our public website from a platform perspective, our conversion rate optimisation, and testing a personalisation programme – basically looking at all our sales journeys and conversion journeys. 

Was it a role you envisioned yourself doing when you entered the industry?

I cut my teeth in creative and design and did direct marketing as my dissertation. Who could have predicted 20 years ago that we would be sitting in the technological age that we are today? So ‘no’ would be the short answer. But could I see where it was coming from in the last five to 10 years? Yes. 

What’s been the biggest change you have seen?

The advent of the internet and the smart phone have been the biggest game changers I’ve seen. They’ve brought the expectation that everyone needs to be able to do everything in their own time, in their own space – which is largely on their phones these days. That’s probably been the biggest driver of change. 

What did Westpac look like prior to you joining and how does it look now?

I joined almost two years ago and my role and my team didn’t exist before then. If we look back, we didn’t have any of the marketing automation capability we have now with Adobe and we didn’t have conversion rate optimisation specialists that we have now. 

If we look at it from a broader bank perspective, three years ago, the organisation embarked on this service promise around re-organising itself around the customer experience and putting customers at
the heart of everything it does. And that programme’s everywhere from our branches to the executive level. It’s a whole business transformation we have been going through. 

Many organisations are collecting data and a challenge lies in harnessing it and turning it into something useful. Has Westpac been on that journey? 

Absolutely. Arguably as a bank we have more data than most organisations. The challenge for not only big but also legacy and regulated organisations, like a bank, is how do we get it, then get it into a place or format we can actually use it, and how do we make sure we are using it in a responsible way? We have very high security and privacy. 

Data is only as good as the insight you can drive out of it – so it’s looking at how we build out that capability of not only getting it but then translating it into something useable. 

A bank looks after our money and there needs to be trust there. But do you see trust as important for all sectors, not just banking? 

Absolutely. I think if there’s anything we have learned from Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and all the other data breaches we have seen, security is absolutely important.

It’s about a value exchange and what do I as a customer see of value. If I am giving up my data, what are you doing with it that is of value to me? 

If we look at media for example, we have all had something pop up on our newsfeed that we were just talking about. There’s no value exchange in that for me. However, if I am logging into my banking app and I want to see my balance or what’s happened in the past, and my bank knows what I did, then I do want it to use my data.

It’s absolutely critical we keep data safe and that we use it with integrity and with care and that’s different for everyone – what you see as value and what I see as value could be two completely different things.

I think those are the things we will have to grapple with as we continue in this big data environment. How do we truly give people control about what they give up in order to get something back?

I don’t think anyone has nailed it yet. As a bank we err on the side of caution. 

What’s been your biggest learning over the years? 

Tech is a great enabler but this is still a people game.

Whether we are talking about our customers or our team internally, just because we have great tech doesn’t mean everyone knows how to use it or why we should use it.

I think it’s that transition period from ‘yes we know we need to transform but how are we going to do it?’ to ‘okay now we actually have to do it, what are the skills and capability we need to develop both in our teams and how do we go in the journey with our customer?’.

Because the world is in a digital transformation – it’s not just organisations, consumers are also in their own transformations.

Some people are still roaming round with Nokia 2010s and others are using Face ID – there’s a continuum of where people are at and what they are comfortable with, and I think it’s every organisation’s job to help people move along that and also do it at their pace.

What we see in banking is fear and people not being sure the digital stuff is safe. The job for us is not about the experience – we can build a great experience – but actually, is it okay to use this? It’s about answering that fear around if it is going to be safe.

Some of our research has shown us that actually it’s the younger market who are more sceptical. They are brought up in the world of knowing what could go wrong. Whereas I see my dad opening all the spam emails that you and I wouldn’t even open.

I think our younger market know what can go wrong, so they are more sensitive to the security. 

You were saying we are on a continuum, but do you have any idea of what the future might look like? 

It’s interesting with automation, robots, AI, open banking coming down the line and GDPR – who could have predicted the whole GDPR thing five years ago?

The technologists will give us some views on what that might look like but I couldn’t say.

I am a big believer in augmentation. I don’t believe robots are going to take over the world but I do believe it’s about how can digital augment the human experience and how can humans augment the digital experience. 

This story was originally published in the 2018 Marketing issue of NZ Marketing. To subscribe, click here.

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