Westpac and Colenso push savers’ buttons with new nest egg-creating iPhone app

Westpac and Colenso have been working on the Impulse Saver iPhone app for a while now and after successfully battling through the numerous technical and security issues, launched it around the same time as the earthquake with a few full page ads in the Sunday papers. Not surprisingly, the campaign was temporarily put on ice, but the cutesy banking gimmick/impressive technological innovation that, as the name implies, allows users to add some dosh to their savings account at the push a button, has gone live once again.

Much has been written about New Zealand’s unsustainable approach to spending and research commissioned by Westpac showed the average Kiwi owes $1.60 for every dollar earned and consider a total of $16.1 million is spent each day on impulse purchases, a lack of willpower obviously plays a significant role in that.

The research, conducted in November last year by Buzz Channel, also showed 49 percent of the 500 surveyed had a savings account, so, after seeing ad industry bon vivant and Ogilvy UK vice-chairman Rory Sutherland ask why impulse saving wasn’t an option during a presentation at the TED conference, the idea for a free iPhone app that enables customers to instantly save denominations of their choice up to $50 was born.

“We recalled comments made at a TED conference by Rory Sutherland who lamented our lack of ability to save as impulsively as we spend,” says Colenso’s managing director Nick Garrett. “And, in the spirit of TED, whose mantra is ‘Ideas worth Spreading’, we then developed a solution to that problem with Westpac’s online team in consultation with Rory.”

Sutherland says he was honoured to have his idea made a reality.

“NZ seems to be a country which adopts and enacts ideas when everyone else is merely toying with them,” he says.

Banking products are all fairly similar, so it’s often the innovations at the edges that seem to separate them from their competitors and add to the all-important likability factor. And while ASB and Droga5’s current ad campaign has certainly divided opinions, the bank has led the pack when it comes to interesting innovations, with the likes of the world’s first Facebook branch and its Save the Change function, which, in a similar fashion to Impulse Saver, allows users to round up electronic transactions to the nearest multiple of $1, $2, $5 or $10 and bang it in the savings account.

The Impulse Saver app is available free from the App Store via iPhone, wi-fi enabled iPod Touch or iPad devices.

Spending Survey Facts:

  • $16.1 million on impulse spending per day
  • $674,000 on impulse spending per hour

Where most impulse spending is done

  • Supermarkets 56 percent
  • Fast food outlets 21 percent
  • Café 20 percent
  • Dairies 16 percent

Have a savings account and how often use it?

  • No (don’t have a savings account) 13 percent
  • Yes, but haven’t put anything in it for a while 16 percent
  • Yes, only occasionally put money in it 20 percent
  • Yes, regularly put money in 51 percent

What they impulse spent on

  • A raspberry liquorice chocolate log while paying for petrol
  • Went to the supermarket for 1-2 items but bought treats
  • Cake at the café with lunch
  • Six chocolate bars for $3

Savings Record – New Zealand vs. The World


  • New Zealand is 23rd out of 29 in the OECD for national savings rate (household, business, Government). Those below New Zealand are Slovakia, USA, Hungary, Iceland, Portugal and Greece.
  • New Zealand households owe, on average, $1.60 for every $1 earned.
  • Treasury says our low savings contributes to the country’s undeveloped capital markets, high average interest rates, and high debt levels and leaves us exposed to the risk of falling foreign-investor confidence.

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