The Commonwealth Bank of Australia again increased its IT spend last year as it chases CEO Matt Comyn’s $5 billion vision of being Australia’s digital leader. Australia’s largest bank says it now has 7.4 million “digitally active customers”, up more than 400,000 from the previous year.

Financial results released today show CBA’s operating expenses increased 0.7 per cent, driven by higher staff and IT costs. CBA spent $585 million last financial year on “staff, IT and other”, according to the results, but insists the investment is paying off with increasing NPS and more customers than ever using the CBA app.

“We continued to extend our digital leadership through increased customer engagement with our market-leading digital assets, and were again awarded Bank of the Year for online and mobile banking,” Comyn said in a statement today.

Comyn arrived at CBA in 2018 and a year later declared he wanted the bank to be “ the best digital provider in Australia bar none”, pledging a $5 billion investment over five years to do it.

A cornerstone of the strategy is CBA’s award winning mobile app, which added 500,000 users in the last financial year for a total user base of 6.1 million. 

According to the bank, app customers transact more than $1.2 billion every day and throughout FY20 more than 6 billion personalised messages were sent to customers via the app and NetBank.

The mobile app includes a personalised interface, a rewards program, alerts, and a feature to notify customers of potential unclaimed benefits; sometimes at a cost to the bank. US IT vendor Pegasystems is responsible for the app’s underlying machine learning and AI, claiming its software crunches billions of data points each day to determine actions in the app.

CBA says it also leaned on its digital infrastructure to notify customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, sending more than 250 million in app messages to customers, alerting them to the bank’s support measures and directing them to its Coronavirus support page.

That page has been viewed by more than 5.5 million CBA customers, according to the bank.

“Using our strengths in customer service, technology and data we will check-in regularly with customers to assess their financial needs and to support their recovery,” Comyn said.

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