Partnership: Westpac and Samsung. Photo: Louie Douvis
Imagine doing your banking from your smartphone, watch, fridge or television and using just your fingerprint to identify yourself: it's what Westpac New Zealand is doing, having signed an open-ended collaboration and innovation deal with Samsung.
Westpac New Zealand chief executive Peter Clare said customers increasingly want access to online financial information ''everywhere, all the time''. Samsung's product portfolio, which spans everything from internet-connected fridges to smartphones and televisions, extends the bank's potential reach for its apps.
Although the bank is in ''lockstep'' with its Australian owner in terms of innovation, Clare acknowledged that there can be benefits in using New Zealand as a sandpit. ''New Zealand is figuratively and literally an island. We can take a bit more risk without putting at risk the larger engine room of the business.''
Westpac New Zealand, for example, has trialled a Google Glass banking application and both it and Westpac subsidiary St George plan to release an app that will allow people to check their balance or transfer funds from the device as soon as it is released locally. Last month, Westpac New Zealand announced it was testing a system to allow people to use their fingerprint to log into internet banking from a Samsung Galaxy S5. Clare said the bank hoped to release that capability later this year.
''We have built our internet banking platform in a fully responsive way. We can present data on Google Glass or a 100-inch [254-centimetre] TV. I can imagine an embedded banking app in Samsung TVs in the future,'' Clare said.
The arrangement, described as a ''virtuous circle'' by Clare, provides the bank with access to product insights and researchers in Samsung's 24 research and development labs around the world, allowing it to be ready with banking apps as soon as a new product is delivered. In return, Samsung gains banking insight to help shape future technologies.
It is not the first time a major bank has signed a collaboration agreement with a technology company in a bid to seek a competitive edge. The National Australia Bank did the same with Oracle when it agreed to collaborate and be the world's first user of Oracle's banking platform in its NextGen core system. Commonwealth Bank is at present conducting Australian field trials of its Albert mobile point-of-sale device, which has been developed in association with Wincor Nixdorf.
Deloitte Digital lead partner Frank Farrall said collaborations are important as consumers increasingly want seamless experiences across multiple devices. ''The caution is in trying to pick a winner,'' he said. ''What if the bank says 'we have this partnership with this company'. What if the customer doesn't like it? You've got a problem.''
Clare said the innovation partnership did not mean Westpac and St George would develop exclusively for Samsung products, noting that Westpac had sent a team of people to visit Apple's headquarters earlier this year for a technology update.
Samsung Electronics New Zealand enterprise director Verdon Kelliher said while Samsung's arrangement is not exclusive, ''we're working with Westpac as they are leading the way with innovation and technology''.