Australian digital-only bank improves the customer home loan experience

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Ubank digital bank AIIn the world of digital banking, bigger isn’t always necessarily better.

Australian digital-only bank UBank is aiming to disrupt the banking industry to deliver a simpler, better, smarter customer experience. Founded in 2008, UBank has been consistently pushing the boundaries of traditional banking, including introducing the first online home loan application in Australia.

Today, the UBank team continues to challenge itself to think about what it can do next for its customers, but it’s not looking to drive innovation with more people. The company has deliberately kept a limited headcount of around 200 employees. Yet it’s a growth business looking to attract more customers, which means the team must do things smarter and more efficiently. Without the shortcut of hiring more talent, the business has been challenged to become even more innovative and disruptive.

A truly agile operating model

As a way of building on this disruption mindset, the company looked to platform-as-a-service (PaaS) technology, which gives more control to developers and helps conserve resources. PaaS also helps speed time to market because it reduces barriers from idea to production, which means new products get to customers faster.

UBank evaluated cloud providers and chose to work with IBM. While it initially appeared that IBM was a better fit for large corporations, the IBM Watson and Cloud Adoption Leadership team‘s approach to focusing on the business outcome first and then showing how technology could support it second really hit the brief. The IBM team’s approach to solving problems and the IBM Cloud open standards were critical factors in leading UBank to trial IBM Cloud.

Partnering with IBM Cloud

To get started, UBank visited the IBM Cloud Garage to test drive IBM Cloud. With the help of experienced engineers from the cloud adoption leadership team, UBank created a Facebook plugin referral app for home loans. UBank leaders immediately saw real value in the speed of delivery and creation of new products. There was also a strong alignment in culture and methodology that brought the two teams together. Instead of a traditional approach, the Cloud Garage team wowed the UBank team with its agile culture and fast-paced model.

The model allows UBank to trial different ideas, and if something doesn’t work, it can be scrapped and the company can move on to the next project. In this sense, IBM Cloud enabled innovation and showed how it could help teams reach for the next thing instead of worrying about an unsuccessful attempt. Further, lean and agile product teams can be truly autonomous and go from a new feature idea to production without having to work with multiple other teams and create it, avoiding friction.

Fast-tracking an AI experience

Growing its home loan customer base is a key objective for UBank, so it’s imperative to continuously refine and improve the application experience to make it as easy as possible for customers. Prior to this project, UBank significantly streamlined and simplified its online home loan application form to take as little as four minutes for prepared applicants. UBank also implemented a live chat capability to offer real-time support customers, but the team wanted to see if they could go further to find a more efficient solution.

In striving to do more, RoboChat was born. RoboChat is the first chatbot in Australia to help customers with their online home applications. UBank built an orchestration layer on IBM Cloud that connects with the IBM Watson Conversation API to its current live chat solution, LiveEngage by LivePerson. RoboChat sits the UBank website and effectively acts as an additional staff member with a specific set of skills within the site’s existing live chat capability.

RoboChat took only two months from concept to production.

For UBank, working with the IBM Watson and cloud adoption leadership team and the Cloud Garage felt like it was working with another startup with the right cultural fit to help accelerate innovation.

Read the case study or check out the press release for more details about RoboChat.

Learn more about IBM banking solutions.

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