The Future Is Now: How COVID-19 Is Accelerating the Digital Transformation of Retail Banking


The switch to online and mobile services presents challenges for banks to replicate in their digital offerings the personal touch of face-to-face interactions.

Led by employees working remotely and customers increasingly doing their banking online and demanding a seamless experience, digital transformation is accelerating in the banking sector as a result of COVID-19.

The switch by consumers to online and mobile services, which is likely to continue, presents challenges for banks to replicate in their digital offerings the personal touch of face-to-face interactions and to improve the overall customer experience, a Boston Consulting Group survey found in April.

To adapt to changes in client behavior and requests and employee collaboration, banks need to look seriously at communication software, cyber protection, open APIs, cloud infrastructure, and deeper data-driven thinking, said Dan Bennett, Managing Partner of OurCrowd Australia, during a session on the future bank during the investment platform’s recent virtual OurCrowd Pandemic Innovation Conference.

NAB accelerates its digital transformation

In addition to the acceleration of digital interactions around work and client services, another big trend that the National Australia Bank (NAB) is seeing is the move to a cashless society, said Cathryn Carver, Executive General Manager, Client Coverage, at NAB, during the session.

See also: The Bank of 2020: Beacon of Real-Time Services

The move to a cashless society is a long-term trend as customers choose digital payments over cash and reduce their use of checks and manual and face-to-face interactions, she noted. Even before the pandemic, its customers were becoming largely “digital-first” customers and expected seamless integrated and personalized experiences, she said.

To stay competitive, NAB has focused on building up its speed, agility, relevance, and resilience. On the employee side, within a week, the bank, which began a nearly $5 billion digitalization journey two years ago, had its 28,000 employees working remotely, including call centers, service centers, and relationship banking, she said.

Highlighting its cloud infrastructure strategy, Carver noted that NAB recently shifted its transactional banking platform to the cloud. The move will help it build up resilience and improve the user experience, as well as bring its products straight to market in a matter of a few weeks. The company has also invested in payment APIs as well to help ensure more flexibility and speed, she added.

Cybersecurity threats to banking during COVID-19

The topic that is top of mind however is cybersecurity during the pandemic, she said, noting significant increases in cyberattacks, business email compromises, and fraud alerts since March. Just days before the conference in late June, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australia’s government and institutions were being targeted by widespread and ongoing state-sponsored cyber attacks.

NAB is addressing such threats with investments internally, including with centers of excellence, and working with external vendors, she said. Pointing to fraud as a massive concern due to people working from home, among other reasons, Carver noted that the bank is working with different vendors, including in the area around biometrics detection.

She named OurCrowd portfolio company BioCatch, which uses neural science, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning to detect fraudulent activity based on user behavior, as one example of companies it is working with.

NAB is also holding sessions for its clients, including corporations and institutions, to educate them and their staff on cybersecurity, Carver continued.

“Stay vigilant is my parting words,” she said.

Lisa Damast

About Lisa Damast

Lisa Damast is a senior writer and the Head of Marketing at She has over 12 years experience in online media as a reporter and marketing manager. Follow her on Twitter @Lisa_Damast

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