Aussie Bank Crowdsources Product Ideas in Mobile App Challenge

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Westpac will invest $50,000 to develop two concept apps from the public. The bank already has an aggressive mobile strategy, and is threatening to shake things up further with more bold moves like this before year’s end.

Westpac is looking for talented New Zealand designers and developers that the bank might be able to collaborate with as they “move forward with a progressive mobile and digital program.”

The Westpac App Challenge 2013 seeks submissions from the general public for mobile apps that will make common banking activities — a process, transaction or application — easier, faster and safe for customers. Concepts and ideas submitted can be for any mobile platform, including tablets.

If an app is selected for development, the designer will get $10,000 and the opportunity to work with Westpac’s digital team to make the concept a reality. The bank says it has a pool of $50,000 to invest in apps that might emerge from the contest.

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This isn’t just a marketing sham either, like some companies that pretend to crowdsource so they can claim they “listen to customers” despite knowing exactly what they were going to implement from the very get-go. No, Westpac isn’t on embarking on some ethically shaky fishing expedition. They intend to actually build at least two of the app concepts they see submitted. And who knows, maybe this may be a serious form of talent scouting for Westpac. Perhaps they are looking to hire a few mobile developers, and this is a subtle (if not elaborate) way to solicit resumes.

The bar is pretty high. Westpac already has a full mobile banking app for smart phones, and was among the first in that hemisphere to roll out an iPad app. They also have an interesting Cash Tank app for iPhones and Android devices that gives customers a quick visual indication of how much money is in their account, plus a fun and innovative Pay Pig app to help kids keep track of their chores and pocket money.

( Read More: Marketing Strategies To Shatter The Mobile Banking ‘Glass Ceiling’ )

There will be two stages of the judging process. First, an internal Westpac panel will review all entries and, in consultation with any other experts they feel necessary. Up to five entrants will be asked to present their app and concept to a panel. In the second round, Westpac’s panel will decide the apps that Westpac take forward to development. The panel of judges include:

  • Simon Pomeroy – Head of Digital Banking & Customer Experience, Westpac
  • Peter Fletcher – Chief Information Officer, Westpac
  • Shane Howell – Head of Retail Products, Westpac
  • Michael Dutton – Senior Experience Designer, Optimal Experience*
  • Mauricio Freitas – Geekzone*
    * Third-party expert

One of the judges, Michael Dutton, has studied and ranked all the mobile banking apps in New Zealand. He ranked Westpac third, after ASB and BNZ.

Selected semi-finalists will be invited to present their concept to the panel at Westpac on Takutai Square in Auckland. Each semi-finalist will have 15 minutes to present their concept, then the judges get 10 minutes to grill the presenter.

At least two apps will be selected for actual development.

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“We have deliberately been wide in the brief to encourage innovative and creative thinking. We don’t want to prescribe a narrow field of focus because we want to encourage their unique perspective and skills,” said Simon Pomeroy, Head of Digital at Westpac New Zealand. “Westpac has an innovative pipeline of digital and mobile releases scheduled over the next year that we are excited about and we hope this contributes further to that.”

Callum Wilson, Westpac’s general manager for customer strategy and experience, has promised one New Zealand publication that the bank will be unveiling “big changes” in mobile banking before the end of the year including “game changing” developments.

Commonwealth Bank over in Australia has done something similar, although their Idea Bank was not specific to the mobile channel, and customers were the ones who judged and voted on concepts.

RBS implemented its own “Ideas Bank” concept earlier this year. And First Direct, also in the UK, has been toying with crowdsourced product development input at its Innovation Lab since 2011.

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