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After our initial research post where we outlined the criteria and examined the first cohort – Neobanks – we continue examining the big 4s . The original  premise remains the same:

“How easily can I sign up to a bank on a mobile app?”

We have focused on the main banks’ apps (and websites when we were forced to): Westpac, CBA, ANZ and NAB. We have not looked into subsidiaries (Bankwest, St George…) or their Digital arms (e.g. Ubank…) So let’s see the data:


Cohort 2: Big 4s




We were shocked by the results. 

Three out of the four major banks won’t let you open an account through their mobile app.

In addition, the Big 4s offer a less intuitive and much slower on-boarding experience than Cohort1: The Neobanks.

CBA was the only one of this cohort that allowed the account opening process via app, while Westpac, ANZ and NAB directed us to their websites.

Westpac pushes you out of their app into a mobile browsing experience which feels clunky but allows you to complete the task.

Incredibly, NAB and ANZ would not let us complete the account opening process without moving to a laptop browser or calling a phone number or visiting a branch. This caused them to be disqualified in the account opening process with the criteria we set for our research.

Unfortunately, the worst experience was with NAB. We were sent around in circles, ultimately not being able to progress without a NAB ID.

So the aggregated graphs with all 8 banks in the research so far looks like this:

We should mention here that Westpac does offer a digital version of the card in their own app, in addition from the Apple wallet version. This feature, in theory, can allow you to use the digital version of the card and pay, while you wait for the physical card to arrive. However, to use this feature you need to register for the service “Westpac Protect SMS code”, and that can only happen via a phone call to the call centre.


As you can see after all the research, the Neo banks are nailing the experience. Have we caught the Big 4 napping?

Gap Analysis – Neos and the Big 4


What are the differences and why do they fare worse than the Neos?

    • Not allowing customers to open an account directly through the app (except for CBA)
    • Slowing down the time to spend by tying the digital card creation to the arrival of the physical card
    • Digitally native onboarding but disjointed experience across app, website, sms, several different passwords (app and bank id)
    • Weightier data collection; less seamless KYC onboarding experience
    • Dependence on existing internet banking infrastructure and protocols, leading to a feeling that the app is a less significant “channel” whose primary role is to supplement internet banking
    • We received physical cards in less than 6 business days for all banks which is excellent for postal times (no fancy packaging though) especially during the COVID period. Mail time is the weakest link however, as you need the physical card for all of the big 4s to actually pay at a shop and add to the apple wallet.


Our view is that even (especially?) if a full on-boarding experience could not be provided, wouldn’t a simple field to leave your details for a call back be sufficient? The modern consumer doesn’t expect to find dead-ends and this indicates a lack of empathy with the customer.

With far more time, resources and funding, it’s shocking that the Big Four banks are so inferior to the Neos. Plus unless the Big four are able to close the gap here we may see a real David and Goliath moment…


Final Thoughts

Customer and User Experience are part of the technologist’s vernacular but often large established enterprises can miss some of these basics. Digital teams would do well to revisit the onboarding experience every six months and robustly pressure test what is possible.

We appreciate the pressures around KYC compliance; however, we would encourage the bigger banks to start to think outside the box. Identity and Biometrics are developing areas that are able to provide some compelling user experience improvements while maintaining security. As they become more trusted and usable, it would advantageous for banks to be ready to leverage these emerging ecosystems.

Next we are going to investigate the technology stack that enables the NeoBank experience.

We hope you stay tuned and tell your colleagues about this!