NAB banking on branches in digital world

National Australia Bank is taking a leaf from the Apple play book to get its customers up to speed with the digital world.

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As rival ANZ trials in-app voice recognition to eliminate branch visits for customers making high-value transfers, NAB has invested $6 million in its central Sydney flagship branch to school consumers in doing things themselves.

The Apple Store-style layout – complete with a cafe, open-plan meeting areas, and hands-on tech bars at which staff coach customers in online banking – will be rolled out elsewhere if successful.

“We know customers want to do a lot of every day things through digital means if they can just be shown how to do that,” said Andrew Hagger, NAB’s chief customer officer for consumer and wealth.

“For some people, digital functionality is intuitive, for others it’s good to have a guiding hand.”

Mr Hagger said the branch network remained a key asset for traditional banks.

“I travel all around the country and what I find on every occasion is a customer walking into the branch and dealing face to face with someone there who really cares for them – the trust is there,” Mr Hagger said.

“The satisfaction of those experiences is very strong among our customer.”

Research by DBM Consultants shows NAB is consistently the most likely of the big banks to be recommended by customers.

Its net promoter score (NPS) was the only one in positive territory in February – the most recent survey, which was conducted before the banks’ recent round of out-of-cycle rate increases.

“When we ask what customers see in their banks, NAB customers rate NAB far better on fees and rates than other customers rate their banks,” DBM head of banking research Dhruba Gupta said.

“Customers also have a high regard for NAB’s customer service, its products and its reputation.”

NAB last month hiked its standard variable mortgage rate by 0.07 percentage points for owner-occupiers, and by 0.25 percentage points for investors.

Many lenders also upped their interest-only rates ahead of Friday’s move by the banking regulator to cap interest-only mortgage lending at 30 per cent of new residential mortgages.

“We respect APRA’s analysis and their ability to make determinations,” Mr Hagger said.

“It’s for us to digest that and make that work.”