What customers want

by Melanie Mingas07 May 2019

Steve Weston, CEO of Australia's first digital start-up bank, Volt, reveals what customers expect from financial institutions

Last year, Volt became Australia's first digital start-up bank with the aim of changing how people can save, pay and borrow. As a first step, the neobank went direct to its target customer base to ask what they want from a finance brand.

The answers were simple: personalised functions, timely service, respect for loyalty and reduced fees, to name a few. But the overall theme was aspiration – the idea that people don’t just want a bank account so they can receive and pay money; they want an account that can support their lifestyle and goals.

Volt co-founder and CEO Steve Weston says, “People want help that they don’t get from banks today. So, don’t just give me a home loan; help me buy the home. When I’m in the home, help me pay the loan off.

Don’t give me a savings account; understand what it is I’m saving for and help me achieve it. Help me with budgeting; show me where I can get better deals. “Banks haven’t done that, and that’s what customers are asking for.”

“People want help that they don’t get from banks today. So, don’t just give me a home loan; help me buy the home” Steve Weston, co-founder and CEO, Volt Bank

Armed with these answers, Weston, his co-founder Luke Bunbury and the Volt team are positioning the bank to lead the huge changes they believe lie ahead for banking in Australia.

“If we’re talking about an iceberg, the royal commission was just the tip. It was the big scandal, but in terms of the volume of issues, those will be lifted out of the water in the next few years,” Weston told delegates at the 2019 AltFi Summit in Sydney last month.

Speaking exclusively to Australian Broker, he explains that while the royal commission highlighted shortcomings in the financial system, it’s far from the end of the story.

“Some of the things [banks] have been doing are actually not what the regulators or society expected, so we’ve got to go and fix those up. We’ve got to go and remediate the sins of the past; put processes in place to stop them from happening again. That’s when I refer to the iceberg coming out of the water. The big issues probably are out, but in volume they still have to surface,” he says.

New-age banking

Now on a path to becoming a bank that makes people better off, Volt is looking to reinvent the humble current account by adding new spending controls, real-time digital functionality and other mechanisms. When it comes to loans, Volt is on track to launch mortgage lending by late 2019, again promising to make the process faster, easier and “more rewarding” through technology.

Volt will have its own mortgage team; however, that doesn’t mean brokers will be written out of the equation.

“People are looking for someone to trust, and that should be their mortgage broker,” Weston says. Weston has regularly praised the role of the third party channel, last year telling Australian Broker that a digital bank did not signal the end of face-to-face banking or guidance.

However, for Volt, digital banking does signal the end of the ‘loan for life’ philosophy.

“Brokers need to show that they’re doing more than just giving a loan; they have to really understand what customers need and help them achieve that goal and pay off the loan,” Weston says.

“If we’re going to respect customer choice, the broker proposition is outstanding, so we’ll be broker-sourced. It doesn’t matter what I think; customers are going to need brokers – getting that impartial advice, being able to access a choice of providers. It’s incredibly attractive.”

Those who want to be a part of what Volt is creating can download Volt Labs, an app-based co-creation community that allows customers, brokers, in fact anybody with an interest in Volt, to have their say on how products and services are developed.

Community members can also submit ideas and test new features and products. For now, Weston’s focus is on making Volt the change Australia wants to see.

“The world is changing,” he says.

“With the growing popularity of smartphones, that’s the branch. Suddenly your previous competitive advantage has become a commodity, and your advantage now is your product.”