Business Banking leader Michael Vacy-Lyle, on the renaissance for business banking at CBA driven by digital development

Michael Vacy-Lyle is Group Executive for Business Banking at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA). This area of the Bank is leveraging new digital technologies. It looks after everything from sole traders and small-medium enterprises to large family-owned businesses and listed companies.

“We are proud to bank more Australian businesses than any other bank with more than 1.1 million customers (1 in 4 Australian businesses) across the country. Furthermore, we provide all the products and services they need through traditional banking, digital channels and relationship bankers,” Mr Vacy-Lyle says. “Our business banking customers benefit from market-leading transaction banking. Also, we offer point of sale and eCommerce solutions, sophisticated lending offerings, access to global markets, equity markets, debt-capital markets and more.”

The digital reimagining of Business Banking

“CBA has long been the biggest retail bank in Australia with 1 in 3 personal customers banking with us. When I arrived in 2020, we were ranked third when it came to business banking,” notes Vacy-Lyle. “I was running a commercial business bank (FNB) in South Africa for more than 10 years. I was brought in to fulfil the real promise we had for CBA’s business bank.”

In addition to leading in retail banking, CBA had long been the market leader in digital banking. “There was a big opportunity to bring that leadership in digital banking to our business banking customers. Globally, much of the big bank spend is traditionally focused on the app executions and end-to-end digital development in the retail space,” he adds. “Meanwhile, business banks have largely been neglected altogether on that journey, notwithstanding it’s often the same customer.”

Customers were having amazing retail digital experiences notes Vacy-Lyle. “But when they tried to manage their affairs with their business bank, it’s almost as if they went to another company. We addressed the inconsistency of experience between the retail and business branches of the bank. There was a need to bring the digital experience up to speed with the expectations of our business customers. We have made good progress on that journey,” he explains. “Additionally, we’re continually reimagining our products and services to make doing business easier. Recent changes give our customers the ability to switch seamlessly between their personal and business profiles in the CommBank App and online banking.”

Accelerating advantages

There are lessons to be learnt from fintechs and their ability to address customer pain-points at speed. However, Vacy-Lyle says that ultimately, nimble competitors don’t have the depth of CBA’s insight and technological expertise.

“As the largest bank and leading digital bank in Australia, we’ve got the capital liquidity combined with the insights. What’s more, that differentiation is something big banks have squandered. Our ability to digitise those core experiences is a big win for us and our main focus areas over the last four years. With a business’s transaction account, we will get a real-time picture of how it is performing. We can speed up and simplify the lending process and proactively meet more customer needs.”

CBA’s BizExpress lending platform was introduced in 2019 to assist bankers to provide faster lending decisions to more customers, as well as allowing customers to self-serve through BizExpress Online.

“When a business comes to a bank to borrow money, they’ve got a working capital challenge. CBA has fixed this with BizExpress – massively improving the lending experience for our customers. This isn’t just about making an online application easy. We have ensured we are proactively meeting customer needs. The bank uses AI and the analytics on the activity of a business account, along with transaction history and business seasonality. We can predict whether a customer needs credit and assess their suitability. At the same time, we will offer pre-approval on the back of those insights.”

Currently, two thirds of all small business lending is funded via the BizExpress platform. “By combining our data assets with capital liquidity to proactively lend to customers, we’ve funded over $1.61bn in lending through the BizExpress platform.”

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