Washington Federal Bank Delivers Great Online Customer Experiences

Banking portals are ubiquitous. They have now become part of the cost of doing business in the retail banking sector, and because of their prevalence, customer experience standards are high. To stay competitive, banks must meet their customers where they are – and they are increasingly expecting banking services that are available in-person to be available online and at their own convenience.

Washington Federal Bank known as WaFd Bank, is a retail and commercial bank based out of the US, operating more than 200 branches from the state of Washington to Texas. Using Mendix, WaFd rebuilt their online banking portal from scratch, giving them full control over their customers’ digital experience.

When White-Label Solutions Don’t Cut It

As Tim Barlow, a Director Analyst at Gartner explains, to stay competitive in the retail banking market, technology leaders “must continue to prioritize a seamless user experience between their various channels, from digital and mobile to virtually engaging with reps and personal bankers.”

To keep up with changing customer expectations, WaFd needed to update their online banking portal to give their customers a modern banking experience. Previously, the team at WaFd Bank spent 8 months attempting to replace their online banking portal using white-label solutions, which was ultimately cancelled due to the lack of customizability and the inability to integrate key services.

Additionally, white-label solutions would not have been capable of implementing personalized experiences based on customer identity and behavior, critical functionality for the bank. WaFd had to move away from pre-built, cookie cutter platforms and take direct control over the experiences they offered their customers, whose checking accounts increased by $2.3 billion in value during the fiscal year 2021.

The Driving Force Behind Digital-First Banking

Dustin Hubbard, CTO at WaFd Bank, was tasked with making them a digital-first bank. His team needed a way to rapidly develop enterprise-grade, public-facing web portals for their customers. Using low-code, Hubbard and his team proved up to the task, rebuilding their online banking portal in just 10 months, with functionality to view account information and transactions, initiate bank transfers, and pay bills.

The Right Platform to Deliver Great Customer Experiences

Hubbard recognized the challenge of ‘starting from scratch’ with no existing infrastructure or toolset, which was a significant hurdle the team would have to overcome. Additionally, the WaFd team had to leverage a solution that could easily integrate with their extensive middle-tier API gateway. To ensure the platform of choice would be sufficient, Hubbard and the team put Mendix through a difficult proof-of-concept during their evaluation process, which it passed with flying colors. Hubbard describes that the initial proof of concept “had to support everything, including enrolling in online banking, getting all account and transaction details, supporting internal and external bank transfers, and adding or removing bill pay with a checking account.” In the first six weeks of using low-code, the WaFd team had already exceeded what their previous vendor tried to accomplish in 8 months. As Hubbard explains, “the ability for the Mendix platform to solve such a challenging build as our first application is remarkable… the platform held up to the promise… we are impressed at how fast you can prototype.”

Using the new banking portal, WaFd’s customers get personalized experiences based on their identity and behavior, providing functionality that the white-label solutions could not provide. Hubbard’s team has delivered a best-in-class product, and because the portal is built with low-code, they can respond to customer demand by rapidly rolling out new features every eight weeks. As Hubbard describes, WaFd is “redefining the online banking experience for our clients. Just as importantly, [WaFd] will have much deeper insights on how our customers use and interact with our products.”

In addition to gaining full control over their banking portal experience with Mendix, WaFd needed a platform that wouldn’t tax scarce resources. With deployment and operations taking significant time to manage, Hubbard and the team sought a platform that was cloud native by default, enabling the team to spin up environments and scale them as-needed.

The Future of Digital Banking at WaFd

Hubbard and the team have plans to extend their online portal to build native mobile apps, and because Mendix is the only low-code platform that supports React Native, they are well-positioned to deliver new, best-in-class experience to their customers. Additionally, Hubbard describes his future vision for the composition of his team, explaining, “we hope to skill up the business as well and create citizen developers in the org so we can build features even faster.” Mendix is providing Hubbard and his team new opportunities for building solutions that improve experiences for their customers, with their new online banking portal just the start of their low-code journey.

Hubbard’s ambitions to make WaFd a digital-first bank will be made possible with the latest in application development technology, ensuring a future-proof platform for this project and beyond.

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