Setting up a new Australian digital bank: A CMO’s story

86 400 chief product and marketing officer, Travis Tyler, shares the journey he's been on to build out the brand proposition and product set for Australia's latest neobank


This week, Australia officially got a new digital bank: 86 400. Pitching itself as a smarter way to do banking, the offering centres around making money management easier by helping consumers see what’s actually going on with their finances through app-based tools and data insights.

86 400, which is owned by payments provider, Cuscal, is in fact one of two digital banks to launch in the Australian market recently – Xinja is the other. Which means competition to win the hearts and minds of customers should be nothing short of fierce.

Leading the way in the 86 400 camp is chief product and marketing officer, Travis Tyler. Tyler has been in the banking industry for 23 years, working across functions such as finance, product and operations before switching to digital, where he spent 12 years working to build digital business including at Westpac. Not only did these experiences build his passion for marketing, it also gave him a strong grounding in customer-centred design – something key in every aspect of 86 400’s launch.

Joining 86 400 14 months ago, Tyler told CMO work had been undertaken by branding agency, Hulsbosch, on brand identity, and the group had already picked its name: 86 400.

Using these foundations, he’s built out brand identity, product and the new business proposition. To do this, 86 400 has taken a more “purist” view of marketing compared to many financial services firms, he said. For a start, Tyler’s remit includes product, marketing, design and customer acquisition.

“This presented me the opportunity to start with research and work with customers, build the product and brand at the same time, then use this in our go-to-market in terms of marketing, communications and brand identity. We’ve had a red thread all the way through everything we’re doing,” he said.  

Supporting Tyler is a small team of highly capable people with digitally-fuelled skillsets, he said. Half the organisation’s staff have an engineering background, and many come from ecommerce rather than financial services. 86 400 chairman, Anthony Thompson, is also a former marketer, and Tyler said the pair have worked on brand creative and execution. In addition, the company has established partnerships with boutique creative agency, Bashful.

Building a customer-centric brand

The overarching premise of 86 400 is offering banking all through one smartphone app. It’s connected to various pay systems such as Apply Pay, Google PayTM and FitBit Pay, offers instant payments via Osko, and has a Visa Debit card that can be used through 10,000 ATMs nationally.  

Getting here started with 16 rounds of customer testing with its app, initially every 2-4 weeks. 86 400 similarly conducted testing across every part of its product offering.

“We did have that point of inflection where we got a bit stuck both with how we were going to come to market, as well as the essence of our product,” Tyler said. In stepping back, what became clear was it lacked a solid handle on the purpose of the business. So Tyler worked closely with his marketing lead, chairman and a UK brand strategist to better devise the company’s approach.

Where 86 400 got to is the purpose of helping Australians take control of their money. Understanding that helped rally the business, made the mission clearer and ensures the group is building products true to its brand promise, Tyler said.

“Even the way we to go to market has benefitted from this, and it became our North Star,” he said. “The purpose should be there, but when you’re running as fast as we are as a bank startup in a heavily regulated space, everything you need to do has to be safe and secure. But having that purpose helped solidified what we were trying to do. It gave us much more discipline around executing to that.”  

First product cabs off the rank for 86 400 are transaction and savings accounts: Pay and Save. Key features include no monthly fees, a 2.5 per cent variable interest rate, visibility of all banking accounts in one place, and smart features aimed at helping customers to better manage their money and achieve interest bonuses. For example, customers will be alerted to upcoming bills, subscriptions and direct debit payments in advance of payment.

“Our position is we are Australia’s newest smart bank, so all our products emphasis this,” Tyler explained. “For example, you can join in 120 seconds – something we had very positive feedback on with customers. You immediately get two accounts, no monthly fees. And you’re connected to 150 institutions to our bank, so you get instant value when you join 86 400.

“We immediately have 12 months’ worth of data from those accounts, which gives us insights to help you in advance with your savings. For example, we can alert you that your electricity bill is due in 13 days, or about gym memberships or Netflix and Stan subscriptions.”

Tyler noted recent research showed Australians spending $2.7 billion each year on unused subscriptions, and being charged $1 billion in late fees.

“With traditional banking, it’s always what has happened,” he said. “We are looking at what’s going to happen and giving people total visibility so they can make better financial decisions.”

Up next: How 86 400 found its target market, plus its marketing strategy

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