CommBank’s Kaching app:
A perfect IT/business alignment case study



blog When the Commmonwealth Bank of Australia first launched its ‘Kaching mobile, social and NFC payments system in October 2011, the service had plenty of naysayers. Some said Australians weren’t ready for mobile payments, some said that social networks such as Facebook weren’t good platforms to integrate banks with, while others mocked the bulky case which added NFC capabilities to the iPhone. Boy, how all those people must be grimacing now as they’re forced to eat their words. The bank revealed yesterday (see this article from ZDNet for the details) that a collossal amount of transactions had passed through Kaching since its inception:

“Its Kaching app/iPhone case/Facebook application has seen more than 1 million downloads across the Android and iOS platforms on which it is offered, and has handled over AU$9 billion in transactions.”

To my mind, what Kaching represents is the perfect example of what happens when technologists inside a business can achieve a wider mandate to drive business change through the use of technology. With the success of Kaching, CommBank chief information officer Michael Harte has not just supported CommBank’s business activities — he’s opened up a massive new line of business activity, and associated revenues and profits, in a way which IT managers and chief information officers normally aren’t able to. It’s also remarkable that a business as old as CommBank, and one generally considered to be slow-moving, has been able to generate such successful innovation.

If I was a technologist at Australia’s other banks, to say nothing of other financial institutions such as insurance firms (including medical insurance firms), superannuation companies and brokerages, I would be looking at CommBank’s success here very, very carefully. There are also lessons to be learnt for telcos, retailers, government departments and others. Suddenly, with the multi-billion-dollar success of Kaching, we’re not talking about pocket change. We’re talking about a massive new business worth $9 billion in revenue to the bank. Anyone who can replicate that success in innovating in transactions for mobile apps, even to the smallest degree, will probably find themselves on top of a very successful little venture indeed.

Kaching’s success also speaks very strongly to the idea that Australians are very rapid and early adopters of technology — when it’s the right technology. There really aren’t many examples internationally of mobile transaction businesses taking off. And, as I mentioned, there were plenty of naysayers for Kaching. But this CommBank example proves that when Australians see a good thing in technology, they grab on to it immediately. One does wonder what potential there is for the Commonwealth Bank to launch its model internationally. Because one thing we can say for sure now, is that mobile transactions in Australia, as a trend, is now more than an experiment. It’s real, massively real, and it’s here to stay. We may soon be able to get rid of those credit cards in our wallets after all.

Image credit: Commonwealth Bank of Australia


  1. “There really aren’t many examples internationally of mobile transaction businesses taking off”

    You should look at M Pesa

    Absolutely incredible mobile payments success story for developing countries. Stuff like what happened in Afghanistan with reducing payroll fraud… thats why technology exists!

    Not sure anything like that can ever get up in Australia, too much existing trust in banks etc.

  2. Even more interesting was the revelation that there is no independent or government oversight of the banking industry. The charter was written by the banks themselves and subsequently watered down, to the point that a mere 0.01% complaints are actually investigated. It is more than past time that we had proper oversight, transparency and appropriate regulation of the finance industry, as if the GFC wasn’t a glaring enough indictment against the folly of deregulation of an industry that is fundamentally predisposed to exploitation of conflicts of interest.

  3. I switched from ANZ to CommBank and have to say (as a technologist) I was impressed enough that I recommended the Katching app to others.

  4. “worth $9 billion in revenue to the bank”

    Processing $9B in transactions doesn’t mean they had $9B in revenue hitting their books (i.e. their P&L). Their fees and charges would be a small percentage of that.

  5. I have always read their product name in my head as an youth/edgy way to spell “caching” and it’s bothered me – I think why on earth did they let their geeks name an app after an IT term – probably an internal project name that went to far.

    And then I had a “ka-ching” moment!

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