Australia's CBA to let customers check other bank balances on its app

May 27 (Reuters) - Commonwealth Bank of Australia on Thursday became the first among the country’s four big lenders to allow customers to view account balances from other lenders through its app, in a push to improve digital banking relationships.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed lenders to trim physical branches and beef up their digital presence as more customers take to online transactions.

CBA, Australia’s largest bank, said its move came under the country’s Consumer Data Right (CDR) law that will soon be extended to energy and other sectors.

The bank said it would invest A$50 million ($38.68 million) in two startups, picking up a 23% stake in online shopping platform Little Birdie and 25% in Amber, which provides access to wholesale electricity prices.

The investments highlight how some banks are vying to go beyond traditional banking as they grapple with the rise of fintechs that are growing popular with younger customers.

Amber offers a subscription service to users to get access to wholesale electricity prices, which have nearly halved over the past three years and tend to be lower than retail prices.

CBA said it would be able to offer additional discounts to its customers through its A$20 million investment.

With Little Birdie, CBA will widen its shopping offerings ahead of the launch of its own buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) offering this summer. It also owns a small stake in Swedish firm Klarna.

Among the Big Four, National Australia Bank has broadened its digital offering by snapping up neobank 86 400, while Westpac Banking Corp has partnered with Afterpay to offer banking platform services.

$1 = 1.2928 Australian dollars Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.