What do a Chevy Camaro and Online Banking Have in Common?

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31 August 2010


  • By making it easy and relevant. So skip eveerything that is non-relevant and make it take just a few steps.

    j de waard

  • They can start by reducing the obnoxious fees they charge for doing simple everyday transactions that you would expect your bank to offer for free, while at the same time not making it terribly obvious what costs money and what doesn't. The fee schedule is often buried on the bank's Web site some 20 pages deep. I'm always afraid to use my bank's portal for anything I don't absolutely need to do, primarily out of fear they're going to charge me some ridiculous fee.

    It also wouldn't hurt if they were to offer real straight-through services, rather than having every online process for non-routine transactions end in the ubiquitous "we'll get back to you" message, which often takes days.

    Banks can also learn to integrate their own services better. I have 4 bank accounts, and that's not counting my brokerage accounts at the same bank, each for a different purpose. Some offer higher interest, some offer chequing, some let you hold non-cash instruments. Why? Stop making me open new accounts every time I want to do something different. Another example is transfering money between one's bank and one's brokerage account, when they're different subsidiaries of the same institution (the very reason I keep my money at that institution). It should be seamless, and should happen instantly. I shouldn't have to see my bank account debited on Monday only to have the same amount credited to my brokerage account on Tuesday. If I wanted to wait a day, I'd use a fax machine.

    Bottom line: Banks have done a good job of letting their customers perform routine transactions online, providing convenience to customers while reducing costs internally (for the same fees, no less). But what they need to do now is move their business processes online. They haven't really done that very well so far. The Web has been treated as a mere interface to the bank, but in order to move to the next level, the bank has to interface with the Web.

  • Experience and engagement are two critical words FIs need to become accustomed to using when developing their online banking strategy. Like with the Camaro, there seemingly is a lack of ergonomics considered in the design. A good online banking platform can not be deployed at the drop of a time. It takes time and understanding of how users will engage the platform and what the FI hopes to get from it. Clearly, it is time to think beyond the transaction.

  • These are great comments guys, thank you.

    j de waard - You are spot on with regards to relevancy and ease of navigation. It's not an easy thing to do however with the plethora of features available. It is possible however and requires a different approach focused on what features/functions the customer actually uses.

    Kenneth - all fantastic points. Processes have to be fixed behind the scenes prior to slapping on a new skin to the front end. There is not enough emphasis on this and the siloed nature of banks makes this extremely difficult. At the end of the day it's not about technology, it's about trying to solve the issues the customer is experiencing. I may quote you on, "The Web has been treated as a mere interface to the bank, but in order to move to the next level, the bank has to interface with the Web."

    Bryan - You are correct, experience and engagement are not being emphasized enough. It is time to think beyond the transaction. However, a properly designed online banking solution can increase adoption, transaction volume, etc. It is still however a difficult sell to banks as they are so accustomed to the old school approach.

  • Thanks Jacob. Perhaps we need to share this kind of thinking with our industry friends.

  • I was just wondering whether you are highlighting US banks only, US and European? The reason I ask is that using UK online consumer banking services (Amex, Natwest, Halifax, HSBC) I actually don't have too many gripes - services I need, done quickly without too much fuss.

    Natwest's iPhone app left me utterly cold, however their online banking is very good in my view.

    So, can you be a bit more specific on whether it's all online banking, or just US-based?

  • Dan, thanks for your input. Many of the UK and European online banking services are plagued by the same issues. However, some have done a decent job of simplifying workflows and improving the user experience. This is particularly true of those that have placed PFM/OFM within online banking (e.g. ING in the Netherlands, BBVA, etc.). Otherwise, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

  • I agree some of the European banks have done a decent job simplifying workflows for end-users but is it too simple and are they missing the opportunity to provide their customers with relevant information that would help a customer better manage their finances? For those banks who are not offering some sort of PFM/OFM capabilities I have found there is a lack of control over your finances and no view on future activities. Though there may be a list of my Direct Debits on one page and a list of my Standing Orders on another page, there is no place where this information is presented to me in one single place and definitely not something I can choose to have presented to me, the way I want it presented like I have information presented to me in iGoogle.

    To the point Kenneth made above “one size” or “one presentation” of online banking does not fit all. Financial Institutions need to give some of the control back to the customer to decide what financial information is relevant and important for them to see, to enable them to respond quickly and easily in order to better manage their finances. I believe this type enablement will provide many bank customers with some of the transparency they feel they are missing and reestablish some of the trust lost between banks and their customers over the past several years.

  • Great comments Carmen. Yes, more control is absolutely required. I think it's more about the consumer getting a handle on his/her own finances as opposed to reestablishing trust between the consumer and the bank.

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