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Bank of America Archives

The iPad-Enabled Checkout Experience at the POS

By Jim Bruene on December 3, 2012 6:09 PM | Comments

The Hideout Coffee House in Austin

A few week ago I spent the weekend in Austin eating BBQ, watching my alma mater get crushed by the University of Texas, and sampling the Sixth Street ambiance.

But the highlight for me was the The Hideout Coffee House. Not only did it have great coffee and eclectic furnishings, but card customers could pay via Square through an iPad mounted in a novel wood stand (see inset; it's not possible to see well, but the ipad stand is on the counter at left).

The barista took my card and swiped it through the Square reader, which was supported by a wood guide (see similar unit left from Tinkering Monkey). Then he flipped the case over 180 degrees so it faced out towards me (see below).

Tinkering Monkey iPad holder at the POSI selected one of the large buttons for a preset tip amount and then once more to have the receipt emailed to me (I only had to enter my email the first time).

It was easier to use than most in-lane POS readers, even contactless ones, because the barista actually did the swipe. It eliminated the uncertainty about when I should tap/swipe or whether it worked or what I should do next. And I loved being able to put a tip on the card with the push of a button rather than writing it on a piece of paper or digging for change. 

Tinkering Monkey swivel ipad caseBottom line: Eventually payments will be made via proximity and settled in the cloud (my mobile will know I'm in the store and will automatically pair me to the store's POS). But there is still a long transition period ahead.

Tablet/smartphone card readers are a great interim step for smaller merchants (note 2), especially with the price wars waging at the point of sale (note 3).

Related: And banks, even though you don't have the POS issue, you can equip your frontline staff with iPad-powered sales tools (note 4). 

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Notes:
1. On one of the Austin freeways, I also saw a billboard for the ISIS pilot. But I didn't see any merchants promoting it. 
2. And some bigger ones. And of course, the 20,000-store Gorilla, Starbucks, is partnering with Square, though it is unlikely they'll use iPads at the point of sale.
3. Bank of America recently jumped into the game matching Square's 2.7% discount rate.  
4. Barclays just bought 8,500 iPads to equip its branch sales staff (Financial Brand post).

Comments

Superb Fee Transparency from Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on November 15, 2012 7:39 PM | Comments

image Unless you are the low-cost provider, most businesses try to impress prospects with their wonderful features and benefits before talking price. Banks are no different, especially in the checking account arena.

imageBut for a number of reasons -- regulations, consumer backlash, competitive pressure -- relegating prices to the fine print just doesn't cut it anymore.

And Bank of America, which last fall suffered perhaps the biggest fee-based backlash in history, is now a leader in fee transparency. It has an entire website dedicated to the subject called Facts About Fees (first screenshot below). The site lists all fees, explains in detail how they are calculated, and even provides good advice on how to avoid them (see inset; note 1). Consumer and small business versions are also delineated.

The bank also includes a comprehensive fee listing in its Checking & Savings product page (second screenshot). A number of banks and credit unions have similar fee schedules posted, but it's still the exception rather than the rule.

Bottom line: By all means lead with your wonderful features, but keep a comprehensive list of prices a single click away. It's the right thing to do.

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Bank of America's "Facts About Fees" (consumer version, link, 15 Nov 2012)
Note: The first page features a Flash-based "cover flow" style presentation along with a talking lady who helps explain the finer points.

image


Fees at a Glance page within the Checking & Savings area (link)

Bank of America "fees at a glance"

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Note:
1. There is life after overdraft fee reform. See the latest Online Banking Report: Digital Overdraft Protection (published Oct 2012, subscription). 

Comments
Categories: Bank of America

Bank of America Pitches Mortgage Refi Upon Logout

By Jim Bruene on September 7, 2012 3:04 PM | Comments

image It's been awhile since I wrote about a logoff marketing offer (note 1) as they all start to look the same after a while. But after signing out of my Bank of America credit card account today, I noticed its eye-catching graphic promoting mortgage refi (first screenshot below).

But as usual, I was underwhelmed with what followed after the first click. I was taken to a generic lead-capture screen so I could get a call back (second screenshot). There were no chat or online options.

The form didn't even pre-fill my state or that I was interested in a refi. And it was a dead end. No links, product info, rates, or incentives. I could submit the form to receive a call-back or dial myself right now. (Granted, the bank may have determined from testing that this approach yields the most ROI, but it sure doesn't work for me.)

It all seems so 1990s. I've had a BofA credit card for 20 years, business and personal. They know more about me than my wife does. It's surprising it doesn't use at least a sliver of this data to personalize the pitch and/or streamline my request for more info.

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Bank of America logoff screen promoting mortgage refinance (6 Sep 2012)

image


Blank refi landing page
(link)

image
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Note:
1. For more information and examples of login/logoff marketing, see our Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password (April 2009). 

Comments

Everbank Takes Gold in Change Sciences Ranking of Small Biz Banking Online Sales, BB&T is Runner-up

By Jim Bruene on August 6, 2012 10:58 AM | Comments

Small Biz Banking Ranking from Change SciencesI've had a consumer account at Everbank since shortly after it launched in 1998. And I've continued to be a fan, both of the bank, and of its co-founder and product-guru Rob Foregger's subsequent work at Personal Capital and others. But I hadn't realized that Everbank excelled on the small biz side.

Change Sciences, which quantifies and compares bank user experience in various verticals, ranked Everbank #1 in its just-published report (subscription) on online sales of small-business banking services.

As you can see from the methodology below, Change Sciences is looking at the discovery and sales process for small biz banking, not the actual online banking experience itself.

Everbank took first by a solid 3-point margin over runner-up BB&T. Most of the big banks were bunched just below BB&T. PNC Bank and US Bank were just a point lower and BofA was just two points lower. SunTrust and Wells also finished four points under BB&T.

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Everbank offers an extensive menu of business benefits via mouseover dropdown menu (6 Aug 2012)

image

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Note: Change Sciences methodology (from its website)

Each site is evaluated (via desktop browser) against a series of criteria by a Change Sciences analyst. The analyst reviews pages and screens that are part of a critical user task. As the tasks are evaluated, the analyst does three things:
• Looks for predefined user-experience characteristics and features.
• Evaluates the page for ease of use or usability, and applies heuristics accordingly.
• Looks for unexpected enhancements, which we call pleasant surprises.

Tasks evaluated:
• Getting a first impression
• Learning about the bank’s approach to its small-business customers
• Finding out about checking and lending products
• Learning about online banking
• Getting to apply options

Comments

Mobile Marketing: Leveraging the iPhone App Update Process

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2012 4:53 PM | Comments

image As customers have adopted ever-more convenient delivery methods, the customer communications process has changed dramatically. Each channel has its own ways of communicating with customers:

  • Branch/mail: Signage, statement inserts, chance conversations in line, direct sales pitches
  • Phone: On-hold messages, prompts on the phone tree, direct sales pitches
  • Online: Email, interstitials, display ads, website content, popups, online chat
  • Mobile: Similar to online plus notifications, text messages and app updates (see below)

In the mobile channel, the process for updating native apps provides a unique marketing opportunity that is virtually without cost and guaranteed to be read by a large portion of your mobile customers (previous post). App publishers have a screen of free real estate to explain the benefits of the new feature(s).

I've read thousands of these update descriptions and there is huge variety of approaches. Some publishers take maximum advantage of the "free publicity" to engage their customers (see Yelp below), pump up the new features (see USAA), and seek additional feedback (see Redfin, SimplyUs examples).

Other publishers don't pay enough attention to readability (Wells, Bank of America, US Bank examples, see note 1) or just put the minimum effort into a bulleted list (E*Trade). 

Bottom line: Each time you push out a new update, use it as an opportunity to educate users and reinforce your mobile brand.

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iPhone App Update Examples

Good
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Yelp reinforces its playful brand with        USAA is more matter of fact, but  
enthusiastic and humorous copy                   does a good job highlighting new
announcing its v.6.0.                                           features in its v.4.9.

image     image


Redfin released a minor bug fix in             SimplyUs gets right to its bullet
v.3.3.2 but includes its email address        list of features, with just enough
to report any issues.                                           info to explain the v.1.0.17 update.
Nice touch!                                                            Plus email and Twitter handle.

image     image


Need work
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Wells does an OK job, but the first               Similarly, Bank of America has an
bullet reads like something lifted from        acceptable message for its v.3.3.351. 
project checklist. And the second                  But the copy is a little confusing and
is too long-winded. Plus, a floating             has an asterisked point floating mid-page.                       "Bug fixes" hovers at  the bottom                        
of its v.2.1 update.

image     image


US Bank's v. 1.6.8 message is                    E*Trade's 2.6 update sounds like it
confusing. Something about being             has a bunch of new features, but
asked to accept a quick update, but          it did nothing but list them with
no specifics on why or what has                no explanations.
changed.

image    image

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Note:
1. These examples were all taken from updates I downloaded today. They are not necessarily indicative of every update from these companies. At major releases (such as Yelp's v6.0), most publishers will step up the copy-writing quality.

Comments

Card-Linked Offers in the Wild: Bank of America, Capital One and Fifth Third

By Jim Bruene on June 10, 2012 9:36 PM | Comments (1)

We are starting to see more card-linked offers (aka merchant-funded rewards) in the wild:

  • imageBank of America: Consultant and former bank exec Tom Noyes showed off his BofA offers, BankAmeriDeals powered by Cardlytics, on his FinVentures blog earlier this week.
  • Capital One: For the past four weeks, I've been receiving FreeMonee offers from Capital One (see screenshot below).
  • Fifth Third Bank: I don't know how long it's been there (the service was announced in late Feb), but today I noticed that Fifth Third has a link up on its homepage to Prewards, the edo Interactive-powered rewards programs.

Bottom line: Card-linked rewards are great for consumers and banks, and hopefully they will prove to be equally valuable for the merchants who pay for the whole thing. If so, it could usher in a whole new era of ad-supported banking (note 1). In the meantime, it makes for awesome Finovate demos (note 2).

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Fifth Third homepage features Prewards under "Personal | Bank" navigation (8 June 2012)

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Prewards landing page (link)

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Capital One weekly email with five new offers (1 June 2012)
Note: Offers are typically good for 2 weeks after email received.

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Notes:
1. We wrote about merchant-funded rewards in our Online Banking Report (Feb. 2011, subscription).
2. We covered the the best new products at FinovateSpring 2012 in our most recent Online Banking Report (May 2012, subscription).

Comments (1)

Marketing: Bank of America Offers $25 to Reactivate Visa Card

By Jim Bruene on April 3, 2012 9:06 PM | Comments (3)

imageLast fall, my primary personal credit card from Bank of America was compromised, and I was issued a new one. While I was waiting for the new card to arrive, I got in the habit of using another bank's card. When the replacement card arrived, I stuffed it in a drawer, unactivated and still stuck to the mailer, forgetting I'd ever received it.

Fast forward six months, and I get an email this morning from Bank of America, offering $25 if I spend just $250 on the moth-balled card before June 30 (screenshot below). Coincidently, I'd just run across the forgotten card while doing a little preliminary tax prep. 

The offer requires activation, a smart move that avoids paying out $25 to someone who never even noticed the offer. And I was pleasantly surprised that I had to do nothing more than click the Activate Now button in the email. Within a few seconds I was greeted with a confirmation delivered through a BofA webpage (second screenshot; see update below).

Bottom line: It worked. I've got the BofA card back in my wallet, and I'll be using it tomorrow. And as I'm sure the bank knows, they are likely to make the $25 back within a month or two, assuming I resume my previous charging behavior. Well done, BofA card marketing dept. 

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Bank of America email offering $25 cash back to reactivate my credit card (3 April 2012)

  email from Bank of America offering $25 cash back

The one-click activation process* took us to this screen on the BofA website

Bank of America confirmation screen after offer acceptance

*Update 4 April (in response to comment): Although I didn't test it, it looked as though the single click activated the offer only. I still had to phone BofA using the usual process to activate the card. It would have been nice to have been able to do both through the Activate button. 

Comments (3)

Out of the Inbox: Mobile Banking Marketing Messages from Wells Fargo and Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on March 29, 2012 7:31 PM | Comments

image Yesterday was mobile day in my inbox. In the span of two hours, both Wells Fargo and Bank of America hit me up with email reminders of how great their mobile services were. 

Of the two, Wells Fargo's was the more interesting, telling me about its revamped, mobile-optimized site, <wf.com> (see first screenshot). But since I've been using their iPhone app for three years, I'm not sure why I'd be super-interested in its mobile site.

In fact, the message is confusing for app users. Until I reread it for this blog post, I thought the bank was touting a new and improved app, which I was looking forward to checking out.

Bank of America's message was completely generic, saying that mobile banking is secure, convenient, and customized. And the call to action was to download its app, which I did almost four years ago, so I'm not sure why I received this message (note 1). I have also used the bank's iPad app and Kindle app.

Bottom line: The email messages were well-designed and short, so the creative scores well. But the targeting was sub-par, especially BofA, which seemed to completely miss the mark. And while Wells Fargo's message could have been better adapted for app users, the bank gets points for acknowledging that I use the mobile channel (note 2). 

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Wells Fargo customer email (28 March 2012, 11:37 AM Pacific)
From address: wellsfargo@wellsconnect.wellsfargo.com
Note: Account holder name blurred out.

Wells Fargo customer email

Bank of America general mobile banking customer email (28 March 2012, 1:34 PM)
From address: bankofamerica@emcom.bankofamerica.com

image

Notes:
1. A month ago I had to replace my BofA card (again!) due to fraud, so possibly this was a misguided on-boarding message.
2. The Wells Fargo message was clearly targeted to mobile users: "Thanks to suggestions from mobile users like you."

Comments

Alt Marketing: Bank of America Helps Feeding America on Cyber Monday

By Jim Bruene on November 29, 2011 6:03 PM | Comments (1)

image Yesterday, we looked at several financial institutions using Black Friday/Cyber Monday to promote banking products (see note 1). But it's also a great time to focus on community outreach and charitable pursuits, a tack taken by Bank of America (note 2). 

The bank is supporting Feeding America, which leverages a small imageamount of cash into a large number of meals by tapping bulk food donors. It says that every dollar donated translates into 8 meals. Bank of America's providing $1 million outright plus an additional $500,000 pledged in matching funds. The bank will match customer/employee donations 3 to 1 (note 3). All in all, that's $1.75 mil to U.S. food banks which will cover nearly 15 million meals.

Bottom line: Overall, its a great effort. The bank is feeding the hungry, and more importantly, educating thousands of potential donors about the magic multiplier of the efficient food bank supply chains. It was a good choice to close out the holiday weekend. 

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Bank of America's homepage promoted Feeding America on Cyber Monday (28 Nov 2011).

  Bank of America's homepage promoted Feeding America on Cyber Monday

Landing page (link)

 image

Cobranded donation page at FeedingAmerica.org (link)
Note: The bank's program has generated 2,299,113 free meals as of 29 Nov at 10 PM Pacific. Twenty hours later, the number had risen by 173,000, implying $22,000 in donations.  

image
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Notes:
1. The Financial Brand has additional info on ING Direct Canada's Cyber Monday special.
2. Of course, a little positive PR couldn't hurt the bank either.
3. Looking at the math, I'm not sure how many customers will really see a 3-to-1 match, which means $250,000 in customer donations are eligible for a bank match. The bank has in the neighborhood of 25 million customers. If just 1% of its customers each donate a single dollar, the cap will be hit. But still, $500,000 = 4 million more meals, so I certainly can't complain.

Comments (1)
Categories: Bank of America

Notifying Card Issuers that You Are Out of the Country

By Jim Bruene on August 17, 2011 6:02 PM | Comments (3)

image We were lucky enough to take a quick trip to Europe this summer and one of the many rituals of modern travel is convincing your card issuers not to block international transactions. The conventional wisdom is to notify issuers in advance. While not an absolute necessity, it is said to improve your odds.

The process is very straightforward. All the bank needs is your travel dates and where you are visiting. However, it is tedious over the phone due to redundant authentication requirements.

Consequently, it's an ideal service to automate with online, or even better, mobile form. I wrote about it the last time I traveled. But this time I put a clock on the process, just to see exactly how much time was wasted, for both the consumer and bank, on the phone. 

Summary: It took about 1 minute per card to register online at Capital One and Chase. Over the phone, it took 6.5 minutes at Wells Fargo and 9.5 at U.S. Bank. No one has it in their mobile app yet (see details below).   

I realize that online travel notifications are not a high priority these days. But, it's such a win-win service, I wish more banks offered it. However, the real end game is to build automatic location notification into mobile-banking apps. Even if customers won't agree to being tracked 24/7, there could be a button in the app that users press to submit their GPS location whenever they land in a new city or country. 

That gives customers total control, but makes it super easy for them to communicate. And it gives you a highly  secure method of knowing your customers are in the same location as their card. 
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Capital One: Online -- 2 minutes to register 2 cards (see screenshots in previous post)
__________________________________________________________________________________

Luckily, Capital One, my go-to card abroad with no international transaction fee, has an online form to do this. It's not easy to find, but I'd written about it before so I knew roughly where to look. The form is a little convoluted; if traveling to multiple countries, you have to keep pressing "add another destination," but it took less than a minute to add the five countries were we passing through.

I have Capital One personal and business cards which are integrated into the same online banking platform. But unfortunately, you have to do each card separately, so total time expended, including login, was about 2 minutes.

Capital One gets extra credit for sending me an email on my scheduled departure day asking me whether I needed anything and providing their international call-center instructions. _________________________________________________________________________________

Chase Bank: Online -- less than 1 minute for 2 cards (see screenshot in previous post)
__________________________________________________________________________________

I couldn't remember whether Chase had an online option, so I logged in, didn't see it on the right-hand column of common links. So I went to customer service and found it on the list of available tasks. The form was super-easy; I could do both of my cards at once and just free-form input the countries. Total form-completion time was under 10 seconds, but if counting login and function-search, it took just under a minute. __________________________________________________________________________________

U.S. Bank: Phone: 9.5 minutes on phone + 2 minutes searching online for 1 debit card (with 2 different account numbers)
___________________________________________________________________________________

I first checked online to see if travel notifications had been added since the last time I checked. No such luck, so about 2 minutes were wasted. Because we needed ATM access abroad, we had to have this card working, so I reluctantly called the 800 number on a Friday evening, and was told that wait times were approx 4 minutes. I think they were only half that, but it still took me a full 9.5 minutes to get my ATM cards registered. About one minute of that was spent finding my wife's debit card, which I now know has a different number than mine.

Why the agent couldn't handle both ATM cards from a joint account without needing the other number is beyond me, but he insisted.

Total time expended was 2 minutes online and 9.5 on the phone: 11.5 minutes total.

Extra credit goes to the U.S. Bank agent who activated my new debit card that had recently come in the mail. My old card would have expired during the trip.  
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Wells Fargo: Phone: 6.5 minutes on the phone + 2 minutes searching online for 1 card
___________________________________________________________________________________

My wife carries a Wells card at all times, so usually she handles travel notifications. But since I was already on a roll, I took on the task. Although I didn't recall ever seeing it, I assumed Wells would have an online option, but after a search of the site, I found that my hunch was wrong and that I'd wasted a few minutes.

I called the 800 number and was able to complete the process in about 6.5 minutes. Much of that time was spent listening to menu choices and current balance info (which I didn't want). Had I known how to skip through the menus, it would have taken only about 3 minutes. The agent was friendly and efficient, although she twice asked if she could also activate my debit card even though I don't have a checking account there. But I appreciate that she was trying to be thorough. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Bank of America: Phone -- 2 minutes, 0 cards
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I was going to take my Bank of America card along, but after searching customer service I could not find an online form to complete, so I decided to leave it at home. Score 1 for the more online-savvy approach at its competitors.

Comments (3)

Bank of America Sponsoring Free Wi-Fi for Smartphones on Alaska Airlines Flights

By Jim Bruene on August 9, 2011 6:34 PM | Comments (1)

imageA few days ago I was on a Chicago-Seattle flight on Alaska Airlines and was surprised to hear an overhead announcement about Bank of America sponsoring free wi-fi on the flight. But it came with a catch, the free access applied only to smartphones (notes 1, 2).

While I'm a big user of airborne wi-fi on my laptop, there isn't much I want to do on a smartphone connection at 35,000 feet. But my curiosity got the best of me, so I gave it a shot and found the free connection was delivered as promised. I had simply to type in my email address, agree to the terms and conditions, and hit the big blue button (see first screenshot).

It didn't take me long to figure out why BofA was being so generous. The second page of the sign-on process included a full-page ad for the bank's Alaska Airlines affinity card (see second screenshot).

My take: Sponsored wi-fi is an effective way to reach the lucrative smartphone-carrying market. But the credit card application user experience was flawed. The bank dumps the whole app and disclosures onto a single mobile webpage, which required scrolling down about eight screens' worth of info (see screenshots 3, 4, and 5). And the fonts were way too small to engage most users.

If BofA were to build a proper mobile-optimized credit card application form, they'd likely increase app volume two- to three-fold. In the meantime, the bank should add an option for the user to request a full-sized app to be completed later on their laptop. 
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1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines (7 Aug. 2011)

1. First screen of free wi-fi promotion on Alaska Airlines

2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

2. BofA credit card solicitation on page 2 of the login process

3, 4, 5: The rest of the mobile application (click to enlarge)
Note: This shows only the beginning of the disclosures; the full text ran several more screens down the page.

image  image  image

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Notes:
1. I didn't test it, but I assume it would have been free on the iPad as well.
2. I believe they said the offer would continue through the month of August.

Comments (1)

Out of the Inbox: Bank of America's "Irregular Credit Card Activity" Alert

By Jim Bruene on July 28, 2011 3:48 PM | Comments

image Several months ago (previous post), I wrote about Bank of America's online fraud-warning resolution center for consumer cards, MyFraudProtection. It's a great service, though a little hard to use.

At that time, I showed only the online functions. The more important piece is the email alert (below). It's a great way not only to reduce fraud, but also maintain good customer relations.

But it's still read-only. What I'm really waiting for is a truly two-way email, or better yet, text message. That way I can simply respond to the bank's question in a few seconds and both of us can get on with our business. 

Email alert from Bank of America: Irregular Credit Card Activity (11 Jan. 2011)

Email alert from Bank of America: Irregular Credit Card Activity 

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Note:
1. See our recent reports: Paperless Billing and Banking and Email Banking: Revitalizing the Channel.

Comments

First Look: Bank of America's Just-Launched iPad App

By Jim Bruene on May 3, 2011 5:12 AM | Comments

image A little more than a year after the iPad launched, Bank of America finally made it their own with a native app. It appeared in the iTunes store around midnight last night and has already climbed to #42 on the list of most popular free apps across all categories (5 PM Pacific; see update below and notes 1, 2).

I took it for a spin a few minutes ago and it's about what you'd expect for the first version. The most important functions are all there: view recent transactions, transfer funds, pay bills, find ATM/branch locations, and contact customer service. It also includes the ability to apply for a new account within the app, something that is still relatively rare (and not included in the bank's iPhone app).

Analysis: Overall, it's a solid, if somewhat tardy, initial effort and will be adequate for most users. However, BofA has a reputation for being an online leader, and there is nothing in the app so far that supports that brand positioning. But, then again, simply having an iPad app puts it ahead of most competitors (see list of top banking apps as of last week).

A few other notable features:

  • Users have the option to store their username, so subsequent logins can be accomplished by simply entering a password (screenshot 1)
  • Pressing anywhere on a line item in the statement brings up a small popup with additional transaction detail (screenshot 2)
  • While it won't win any design awards, the app gets a passing grade with an overall look and feel that is consistent with other iPad apps with relatively intuitive navigation. At least it's not simply an expanded version of its iPhone app (like the Chase iPad app)

It also disappoints in a few areas:

  • I tried to pay my credit card bill, but the iPad app doesn't support payment via external checking account (regular online banking does)
  • It times out after 10 minutes (good), but leaves your account balances visible until you dismiss the popup (screenshot 4)
  • I was not able to access business credit card statement data (system unavailable) but was able to get personal card data
  • The squares didn't quite fit the screen right in portrait mode (screenshot 4)

Update: At 11 PM Pacific, the BofA app has reached #22 among all free iPad apps.
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1. Initial iPad app sign in (3 May 2011)

 Bank of America iPad app login screen

2. Transaction details popup

  Bank of America iPad app transaction details

3. New account app

Bank of America iPad app: New account app

4. Time-out warning still shows account balances

image 

Notes:
1. The app still shows up as #32 in the finance category. So clearly, the top list among all apps is refreshed more often than the individual category lists.  
2. There is no mention of the app on the bank's website as of 5 PM.
3. For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.

Comments

Homepage Hits: Bank of America Promotes Image ATMs

By Jim Bruene on April 21, 2011 5:58 PM | Comments

imageI look at banking sites a lot, and sometimes a page or promotion strikes me as a cut above the  rest. For example, today's Bank of America promotion of its image ATMs is eye-catching and must be gathering substantial clickthroughs (more on that below). 

Technically, everything about the promotion is first-rate, from the color to the typography to the copy. But what I really like is how this positions the bank as the place for anyone who appreciates elegant technology solutions to their everyday problems. 

Bank of America personal homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

Bank of America homepage (21 April 2011, Seattle IP address, customer cookies)

However, the landing page (below) leaves a lot to be desired. A video of someone using the ATM would be perfect. How about links to an FAQ for those with more questions about the technology, risks, costs, guarantees, availability and so on? And a link to the checking account signup form would seem appropriate. But at least BofA did direct people to its ATM finder (in two places). 

Landing page

image

Bottom line: This BofA effort reminds me of the advertising adage that the worst thing you can do is put out good advertising for a bad product. Before the bank put such an appealing visual on its homepage, it should have put together more content for those clicking through. It's not bad, just a bit of a wasted opportunity. 

Comments

Bank of America Offering Trusteer's Rapport Plug-in to Protect Online Banking Customers

By Jim Bruene on April 8, 2011 9:28 AM | Comments (1)

image If there was any question as to whether Trusteer  had become the industry standard in online banking protection, it was answered this week. Bank of America is now offering the optional Rapport protection to its 29 million online banking customers. Ann Carrns in the NY Times Bucks blog wrote about it a week ago, but I guessed I missed it in all the April Fools Day commotion.

ING Direct was first to offer the program, launching in May 2008. Since then dozens of financial institutions have followed including Zions, PSECU, CIBC, PayPal, Santander, RBS and about 70 more (see full client list below in note 2).

In total, Trusteer says it's been downloaded more than 20 million times.

Analysis: It's a good move by Bank of America. While Rapport does not protect from all possible threats, it does seem to provide material improvements. The bank gets a double benefit: less fraud and improved perceptions from customers concerned about security.

The program is not without downsides, however. It requires a download and installation, though thankfully not a full reboot (see second screenshot). And like any software program, there are real and perceived compatibility and performance issues (see the comments on the NY Times blog entry).

Bank of America would be wise to make it easier for customers to find out more info on the program. There is only a tiny link buried at the bottom of the interstitial ad for more info. And that screen goes away after you press the download button.

Users who are surprised by the download warning, and even worried that they've been attacked by a virus, will find it difficult to find more info at that time. Rapport is not yet mentioned in the bank's security area accessible from online banking. Only by going back to the public site and searching for "Rapport" was I able to find the page offering more info (third screenshot).

Many users are going to need more hand-holding and reassurances before they install the program (note 1). The bank could save itself, and its customers, from thousands of harried support calls, by adding a detailed a "how it works" tutorial integrated into the interstitial.

Bank of America interstitial ad after online banking login (7 April 2011, 2 PM):

Bank of America interstitial ad after online banking login

To use the service, users must download and run an executable file (Windows version below, there is also a Mac version)

To use Rapport, BofA users must download and run an executable file

Bank of America Trusteer Rapport info page (link)

Bank of America Trusteer Rapport info page

--------------------

Notes:
1. For more info on Trusteer and other security topics, see Online Banking Report: New Security Techniques (Sep. 2008)
2. Trusteer financial clients (per company)

Comments (1)

Self-Service: Bank of America's MyFraudProtection Allows Online Review of Suspicious Card Transactions

By Jim Bruene on January 19, 2011 3:02 PM | Comments

imageThe reason bank call centers still field millions of calls from online banking customers is that most account problems cannot be solved online. It's not that banks don't have the technology or the business case, it's just a priorities challenge. Effective self-service modules are time consuming to build, test and integrate, while employee and customer education pose an even bigger hurdle.

But slowly, as more and more consumers look to resolve issues with a mouse click or finger flick, financial institutions will add self-service troubleshooting wizards to online/mobile banking.

The latest example comes from Bank of America.

I've been a BofA cardholder for the better part of two decades, and every year spend an hour or so verifying flagged transactions via phone with bank-fraud reps. It's an annoying, but necessary, part of making 50 to 100 charges every month for home and business. 

But my most recent experience was very different. When I went online to pay the bill, not realizing (but suspicious) that my card had been cut off, I was greeted with the following message underneath the card balance on the main Account Overview page (see screenshot 1):

Online access is not available for this account. Please go to
www.myfraudprotection.com and verify recent transactions. Or you may call
1-800-427-2449 for additional information.

_____________________________________________________________

How it works
______________________________________________________________________

Step 1: Following the link, I ended up at an entirely new site, running outside online banking where I was required to re-enter my account number (screen 2), last 4 of SSN, Zip, and phone number (see screen 3).

Step 2: I was then required to answer random questions pulled from the credit bureau to authenticate myself (screen 4).

Step 3: Finally, I was able to review and approve the transactions in question (screen 5). I was then thanked and told I could use my card again (screen 6).

However, after all this, I was still not able to pay my account online and had to call after all. The rep told me that it takes between two and 24 hours for online banking access to become available (note 1).

______________________________________________________________

Analysis
_______________________________________________________________________

All-in-all, I liked the system. However, it needs to be more integrated into online banking (see note 2). Given all the extra work required to authenticate myself, it would have been faster just to call the 800-number. If I were a normal customer, that's what I'd do next time. I hate the stress of going through the authentication process: With everything on autopay, who can remember their exact payment amounts anymore?  

And worse, there is a security disconnect here. I log in to my credit card account only to be told it's unavailable and that I should log in to some site I've never heard of (that doesn't even have a Bank of America URL, note 3) and turn over personal info. It looks more like a crude phishing ploy than something from a major bank. And as far as I can recall, there was no customer education on this process.  

So, I applaud Bank of America for making transaction verification self-service. But there's still much work to be done before it replaces the phone process. 

1. Main Bank of America Account Overview screen (14 Jan. 2011)

Main Bank of America Account Overview screen (14 Jan 2011)

 2. First screen at MyFraudProtection.com (link, note 2)Bank of America MyFraudProtection.com

3. Step 2 of 3 of authentication process

Step 2 at MyFraudProtection.com

4. Step 3 of 3 of authentication processimage

5. Transaction reviewimage

6. Confirmation message (and survey invitation)image

----------------------------------

Notes:
1. This was the weekend that BofA was having website trouble, so it may not always be delayed.
2. I realize the bank is using the fraud-protection site as a standalone system so it can direct any cardholder to it without first needing to log in to online banking, hence the authentication requirement. But for logged-in bofa.com users, it seems unnecessary. Although it does provide an extra measure of security, in case the cardholders' online access had been breeched by the person attempting to use the card, that extra security comes at too high of a usability cost, in my opinion. 
3. The www.fraudprotection.com URL does redirect to myfraudprotection.bankofamerica.com, which helps.

Comments

2010 Saw 40-Fold Growth in the Number of Financial Institution iPhone Apps

By Jim Bruene on December 14, 2010 6:21 PM | Comments (1)

image As hard as it is to believe, last year at this time only 30 financial institutions had apps in the U.S. iTunes App Store (note 1). And that was a full 18 months after Apple's phone had opened its OS to third-party programs. A few in the industry still questioned whether smaller banks and credit unions would ever need a native iPhone app.

I think that question has been answered: In the past 12 months, the total financial institution app-count has rocketed upwards to more than 1,200, a 40-fold increase. That's 100 new apps per month for the past 12 months.

In raw numbers, the past seven days have been relatively unremarkable with just 17 new FI apps. But it's been one of the biggest weeks in terms of major launches:

  • BofA Merrill Lynch research library for iPad only (note 4; iTunes)
  • Capital One, whose app was released on Sunday, went to #5 Monday and is up to #4 when I checked a few minutes ago (see inset; note 2; iTunes)
  • NetSpend (iTunes)
  • Schwab, both v1 of its iPhone app (iTunes) and an iPad version of its On Investing magazine (iTunes)
  • SmartyPig (pending Apple approval)
  • Stanford Federal Credit Union, which used a striking background for its app home page (see below; iTunes)

imageAnd while it's not nearly as crucial as the iPhone, we are waiting for a slew of iPad apps. Apparently, BBVA Compass demo'ed a cool unreleased iPad app at a mobile conference (note 4). And just today, Schwab released its monthly magazine in iPad format, an industry first.

--------

Notes:
1. See Online Banking Report #176, Table 18 (link subscription required)
2. Rank is of free apps in the Finance category in the U.S. store. The apps above it are #1 Bank of America, #2 Chase, #3 PayPal
3. HT David Eads in Mobile Manifesto
4. At the same conference as note 3, Bank of America revealed it hit the 6-million mark in active mobile banking users.

Comments (1)

Don't Forget to Give Thanks

By Jim Bruene on November 24, 2010 3:48 PM | Comments

image I've critiqued hundreds (thousands?) of financial websites, emails, and other marketing messages. And one area that continues to be overlooked is the simple thank-you after your customer completes a transaction. I was reminded again today when testing Bank of America's paperless statement process (see note).

After following the simple one-click form to go paperless (see first screenshot), I received a confirmation screen (second screenshot). While it was relatively well designed, the bank neglected to thank me for saving them $10+ annually by going green.

Bottom line: The overall experience was good, so the lack of a final thanks isn't a big deal. However, all these little things add up into an overall brand impression.  

Bank of America's simple process for switching to paperless credit card account management (24 Nov. 2010)

image

Confirmation screen neglects to thank customer

image

Note: In the next few days, we'll have a new Online Banking Report available dealing with paperless banking: electronic statements and ebilling.

Comments

Financial Companies Dominate Groundswell Awards in North American B2C Category

By Jim Bruene on November 1, 2010 3:59 PM | Comments

imageIt's not often that financial services companies take home multiple trophies in a cross-industry retail-marketing competition. But last week, they took home almost half the top prizes in Forrester's Groundswell competition for the best use of "social" techniques in their marketing efforts.

Financial companies won nine of 20 possible honors including three of seven category winners and six of 13 runner-up awards (called "finalists"). Four of the winners were in tax prep, a surprisingly social activity.   

The financial category-winners:

Financial runner-ups (aka finalists):

  • Listening (of 3 total)
    -- Listening to the Student Pulse by Bank of America and Communispace
  • Talking (of 2 total)
    -- American Family Insurance on Facebook by American Family Insurance
  • Energizing (of 2 total)
    -- TurboTax Embraces Customer Reviews for Viral Growth by Intuit, Inc.
    -- USAA Implements Ratings and Reviews by USAA
  • Supporting (of 2 total)
    -- Get it Right Community by H&R Block
    -- Taxes on Twitter: @TeamTurboTax Provides Customer Support and Resources by Intuit Inc.

Intuit's TurboTax division alone accounted for three of the nine financial winners. USAA bagged two awards and H&R Block, Chase, Bank of America and American Family each received one Groundswell award.

Comments

Bank of America Redesigns Email Alerts

By Jim Bruene on August 22, 2010 5:12 PM | Comments (1)

image On August 9, Bank of America redesigned its email alerts (note 1). The biggest change came in repositioning, renaming, and highlighting a security feature, "last login time." The info is now in a prominent gray box at the top called the Security Checkpoint. Previously, it was buried in the middle of the left-hand column (see Before screenshot below).

While the Security Checkpoint is a nice bit of security marketing (note 2), I'm not sure how much additional fraud it will thwart, if any. But it's good for the bank to appear to be doing all it can to protect customers.

Bank of America already had one of the best alerts in the business, earning an A in our most recent report (note 3). So I'm not sure why they needed a new design; perhaps, it's just to keep things fresh. However, the redesign did nothing to fix our one criticism of the bank's alert, the lack of meaningful info in the preview line.

Bank of America email alert preview in Gmail

After: New Bank of America email alert design (17 Aug 2010)

Bank of America email alert with new Security Checkpoint

Before: Previous email alert design (8 Aug 2010)

image

Notes:
1. At least, that's the first day the new style landed in my inbox.
2. For more info, see Online Banking Report: Marketing Security.
3. For more on email alerts, see last month's Online Banking Report: Email Alerts & Transaction Streaming.

Comments (1)

Can Banking Income Woes Be Fixed with a $5.95 Fee?

By Jim Bruene on July 17, 2010 9:33 AM | Comments

imageWhen I see large numbers, say a billion or more, I mentally divide it by the number of people impacted to make it more meaningful. In Seattle, we are about to embark on our very own Big Dig, replacing the 1953 waterfront viaduct with an underground tunnel. The $2 billion cost estimate comes out to about $1,000 per person in the Seattle metro area, and that's before the "expected" cost overruns (see note 1).

Bank of America announced yesterday that due to the just-passed financial reform, its revenues will drop by $4.3 billion annually (WSJ article), more than two waterfront tunnels every year. But across 55 million customers, that's only $78 per person. Coincidently, that's exactly two $39 debit-card overdrafts.

To make up for the lost revenue, the bank needs about $6 per month in fees across the entire customer base (note 2). I can envision a package of new and existing benefits pitched to customers to convince them to pony up the $5.95/mo in new fees. For example:

  • Real-time mobile/desktop alerts
  • Lifetime data backup in the cloud
  • Linked OD protection
  • Instant bill pay with guaranteed delivery  
  • Remote deposit capture
  • No-hold customer service with guaranteed same-hour call back
  • Custom fraud tools with fraud-loss guarantee
  • Online financial management tools
  • Desktop/mobile apps fine-tuned for specific customer segments
  • Rewards program for self-service/estatements
  • Two-way alerts
  • Monthly credit score

It will take years to make the transition. But in the end, consumers will get used to paying modest monthly fees instead of facing $39 overdraft-fee shocks several times per year (note 3). And banks/credit unions can spend less time soothing exasperated customers. It could be a win-win.   

Notes:
1. Luckily, we have municipal debt, so we can pay this off at $75+ per person, or coincidentally again, about $5.95/mo for 30 years. And the state is helping out too, so the Washington population will be pitching in to help lower the actual cost to Seattleites.
2. This is an extremely simplistic example to make a point and does not factor in cost cutting, commercial banking revenues, etc. 
3. Since banking is highly competitive, any new fees will work only to the extent the overall price/value of the services remains competitive.
4. For more ideas, see our annual planning report, which includes a section on potential fee-based online/mobile services.

Comments

Debit Card Overdraft Protection: 2 Steps Forward, 1.9 Back

By Jim Bruene on July 13, 2010 5:55 PM | Comments

image So far, I'm underwhelmed with the industry's online marketing response to the new opt-in debit card OD protection regulations. I expected to see new pricing models transforming small overdrafts into a value-add for debit card users, rather than the onerous penalty they had become over the past few years.

On the positive side, the elimination of OD charges for small transactions is a good first step. Three of the five FIs in our mini-survey have dropped fees on ODs of less than $5 (PNC and GTE Federal) or $10 (U.S. Bank). And Wells even makes a bit of a game out of it: Customers who cover the OD during the same day incur no fee.

And Bank of America has just thrown in the towel on the whole notion, running full-page ads (p. A11 in today's WSJ; Overdraft Control landing page) saying they'll just deny any attempt to overdraw via debit card. The retail giant joins Citibank and ING Direct, which already followed the same approach.

But financial institutions are missing an opportunity here. Take Wells Fargo, for example. When I ran across the bank's new homepage ad for debit card OD protection (see first screenshot), I expected to click through and find a novel take on the new federally mandated opt-in requirement (see second screenshot).

Wells does a good job explaining how the new rules benefit customers (the two steps forward): 

  • The bank's website copy is understandable and nicely outlines the lower-cost credit line, and savings account transfer options are offered
  • The toll-free number to sign up is prominent, although where's the online signup option? 
  • Great to see online and mobile balance-tracking tools offered up to help avoid overdrafts in the first place
  • My favorite: Customers are allowed to cover the overdraft during the same day and avoid the charge

But much of that uptick in consumer goodwill is negated when you get to the pricing:

  • Debit card overdrafts are $35 each, with a maximum of 4 per day, or a $140 daily penalty if you opt in and make a mistake coffee-shop (or more likely bar-) hopping some weekend.

In a spot check of other financial institutions, it's clear that Wells Fargo is far from alone in the $30 per item price range:

  • US Bank will charge $10 per overdraft of $20 or less and $33 for all others; it will charge for up to 3 ODs and 3 returned items for up to 6 per day; there's a $25 fee if you don't pay back within a week, but no charge for any item that results in less than $10 in total negative balance.
  • Fifth Third Bank will charge $25 for the first overdraft each year, $33 for the next three, then $37 each after that; maximum of 10 per day; $8 per day after the third day it's not paid back; no OD charge if negative balance is $5 or less.
  • PNC Bank charges $36 per item up to 4 per day, plus $7/day the account is overdrawn for a maximum of 14 days.
  • GTE Federal Credit Union is charging $29 each, with no charge on under-$5 items (blog post, Facebook post)

I just don't see customers being too pleased with the price/value here. Wouldn't customers, and shareholders, be better served with a value-based pricing strategy? How about $5 each for an under-$100 mistake? Or follow the telecom model and sell debit card overdraft protection as a $4.95/mo subscription.

By my simple math, a million customers paying $5/mo is a whole lot more revenue than a few thousand paying $35 a pop. Then there are all the side benefits: customer goodwill, reduced customer service headaches, positive word-of-mouth, and the PR/marketing value of making debit overdrafts into a real service.

Debit card OD link on Wells Fargo homepage (13 July 2010)

Wells Fargo homepage showing debit card OD ad

Landing page (link)
Click to enlarge

Wells Fargo debit overdraft landing page

image Note: Upper-right graphic from Horizons North Credit Union, which is charging $25 per item, with no limit on the number. The opt-in ad is a huge part of its current homepage (inset, click to enlarge).

Comments

Bank of America Promotes Text Message Banking at Login

By Jim Bruene on June 11, 2010 4:43 PM | Comments (2)

image Logging in to my Bank of America credit card account today, I received a full-page promotion for the bank's new text-messaging service.

Even though my mobile phone was already enrolled, the bank served the following interstitial encouraging me to to enroll:

Bank of America interstitial 11 June 2010 
Bank of America's interstitial promotion after logging in to online banking (11 June 2010)

I chose the "enroll now" link in the lower left above and was taken to this page:

image
Mobile enrollment landing page (secure site)

Evidently, I'd already enrolled, which I should have remembered considering I'd blogged about it two months ago.

However, if you arrive at this page, as I did, expecting to enroll in text banking, it's a bit confusing. It would be helpful to see a bolder statement that "you are already enrolled." It would also be nice if they provided the short code (692632) to quickly test your phone to verify enrollment. To find that info, you must click the small "Text Banking Guide" link.

Relevance for NetBankers: If you are unable to screen out existing users, make sure you communicate clearly so customers don't waste their time re-enrolling. 

Note:
1. I don't know if BofA's text messaging is down, or if it's something related to my account, but I am getting no response to my text-message queries (bal, menu) to the bank's short code (3:41 PM, 4:12 PM, and 4:32 PM Pacific time, June 11). 
2. For more information, see our Online Banking Report: Selling Behind the Password (published April 2009).

Comments (2)

Bank of America Launches Text Banking

By Jim Bruene on April 12, 2010 7:03 PM | Comments (3)

image Your best excuse to delay your text-banking project ended today. Bank of America launched the mobile service via an interstitial ad to online banking customers (see below).

imageThe new service may be rolling out in waves since it's neither mentioned in online news sites, nor featured on the BofA site. And there is only a single Twitter message posted three days ago. 

The signup process required the entry of a mobile number and a YES response from that mobile device (see screenshots below). While that's not much to ask, it did seem unnecessary since I was already signed up for mobile banking through that number. 

After responding yes from my mobile, I received a welcome text from the bank (see iPhone screenshot right).

That seemed like a nice touch until I clicked on the link and was taken to the regular webpage, rendered impossibly small on my first-generation iPhone, where I first had to select my state. That took me to another page full of barely readable mouse-type regarding text options (see last screenshot).

Action item: If you don't support text banking yet, it's time to move it up the priority list. 

Bank of America online banking login splash screen (12 April 2010, 6 PM Pacific)

image

Landing page when selecting "Enroll now" above

image

Enrollment page (within online banking)

image

Page displayed while waiting for activation via mobile phone

image

Page displayed after activating via mobile and clicking "Check Activation Status" button (above)

image

Mobile help screen as viewed in first-generation iPhone

image

Note: For more on the importance of mobile banking and payments, see the most recent issue from Online Banking Report.

Comments (3)

Bank of America Finally Forces Username Change, No More Social Security Numbers

By Jim Bruene on February 16, 2010 3:27 PM | Comments

image When I first started banking online with Bank of America, ten or more years ago, no choice in username existed: it was set to your Social Security Number (SSN). But that was back in the days before hackers had become proficient in stealing usernames.

While I've been advised to change the username a few times over the years, the bank finally laid down the law in January. I had two more logins available with my SSN, and then I was required to change. The message was delivered via splash screen after login (see #1 below).

The process was simple and took just a few seconds (screenshot #2). The bank's interactive script helps users make good username/password choices (screenshots #3-4).

While this change isn't likely to do anything to help the bank's bottom line (it probably just drives up tech support calls as users adjust to their new usernames), it's the right thing to do. Helping customers protect their own privacy should be part of every financial institution's mission.

#1: Bank of America splash screen at login (13 Feb. 2010)

image

#2 Landing page after choosing "update" button above

image

#3 Interactive help for creating an allowed username

image

#4 Confirmation when all is well

image

Comments

Bank of America's Launches Personal Finance Tips Site

By Jim Bruene on November 17, 2009 1:47 PM | Comments (2)

image Bank of America's latest online effort is a personal finance educational site at <learn.bankofamerica.com> that includes consumer polls, money savings tips, videos and articles. Bank products are sprinkled throughout but the marketing is relatively restrained.

It's a solid effort. Good, concise copy married to an attractive graphical layout. And for a bank the size of Bank of America, it makes perfect business sense. The site moves a little product, builds the brand, shows off the bank's consumer-friendly side, provides material for PR campaigns, and gains some CRA credit (note 1). 

But I'm not sure how much usage it will get other than the curious driven to it from banners within online banking. That's how ended up there today after paying my BofA credit card bill online (see second screenshot below).

Given Bank of America's 30 million online banking customers, they must not be driving much traffic to the site yet. According to Compete, traffic surpassed 100,000 for the first time in October. July was the first month that traffic was registered at the site.

Unique monthly visitors to BofA's personal finance tips site (July through October, 2009)

image
Source: Compete

Other than enabling an RSS feed for article updates, the site has no Web 2.0 or social media features. No blog. No forum. It's just a very pretty face on personal finance 101 material. It will be interesting to see where they take it.

Learn.BankofAmerica.com homepage (link, 13 Nov. 2009)
Note: I completed the poll on the middle of the page, so the results are shown rather than the poll question.

image

Logoff screen (13 Nov 2009, 3 PM Pacific)

image

Note:
1. CRA = Community Reinvestment Act which requires banks to help meet the financial and credit needs of low- to-moderate-income consumers.

Comments (2)

The Best of BAI Retail Delivery 2009

By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2009 7:28 PM | Comments (3)

imageLast week, I attended the BAI Retail Delivery conference in Boston (for more background on the event, see note 1). I enjoyed the show tremendously.

What's not to like? Famous speakers, new products, several thousand attendees, statistics galore, and a floor filled with new bank tech. For me, the only disappointments were the non-industry keynoters, who are not why I attend, but are something to tell your friends and family about when you get home (note 2).

Like last year, I'll cut to the chase and hand out my personal awards for the event. I saw only a tiny fraction of the companies, so the list below shows merely my favorites culled from about two dozen company interviews. 

The Netbanker awards

  • Biggest buzz: Person-to-person payments (we'll cover it in Online Banking Report soon
    Runner up: Mobile banking and payments
  • Most likely to make the cover of FastCompany: Cardlytics (will cover next week)
  • New solution most likely to be used by 1000 financial institutions: Continuity Engine's semi-automated, compliance task-management service
    Least likely: Microsoft Surface, as cool as it looks, I just don't see banks deploying it in large numbers
  • Most audacious business plan: Monetawinner of this very award last year, but did indeed appear in Boston with a major client win, SunTrust (see Celent's Jacob Jegher's not-at-all enthusiastic post on the announcement)
  • Best ah-ha moment: When Joe Salesky, Clairmail founder, observed that mobile banking is a 100% solution, meaning it's for every customer NOT just the half that do online banking
  • Biggest surprise: The buzz around person-to-person payments and relative lack of buzz around online PFM
  • Most-talked-about vendor without a booth: PayPal which announced partnerships with three large bank tech companies: S1, FIS, and First Data's STAR unit
  • Coolest online feature, not yet available: Credit card available-balance meter displayed directly on the user's PC desktop, powered by Worklight
  • Coolest new GUI feature: Fiserv's ebill snapshots
  • Best demo (I'd not seen before): Dynamic Card Solution's instant issue of a credit card with my picture on it along with a background image I chose from hundreds available
  • Best-attended breakout session (that I attended): Checking 2.0 which analyzed what the product might look like if NSF/OD fee revenues are materially limited
  • Best number: From the opening remarks by BAI director, Debbie Bianucci: According to BAI research five years ago, one-third of consumers preferred to deal with their bank remotely; now, two-thirds do
    Runner up: Bank of America's Doug Brown revealed in his presentation that BofA has 3.5 million active mobile banking users (see recent monthly growth below)image
  • Scariest number: A prediction from Sherief Meleis (Novantas) that new regulation could wipe out 20% to 40% of total checking account revenue
  • Missing in action: Security solutions
  • Coolest new event technology: Real-time text voting in the Checking 2.0 session
    Runner up: Wifi available conference-wide for the first time ever
  • Most intriguing co-brand opportunity: Getting the bank logo on PayPal messaging (FIS, S1) to payment recipients or during payment sessions (FirstData STAR)
  • Product I most wanted to use now: Digital Insight's (Intuit) FinanceWorks with Turbotax integration
  • Best screenshot: Lamping on the iPhone (powered by ClairMail); I call it the "little red number" superimposed over iPhone icons, that tells you how many messages are available (see inset)
    Runner up: Worklight's visualization of its widget running in four environments with essentially the same GUI (see below)
  • Best party: Geezeo's blowout at Lucky's
  • Best freebie on the floor: Fresh lemonade from the wonderful people with a booth by the front entrance
  • Netbanker spotting: Quote in BofA's Doug Brown's Powerpoint regarding BofA threepeat (in the mobile marketplaces)


And I'm always collecting usage stats and other numerical detritus delivered during the presentations. Here are my notes with (source in parenthesis):

  • 27% of U.S. households are now mobile only (Doug Brown, BofA)
  • New mobile customers at BofA last 3 months: 150,000 (Sep); 210,000 (Aug); 220,000 (July) (Doug Brown, BofA)
  • In U.S. and worldwide, text message volume has surpassed voice call volume (Doug Brown, BofA)
  • 99% of mobile users view balances, 90% view transaction detail, about $10 billion of funds have been moved via mobile transfers/bill pay; 15 million location-based searches being performed (annual run rate)
  • BofA has 35% of all mobile banking users (Doug Brown, citing ComScore numbers in 2009)
  • BofA has added 150,000 new checking accounts due to mobile offering
  • BofA seeing voice calls decline among mobile users, but online banking usage holding steady
  • In pilot, 94% of the users of TurboTax within FinanceWorks chose their host banks to deposit tax refunds (Digital Insight/Intuit)
  • More than 50% of iPhone users have used mobile banking in past 30 days (Javelin Strategy)
  • 33% of mobile banking users monitor accounts daily, 80% weekly (Javelin)
  • Customer willingness to pay fees for (Novantas):
    -- Teller transactions 8%
    -- Bill pay 12%
    -- Mobile banking 12%
    -- Paper statement 19%
    -- ID protection 27% 
  • At ANZ, 65% of its Yodlee-powered PFM (launched Oct 2008) users visit daily; 89% visit weekly (Doug Brown, ANZ; not a typo, there really were two Doug Browns)
  • 81% of its PFM users rated the service at least 7 points on 10-point scale (31% rated 9 or 10; 50% rated 7 or 8)
  • ANZ's PFM is a standalone free service that can be used by anyone; so far, 20% are non-ANZ customers; the business case for the service was built on customer acquisition, but they also may charge certain users for certain functions
  • Yodlee-powered PFM users spend twice as much time online at the bank than regular users, and only 1.5% leave the bank each year compared to 7% of regular online banking customers 
  • Worklight case study results:
    -- 8% to 15% of online customers install widgets within the first year
    -- 95% of widget users are active
    -- Customers conducted 15 to 30 sessions/month via widgets

Worklight widgets running on a variety of platforms (4 Nov 2009)

image

Notes:
1. About BAI Retail Delivery Conference 2009

BAI Retail Delivery is an annual rite of passage for bank tech strategies, delivery system analysts, and product managers. At the peak, in 1999/2000, there were as many as 10,000 people there (attendees + exhibitors) and close to 500 exhibitors stretching perhaps three or four city blocks in each direction through cavernous exhibit halls. It was a little like Times Square but without the highrises. Some exhibitors had massive 10,000 square foot booths filled with hardware. And the show-floor routinely sold out.

Financial institutions brought teams of people to pour over the new machines and software solutions, be inspired at the general sessions where Bill Gates, Roll Perot, Scott Cook, and other tech-industry luminaries showed up to win over the bankers.

Fast-forward a decade. It's still an awesome event which I highly recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed every conversation I had and most every session I attended. But the event has downsized considerably. This year, you could walk across the exhibit hall in a few minutes. And if you wanted to, you could have spent five minutes with all 180 companies during the show hours. That would have been impossible last year with around 300 exhibitors. But all-in-all, I'd say there was more energy on the floor this year because the attendee per square foot ratio seemed much better.

2. Unfortunately, on Thursday both Al Gore (planned) and Jack Welch (unplanned back problems) phoned in their keynote addresses via sat-link.

Comments (3)

Numbers: Remote Deposit Penetration at Randolph-Brooks FCU

By Jim Bruene on November 6, 2009 9:35 AM | Comments

image In an article in today's Austin Business Journal about the coming launch of mShift-powered mobile remote deposit at Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, the CU revealed its penetration number in its EasCorp-powered, home-scanner-based service, eDeposits:

Total members: 300,000
Total checking account customers: 202,000
% of checking using remote deposit: 5%
Number of remote deposit users: 10,000 (derived)
% of members using remote deposit: 3+% (derived)

The San Antonio, TX-based credit union expects more mobile users than in-home users. The product, which debuted at Finovate on Sep. 29, is currently being tested with employees before it rolls out to select customers.

imageUSAA was the first major financial institution to launch mobile remote deposits in August.  But WV United beat them to market in July earning our OBR Best in the Web award. And this week, speaking at BAI Retail Delivery, Bank of America's Doug Brown was bullish on the feature, leading many to believe that the giant would add the feature to its mobile offering at some point (see note). And if that happens, it's not inconceivable the feature could show up in television commercials, either from BofA or Apple.

Note:
1. In response to an audience question after his presentation, Brown said that the bank was seeing 1 million envelope-free deposits made at ATMs every day, and "there was an obvious use-case in mobile". Note that he did not specifically say, or even directly imply, that BofA would launch it, but he also didn't dismiss the idea. 

Comments

myFICO Forum Wins 2009 Forrester Groundswell Award

By Jim Bruene on October 29, 2009 2:11 PM | Comments

image Fair Isaac's popular forum (powered by Lithium; screenshot below) which supports its myFICO retail credit score/report unit, took first prize among 16 entrants in the Business-to-Consumer Supporting category in the recent Forrester Groundswell awards (winners list).

The Groundswell awards are based on business results using various social technologies. In total there are 16 categories.

The myFICO forum is currently receiving:

  • 120,000 unique visitors in Sep 2009, up almost three-fold from a year ago (see chart below)
  • 20,000 new posts added each month...with more than 500,000 posts archived
  • 400,000 searches per month
  • 10,000 new registered users per month

image According to information supplied with the application, the forum is helping Fair Isaac in the following ways:

  • Lowering call-center volumes: Total call center volume was down 1% in 2008 compared to a 23% gain the prior year.
  • Reducing call-center talk time: 10% of callers are referred to the forum for more information and/or help from other users.
  • Driving traffic: Traffic to myFICO.com from the forum equals about 40% of the volume from search engines.
  • Improving sales: The average amount spent by a customer grows by two-thirds after they join the forum and 13% of all myFICO sales online involve a forum view.

While myFICO was the only financial services winner, Bank of America was one of four finalists among 23 entries in the B2C Talking category for its Morris on Campus student-banking campaign as was MasterCard Brazil for What's Priceless to You

Significance to Netbankers: myFICO's busy forum shows that despite the proliferation of blogs and social media, an old-school online forum is a good way to build a community and off-load the tech support burden. Of course, forums don't run themselves, and you'll spend a considerable time moderating them. But considering the alternative, it's an expense worth considering, especially if community-building is part of your strategic goals. Intuit has also had great success with its community forums, attracting 130,000 monthly unique users (see chart below).

myFICO forums (link, 29 Oct 2009)

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Website traffic for myFICO and Intuit forums from Compete (link, 29 Oct 2009)

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For more info:

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Bank of America Offering 1 Year Free McAfee Internet Security at Online Banking Logout

By Jim Bruene on October 21, 2009 3:01 PM | Comments (1)

image This is one of the most valuable freebies I've ever been offered simply for being a customer. Bank of America online banking customers, new or existing, are being given a one-year free subscription to McAfee, worth $70 at retail.

The fine print is relatively clear (reprinted below, after the screenshot). The main "catches:"

  • Must not have a current McAfee subscription (see Results below)
  • The subscription auto-renews at $34.98/yr, a 50% discount
  • While in progress, the BofA offer never mentions number of users covered (the normal $69.99 subscription from McAfee covers three users, see note 1); however, during checkout, after accepting BofA's offer, the product description confirms three users are covered with the subscription

Bank of America is also publicizing the offer on its main website (here). To accept, users must log in to online banking first.

Results: I signed up for the account this morning and was surprised to find that you are not required to use Bank of America for payment. In fact, BofA is never mentioned again after leaving the original landing page (see second screenshot). The McAfee cart offered the usual choice of Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal and others. 

Opportunity for financial institutions: Assuming you can swing a deal with McAfee that requires no out-of-pocket expense, offering your customers a year's worth of anti-virus protection is a win-win. The primary downsides are a few extra calls to customer service and a few irritated existing McAfee customers who do not qualify for the freebie.

Bank of America logout screen (21 Oct 2009; 7 AM Pacific)

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Fine print on bottom of page above:
This exclusive offer is available only to Bank of America Online Banking customers. Online Banking customers receive McAfee Internet Security for PC free for 12 months, a $69.99 value. At the end of the 12-month period, Online Banking customers are eligible to renew for another 12-month period at 50% off MSRP or $34.98. Customers with a current McAfee subscription are not eligible for this offer. Bank of America reserves the right to modify this offer and eligibility requirements at its discretion.

Landing page (link)

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Same offer on BofA website (link)

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Notes:
1. The service is currently offered at a discount at Intel's software store for $32.95 for one year for three users. Intel's offer was positioned via paid ad at the number-one position on a Google search for "McAfee Internet security."
2. For more information on online banking security, see Online Banking Report: New Security Techniques (Sep 2008)

Comments (1)

Bank of America Cleaning Up its Customer Records at Login, but Why the Phone Call?

By Jim Bruene on October 15, 2009 5:55 PM | Comments (4)

This is a somewhat perplexing message to receive after logging in to online banking. It seems almost phish-like (especially with that old-school corded phone in the picture):

A recent review of your account indicated that we are missing your date of birth. We use this information to help verify your identity. Please call us at the 1.800 Customer Service number on the back of your credit card so we can update your file.

I guess I can understand the bank wanting my birth date, but it brings to mind several questions:

  1. Why are they asking me now? I've three accounts there, with one dating back to the 1980s. Is something wrong? Has my account been accessed by someone else? Then my more cynical side thinks, did this request come from the marketing dept. or the security folk?  Bottom line: the bank should provide a more detailed explanation via a "more info" link.
  2. I have to CALL, really? Why can't I do this online? Will I have to endure a cross-selling session when I make the call? Will I have to go through the entire phone tree to get to an operator? The least the bank could do is provide a direct line for the task.

The whole thing seems like a ridiculous waste of time. A five or ten-minute journey through call center menus in order to provide six numbers to a live operator. Plus, won't this extra call-in requirement drastically reduce user response? 

Bank of America interstitial after logging in to online banking (14 Oct 2009, 5 PM Pacific)

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Comments (4)

Bank of America Promotes Small Business Online Community at Logout

By Jim Bruene on September 23, 2009 5:00 PM | Comments (2)

image Logging out from my Bank of America credit card account (both personal and business accounts), I was greeted with this pitch for the bank's small business community (see first screenshot). The pitch is straightforward and emphasizes three benefits:

  • Get answers to your business questions
  • Exchange ideas with other entrepreneurs
  • Free

Clicking the red Join Today button drops users onto the Forums page at the small business site (see second screenshot).

Bottom line: The logout effort is a good brand-building exercise for Bank of America, and it should drive much-needed traffic to the site. According to Compete (see chart below), in August the small business community site had an estimated 70,000 unique visitors, two-thirds more than the 40,000 a year ago. But traffic was down almost a third from the springtime peak.

Bank of America logout screen (23 Sep 2009, 4 PM Pacific)

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Landing page (link)

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Compete traffic estimates, Aug 2008 through Aug 2009 (link)

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Comments (2)

Banking Apps in the Google Android Market vs. Apple iPhone App Store

By Jim Bruene on August 24, 2009 6:10 PM | Comments (4)

image A few weeks ago, we noted a milestone at Apple's iPhone App Store, 1000 apps available in the finance category (U.S. store). I was been curious how that compared to Google's Android Market so today I did a quick comparison.

The Android market now has a respectable 211 apps in the finance category. However, few financial institutions have staked a claim. Only, Bank of America and Alliant Credit Union, had branded apps (see note 1, 2).

In comparison, the iTunes App Store has 11 U.S. banking apps and 3 from U.S. credit unions. That's up from 6 banks and no credit unions when we published our most recent report on the subject (see note 3).  See the the following table for details. Did I miss any? Let me know in comments or email jim@netbanker.com

  Google Android (Rank) Apple App Store (Rank)
Number of finance apps 211 1,089
Number of U.S. bank-branded apps (note 1)

(number shown is rank in the finance category)
#2 Bank of America #1 Bank of America
#2 USAA
#3 Chase
#4 Wells Fargo
#10 E*Trade
#13 Citibank
#28 & 32 PNC Bank
#43 BBVA Compass
#156 IBC
#409 1st Mariner Bank ATM/Branch locator
#962 Plaza Bank Mtg Calc
Number of CU-branded apps #30 Alliant CU -- ATM Locator #185 Tech CU
#327 CUloc8 (TDECU)
#411 iDeposit (WV United FCU)

Source: Online Banking Report tally, 24 Aug 2009

1. In addition, Qualcomm's Firethorn unit has an app that works with several dozen banks and card issuers including Citi, Chase, Wachovia, SunTrust and USAA. It's ranked tenth in the Android Market and 15th in the iPhone App Store. Also, in the Android Market, Visa has a beta app that works with Chase cards ranked #77. However, according to commenters, that test is ending in September.
2. There are another 15-20 international banks listed in the iPhone App Store.
3. Our Online Banking Report on iPhone Mobile Banking was published March 11, 2009.

Comments (4)

Bank of America to Eliminate Wire Transfers from Branches, Moving Volume to Online Banking

By Jim Bruene on August 17, 2009 6:24 PM | Comments (8)

image When I logged in to Bank of America's online banking Saturday, I was greeted with a pitch encouraging me to use the bank's new online wire and electronic funds transfer (ACH) capabilities. Consumer online banking can now be used to move money electronically to most anyone in the country. Previously the bank allowed consumers to transfer funds only to their own accounts (funds transfer FAQs), either within Bank of America or at other U.S. financial institutions.

This is a capability offered by many major banks including Citibank, ING Direct and others, often powered by CashEdge. What I almost missed was the more interesting news in the last paragraph:

Beginning this summer, wire transfers will no longer be available in your local banking center... (emphasis added)

I haven't been able to confirm whether this is a nationwide change or something that impacts only certain markets or customers (note 1). On the FatWallet forum a member reported seeing the same message Aug 1 on his account. Another member tested the service and reported that the fees were $3 for a 3-day ACH, $10 for next-day ACH, and "varied" for same-day wires.

The bank's online wire transfer FAQs (for California) still point customers to online banking or their local branch.

What it means: When the nation's largest online bank starts talking about reducing branches and takes steps to eliminate a traditional (and labor-intensive) branch-based service, you have solid evidence that branch banking growth has stalled (note 2). 

Bank of America login message (15 Aug 2009, 1:30 PM Pacific time)

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Note:
1. I was served this message when logging in to my business credit card account. When I logged in to my Washington-based checking account (which runs on a different, and much less feature-rich system, than the rest of BofA), I saw no such message.
2. But not everyone agrees. Rob Cox and Antony Currie argue in today's New York Times that the bank branch still has legs, in part because capital market financing has become more expensive, therefore elevating the importance of retail deposit gathering, a branch strength.   

Comments (8)

Bank of America Implies that Branch Network Could Shrink 10% in Next Three Years

By Jim Bruene on July 29, 2009 10:41 AM | Comments (1)

imageIn what will surely be the first in a long string of similar headlines, the top of  yesterday's Wall Street Journal Money & Investing section declared:

BofA Plans to Cut 10% of Branches

The article, which has been picked up by nearly 100 news sites in the past 24 hours, reported that Bank of America was planning on reducing the size of its 6,000-branch network. There were no details on timing or whether the bank was retreating from certain markets or was simply pruning overlapping branches broadly.

But in later interviews with bank execs, it sounded like Bank of America was merely predicting a gradual shrinkage in its branch network over the next three years, and had no firm plans for specific closures. Here's a followup quote from president Liam McGee as reported by Charlotte NPR station WFAE:

"I think <CEO Lewis> was asked a question, 'Boy, could there be x-percentage less branches in the next few years?' And he was just saying, 'Yeah, could be, and if there was it would be in magnitude of this as opposed to a much higher number.'"

McGee says the bank is going through a 3-year evaluation process that could result in fewer branches, but that no particular number is targeted. He says customers' changing habits are driving the process.

What I found more interesting in the debate were some of the numbers the bank tossed out showing the growth of it's non-branch delivery:

  • Nearly 50% of deposits are made in ATMs...up amazingly from 33% six months ago. The bank didn't say whether this was NUMBER of deposits or VALUE of deposits, but it's likely the former. Also, it's unclear if remote deposits made via scanner are included in the total. That new technology is making a significant dent in branch-based deposits at many financial institutions.
  • 2.8 million customers are now using the mobile channel which was introduced in mid-2007. That's an average of about 120,000 new customer per month. However, growth appears to have accelerated slightly this year. In early Feb, the bank said it had 2 million mobile banking customers; so in the past 5.5 month, growth has been just under 150,000 new users per month.   
  • The bank has a 60% market share in online bill payment; an amazing penetration for a bank with 12% of the country's deposits. 

Note:
1. See our Online Banking Report: The Demise of the Branch (April 2006), for more on the long-term trends in the mix of branch and alternative delivery.

Comments (1)

Bank of America promotes retirement planning at logoff

By Jim Bruene on June 16, 2009 5:52 PM | Comments

image After viewing my credit card statement (personal and business) I was greeted with the following retirement planning pitch from Bank of America. I've recently seen similar banners on the bank's homepage (though not today).

It's not easy getting consumers interested in looking at their retirement situation when they are in the middle of an Internet session. There's always something more pressing or entertaining to be done than worry about some distant event. 

So it takes extra effort to entice clicks. BofA has a good approach. The "Stop Guessing About the Future" hook is a good way to grab attention. And the colorful slider-based tool is easy to use and, most importantly, takes only a few seconds to deliver some meaningful results.

1. Bank of America logoff screen (2:25 PM, June 16)

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2. Landing page of promo (link)

The BofA tool uses a short bit of audio to get your attention and explain how to complete the short, five-step wizard. Users may turn off the audio using the button in the upper right. 

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3. Step 1 of 5

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4. Results page

  • Calculates your "retirement number," the amount you need to have to bring your cash income during retirement to 85% of today's value (similar themes have been used by Wells Fargo (here) and ING (here))
  • Shows range of possibilities based on a range of potential investment returns
  • Has two handy boxes showing when you'll run out of cash and how much you need to add to your monthly savings to avoid that (also expressed in ranges)
  • Action plan in the lower right leads to some suggested courses of action, that the bank can help with, such as rolling over a 401(k)

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Note: For more information see our Online Banking Report on Selling Behind the Password, published in April.

Comments

Apple iPhone Print Advertisements Feature Personal Finance Apps

By Jim Bruene on April 16, 2009 5:06 PM | Comments

image_thumb8Apple must be one of the more lucrative advertisers these days at the Wall Street Journal. Apple has bought the back page more times than I can count to show off the iPhone and more-importantly, the diversity of applications available (see inset, note 1).

Lately, Apple has run "theme" ads showing applications related to a single category. Last week (Thurs, 9 April), the back of the A section showed personal finance apps (see left column below). Yesterday, the apps all supported small business and ran on the back of Marketplace (B) section (see right column below).

The only app to make both lists: personal finance superstar, Mint, which even scored top billing in the personal finance page, occupying the upper-left corner, where it's blurb would likely score the highest readership. 

The Apple website also has themed app guides. The managing money page (see screenshot below) features again features Mint, which gets the biggest graphic, Bank of America, who's app was featured in dozens of Apple ads in 2008 and earlier this year, Bloomberg, Gas Cubby, iXpenseIt, Save Benjis, and Home Finder.

Bottom line: Financial institutions should think about how to add similar money management functionality to their mobile and online offers. As Aite's Ron Shevlin pointed out in a comment here last week (emphasis added):

.....(the FinovateStartup participants) you talk about are helping people manage their financial lives, while the banks are [still] focused on helping people manage their financial accounts.

Big difference.

Table: iPhone apps listed in recent WSJ ads (clockwise from upper left)

Personal Finance Theme Small Business Theme
Helping you stretch your budget, one app at a time. Helping you run your small business, one app at a time.
Date: 9 April 2009 Date: 15 April 2009
Mint.com (PFM) Credit card terminal
Gas Cubby (mileage tracker) Print & share (document management)
Spotasaurus (parking finder) FedEx Mobile
RepairPal (mechanic finder) Jott (voice recording/transcription)
AllRecipes.com (recipe finder) iXpenseIt (expense report mgmt)
GoodGuide (product finder) Jobs - Time Tracking
WootWatch (cheap gadgets) Analytics App (website analytics)
Save Benjis (shopping comparison) LinkedIn
RN Dining (rewards dining) LogMeIn (remote computer access)
Find an Apartment YellowPages.com
Cellfire (mobile coupons) Mint.com
Barista (how to guide) Quicksheet (spreadsheet)
Wi-Fi finder Air Sharing (file manager)
CompareMe (price calculator) Nomina (name/trademark search)
Loan Shark (loan tool) SimpleMind Xpress (brainstorming)
Small Spend (mini PFM) Keynote Remote (presentation tool)

Apple's Money Management page on its Website (link, 16 Apr 2009)

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Notes:
1. My apologies for the image quality, taken via iPhone naturally.
2. For more info, see our latest Online Banking Report: Mobile Banking via iPhone.

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RIM's New Blackberry App World Includes Wells Fargo, E*Trade, Fidelity, and Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on March 11, 2009 6:30 PM | Comments (3)

image_thumb[12]It will be a long time before the new mobile application markets, Google's Android Market and RIM's Blackberry App World, get anywhere close to Apple's App Store in breadth or depth. Currently, there are 162 apps listed across all categories in the Android market and 88 for the Blackberry (North America), compared to more than 25,000 for the iPhone (U.S.).

However, Blackberry already has tied the iPhone in one sub-category, big-name U.S. financial services companies. As of today, each has four. Bank of America is the only one supporting both.    

iPhone App Store Blackberry App World*
Bank of America Bank of America
Chase Wells Fargo
Citibank E*Trade
PNC Bank Fidelity Investments

*Blackberry App World also has an Obopay mobile payments app with ties to Citibank.

Financial institution opportunities: The list of participating financial institutions won't stay short for long. You must support iPhone and Blackberry users, the sooner you do so, the more free publicity you can garner. For more information, see our latest Online Banking Report, published today, Mobile Banking 2.0: iPhone Edition.

Blackberry App World Finance & Banking section
(9 March 2009, 10 PM Pacific)

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Comments (3)

Virgin Money Joins UnCrunch America

By Jim Bruene on February 25, 2009 12:11 PM | Comments

image UnCrunch America, the peer-to-peer lending educational/marketing campaign spearheaded by Lending Club (note 1) got a big boost with the addition of Virgin Money USA.

Not only does Virgin brings its considerable brand recognition, it legitimizes the effort as a true cooperative project, and adds a huge new category to the site, home loans. Plus, they get a much bigger number to put on the top of the homepage (below): $74 million instead of $1 million.

Other financial services participants include: Credit Karma (note 1), On Deck Capital and Geezeo. The campaign has its official launch today, although the website has been active since December (previous post).

The timing of the UnCrunch launch is perfect, following President Obama's assertion last night that lending was the "lifeblood" of the economy. All active lenders, especially credit unions, should consider joining this effort or using similar themes in their marketing.

UnCrunch home page (25 Feb 2009)

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Virgin Money UnCrunch landing page
(link, 25 Feb 2009)

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 Notes:
1. Lending Club and Credit Karma will be participating in our upcoming Finovate Startup conference April 28 (see full lineup here).
2. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on P2P Lending.

Comments

Visiting the Center for Future Banking

By Jim Bruene on February 25, 2009 8:49 AM | Comments (1)

imageYesterday, while visiting Boston, we had the opportunity to tour the Bank of America-sponsored Center for Future Banking, a part of the famed MIT Media Lab.

We talked to researchers looking at:

  • consumer behavior in budgeting and managing their finances
  • mobile ecommerce tagging
  • artificial intelligence at the point of purchase

It's always energizing to be on campus and see what the bright minds are up to. It's a great reminder that creative thinking, new ideas, and new technology always propel us forward.

The BofA folks were doing a great job maintaining a positive attitude, but it was also obvious that the events of the past six months have taken a toll. Hopefully, that's temporary. 

A couple interesting conversation points:

  • The Center is absolutely open source, dedicated to helping move the industry forward, not just BofA; they hope more banks and industry players will at some point join their research efforts.
  • There may be more startups and more innovations due to the economic downturn as otherwise unemployed individuals start new companies. 
  • There's more need than ever to rethink traditional models.
  • This could be the absolute best time to start a financial services company.  

Thanks to Abhishek Mehta, who splits his time between Bank of America in Charlotte and the MIT Media Laboratory, for spearheading the visit. Thanks also to Jeff Carter, Srini Nallasivan, and David Price from Bank of America for the inspiring conversation. And a special thanks to the grad students and staff at the lab for allowing us to interrupt their work and learn about their projects: Kwan Hong Lee, Katherine Krumme, Nathan Greenslit, and Sajid Sadi.

Comments (1)

Mobile Banking Stats: 40% of Bank of America's 2 million Mobile Bankers Use iPhone or iPod Touch

By Jim Bruene on February 4, 2009 7:17 PM | Comments (1)

image Bank of America has been making the rounds with the press touting the runaway success of its mobile banking solutions. Major stories ran in American Banker and The Wall Street Journal this week.

The bank, with 29 million online banking users, reports numbers just shy of the 2-million mark in mobile. That's up from one million early this summer (post here). While it's still less than 10% of online banking customers, it's an impressive number considering fewer than 4 million mobile banking households exist in the entire country (see note 1).

Several other interesting stats from BofA:

  • More than 40% of active mobile bankers --  someone who's logged in within the past 90 days --  use an iPhone or iPod touch. That's about double the usage you'd expect given Apple's 23% share of the U.S. installed smart phone base (note 2, 3).
  • The bank believes the mobile channel is driving some new business to the bank with 8% to 10% of mobile bankers, almost 200,000, having signed up for the service within 90 days of opening a BofA account (note 4).

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Source: ChangeWave Research, survey of 3,800 cell phone users fielded Dec. 9 - 15, 2008 (link)

Notes:
1. See our latest Online Banking Report: Online & Mobile Forecast for more details.
2. The 23% figure does not include iPod Touch.
3. One other bank provided its usage numbers to the WSJ: Mississippi's BankPlus reported 4,000 users with 60% of the usage (2,400) coming from iPhone users.
4. That number doesn't seem all that surprising. You'd expect new customers would be somewhat more likely to sign up for new delivery channels than the existing base. And given typical banking churn, 10% to 20% of a bank's customer base are new every year.

Comments (1)

Bank of America's Second Blog Supports Mobile Banking

By Jim Bruene on January 21, 2009 7:34 PM | Comments (2)

image When researching yesterday's post on BofA's iPhone app, I searched Google for "Bank of America mobile banking" and ended up at the bank's mobile banking news blog (see screenshot below).

This is the second blog the bank has launched in recent months. The first supports its MIT Center for Future Banking (post here).   

While purists may claim this latest effort is not really a blog because there are no community features such as comments, it's updated infrequently (5 posts in 3 months, see note 1) and appears purely promotional in nature. The bank doesn't even refer to it as a blog. The official title is: Mobile Banking Media Center for Bank of America.

But it's laid out like a blog. The content is arranged in reverse chronological postings, with categories/tagging/permalinks. The variety of content includes YouTube videos, and you can subscribe via RSS feeds.

That's a blog to me, and a very good one at that. While the core audience consists of press and analysts, it's a great resource for anyone interested in the bank's mobile offerings. And as my search yesterday proved, Google has rewarded it with a high organic result, the first position on my search. That can potentially save the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars in search-engine advertising.

Bottom line: Call it what you will, but BofA demonstrates one of the most effective uses of the blog-like format: supporting PR and educational efforts for a new strategic effort (mobile banking) in an easy-to-follow and easy-to-administer format (see note 2).

 Bank of America mobile banking blog (21 Jan 2009)

Notes:
1. There are five posts on the homepage, but if you drill into the top categories, you'll find some older press releases.

2. For more ideas, see our Online Banking Report on Bank 2.0 Techniques

3. BofA's new Blackberry app is shown at the top of this post.

Comments (2)

Bank of America Knocks Mint Off Top of iPhone App Store Finance Category

By Jim Bruene on January 20, 2009 11:37 PM | Comments

image Bank of America, which has been at or near the top of the Finance category (free apps) in the iPhone App Store since its July 11 launch, was back at the top today (12:45 PM Pacific). Mint, which has been number one since its Dec. 22 launch, moved to number two.

Contributing to the rise in the App Store standing is BofA's purchase of a feature spot in the iTunes store (see screenshot below). The release of a new version Dec. 28, is also helping the download count. 

The BofA application now leverages the location-based capabilities of the iPhone, automatically showing nearby ATMs without inputting a Zip code (see video below, posted in the BofA mobile media center here).


iTunes App Store main page
(20 Jan. 2009)

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Note: For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.

Comments

Bank of America Launches a Blog...Finally

By Jim Bruene on January 6, 2009 1:46 PM | Comments (8)

image What better way to start the new year than to blog about a blog. And it's big news. Bank of America, through its Center for Future Banking (see note 1), launched a blog called The Future Banking Blog. The blog, quietly began after Thanksgiving (note 2), has averaged about 2 posts per week,  about right for a banking blog (note 3).

The content so far has been wholly unrelated to Bank of America or its products. The blog is part academic, part strategic, bringing insights from the Center's joint team of MIT academics and BofA business execs.

The design however, is pure Bank of America (see below). It uses the BofA color palette and includes a prominent powered by logo in the upper right. It's also housed under a bank URL <futurebanking.bankofamerica.com>.

All in all it's a good effort, positioning BofA as a thought leader in the upside-down world of commercial banking circa 2009.

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Note:
1. The Center is seeking an Executive Director. The position was posted on Dec. 16, but given the holiday, it's not too late to toss your name in the hat.

2. Hat tip to Colin Henderson at The Bankwatch for writing about it.  

3. For more info on financial institution bloggin, see our Online Banking Report on Banking and Social Media.

Comments (8)

Bank of America Sponsoring Popular iPhone Tip Calculator CheckPlease

By Jim Bruene on December 8, 2008 2:06 PM | Comments

image Like much of the Internet, many free iPhone apps have embedded advertising as their revenue model. The most popular tip calculator, and third-most-popular app in the finance category, CheckPlease, added advertising across the top of its calculator in its version 3.3 release (Nov. 12).

The current sponsor? Bank of America mobile banking, which has the second-most-popular finance app in the iPhone App Store. The advertising is handled by Mobclix, an advertising network focused on the iPhone and Android markets that debuted at TechCrunch50 in September. In a half-dozen visits, I've seen only the BofA ad. But the developer, Hardy Macia, says he's seen several movies advertised on the app. 

Clicking on the BofA ad (first screenshot) takes users to the BofA landing page (second screenshot on right) hosted within the App Store environment, i.e., the pages are not displayed within the normal Safari environment. The only navigation options are:

  • Learn more (see 3rd screenshot)
  • Download (see 4th screenshot)
  • Visit bofa.mobi
  • Close (the X in the lower-right) which takes you back to the CheckPlease app

CheckPlease is a product of Catamount Software which has developed mobile personal finance software since 1994, when it launched PocketMoney for the Apple Newton. PocketMoney is now available for the Palm and iPhone. The company just added an ad-free version of CheckPlease for $0.99.

The free CheckPlease iPhone app has been downloaded more than 200,000 times according to its developer and owner of Catamount Software, Hardy Macia.

      CheckPlease iPhone App                       BofA landing page

  photo (2)          photo 

          Learn More page                                 Download page (note 1)

  photo (3)         photo (4)

Note:
1. Surprisingly, the buttons on this page are not clickable. To download the BofA app, iPhone users must close this screen and open the App Store button on the home screen(s) of their iPhone.

Comments

Wells Fargo is Second Online Personal Finance Provider to Join the 1-million Club

By Jim Bruene on November 17, 2008 10:34 PM | Comments

imageIn April, we reported on the robust adoption of Bank of America's online personal finance manager, My Portfolio (see note 1), used by 10% of the bank's 25 million online bankers. The results are especially impressive given that it's a full-featured module accessible via online banking, but not particularly well integrated.

imageIn comparison, Wells Fargo offers a completely integrated PFM tool, My Spending Report, that's extremely simple to use, but offers limited functionality. On Oct. 29, the bank made an important improvement, adding a basic budgeting tool, Budget Watch, to what had been essentially a list of transactions divided by category.

The bank told me last week they have 1 million monthly users, making it the second online PFM provider to break the 1-million mark (after BofA). Wells has about 15% of its online banking base (note 2) using the tool, a slightly higher penetration than BofA. Again, not surprising considering how well it is integrated. The budget tools should boost penetration.

Who'll be the next one to join the 1-million club? Mint, with about 500,000 users in its first 15 months in business, is headed that way, possibly as early as late next year.  Chase/WaMu could get there in a few weeks, if they added online personal finance to their feature set. Quicken Online, now that it's free, should get there relatively quickly as well.

Note:
1. BofA's My Portfolio is powered by Yodlee.

2. Excluding Wachovia accounts.

Comments

Google's G1/Android Phone Launches Today; Bank of America Mobile Banking is First Finance App

By Jim Bruene on October 22, 2008 5:17 PM | Comments

Bank of America Google Android G1 menu with mobile banking app loaded (22 Oct 2008) A few hours ago, I talked to a friend who'd just purchased the T-Mobile G1 phone this morning in Atlanta. He was pleased with it so far and said he was impressed to see Bank of America available on day one through Google's Android Market.

Apparently, BofA was the only app in the Finance section this morning (see inset). However, that will change rapidly as the store opens to other developers next week. Thanks to Alan Martin for the screenshots.

The bank's Android app looks like the other mobile versions. It includes online banking access and an ATM/branch locator that uses built-in, location-based services (see pictures below).

I also read several blog reports of successful downloads  of the BofA app. However, when visiting the Android market website, the BofA app is not shown amongst the 40-some programs currently available. Apparently, the public market website is different than the app market accessible through the phone. I guess I'll have to hit the T-Mobile store tomorrow to see for myself.

Congratulations to BofA for again beating its U.S. competitors in mobile deployment. It now has a three-peat in recent smartphone application launches:

For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking.

Bank of America Google Android App main menu (22 Oct 2008) Bank of America Google Android App online banking signin (22 Oct 2008)

Bank of America Google Android App branch locator (22 Oct 2008) image Bank of America Google Android G! App bank branch map (22 Oct 2008) Bank of America Google Android G1 App more info (22 Oct 2008)

Bank of America Google Android App bank services (22 Oct 2008)

Comments

Top 20 Finance & Banking Apps in Apple's App Store

By Jim Bruene on August 5, 2008 4:40 PM | Comments (2)

image It's been almost a month since Apple launched its App Store for native iPhone apps. According to the company, 25 million have been downloaded, an impressive one-million-per-day pace (11 Aug update: The company reported 60 million downloads, with $30 million in sales, during the first 30 days.)

Luckily for banking geeks, Apple added a Finance category (see screenshot below), so it's easier to track what's popular in our sector. As of early today, a total of 42 finance apps were listed. The 20 most popular were (note 1): 

Rank Name Type Price Release* Rating** Num***
1 Bloomberg News Free 16 July 4 337
2 CheckPlease Tool to split dinner bills Free 31 July 3 77
3 Mobile Banking (BofA) Banking Free 4 July 2.5 323
4 PayPal Payments Free 1 July 2 85
5 Balance Expense register Free 30 July 4.5 41
6 Puluwai Real Estate Search Real estate Free 20 Jun 3.5 38
7 3in1 Mortgage Calc Calculator Free 30 Jul 3.5 7
8 TipCalc Tip calculator Free 19 Jul 3.5 6
9 TipTap Tip calculator $0.99 1 Aug 4 30
10 Budget Personal finance mgr $1.99 24 Jul 3.5 37
11 MyAccounts to Go View accounting info Free 15 Jul 2.5 16
12 Swissquote Stock quotes Free 17 Jul 3 2
13 LoanCalc Calculator $0.99 26 Jul 3 18
14 Mortgage Payment Calc Calculator $0.99 2 Aug 3 9
15 Day Bank Expense register $3.99 14 Jul 3.5 64
16 SplashMoney Banking & PFM (note 2) $9.99 24 Jul 3 84
17 iXpenselt Expense register $4.99 9 Jul 3.5 52
18 PocketMoney Personal finance mgr $9.99 1 Aug 3 55
19 LoanShark Calculator $4.99 30 Jul 4.5 5
20 Tipulator Tip calc $0.99 30 Jul 4 33

Source: Netbanker/Online Banking Report analysis of Apple App Store data, 5 Aug 2008
PFM = Personal financial management
Bank of America iphone app (5 Aug 2008)*Release date of latest version; there may have been previous versions released earlier; currently reviews carry over from previous versions
**Average user rating on 1-to-5 point scale
***Number of user reviews posted

 What's notable:

  • Nine apps have a download fee ranging from $0.99 to $9.99
  • Only four have a user-rating of 4.0 or better (on a five-point scale): Balance (4.5), Bloomberg (4.0), LoanShark (4.5) and TipTap (4.0)
  • Three apps, including two of the most popular, are rated below 3.0: BofA (2.5), PayPal (2.0) and MyAccounts to Go (2.5)
  • The most-reviewed apps are Bloomberg (337 user reviews) and BofA's mobile banking (323) (see previous coverage)

What's innovative:
I haven't used any of the apps yet, but from reading the descriptions, there's not much new here (notes 3, 4). The apps fall into four main categories:

  • Tip calculators
  • Other financial calculators such as loan payments
  • Expense/check registers
  • Personal finance tracking apps

Even though these functions aren't very advanced, the ability to access them easily from your mobile phone makes them more interesting. And banks looking to create a useful iPhone app should take note. BofA was criticized in early user reviews for posting little more than a landing page for its normal mobile banking screen (see screenshot above).

Financial institutions would likely find a more receptive audience if a couple useful functions were added to the application besides an online banking login screen. It would be relatively trivial to add an expense register, tip calculator and other calculator functions to the banking app. 

Apple App Store Finance category (5 Aug 2008)

Notes:
1. Apple does not provide any metrics on how many times the apps have been downloaded. It just lists them in rank order.

2. Download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions supporting Intuit's DirectConnect

3. The most interesting app is SplashMoney's account aggregation app that allows you to download transactions from more than 200 financial institutions that support Intuit's Direct Connect.

4. See our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking for more info.

Comments (2)

Login, Logoff Marketing Messages from Bank of America, PayPal, US Bank, WaMu and Wells Fargo

By Jim Bruene on August 1, 2008 1:44 PM | Comments (2)

image After returning from some R&R in Iowa and Kansas, I logged into my banking and credit card accounts to see what I'd forgotten to attend to before leaving town. Luckily, everything seemed in order this time.

Always on the lookout for online marketing examples, I thought it would be  interesting to compare and contrast the marketing messages presented to users as they logged in and logged out of five major banking sites. 

  • Bank of America (business and personal credit cards): BofA typically has a marketing message at login and logoff.
    Login  The bank's brokerage division is pitching free Morningstar mutual fund research. I haven't seen this one before, and it seems a bit wordy, so it may be the first time for this offer (see screenshot #1 below)
    Logout  A pitch for a cash-back business credit card. It's a good offer, but perplexing, given that I already have a business and personal card with BofA. Not sure why they want me to have three (screenshot #2).
  • PayPal (verified account): PayPal has used log-in splash-screens almost since it began in 1999 with a mix of marketing and service messages. But they don't overuse the technique, so it's noticeable when they have a new splash-screen running.
    Login  No marketing, just direct entry to main screen
    Logout  No marketing, just a landing at the usual PayPal merchant emporium (screenshot #3)
  • US Bank (multiple accounts): I don't think I've ever seen a marketing message from US Bank at login or logoff. I believe I've seen a service message at login a few times over the years, but it's extremely rare.
    Login  No marketing, just dropped on main account page as usual
    Logout  No marketing, just a brief "you've been logged out" message
  • WaMu (business checking): I've had the account only a few months, but WaMu has frequently posted marketing messages at login, and they've been relatively creative, as you'd expect.
    Login  Pitching its WaMu Live concert promotion which provides exclusive access to summer events to WaMu credit and debit card holders (screenshot #4). 
    Logout  No marketing, just a solid recap of security precautions, a good message to leave with online banking users (screenshot #5).
  • Wells Fargo (credit card): Wells uses marketing messages frequently at both login and logout.
    Login  Electronic statement (paper turnoff), something I've not done yet (screenshot #6).
    Logoff  Home equity loans (screenshot #7)

What's Innovative?
There wasn't anything particularly enlightening in these examples. The WaMu Live pitch was the only truly unique message. For the most part, they were typical, well-crafted marketing messages you'd expect from these major players. That's fine now, since most customers don't yet have "banner fatigue" at their online banking site. But going forward, the messages will need to be more targeted and more interesting to get attention and action from jaded online users.

The other issue is frequency. You'll figure this out through testing, but there's a line you don't want to cross where a splash-screen message presented at every login ceases to be effective and is just plain annoying.

Finally, for financial institutions, such as US Bank, still not using this login real estate for sales messages, your customers thank you; however, quick-loading, targeted messaging, used with discretion, should benefit your bottom line.   

1. Bank of America login screen for business-credit-card only account (1 Aug 2008)image

2. Bank of America logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

image

3. PayPal logout (1 Aug 2008)

image

4. WaMu login screen (31 July 2008)image 

5. WaMu logout screen (1 August 2008)image

6. Wells Fargo login splash screen (1 Aug 2008)

image

7. Wells Fargo logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

image

Comments (2)

Bank of America iPhone Mobile Banking App Criticized in Early-User Reviews

By Jim Bruene on July 11, 2008 11:58 AM | Comments (2)

image The good news: Of the 135 free applications in the new iTunes App Store, Bank of America's is a solid number 20, three spots ahead of PayPal, according to rankings within iTunes this morning.

The bad news: The first batch of reviewers hated the app. Their main complaint: It's not really a native app, just a front door to the bank's existing mobile site.

The reviews: On a 5-star scale with one star the lowest choice, the app has only a 1.5-star rating (see note 1). Of the 81 reviews, only 19 rated it above one star. Throwing out the five 5-star ratings which are probably from people associated with the product, that leaves only 14 above the bottom rating, an abysmal score by any standard. Following is the breakdown:

Stars Number of Votes                            My Comments
*****             5 I'm skeptical of the objectivity of these reviews
  ****              0 Other than the suspect 5-star fans above, no one was willing to go 4 stars
   ***               6 Only six legit users were even OK with the app
    **             8 Most of these were critical in their comments
     *                62 one star is the lowest choice on the review form

Source: Online Banking Report review of iTunes data, 11AM PST, 11 July 2008

What's innovative?
1. I was astounded to see 81 reviews in the App Store already. It just opened this morning! It should be noted that you don't have to actually download the app to post a review. So if and when you post an app here, be prepared for criticism. Even more important, this demonstrates the impact the user voice will have going forward (see note 2).

2. Early adopters, especially techies, can be brutally honest, especially with large corporate efforts deemed lame. But even though the overall grade was very poor, a number of reviewers pointed out that the automatic ATM locator was a significant improvement.

3. BofA needs to upgrade this app ASAP. Some of the criticisms about font size and design can be fixed relatively easily.

Summary
Despite the harsh criticism from the first batch of reviewers, I think BofA did the right thing strategically. It's too bad they didn't have something a little flashier, but the bank will get far more mileage by being the first bank in the App Store that it will lose by disappointing the mobile early adopters. It's unlikely they will lose any business from the negative reviews. They are mostly in the "you should have done better" category, not the "BofA sucks" variety.

You have only one chance to be first, and BofA took it. No one else will ever be able to say they were the first bank in the iPhone (who's going to be the first credit union?). But the bank better get cracking on version 2.0! (see note 3)

Notes:
1. The only other app from a financial services company was Paypal, which mustered a meager 2-star rating. But it elicited only one-sixth the number of reviewers, just 13. Because you don't have to actually download the app to post a review, BofA may be getting slammed by people just reading the reviews and jumping on the bandwagon with me-too critiques.

2. See our latest Online Banking Report for more on the growing importance of user reviews. We've also published reports on Mobile Banking and Mobile Payments.

3. This post marks the end of iPhone week at Netbanker. We'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming next week.

Comments (2)

Bank of America and PayPal are Only Financial Brands in Apple's App Store at Launch

By Jim Bruene on July 10, 2008 12:43 PM | Comments

Bank of America once again proved its mobile mettle as the only financial institution to have a native app available at the launch of Apple's new App Store (note 1). PayPal also launched an app on Day 1 (see screenshot below). Both are free.

Bank of America iPhone 2.0 App in Apple App Store in iTunes (10 July 2008)

Bank of America iPhone native app in iTunes App Store (10 July 2008)

Apple launched the store today within iTunes (see note 1). There are 552 apps at launch according to Pinch Media, Here's the price breakdown:

  • Free - 135
  • $0.99 - 85
  • $1.99 to $3.99 - 110*
  • $4.99 - 62
  • $5.99 to $8.99 - 35*
  • $9.99 - 82
  • more than $10 - 40*

The new Finance category in the App Store has 23 entries at launch. Most are small utilities for calculating tips or splitting the dinner check. Only two recognizable brands are available, PayPal (lower left) and Bank of America, which by design or omission, is listed not with its name but as simply "mobile banking."

Finance listings in Apple App Store in iTune 7.7 (10 July 2008)

23 Finance apps in Apple's App Store (10 July 2008)

 

PayPal App (10 July 2008)

PayPal app in iTunes Apple App Store (10 July 2008)

Notes:

*Interpolated from graph, plus or minus 3%

1. To view the App Store, download iTunes v. 7.7. Some users including myself (Windows bug?) have reported not being able to see it even after updating iTunes. I was able to access through this link published by TechCrunch.

Comments

Bank of America Hits Two Milestones: One Million Mobile and 25 Million Online Users

By Jim Bruene on June 11, 2008 4:39 PM | Comments

image As expected, Bank of America reached the one-million-mobile-user milestone this week. Last month the bank disclosed it had 840,000 active mobile users as of March 31. With 160,000 new users in the past 9+ weeks, it appears that BofA has stayed on the 75,000/mo pace of first quarter.

Even more interesting to me was the news that the bank has "nearly 25 million" online banking users. That's 3 million more than the bank had last fall, an impressive 13% gain. Six years ago, there weren't even 20 million online banking households in the entire country (see note 1).

The bank also passed along a few other mobile metrics in today's press release:

  • 40% are using mobile for money movement (bill pay and/or funds transfer within BofA accounts)
  • 80% viewed transactions and balance data (leaving 20% who check balances only)
  • In May, the bank had 4 million mobile sessions, or 4.2 sessions per user/per month, assuming 950,000 active users
  • Two-thirds of mobile users are under 35, about 13% are age 35-44 and 20% are older than 45

Note:

1. Source: Online Banking Report: 2008 through 2017 Forecast

Comments

Mobile Banking Uptake: Bank of America Closing in on 1 million Mobile Users

By Jim Bruene on May 14, 2008 5:01 PM | Comments

Bank of America iphone mobile bankingIn its latest quarterly financial results (here), Bank of America said it signed up 224,000 new users during the quarter to bring its active mobile banking base to 840,000. Assuming the 75,000/mo pace continues through second quarter, the bank should be over 900,000 now and will surpass 1 million in the next few weeks.

Although it's a nice milestone, it's only 4% of the bank's 23+million active online banking users (here). Given that mobile is pushed frequently in the bank's online banking area, one could argue that 4% adoption is pretty anemic. But according to M:Metrics, less than 14% of U.S. mobile phone users accessed info via the mobile Web in February. So 4% of a 14% universe is much more impressive, indicating the bank has tapped almost 1/3 of the short-term potential for mobile Web-based services, a good start.

To really goose adoption, text-based solutions may need more emphasis (see Chase screenshot below). According to M:Metrics, U.S. text users outnumbered mobile Web users almost 4 to 1 in February, 110 million to 30 million.

Industry forecast update
These adoption rates are about what we expected. In the forecast published a year ago in our Online Banking Report on Mobile Banking, we were relatively bearish short term, projecting 900,000 mobile users by year-end 2007 growing to 2.5 million by the end of 2008.

With BofA reporting 840,000 and assuming they have about half of all users, the U.S. market has likely already passed the 1.5 million mark and will end the year at more than 3 million.

The adoption rate depends on how hard banks push mobile options. Along with BofA, Chase has been one of the most aggressive, showing mobile use in its advertising for several years now (previous coverage here). I love its "Text your account. It texts you back." Just seven words conveying more than most 3-minute demos.

 

Chase Bank Text Mobile banking
Comments

Bank of America Reports 2.5 Million Users of My Portfolio, its Online Personal Finance Tool

By Jim Bruene on April 21, 2008 6:27 PM | Comments (1)

image Two months ago we published a table (here) showing active users at the leading online personal finance startups. Below is the table, updated with March traffic and the addition of one more player: Bank of America.

The bank, which offers a full-featured online personal finance management solution called My Portfolio, powered by Yodlee, has 2.5 million active users, according to BofA exec Marina Moore (note 3). That's an impressive 10% of the bank's online user base, and about 6x the total user base of all the online startups combined (note 4). 

Company Users (1) % of Total March Traffic(2) Jan Traffic(2) Chg
Bank of America 2.5 million 86% -- -- --
Mint 180,000 6% 160,000 150,000 7%
Wesabe 100,000 3% 28,000 41,000 (32%)
Buxfer 80,000 3% 8,400 9,200 (9%)
Geezeo 20,000+ 0.7% 8,400 14,000 (40%)
NetWorthIQ 13,000 0.5% 10,000 11,000 (10%)
BillMonk 10,000+ 0.3% 1,700 1,000 +70%
Expensr Five figs 0.3%+ 2,000 1,700 +18%
Total 2.9 million 100%      

For more information:

Notes/Sources:

1. Users: per BusinessWeek Online, Feb 2008, figures are reported by the companies and may include inactive users; Mint has been updated to 180,000 from 130,00 based on new figures reported in the Bank Technology News article published in April 2008

2. Traffic: per Compete estimates of website traffic for March 2008, retrieved April 21, 2008. Compete estimates traffic from its online data and can be off by a factor of two or three-fold for smaller websites.

3. As reported in a Bank Technology News article published in April 2008.

4. This table does not reflect all the players, such as Intuit's new Quicken Online, just the ones highlighted in the BusinessWeek article.

Comments (1)

iPhone Compatibility at the Largest U.S. Banks

By Jim Bruene on January 2, 2008 5:32 PM | Comments (6)

As I was holding my family's place in a long line over the holidays (note 1), I took the opportunity to look at the 20 largest U.S. retail banks through my iPhone. They are all passable as long as you are willing to take the time to zoom in and navigate with your finger on the touchscreen. 

The best-looking sites are those with relatively simple hompage designs, notably ING Direct and HSBC and to a lesser extent Wells Fargo. But the hands-down winner is Bank of America, the only top-20 U.S. bank with an iPhone-optimized homepage.

This provides BofA with several short-term advantages:

  • Bragging rights as the first major bank to design for the iPhone
  • A spot on Apple's directory of Web apps for iPhone (here) (screenshot below)  
  • Several mentions in tech and personal finance blogs
  • An entree to the 1.4 million, decidedly upscale, iPhone users

Note:

1. Survey of 20 largest U.S retail banks, by deposit size, made at 4 PM on Dec. 24 from Seattle IP address through iPhone browser on AT&T Edge network.

Comments (6)

Bank of America's Online Banking Base Up 11%

By Jim Bruene on November 21, 2007 1:24 PM | Comments

The world's largest online banking base (note 1) grew an impressive 11% year-over-year, rising to 22.8 million active users, an increase of 2.2 million from 30 Sep 2006 (note 2). 

Bill payment grew slower, up 7% or 800,000 users, ending the period at 11.6 million active users. Overall bill pay volume is $224 billion annually, or $1,600 per user per month. Bill pay as a percent of online banking fell more than one point to just under 51% (note 3).  

Online Banking     Bill Pay     % of OL using Bill Pay

2007        22.8 mil            11.6 mil              50.8%

2006        20.6 mil            10.8 mil              52.4%

Change    +2.2 mil            +800,000            (1.6%)
                +10.7%               +7.4%

Notes:
1. As far as we know, no bank in the world has more active online users; however, one could argue that PayPal, with 37.5 million active users in the latest quarter, is larger. Interestingly, ING Direct is closing in on BofA on a worldwide basis. With its Sharebuilder acquisition, ING Direct has 20 million accounts worldwide, about 30% in the United States, although not all are active, which BofA defines as being online within the past 90 days.

2. According to Doug Brown, Bank of America's SVP Product Innovation E-Commerce Channel Services, as cited during his BAI Retail Delivery presentation.

3. See Online Banking Report #137, p. 28, for totals back to 2000. 
Comments

Bank of America Offers $75 to Entice Credit Card Customers to Open a Free Checking Account

By Jim Bruene on November 20, 2007 7:26 PM | Comments (3)

For some time, Bank of America has been offering its credit card customers a cash bonus for opening a new checking account. Today, with $75 dangled in front of me, I decided to take advantage of the offer and went ahead and opened up a free MyAccess Checking account online. Below is a screenshot of the main credit card page with the offer strategically placed in the upper-left quadrant.   

While the online account opening process was relatively smooth, there are a number of things the bank could do better, starting with pre-filling the application with my personal info. Even though I have two Bank of America credit cards and I responded to the offer from within the secure online banking environment, I still had to start the application from scratch.

And taking a queue from online retailers such as Dell, the bank drops a number of cross sells into the application process.  I'll have a full analysis of the account opening process in our upcoming Online Banking Report on online account opening to be published in first quarter. 

 

Comments (3)

First Look: Bank of America's New Networking Site -- Small Business Online Community

By Jim Bruene on October 10, 2007 10:02 AM | Comments

In the past 10 years, we've seen dozens of bank-powered sites targeting small businesses. Citibank ran one for a few years called Bizzed. Back then, they were called "portals." Now, they are "social networks." But the purpose remains the same: Create a destination site for business owners to learn how to run their business better while reinforcing the bank brand as small business savvy.

In general, it's a good idea. But it's extremely difficult to get traction with small business owners who usually lack the time and/or interest to read extensively about how to run their business (note 1).

Bank of America's effort, Small Business Online Community, tries to get around the attention problem by creating forums where specific questions and answers can be posted (press release here). Again, not a new concept, but probably the best way to get something like this off the ground.

Analysis
I registered (see note 2) and spent a few minutes poking around the site. In addition to the forum, the site includes columns by business experts and reader-submitted stories. It will be interesting to see if the so-called user-generated content in the latter category is all self-serving promotions from the small business participants, or meaningful perspectives that allow conversations to begin.

The well-designed site, with Web 2.0 touches, is off to a good start from a registration standpoint. This morning alone (as of noon Eastern time), 300 new members had signed up. They may all be bankers in disguise, but it's still far more than I would have expected.

Other than the small "powered by" link in the upper right corner, the site doesn't appear to have any direct involvement from the bank. Frankly, I'd like to see bank officers weighing in on the financial topics, as long as they take a consultative approach and disclose their affiliation. But I understand the bank's initial restraint.

Note:

1. However, entrepreneurs in the research phase, what is sometimes called "pre startup," often devour reams of material. And since they are often highly interested in financing opportunities, a bank-sponsored site could gain their attention.  

2. A couple nitpicks:

  • Usernames are case sensitive; a twist that tripped me up when trying to log in the first time. The bank should remove that stipulation, especially in a less security-sensitive application such as this.
  • Lots of the material is available as RSS feeds, but other than the little orange icon, it's not very obvious how to subscribe via RSS or email. 
Comments

Bank of America: Mobile Banking Demo Done Right

By Brandon McGee on September 18, 2007 3:30 PM | Comments

BofA_9-17-07_2.jpg

As I have written before on my blog, Mobile Banking, all financial institutions benefit when the large U.S. banks begin promoting the channel; what follows is another perfect example.

 

Here is a well-designed, interactive demo from Bank of America. The bank did an outstanding job illustrating various situations where mobile banking can save time.

The demo covers the critical topics including:

  • View Balances
  • Pay Bills
  • Transfer Funds
  • Find Locations
  • Security
  • Get Started

 

In addition, the demo effectively incorporates a good cross section of target users:

  • Jeanie – young, on a budget, needs to view her balance before a shoe purchase
  • Jim – a white collar professional, traveling on business, needs to pay a bill
  • Samantha – a busy mother of two, needs to transfer money to cover a bill
  • Jake – a traveling student, is out of money and needs to find a branch

If you recently either have launched a mobile solution, or are preparing to do so, I highly recommend that you develop an interactive demo. It will help facilitate client adoption and reduce costly inquires to your already-busy call centers.

Brandon McGee is vice president and senior product manager at The Huntington National Bank. He is not only the real deal, a genuine industry insider, but also knows exactly what's on the minds of financial service pros as they contemplate the various mobile options. For more great content, check out his blog, Mobile Banking.

 

Comments

Bank of America Launches SafePass, but You'd Never Know From its Website

By Jim Bruene on September 12, 2007 10:30 AM | Comments (6)

If you were in the office yesterday, you probably heard about Bank of America's announcement of SafePass, an optional out-of-band authorization technique for high-risk online banking transactions. It was all over the news, including the trades, blogs, and a few mainstream press articles. Here's the press release.

The system, common in many countries, but available only at Citibank in the United States (previous coverage here), sends users a 6-digit code via text message. The code is then entered at BofA's website to authorize larger transfers, new bill-pay merchants, new accounts for funds transfer, or to login from a new computer, not previously "registered" for online banking. VeriSign developed the technology.

The service will roll out across the BofA empire this year, with many customers having it as soon as next week. Next year, a wallet-card token "SafePass card" will be offered for customers who don't have text-messaging capabilities on their phones.

Analysis
SafePass is a solid enhancement to security, at least perceived security, since it probably won't do much to cut down on actual fraud losses. It's already pretty difficult to get through BofA's security gates and pull money out of someone's online account. The bank did the right thing in making it optional. Only the paranoiacs, road warriors, or those with unusually high transaction amounts will want to undergo the extra steps.   

So while it may be ho-hum in terms of fraud reductions, SafePass is brilliant marketing (note 1). It's a tangible and easily understood copy-point as to why one should choose BofA over the other 15,000 U.S. financial institutions. Think of the bragging rights they now have (all firsts are U.S. only):

  • First to integrate mobile messaging into the authentication process
  • First to offer optional extra security
  • First to safeguard the process of adding a new bill payment payee
  • Potentially first to offer choice of token or mobile text message for out-of-channel authorization
  • Only bank able to put "SafePass" on their websitea very good name
  • Able to say, "no one has more security options than us"
  • Able to say they are a "pioneer in security enhancements"
  • Able to they "put the customer in charge of their own extra security"
  • And so on ...

Congratulations to Bank of America for once again raising the bar in online security.

Rant
While I like what the bank has done, once again I find it astonishing that even 48 hours after releasing the news in a press release here, THERE IS NOTHING ON THE BofA WEBSITE ABOUT IT. A site search for "SafePass" pretending to be from North Carolina, New York, or California results yields just a single obscure business insurance product. Bank of America's search doesn't even return the press release announcing the service!

SafePass is also not mentioned in the bank's security, online banking, or mobile banking sections. I've worked in a Fortune 50 company, so I understand all too well how hard it is to sync advertising, PR, sales, and so on at a huge company. But with 22 million active online banking users, you'd think BofA would be a leader in syncing its website to its marketing plan. 

Am I being overly critical?  It's certainly worth writing about. 

Note:

1. For more information on the synergy between security and marketing efforts, see our full report on the subject at Online Banking Report.

Comments (6)

Bank of America's Electronic Statement Icon

By Jim Bruene on August 27, 2007 5:16 PM | Comments

Is there anyone left in America that doesn't have an account at Bank of America? Probably a few, maybe even some of our readers. But if you haven't logged into your account lately, you might have missed the subtle "green marketing" the bank is using to encourage customers to go paperless.

In the screenshot below and closeup above, you can see the little green leaf next to the words "Go Paperless." It's subtle, as good green marketing should be. The leaf not only makes the link stand out, it provides a small reminder that customers can do a little something for the environment, and the bank's bottom line, while they are online.  

Also of interest (by the second arrow), since I only have a credit card, is link cross selling a free "MyAccess Checking Account." 

BofA "account overview" page (23 Aug 2007, Washington state credit-card-only customer)BofA main account page

Finally, the bank doesn't ignore the important logout page, a often-forgotten piece of real estate that can be far more effective than a homepage banner ad. This month, the bank is promoting it's No Fee Mortgage Plus.

BofA logout page (23 Aug 2007, Washington state credit-card-only customer)

BofA logout advertising

Comments

Bank of America Advertising NSF/Overdraft Protection at TechCrunch

By Jim Bruene on July 28, 2007 1:02 PM | Comments (1)

Along with 550,000 other followers of Web 2.0 happenings, I'm a regular reader of Michael Arrington's TechCrunch, although it's harder to keep up with these days as the blog has gone from a couple posts per day to seven or eight. Although I usually read it in an RSS reader, I visit the site once per week or so to read comments.

This week for the first time I noticed financial services advertiser Bank of America, a hardly newsworthy occurrence as Bank of America spent $43 million advertising online last year (here). But the content of the banner proved most interesting (screenshot below); here's what the bank's ad says:

A little knowledge is a powerful thing.
Online Banking Service: Check your balances and account activity so you can help prevent fees.

And the blue button on the right says "Know More Now."

The banner leads to a landing page (here) that discusses a number of topics, but opens to a discussion about overdraft-protection options in the middle of the page (screenshot below). It's very interesting to see a large bank take on this controversial issue in its advertising. It's a good sign that the banking industry is taking the criticisms seriously and is working to educate users on how to avoid fees, even if does impact short-term fee income (see my discussion of how mobile alerts can be used to keep users informed, here).

BofA landing page from TechCrunch ad

Comments (1)

Finding your way to the Social Web

By William Azaroff on July 12, 2007 8:39 PM | Comments (4)

One of the questions that I imagine many companies in virtually every industry is asking themselves is: How can we engage in the social web?

A lot of companies, banks and credit unions among them, see the opportunities that currently exist, but can't find their way in. One of my favourite quotes is from Rob Cottingham of Social Signal. He tells audiences who are looking to start a social web project that "before you look in the monitor, you should look in the mirror". It's fun to start a new project, and often people will start planning a way to leverage a new marketing trend such as social networking before they take a good look at themselves to determine if they have the stomach to open themselves up and take the leap.

Maybe it's not a matter of companies opening themselves up, but understanding where their openness already exists. Every company likely has an area where they are doing the kind of work where they can engage an audience in collaboration. It's a matter of taking the essence of a company's brand and brand positioning and marrying that with their philanthropic activities.

Most companies that are looking to the social web are, I suspect, also looking for ways to further leverage their existing community activities. I wonder how many of them put those two challenges together into the same project. Let's look at one good potential example in the banking sector.

 

Bank of America

Before we begin, I should disclose that I don't know anyone at Bank of America and what follows is my outsider opinion only – some food for thought.

According to bankofamerica.com, they sum up their brand this way:Bank of America

Bank of America’s brand positioning, “Bank of Opportunity,” is emblematic of what Bank of America has always strived for throughout its history ― to create opportunities for the individuals, businesses and communities we serve throughout the world.

Bank of America search resultsIn March, Bank of America announced a $20 Billion environmental sustainability initiative. This is a major investment into changing their business operations and offering new products and services that have a sustainable focus. And yet their website hardly mentions this information. Doing a search on “climate change” on their website only brings up some press releases, a position paper, a speech and some other links to corporate areas of the site. I'm sure they have plans to bring this more front and centre, but what are some good ways to do that online in a way that's meaningful and gains them effective brand differentiation?

This philanthropic work provides an excellent chance to give up a little control in a focused area where they have a clear desire to become a true leader. Based on the amount of money they're planning on investing, this is obviously going to become a key differentiator for their brand, and I imagine they'll find a way to link this back to their brand positioning: Bank of Opportunity. It's not hard to see how that could work, and work well.

As they put money into their first initiatives, they could utilize the social web to engage community to find out first-hand where their money could make the biggest impact, or where their customers think they ought to invest. They could be harnessing the wisdom of crowds to help them create and develop environmentally friendly financial products and services. This could take the form of a social network, they could leverage Facebook, they could start a wiki or a blog. Eventually, when they have some real data about their climate change activities and impacts, they could release that data as an API so people who are passionate about climate change could take the raw data and create mashups that I can't even begin to imagine (but marrying large scale environmental data with Google maps could start to yield some interesting visual possibilities and show how Bank of America is improving America, perhaps even at the neighbourhood level).

By opening up and letting the chips fall where they may, albeit in a calculated way, BofA gets free advice, they attract the input of leaders in this area and they start educating people on their activities. They could introduce this new corporate activity slowly so people understand why they're doing it (perhaps link the concept that America has to be sustainable in order to be prosperous, and that's why a bank is putting money into this kind of work).

Bank of America press releaseThis would also help them win over some needed friends and allies in the environmental movement and encourage dialogue about the challenges we face as a society. There are myriad opportunities for them here, and exciting time to be in the marketing and communications departments, I imagine.

I look forward to seeing how they promote this good work. So far, their first initiative of helping a non-profit purchase an old growth forest with private capital is highly impressive, though definitely under-leveraged on their website. I hope they find a way to surface this work so that people learn about it - I think the social web could be the answer.

Comments (4)

Compete's May Online Financial Shopping Scorecard

By Jim Bruene on July 12, 2007 2:20 PM | Comments

Last month, we introduced the Financial Services Monthly Performance scorecard produced by Compete. Here's the second installment, summarizing the overall performance of 23 large U.S. financial institutions and lead-generation sites. For more information, including the detailed methodology and companies tracked, refer to that post (here).

The highlights:

  • Financial shopping was down or flat in most categories, especially savings accounts; not surprising given the typical tax-time spike in April.
  • The main exception to the trend was checking, which grew a phenomenal 31% in May compared to April. 
  • The main drivers of checking account growth: Bank of America's promotion of free MyAccess Checking (see coverage here) and, to a lesser extent, Wachovia, whose Google/MSN marketing caused a major spike in traffic
  • But it wasn't all rosy in checking accounts: While BofA was experiencing 25% growth in applications, ING Direct went through a typical post-launch downturn with a 50% decline in application volume
  • Credit card conversions were up dramatically, with a 5% increase in application volume despite a 6% drop in shoppers, resulting in a 22% conversion ratio (see note 1) 

Note:

1. Compete revised its card applications show in the previous report. The revised number of card applications:
     March 2007: 1.57 million instead of 1.71 million
     April: 1.70 million instead of 1.88 million with 8% growth instead of 9% 

Comments

Free Checking in the Internet Age

By Jim Bruene on July 6, 2007 3:15 PM | Comments (1)

Bank of America and Chase, two of the three largest U.S. banks, are putting an online spin on free checking offers using online banking, security, and other benefits to encourage applications. On the surface, Bank of America's approach appears much more effective. And with no direct-deposit requirement, it surely generates more new accounts. However, without knowing how the free accounts convert to profitable relationships, it's impossible for an outsider to recommend one approach over another.    

Bank of America
Bank of America's free checking offer (see note 1) is difficult to overlook (screenshot below).  The top-of-the-page banner has animations that showcase the major benefits:

  • online banking
  • bill payment
  • "Keep the Change" debit card savings program
  • SiteKey security

The teaser "We're redefining Free Checking" creates interest while the bright blue "open an account" and "special online-only offer" further entice prospect to click through the banner.

BofA home page with free checking offer

The landing page (screenshot below) reiterates the online benefits and features a large laptop to reinforce the high-tech nature of the account. Two additional benefits are added to the list:

  • Free debit card with security protections
  • Free ATM access at 17,000 BofA machines 

BofA free checking landing page

Notes:

1. The free checking banner appeared in a visit to the homepage from a Seattle IP address at 10 AM Pacific time today. It did not appear on afternoon searches from several computers.

2. The bank uses a live chat popup after lingering on the application for a short time (click on image right for closeup).


Chase Bank
Chase's homepage banner uses the "kitchen sink" approach with an image of an ATM machine, debit card, paper checkbook, laptop, and PDA along the top. The mobile phone is a good addition, but the ATM machine and laptop are so small, they aren't easily recognizable in a quick scan (see screenshot below).

Another problem: the paper checkbook, which is centered and slightly larger than the others, seems to get an inordinate amount of attention. I'm not sure that the checkbook or the debit card add much value. U.S. consumers pretty much realize those are included in a checking account.

Chase's landing page leaves a lot to be desired. The benefits are listed in small, gray type that is relatively hard to read. And the only call to action, if you can describe it as one, is the last line in small blue type, with an underlined "apply online." No buttons + no color + no large font + no offer = no interest.  

Comments (1)

Bank of America Integrates Small Business Financial Services into Microsoft's Startup Center

By Jim Bruene on June 25, 2007 11:34 PM | Comments

It's extremely difficult to win the transaction accounts of small businesses. By the time you know of their existence, they already have their bank accounts in place. And most small businesses are too busy to bother switching accounts to save a few bucks a month, or even to get better products or services.  

One way to grab market share is to find businesses when they are in the pre-startup phase, before they've set up banking accounts. In pre-startup, the prospective business owner is in pure research mode, spending little or no cash. To find these businesses, you need to offer online information that startups value and can find at your site, such as new-business planning advice. Then entice the owner to establish bank accounts with a package of services that appeal to a new business owner.

Bank of America is on the right track with its sponsorship of Microsoft's new Startup Center <startupcenter.com>. It's more like a product placement than a "banner ad" sponsorship. The BofA logo is never even seen in the main content area.

However, the bank's content is tightly integrated throughout, especially in the Finances area. For instance, if a business owner wants to "set up a checking account," the links to detailed information such as "compare now," "get a recommendation," and "get a business check card" all link directly to content housed on Bank of America's website (see screenshot below).

MasterCard is also a primary sponsor, but its content is less integrated. The third core sponsor is Startup Nation.

Microsoft Startup Center Finance section

Analysis
It makes sense for Bank of America to be involved in Microsoft's Startup Center, a  beautifully designed tool all decked out in "Web 2.0" colors and graphics. The content seems appropriate and useful for a startup. However, it will be a challenge for the area to gain traction with actual startups, who are unlikely to be looking to Microsoft for assistance, unless they are software developers.

But you don't have to be a mega-bank or mega-software company to provide valuable services to startups. Financial institutions can partner with local professional service firms such as accountants, consultants, and attorneys, to create content for startups such as Webinars, and in-person seminars. A well-priced package of banking services, positioned and priced for startups, will help you grab new business in the startup sector.

Examples of startup products and services at financial institutions:

For more information, see our Online Banking Report on Small and Microbusiness Online Banking (here). Thanks to Payments News for the link.

Comments

Followup Friday: More on the Bank of America & Verizon Online Billing Co-promotion

By Jim Bruene on April 27, 2007 11:29 AM | Comments (1)

Little did I know when I wrote about Verizon Wireless promoting Bank of America billpay on its site (here), that the company that brokered the deal, CheckFree, along with representatives from both consumer giants, would be presenting the results of the effort at Nacha's Payments conference last week (see note 1). I wasn't there, but I was filled in on the details by CheckFree's PR director Sheryl Roehl.

First, my assumption was wrong. It was NOT a paid placement by BofA. No money changed hands. It was classic joint marketing with each company promoting the other on their websites. The exposure to each others' massive customer bases trumps any concern over who benefits most by converting Verizon customers into ebilling users (see note 2).

In the prior post, I showed you BofA's ad on Verizon's site, here's what the Verizon placement looked like on the bank's site (note 3):

Verizon banner in BofA's main online banking area

Verizon placement in BofA's online banking area

Landing page for the Verizon promo

Verizon landing page from BofA promo

Email me if you'd like the presentation slides, which also include more figures about ebilling adoption (note 4).

Notes:

Penetration of U.S. online household per Harris Interactive, Feb. 2007

1. The joint presentation was by: Angeline DePauw, director electronic remittance Processing, Verizon Communications; Laurie Profilio Sass, eCommerce marketing, Bank of America; and Lori Stepp, managing executive E-bill Adoption Services, CheckFree

2. It's hard to say which company gains the most in an ebill conversion. Verizon saves money by eliminating the paper and BofA potentially converts a customer into ebilling, an important retention benefit.

3. The screenshot is from the NACHA Payments presentation; it is a mockup, note the 2004 date, but presumably is an accurate representation of what the promo looked like.

4. CheckFree presented the latest penetration numbers at the conference, as determined in their Feb. 2007 research conducted by Harris Interactive. Three-quarters of ONLINE households, or about half of all households, now pay a bill or bills online with biller direct (55%) leading pay-anyone (38%) by a measurable margin (19% do both). See inset.

Comments (1)

Bank of America's "Paid Placement" at Verizon Wireless Bill Payment

By Jim Bruene on April 21, 2007 8:37 AM | Comments

Update: It turns out that this was NOT a paid placement, but a joint marketing program. See April 27 post here.  

Here's an interesting twist on marketing bill payment services, Bank of America's  presence  on the Verizon Wireless post-login account page (see note 1). Here's how it works, according to a long-time reader and Verizon customer:

When Verizon wireless customers log in to their Verizon account online, the main page has a banner encouraging them to pay their bills at Bank of America's online billpay site (see below). Verizon also hosts a page on the benefits of paying through Bank of America and a link to the bank's login screen (see below).

I haven't seen this before, but since it all takes place behind Verizon's login, it's not visible to the outside world. I checked out the Verizon website this morning and Bank of America is not mentioned in the public areas. Has anyone seen this at other merchant sites? Leave a comment or email jim@netbanker.com.

Analysis
Everyone assumes that merchants want the bills paid directly on their site to maintain full control of the customer relationship. But evidently, even large merchants can be convinced to share the payment relationship if given proper incentives. 
 

Bank of America Banner on Verizon Main Account Page

Verizon Wireless account page with BofA billpay


More-info Page Hosted by Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless pitch for BofA bill pay  

Note:

1. I am assuming Bank of America is paying for the linkage; but it could be a joint marketing relationship where the bank pitches Verizon Wireless services in return for the exposure. The screenshots were submitted in early April.

Comments

Banks and Credit Unions Go Green with Paperless Promotions

By Jim Bruene on April 5, 2007 10:52 PM | Comments

While many ideas discussed here require significant investment, here's something that any financial institution can do: Go green by supporting the environment through online banking via paper reduction, reduced trips to the bank, and so on.  

Some ideas:

  • Plant a tree: We've seen several financial institutions use this one: A tree is planted whenever a customer signs up for estatements or electronic billpay. The latest to use it, Sovereign Bank and CheckFree today announced a program that donates funds to the National Arbor Day Foundation for setting up new electronic bills (excerpt below, see note 1). Their joint press release (here) contains good background info on the environmental impact of electronic delivery. Bank of America ran a similar promotion last year at this time (news release here, screenshot in note 2, webpage here).
  • As part of the Go Paperless campaign, developed to educate consumers
    about the green-friendly benefits of paperless bills, Sovereign Bank and
    CheckFree will donate $1 to The National Arbor Day Foundation for each new
    electronic bill (e-bill) that customers activate at Sovereign Bank from
    April 1 through May 31, 2007. Each donation will help cover the cost of
    planting one new tree

Bendigo Bank Green program banner

  • Green products: Australia's Bendigo Bank (banner above) and Canada's VanCity CU have entire product lines that encourage environmentally sensitive investment and consumption. Here's the lineup at VanCity:
  • Go carbon neutral: Several banks including HSBC and Bendigo have announced corporate initiatives to reduce carbon emissions or go totally carbon neutral by purchasing carbon offsets. Bendigo even allows customers to buy carbon offsets in its branches or through the mail via a downloadable form (here).
  • Shredding days: This is the perfect springtime event. Invite anyone in the community to drop by the branch to shred sensitive documents, a great post-April 15 event as well. While shredding doesn't help the environment, other than recycling the results, one of the focuses of the event can be eliminating the paper in the first place through electronic statements and bills. During April, dozens of credit unions have shredding days planned, often in conjunction with other April 22 Earth Day activities. For example, Spokane Teachers Credit Union promotes "shred day" at its North Branch with this heading, "STCU helps 'shred' identity theft" (link here).


Note
:

1. The CheckFree/Sovereign program is for e-bills, e.g., bill presentment, NOT bill payment. We missed that the first time through the release.

2. Bank of America's webpage discussing EarthDay 2006 promotion:

Bank of America Earth Day promotion for online statements

Comments

Back Story: Wall Street Journal's Article on Online Financial Planning Tools from Banks

By Jim Bruene on March 13, 2007 12:13 AM | Comments

The Wall Street Journal published an extra section yesterday on personal finance entitled, Your Money Matters. Online financial tools were highlighted in Jane Kim's, "Check it Out: New online tools from financial institutions can help consumers manage their money." 

Here's the back story on several of the items mentioned in the article:

  • Our sister publication, Online Banking Report, was cited as the source of the following statistic: "About 16% of U.S. households used some personal-finance feature at least once in 2006. That percentage is expected to climb to an estimated 33% by 2016, with nearly three-quarters of those households using personal-finance tools offered by their financial institution online."

    The information cited in the WSJ story was contained in the report we published last fall in Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (OBR 131/132see Table 3, p. 3, lines 4 and 10). Current usage estimates were based in part from data provided by Javelin Strategy as shown in Table 2 on the same page. 
  • Wells Fargo My Spending Report CLICK TO ENLARGE In the article, Bank of America's My Portfolio was the first of two existing personal finance tools mentioned. The service, powered by Yodlee, was quietly launched in December and was covered in NetBanker at the time (link here) and received an OBR Best of the Web award in our final report of 2006 (OBR 137) where it was rated the third most important development of 2006.   
  • The second example cited was Wells Fargo's MySpendingReport (see inset and previous coverage here). The service, which is basically just a consolidated view statement data across the bank's transaction accounts, is a great example of positioning online banking features in a way that resonates with users. It was awarded an OBR Best of the Web in 2005, finishing the year as the tenth most important new development of the year (report here).

The story finished with hints of new services planned for later this year at Everbank, Bremer Financial (powered by Corillian), and a Digital Insight tool that allows users to hand enter additional bill payments in order to their entire payments picture in one place.

Comments

In 2006, 86% of credit card direct mail included online options

By Jim Bruene on March 5, 2007 11:13 AM | Comments (4)

Advertising-monitoring firm, Mintel Comperemedia reported last week that nearly 9 out of 10 credit card solicitations in 2006 directed recipients to the Web, up sharply from 56% in 2003 (see note 1, 2). Several big mailers, namely American Express, still seem reluctant to use website response as an option, at least in the mailers we see at our house.

American Express tests must show a drop in response by offering too many choices. But if you don't have the budget of American Express, which can afford to drop a mail piece in every credit-worthy household every two or three weeks, you should add website options to your direct mail creative. That way, you can at least capture a lead at your website, even if they don't ultimately accept your credit offer. 

Total mailing volume for 2006 was 9.2 billion pieces (see note 1), or about 3 per week per credit-worthy household. Two of those were from the five largest mailers listed below which accounted for more than 60% of the volume, according to Comperemedia. JPMorgan Chase accounted for 18% on its own. 

In another data slice from Comperemedia, cited by Capital One in a Feb. 2006 investor presentation (PDF here), response rates have fallen from 1.4% in 1995 to 0.3% in 2004 (see note 3).

Here's a breakdown of the billion-piece club, and their percent change compared to 2005:  

1. Chase >>> 1.7 billion (down 4%)

2. Capital One >>> 1.2 billion (up 13%)

3. American Express >>> 1 billion

4. Citibank >>> 980 million (down 2%)

5. Bank of America/MBNA >>> 920 million (down 17%)

Other top-10 mailers: HSBC (up 25%); Discover (up 29%); Barclays Bank (190 million, up 70%)

Note:

1. Comperemedia tracks mailing volume for more than 150 large financial institutions. So the figures here do not include mailings from thousands of smaller banks and credit unions. In total, those probably account for less than 5% of the total from the top-150. 

2. Comperemedia press release is here. Interview of Comperemedia director Jenny Roock by MediaPost is here.

3. Credit card response rate slide from Capital One's investor presentation (PDF) at the Debt & Equity Conference, Feb. 2006; data from Comperemedia.

Credit card industry response rates

Comments (4)

Bank of America Opens One New Checking Account per Branch per Day

By Jim Bruene on February 28, 2007 11:31 AM | Comments (6)

The folks at BAI, using research by Raddon Financial, ran the numbers on new checking account sales per branch and found that Bank of America is opening 31 new checking accounts per branch per month, or just about one per day (article here). WaMu did better with 39 per month or 1.3/day. The article said community banks typically get only about one-fifth that,  just 2 new checking accounts per week per branch.

I'm not sure exactly what those numbers mean, but someday in a meeting when you are trying to make a case for new investment in your website, you can counter the, "but customers love the branches" with, "sure they do, but even BofA, who spends more than $200 million/year advertising, only manages to sell one checking account per day per branch" (see top 2005 advertisers here). It still might not mean anything, but it makes it sound like you've done your homework.

The problem with comparing branch-account openings to online-account openings is they are not separate ecosystems. Would the account have been opened online without a nearby branch? Or did that account, opened at the branch, come as a result of research conducted online by the customer? In the U.S., you need both channels for the foreseeable future, unless you sell a financial product that doesn't need physical support, like a savings account (see note 1).

Another wild card: How do you gauge the impact of increasingly prominent website offers like this one currently running on the checking account page at <bankofamerica.com> (see note 2)? Naturally, to get the $50 you have to open the account online.

Bank of America landing page for $50 checking account offer

Notes:

1. For more information on the future of the online channel vs. branch, see our report, The Demise of the Branch, published spring 2006 in Online Banking Report (OBR 128).

2. The offer was presented to a non-customer browsing the main Bank of America site from a Seattle IP address and indicating their state of residence was Nevada.

Comments (6)

Bank of America Posting Content at its .mobi Address

By Jim Bruene on February 19, 2007 10:42 AM | Comments

Bank of America is gearing up to launch nationwide mobile access this year. The region-by-region rollout begins in Tennessee next month (see note 1 below). Few details are available, but it sounds like WAP banking, similar to Wachovia's approach announced in December. We'll analyze BofA's approach in great detail as more information becomes available. With 21 million online banking accounts, just about anything they do has the distinct possibility of becoming the de facto standard.

Bank of America's .mobi home page As you think about your future mobile offerings, one detail to be wrapped up immediately is registering your .mobi address. While it's too soon to tell if that address ever becomes popular, Bank of America, for one, has staked a claim at that site putting bank info and a zipcode-based ATM/branch locater at its .mobi address, <bofa.mobi> (see screenshot right).

We did a quick search this morning and found no other top-30 retail bank with a functioning .mobi address, at least none using the standard version of the bank's name as the address, e.g., keybank.mobi. Worse, a number of the .mobi addresses appear to be registered to domain-name squatters (see note 2), so it will take time and money to wrest those names away from the original registrants.

So if you haven't already, at least spend $20 and register your bank's .mobi address. For more details on how to launch mobile services, see our upcoming report due out later this week at OnlineBankingReport.com.

Note: 

1. Some Bank of America regions have already posted the features and benefits of mobile banking at the regular website. For example, make sure you have selected "Tennessee" as your state at BankofAmerica.com, then click here to see the mobile banking section (screenshot also shown below). 

Bank of America's mobile banking website info (STATE = TENNESSEE)

2. The following addresses appear to be registered to entities NOT affiliated with the bank: suntrust.mobi, usbank.mobi, nationalcity.mobi, pncbank.mobi, capitalone.mobi, unionbank.mobi, commercebank.mobi, and zionsbank.mobi 

Comments

Email: Bank of America's "Ring in the New Year" Credit Card Balance

By Jim Bruene on December 27, 2006 7:59 AM | Comments

Here's a timely email from Bank of America, inviting its credit card customers to start the year off with a 3.99% balance-transfer offer. But the savings won't last long, since the rate resets after August 2007.

Here are the specs:

  • Subject: Use your Bank of America® credit card today.
  • From: Bank of America [BankofAmerica@loyaltyemail.bankofamerica.com]
  • To: jim@netbanker.com
  • Product type: Credit card balance transfer
  • Offer: 3.99% through August 2007 (cash advance fee NOT waived)
  • Customer type: Mailed to current credit card customers
  • Personalization: Full name and last 4 digits of account number

Screenshots:

Email body


Bank of America email with 3.99% credit card balance transfer CLICK TO ENLARGE

Landing page

Bank of America landing page from credit card email CLICK TO ENLARGE

Comments

Bank of America is First Major U.S. Bank to Integrate Personal Finance into Online Banking

By Jim Bruene on December 26, 2006 3:33 PM | Comments (1)

Link to Online Banking Report Best of WebBank of America is the first major U.S. bank to provide full online personal financial management (PFM) within its online banking service. It's an important development and one we predicted in our detailed look at online personal finance (Online Banking Report #131/132, published in September). So, in conjunction with our sister publication, we are awarding it the fifth and final OBR Best of the Web for 2006 (click here for other recent winners).

The bank uses its Yodlee-powered My Portfolio account-aggregation service to deliver the PFM functions. BofA is the first financial institution to use Yodlee's new MoneyCenter module since its launch six months ago (see our coverage here).

The bank has chosen to offer the full MoneyCenter suite with Net Worth Summary, Investment Detail, Transactions, Rewards, Email, and Search on the main page (see screenshot below).

My Portfolio also includes basic personal finance functionality, including budgeting, categorizing and a nice array of preformatted reports including:

  • Cash Flow Analysis
  • Expense Analysis
  • Budget vs. Actual
  • Credit Card Utilization
  • Get Transaction Reports
  • Set Budget Goals

See Online Banking Report 131/132 for more details on Yodlee's MoneyCenter.

Analysis
Overall, we believe the new PFM functions are a great addition to the bank's online banking program. However, it still feels a bit "bolted on" to the core online banking service. For instance, My Portfolio does not yet warrant a place on the primary top navigation bar. Instead, users must click on a link in the middle of the main Account Overview screen.

Once the Yodlee-powered service has loaded (which took 10 to 15 seconds in our tests at broadband speeds), it's relatively well integrated. A second My Portfolio navigation bar is loaded under the main online banking navigation. Finally, a third row displays the options available for each function in row two (see screenshot below).

The pages load relatively fast as long as you stay within the My Portfolio area. However, moving back and forth between BofA-served online banking functions and Yodlee-served My Portfolio functions is a bit clunky with the 15-second delay. But the overall experience will be fine once My Portfolio is incorporated into primary navigation.   

The main My Portfolio page is automatically pre-filled with applicable BofA accounts; however, in my case, I was unable to update older credit card information. When clicking Update All Accounts in the upper right, error messages indicated that my Bank of America credit cards could not be updated (see screenshot below).

Bank of America My Portfolio error screen

Comments (1)

Holiday Bank Marketing Continued

By Jim Bruene on December 24, 2006 10:29 AM | Comments

As mentioned last week (here), U.S. banks are starting to get more creative with their websites, with 12 of the 30 largest (note 1) injecting a bit of holiday spirit into their websites.

This year, three of the top-30 banks had major holiday themes running on their homepages; in 2004, none did. And today we viewed another nine with minor holiday sprinkles, making 12 in total. Two years ago, four banks had minor holiday-themed promotions.

We expected to see more banks marketing gift cards, one of the hottest holiday gifts, especially during the last few days before Christmas. Only four banks mentioned gift cards on their homepages on Dec. 24 (note 2):

  • National City
  • BB&T
  • North Fork Bank
  • Commerce Bank

Here is a rundown of those with major holiday themes:

  1. Citibank: Citi had the best overall holiday theme as  it continued pushing its 5% e-Savings Account, with a clever 5% "ornament" hung next to traditional Christmas decorations (see screenshot below).

    Citibank holiday homepage CLICK TO ENLARGE
  2. PNC Bank: Runner-up was PNC with its unique brand of holiday marketing, a tongue-in-cheek look at the cost of the items listed in the popular Christmas song, Twelve Days of Christmas. It's a holiday tradition at PNC which has been tracking the holiday index for 22 years (see screenshot below).

    PNC Bank holiday homepage CLICK TO ENLARGE
  3. Bank of America: The largest online bank used a holiday theme, and $100 off a Dell PC, to encourage users to join the other 20 million BofA customers using its online banking. Customers hitting the bank's homepage were greeted with an animated banner displaying a wrapped package, which after two seconds changed to the Dell deal (see before and after screenshots below).

    Showing before and after package animation:

    Bank of America holiday homepage before CLICK TO ENLARGE

Bank of America holiday homepage after CLICK TO ENLARGE

Other top-30 banks with holiday-oriented images on their homepages:

  • Chase Bank: snow globe with 0% credit card offer
  • Wells Fargo: packages
  • Washington Mutual: snowball with 30-second credit card application
  • Citizens Bank: packages with a debit card rewards promo
  • National City: snowflakes with gift card promo
  • BB&T: packages with a gift card promo
  • Countrywide Bank: snow and packages with a loan promo
  • North Fork Bank: Radio City promo with $15 off coupon and gift cards
  • Commerce Bank: packages with gift card promo

Notes:

  1. According to Online Banking Report's list of the 150 largest U.S. financial institutions as of 31 March 2006 (link here).
  2. Searches conducted during late morning (EST) on Dec. 24, 2006, from a southwest Florida IP address. Although gift cards were not mentioned on US Bank's homepage on Dec. 24, we had seen them advertised on previous visits, although not necessarily on ithe homepage.
Comments

Bank of America Advertises "Your Own Bank" in NY Times

By Jim Bruene on November 24, 2006 9:41 AM | Comments

Today's New York Times (p. A8, national edition) has a half-page, red-and-blue ad for Bank of America dominated by the headline:

If you have a computer, you have a bank.

The visual is a generic laptop with a generic browser displaying Bank of America's homepage. Text copy and sub-heads emphasized that 20 million are now using BofA online banking.

The ad-copy emphasized three benefits:

  • Instant and free funds-transfer to anyone with a BofA account
  • My Portfolio, the bank's account aggregation service
  • Security features

Call to action: visit www.bankofamerica.com/yourownbank (see screenshot below).

Screenshot: Bank of America's landing page
(click to enlarge)

BofA landing page from NY Times ad CLICK TO ENLARGE

Analysis
There are several interesting things about this ad.

  1. No offer. The bank, which recently tested the richest new account bonus we'd ever seen costing it as much as $300 per new checking account, offers NOTHING. And this is an ad on black Friday, where stores typically offer monster loss-leaders to lure customers into their stores early on the biggest shopping day of the year.
  2. Account aggregation featured: I can't recall the last time a major bank featured account aggregation as one of the three biggest benefits of banking online. Could this mean that BofA is going to begin emphasizing the feature more in its national advertising? If so, it could reinvigorate the service.
  3. Customization deja vu : The "yourownbank" landing page is reminiscent of the bank's late-90s website-customization engine called Build Your Own Bank (see 1999 screenshot below). Given the landing page URL, we thought BofA might be pitching customization again, but it's really just a play off the ad's headline, that your computer is now your bank.

Taken together, it's an interesting effort, although it looks more like corporate branding rather than an effort that will generate enough accounts to justify the five-figure tab to the NY Times.

Screenshot: BofA's Build Your Own Bank from 1999
(click to enlarge)

1999 screenshot from BofA CLICK TO ENLARGE

Comments

Chase Fails to Design Email for Outlook's Preview Pane

By Jim Bruene on November 9, 2006 9:56 AM | Comments

More than 70% of business-email users view most or all of their email messages in the preview pane.* Depending on screen size, resolution, and window sizing, the real estate available in the preview pane can be relatively small.

When designing messages, be sure to put the most important information in the upper-left corner to maximize visibility in the preview pane.

Here is a poorly designed email Chase sent to confirm posting of a credit card payment. It requires users to scroll right to view Chase's logo and log-in button. Here's how it looks on my 12-inch laptop screen running at 1024 x 768:

What not to do from Chase:

Chase email alert

Better design from Bank of America graphics flush left:

Bank of America email alert CLICK TO ENLARGE

(Note: BofA shows the last four digits of your account number; we changed them to xxxx in the screenshot above.)

Action Items
Even though it's just a routing email message, the poor layout makes it look like a phishing message. Chase could clean this up with just a few minutes of programming work. While they are at it, they should add a personal greeting and additional text disclosures to make it look less phishy. 

*For more information, read our Online Banking Report #129/139, Email Marketing for Financial Services.

Comments

Bank of America Uses Radio to Drive Website Credit Card Applications

By Jim Bruene on November 7, 2006 9:23 AM | Comments

At 8:30 AM today, we heard an unusual advertisement on classic rock radio for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines affinity card.

It wasn't the ad itself that was so spectacular, although it's not every day that you hear credit cards being pitched on radio. And it wasn't the offer that made the ad stand out, although 20,000 bonus miles is a pretty good perk.

What made it memorable was the call to action, "visit myalaskacard.com." They didn't even bother to throw an 800 number into the spot.

It's hard to say whether a radio spot will prove cost effective, but using a memorable URL should help. It's far easier to remember than a telephone number, and prospective applicants can be immediately greeted with an effective sales pitch reinforcing the product benefits and bonus offer.

Analysis
Google results for "my alaska card" However, once again BofA stumbles with its search engine support (see previous article). Searching on Google for "my Alaska card" brings up a single ad for a Web-based portal site, CreditStep.com (click on inset for closeup).

In fact, we tested every variation of "my" + "alaska" + "airlines" + "credit" + "card" and BofA was nowhere to be seen UNLESS we dropped "my" from the search query. Interestingly, Chase was an aggressive advertiser on several of the search terms offering a competing airline card with 15,000 bonus miles. BofA showed up as an advertiser only when we dropped the "my" from the search query.

The lack of advertising against "my alaska card" is especially damaging because the first few organic search results do not link to BofA or Alaska Airlines. Also, if you type a similar URL, such as www.alaskacard.com or www.alaskaairlinescard.com you either end up at a generic link site or an error page. At this point, potential prospects will either apply at the wrong place or give up on the search. 

If you correctly input the exact URL, you end up at the following landing page. It's OK, but should reinforce the impressive benefits of applying now, a free ticket right away and a $50 companion ticket every year on renewal (see screenshot below).

Action Items
Here's what you should do to ensure better search-engine support for your offline advertising:

  1. Advertise at search engines on likely search terms that would be used by consumers responding to your advertising
  2. Create a memorable URL that is not easily mistyped
  3. Register or purchase domains similar to the advertised URL (including common misspellings), or pay the owner to refer traffic to your landing page
  4. Design a landing page that boldly supports the benefits in your advertising and includes a prominent "Apply" button

BofA landing page for myalaskacard.com

Comments

Bank of America's $250+ Premium: Richest Ever?

By Jim Bruene on October 30, 2006 9:57 AM | Comments

Bank of America is offering $250 for new customers willing to open a checking and savings account. And customers willing to play the "Keep the Change" debit-card game could easily rack up another $20 to $50 or more in freebies with the bank's three-month, 100% match (bonus averages $0.50 per debit card transaction). See our previous coverage here.

Wow! Even adjusting for inflation, that's about 10x the free toaster deal of the 1960s. Here's the link (screenshot below).

There is only one "catch" to the offer. It applies only to consumers outside the bank's sprawling branch network; however, we were able to see the offer no matter what state we entered into the initial screen.

But as long as you live in Nebraska, North Dakota, or other non-BofA states, it's very easy to earn the $250. Just drop $100 in savings and $25 in checking and the bank will triple your outlay. There's no direct deposit or online bill payment requirement, the norm for most online offers. However, the MyAccess checking account is only free if direct deposit is used, otherwise it costs $5.95/mo.

Bank of America $250 offer CLICK TO ENLARGE

Credit for first posting the offer goes to SlickDeals.net. We saw it first at BankDeals

Comments

Bank of America's Multimedia No-Fee Mortgage Promo Omits Key Search Term

By Jim Bruene on October 20, 2006 5:16 PM | Comments

When Bank of America launches a new product, you might as well try to ride on their coattails rather than fight it. One obscure loan-referral website is doing just that.

Bank of America's product-du-jour, at least in our Seattle market (UPDATE 10 Jan 2007: Confirmed as a market test in this article here), is a unique no-fee mortgage that comes with a built-in "refi" option. The refi feature allows users to lower their underlying mortgage annually if rates drop. It's a product that makes a ton of sense for today's savvy mortgage holders, who know when to hold 'em and also when to fold 'em into lower-rate loans.

The bank has been blitzing the market with branch, Web (see End Notes), and radio advertising for the product. Today's mid-day radio spot included a URL in the call to action, <bankofamerica.com/nofeemortgage>. Typing that URL directly into the browser leads to the correct Bank of America landing page (see screenshot in End Notes).

However, for a good portion of listeners that navigate with Google, typing "bank of america no fee mortgage" brought search results that did NOT include the bank as an advertiser although they were the second organic result listed (see screenshot below).

Google search results for "bank of america no fee mortgage"

Google search for "Bank of America no fee mortgage" CLICK TO ENLARGE

Surprisingly, the top advertiser, YourQuoteOnline, was running an ad that was rather deceptive (see screenshot above). It fooled me into thinking it was a BofA ad.

A similar search for "Bank of America mortgage no fee" did bring up the bank's Google ad (see below), although it linked to a "$2,000 savings" landing page (see End Notes) instead of the no-fee promotional page. Evidently, Bank of America has not properly coded their search-word criteria to include the more obvious search term or to send searchers to the current no-fee campaign page. The bank is leaving money on the table by allowing some of the traffic generated by its advertising to be funneled off to other companies.

Google search results for "bank of america mortgage no fee"

End Notes (click continuation link for footnotes)

Banner advertising at About.com's banking blog <bank.about.com>

Bofa_ads_aboutdotcom

Landing page for direct navigation to <bankofamerica.com/nofeemortgage>

Bofa_nofeemortgage_url

Landing page from bank's Google ad on "bank of america mortgage no fee"

Bofa_mtg_landing

Comments

Bank of America Adds 760,000 Users in Third Quarter

By Jim Bruene on October 19, 2006 11:44 AM | Comments

Although growth has slowed, as it must when you have the penetration of Bank of America, the company still managed to add 760,000 active* online banking users and 430,000 active* bill pay users in the latest quarter. The bank's $15 enrollment bonus surely helped boost the total (see Aug. 11 post).

Excluding PayPal with 31 million active users (includes international accounts, see previBofA active users CLICK TO ENLARGEous post), Bank of America continues to hold a large lead over the next largest U.S. online banking base, Wells Fargo's 8 million.

Although the bank posted an impressive 6.3 million gain year over year, about 4.5 to 5 million of that appears attributable to the MBNA acquisition (see chart below).

Bank of America Active* User Base
Qtr  Online Banking   Bill Pay
2006 (includes MBNA)
Q3....20.6 million   10.8 million 
Q2....19.8 million   10.4 million
Q1....19.6 million   10.1 million

2005 (excludes MBNA)
Q4....14.7 million    7.3 million
Q3....14.3 million    7.0 million

*BofA defines Active as having used the service in the past 90 days.

BofA bill pay volume CLICK TO ENLARGE On the bill-pay front, the bank processed $49 billion in payments for its users during the quarter, up $2.1 billion over the previous quarter (+4.5%). The average payment amount was $4,500 per active bill pay user, or $1,500 per month with 84% of the payments delivered to the payee in electronic form (ACH).

The bank also reported e-bill delivery volume of 21 million in the quarter from 370 billers.

Thanks to Scott Loftesness at Payments News for digging through the bank's 47-page earnings supplement for these gems (see pp. 18-19).

Comments

Bank of America Pitches Identity Theft Protection at Logoff

By Jim Bruene on October 17, 2006 1:54 PM | Comments (2)

While there's nothing unusual about the product or offer, with 50% market share in online banking, everything Bank of America does at its website is news.

After reviewing my credit card balance online today, I was greeted with a 30-day free trial offer for Bank of America's Privacy Assist Premier, a daily credit-monitoring, three-bureau service priced at $12.99/mo.

Below is the splash screen displayed after logging out from online banking:

We were a bit surprised at the lack of disclosure on this screen; not a single word about the eventual $156 annual cost, to which even the most well-heeled BofA clients may take exception.

Another surprise: Clicking the Accept button simply dropped us back on the home page with not a word of thanks or any confirmation that our selection was accepted.

However, most users will be smart enough to choose Learn More before signing up. On that landing page the cost is well documented appearing in the first bullet point in the shaded box (see below).

Comments (2)

Webby Award Deadline Oct. 27

By Jim Bruene on September 19, 2006 2:46 PM | Comments

Webby_logoThe 11th annual website beauty contest, The Webby Awards, is accepting entries for the best websites and interactive advertising campaigns. Financial institutions may compete in any of the advertising categories, or one of the three website categories:

  • Best Banking/Bill Pay
  • Insurance
  • Financial services (everything other than banking or insurance)

Allstate_nowwhat_1Last year the winners were Bank of America in Banking/Bill Pay; PayPal in Financial Services; and Allstate's nowwhat.com in the Insurance category (see inset).

Early entry deadline is Oct. 27. Fee is US$125.

Comments

Bank of America Pays $15 to Enroll in Online Banking

By Jim Bruene on August 11, 2006 5:01 PM | Comments

Bofa_15onlinebanking_home What's better than free online banking and bill payment? Getting paid 15 bucks to sign up. In a late summer effort to bump up the size of what is already the world's largest online banking program, Bank of America is paying non-users $15 to sign up for online banking. And it's not a subtle statement-stuffer program: the large banner dominates the bank's homepage today (click on inset for a closer look and see the landing page below).

BofA checking customers must merely complete the online sign-up application before Sept. 1 to receive an extra $15 in their accounts before Thanksgiving. They aren't even required to use the service after the initial signup.

Analysis
First, why Bank of America, already synonymous with FREE online banking, would pay to get more users is beyond me, but I'm sure they have research to back up this move. And even if you agree it is worth paying for enrollment, $15 seems like too much. Why not $10 or even $5? If the bank is just trying to nudge fence-sitters into online banking, it doesn't seem like the dollar amount needs to be very high. Even a sweepstakes might do the same thing.

--JB

Bofa_15olb_landing

Comments

Best Internet Banks from Global Finance Magazine

By Jim Bruene on August 8, 2006 11:07 AM | Comments

Globalfinance_logoIn its seventh annual Internet-bank "beauty contest," Global Finance Magazine <gfmag.com> named Bank of America the best consumer Internet bank in the United States and Citigroup the best corporate Internet bank. Apparently, the magazine loves Citigroup's work, naming it the best corporate Internet bank in 46 countries and best consumer Internet bank in 11 countries including Germany, United Kingdom, and Indonesia (see list of complete winners, by country, by clicking on the link at the bottom of this article). 

The magazine also named winners in specific categories. In the United States, the winners were:

Consumer Internet Banks:

Best investment management services: Bank of America

Best bill payment and presentment: Bank of America

Best online consumer credit: Wells Fargo

Best website design: Wells Fargo

Best integrated consumer bank site: Bank of America

Best information security initiatives: Bank of America

Best online deposits acquisition: TD Bank Financial Group
-

Corporate/Institutional Internet Banks:

Best online cash management: Citigroup

Best trade finance services: Citigroup

Best website design: Wells Fargo

Best integrated corporate bank site: Wells Fargo

Best information security initiatives: JPMorgan Chase

-

-

Global Finance Magazine's Best Internet Banks for 2006

Country

Consumer

Corporate/Institutional

Argentina

Banco Rio de la Plata, S.A.

Citigroup

Australia

HSBC

Citigroup

Austria

RZB

RZB

Bahrain

Citigroup

--

Belgium

Citigroup

--

Bolivia

--

Citigroup

Brazil

Banco Bradesco

Banco Bradesco

Brunei

HSBC

--

Cameroon

--

Citigroup

Canada

TD Bank Financial Group

TD Bank Financial Group

Chile

Citigroup

BBVA

China

Ind. & Com’l Bank of China

Citigroup

Colombia

Citigroup

BBVA

Congo

--

Citigroup

Costa Rica

--

Citigroup

Cote D'Ivoire

--

Citigroup

Dominican Republic

--

Citigroup

Dubai

National Bank of Dubai

National Bank of Dubai

Ecuador

--

Citigroup

Egypt

Citigroup

Citigroup

El Salvador

--

Citigroup

Finland

--

Citigroup

France

--

Citigroup

Gabon

--

Citigroup

Germany

Citigroup

JPMorgan Chase

Greece

Citigroup

Piraeus Bank/Winbank

Guatemala

--

Citigroup

Haiti

--

Citigroup

Honduras

--

Citigroup

Hong Kong

HSBC

Citigroup

India

ICICI Bank Ltd.

ICICI Bank Ltd

Indonesia

Citigroup

Citigroup

Ireland

--

Citigroup

Israel

--

Citigroup

Italy

--

Citigroup

Jamaica

--

Citigroup

Kenya

--

Citigroup

Korea

--

Citigroup

Kyrgyzstan

AsiaUniversalBank (AUB)

AsiaUniversalBank (AUB)

Malaysia

HSBC

OCBC

Mexico

Banamex

Banamex

Netherlands

--

Citigroup

Nigeria

--

Citigroup

Oman

BankMuscat

--

Pakistan

Citigroup

Citigroup

Panama

--

Citigroup

Paraguay

--

Citigroup

Peru

BBVA

Citigroup

Philippines

Citigroup

Bank of the Philippines

Poland

Bank Millennium

Citigroup

Portugal

Millennium BCP

Millennium BCP

Puerto Rico

Banco Santander

Citigroup

Qatar

Qatar National Bank

Qatar National Bank

Russia

ZAO Raiffeisenbank

Citigroup

Saudi Arabia

Samba

Samba

Senegal

--

Citigroup

Singapore

Citigroup

--

Spain

BBVA

Citigroup

South Africa

--

Citigroup

Sri Lanka

HSBC

--

Switzerland

--

Citigroup

Taiwan

Citigroup

Chinatrust Com’l Bank

Tanzania

--

Citigroup

Thailand

Citigroup

Citigroup

Trinidad & Tobago

--

Citigroup

Turkey

Garanti Bank

Akbank

Uganda

--

Citigroup

United Arab Emirates

HSBC

HSBC

United Kingdom

Citigroup

HSBC

United States

Bank of America

Citigroup

Uruguay

--

Citigroup

Venezuela

Banco de Venezuela

BBVA Banco Provincial

Zambia

--

Citigroup

Source: Global Finance Magazine <gfmag.com>, July 8, 2006

Comments

Bank of America's Expandable Landing Page

By Jim Bruene on July 11, 2006 12:02 PM | Comments

Bofa_keepchange_msn_landingBank of America is back on the MSN front page (see End Notes) using its clever, if somewhat misleading, Keep the Change program to lure new checking account customers (see End Note below). The pitch is similar to the last time we looked at it (see NB 2/13/06), but the bank has redesigned the landing page (click on inset for closeup).

It now features three compelling benefits:

  • Free money through "Keep the Change"
  • Extra security through Sitekey (powered by PassMark/RSA)
  • Free online banking

The bank has found an effective way to keep the landing page concise, but still discuss all the benefits of these three programs. Each of the three main features has a small box on the landing page (see right). Each box has a "more details" link that expands the box yet does not open a new browser window (click on before and after pics below). Finally, for users needing even more info, there's a link in the larger box to another page with full details.

Before expansion

Bofa_keepchange_box_1

After expansion

Bofa_keepchange_box_expanded_1

--JB >>>>click below for End Notes

End Notes: Playing the "Keep the Change" game
Although we have mixed feelings about the value of the program overall, there's no doubt it has strong appeal for new account aquisition due to the 100% bank-match during the first three months. It creates a "game" for the user, incenting them to immediately begin using their new debit card to rack up free cash from the bank. That means new customers will need to deposit signficant funds, probably their paycheck, in order to fund the purchases needed to maximize the gains.

Assuming one debit card purchase per day, users will gain $10 per month from the bank, or $30 for the three-month introductory period. After that, the bank match drops to 5%, or $0.50 per month in this scenario.

Hard-core debit card users with two or three purchases per day could earn $60 or $90 during the matching period, And those gaming the system, splitting a $10.20 grocery bill into two $5.10 transactions (earning $1.80 from BofA), could drive their bonus into the $100+ category (the bank caps the rebate at $250, and doesn't pay it until the one-year anniversary). 

BofA Banner on MSN Homepage (July 11)

Bofa_keepchange_msn

Comments

Bank of America Aggressively Courts Small Business

By Jim Bruene on June 9, 2006 9:49 AM | Comments

You couldn't miss BofA's bright-red, full-page spread in the business section of yesterday's New York Times (national edition, printed in Seattle, code YT, p. C9). In two-inch reverse type the ad screamed:

Payroll Free.

Below the heading:

Introducing Business 24/7, a suite of remarkable new online banking tools for small business owners.

Then in smaller print under the red box:

Business 24/7 is a remarkable new way to manage your small business finances. Online Business Suite only from Bank of America lets you send invoices and receive payments online so you get paid faster. Easy Online Payroll is the first complete online payroll service that's free.* Visit your nearest Bank of America banking center to open a business checking account and take advantage of these services.

To learn more visit bankofamerica.com/business24-7

Fine print:

*Easy Online Payroll is free when all your employees have direct deposit to a Bank of America  account. Otherwise, there is a monthly fee of $5 per employee up to a maximum of $15 per month.

Bofa_smallbiz_landingThe landing page specified in the print ad, opens to an impressive Flash animation that's a lot like watching an interactive TV ad. You can see what it looks like by clicking on the screenshot right, but you should look at it live to see how voice and animation are used to create an excellent sales pitch.

To leave the commercial, users select the "Get Started" button in the lower right, which leads to another landing page highlighting five key aspects of the service: Business Checking, Easy Online Payroll, Online Business Suite, Small Business Health Insurance, and Business Credit (see screenshot below right).

Bofa_smallbiz_landing2The core of the account from an online banking perspective, is the Online Business Suite. It is comprised of three modules, as shown below. The payables and receivables modules are optional, but the online banking is required. The total package runs $35/mo as follows:

  1. Online banking for $15/mo
  2. Online accounts payables (bill pay) for $10/mo
  3. Online accounts receivable (invoicing) for $10/mo

 

Analysis
Like bill payment, BofA is using FREE online banking services to grab attention, a tried-and-true technique. In this case, the free payroll isn't as free as bill payment, since it requires the employee to have direct deposit with the bank. But with the fee capped at $15 per month, most small businesses won't be complaining about payroll fees.

And the entire account is far from free. In addition to the cost of the checking account, the Business Suite runs $35/mo, payroll for three or more is $15/mo additional, bringing the entire online package to $50/mo. This won't appeal to the microbusiness market, the under-$50,000 crowd of part-time entrepreneurs, but for a full-time business with three or more employees, it's a good value (businesses must be under $20 million in revenue to use this service). When BofA adds remote deposit-capture capabilities, it will be even better.

--JB

Comments

Check-Scanning ATMs to Receive 15 Minutes of Fame

By Jim Bruene on May 18, 2006 1:54 PM | Comments

Bofa_atmWondering what to call your remote deposit-capture service? Just wait a few months and Bank of America will solve that problem for you. The bank, and its $175 million advertising budget (see NetBanker May 17), is on the verge of making check-scanning ATMs a household name.

According to last week's Wall Street Journal (May 8), "The Envelope-Free ATM," BofA will use television to trumpet the new feature as it rolls out 1700 next-generation ATMs by the end of the year. Bank of America has an ATM base of 15,000.

As you recall, the last time BofA used its advertising budget to push a new high-tech feature, free bill pay, in 2002, it set off a chain reaction that has resulted in bill payment being free at most U.S. financial institutions.

We expect the BofA advertising to be the beginning of mass adoption of check scanning at ATMs, self-service teller-assisted stations in branches, and for business customers, in-home/office devices.

Analysis
Today there are only about 4000 check-scanning ATMs in the United States compared to 396,000 conventional machines, so it will be years before there is a critical mass of the new machines. TowerGroup predicts that 25% of the 200,000 bank-owned machines will feature check imaging in 2010 (see chart below).

Atm_chart_2

Financial institutions of all sizes should accelerate their plans to harness the technology. As the branch network is downsized, this is one of the ways the impact on consumers will be minimized. The extra $10,000 to $15,000 per ATM expense is relatively insignificant considering the labor savings from the device. TowerGroup estimates a 75% decrease in processing costs to just $0.40 per item compared to $1.70 for checks deposited with a teller or by means of an envelope dropped into an ATM. That means the breakeven is often less than 10,000 deposited items per machine, assuming the bank is able to reduce back-office or branch labor. This does not include the expected lower fraud costs.

However, this particular technology is more about customer satisfaction than cost reductions. Customers will love this system once they understand it. Not only is there instant feedback with an image of the deposited items, users also get the peace of mind of being able to access the image through their online bank system. Yet, another way that online banking adds value to the relationship.

--JB

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Phishers Use Craigslist to Stay Ahead of the Curve

By Jim Bruene on April 28, 2006 3:27 PM | Comments

Criminal minds are usually the most fertile. Just how fertile was displayed last week, when a phisher actually advertised for victims on Craigslist, the popular classified ads web site.

The ad, posted at 7:00 AM on April 26, asked Bank of America customers to send the poster their account and telephone numbers, in return for which he or she promised to deposit $1,000 per day into their accounts. The victims were supposed to take 15 percent for themselves, and immediately forward the balance to another Bank of America account. The poster couldn’t do it him/herself, they said, because they were currently in New Zealand.

We stumbled across the ad at 9:00 AM and immediately forwarded it to Craigslist, which removed it within an hour. We also informed Bank of America, which later said it was aware of the scam. Bank of America’s response led to the obvious inference that the scamster had been active earlier, since the ad had been posted on Craigslist for only two hours, but it—and Craigslist—declined to explain the apparent discrepancy in the time line.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, which likewise declined to respond specifically to the event, said the ad was a new version of the old “freight forwarder” con game, in which the victim is asked to receive payments and forward them and then, after a few successful transactions, is asked to cash a check for more than the usual amount, and refund the balance. If they’re successful, the crook predictably vanishes. The scam also has much in common with the—by now—hoary Nigerian scam, in which someone posing as a Nigerian lawyer or government official emails the mark for help smuggling enormous amounts of money out of that country.

The scam breaks new ground, says Avivah Litan, vice president and research director at Gartner Inc. “I’ve never heard of this—it’s very clever social engineering,” she says. “I doubt that BofA knew about it—they just want to seem like they’re on top of things.”

At a minimum, the scam should get a prize for sheer brass, not to mention minimum effort. Typically, a phishing scam involves a skillfully crafted and apparently genuine email from a bank or popular e-commerce site, and an equally well-designed, fake website in which the unwary enter their account information. In this case, the scamster just posted an ad, hoping to snag one or two victims before the ad was spotted and taken down.

In this case, whether the perpetrator succeeded is unknown, but the Craigslist ad is very similar to similar scams commonly found on job want-ad sites like Monster.com. “The jobs boards are filled with these things, and the FBI is constantly having to trace them back to the sender, but this is the first report I’ve heard about a Craigslist ad,” says Peter Cassidy, secretary general of the Anti-Phishing Working Group.

Cassidy says this is a new wrinkle in the game. “It’s phishing, but not the usual retail phishing, where they’re looking for your banking credentials—it’s definitely a new hybrid,” he says.

And, he adds, he’s unsurprised. “People are putting up things like deceptive software that infect your computer and call it freeware or games. Why should we be surprised that people are putting up deceptive ads in order to phish people?”

For the record, we post the ad below, complete with misspellings.

Reply to: job-154729485@craigslist.org
Date: 2006-04-26, 7:09AM EDT
We´re an e-gold exchanging team. I own a website, and I`m looking for Bank of America customers, as i'm an account holder as well, I´m able to transfer UPFRONT to your account, daily amounts of $1000. All you have to do is withdraw and send to one of our exchangers. Remember that you get to keep 15% for yourself.If you are wondering why I can´t do it myself, it is simply due to my current unavailability; I`m in New Zealand visiting with relatives, and that´s why I´ll need your assistance.

As I am going to send upfront, I´ll need some things, such as:

- You must own this account for at least 3 months (I call to verify)
- You must suply a land line phone #
- You must be from USA and you´re not allowed to use a third party.
- The amounts should be sent within 24 hours, delays will not be tolerated.

You may also be wondering:

- What information do you need to transfer the amount into my account!?

I´ll need only the following information: Account holder #, last name and zip code, ONLY

- Is there any possibility of having my account hijacked with performing such activity!?
Absolutely not, it´s a typical transaction between bank of america accounts, and you can make sure about that calling up bank of america customer service with these questions, or simply using your bank online referring to transfer and if you notice, they will require the information I previously requested to.

a.. Compensation: You´ll receive 15% from all amounts. Up to 65k annually, your weekly share will be $1800.
54729485
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
(Contact: Craigslist, 415-566-6394; Bank of America, 415-622-6367; Federal Bureau of investigation, 202-324-3000;Gartner Inc., Avivah Litan, 301-610-7482; Anti-Phishing Working Group, Peter Cassidy, 617-491-2952)

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Categories: Bank of America, Phishing

Notes from BAI's SmartTactics Conference

By Jim Bruene on April 24, 2006 7:40 PM | Comments

Bai_smarttactics_logo_1Several interesting tidbits surfaced from today's presentations at BAI's SmartTactics conference in Las Vegas:

Citibank online account acquisition
In 2002, 6% of Citibank's new checking accounts were generated online; in 2005, the number was 20%.

Our comments: Keep in mind that Citi's experience is unique. It has a huge brand and relatively small branch network, so many of its new accounts have no choice but to open online, or over the phone. And part of the growth can be attributed to non-checking products, such as its high-yield savings, that REQUIRE a companion checking account.

Bank of America's SiteKey rollout
The rollout of mandatory two-factor authentication is complete, except in Oregon and Washington where it is expected to go live in June. Prior to becoming mandatory, users had a period of time where it was an optional feature; however, only 8% opted in during this phase. When the PassMark-powered system became mandatory, users were served notice during their first two logins that they needed to sign up before it became required on the third login. Only 4% signed up during the first two warnings, and 96% put it off until the third try.

Note: PassMark was acquired by RSA Security today.

Our comments: Taken together, only 12% of users opted for stronger security before it was required, far below the 60% or so that say they want more security in consumer-research studies.

Zions remote deposit-capture results
Zions Bank has grown its remote-deposit client base from 364 in January 2005 to 3,697 in January 2006, and they are adding nearly 100 clients per week. The bank has bagged more than $200 million in incremental deposits and has increased loans and fee income. The Utah bank is now looking for new business worldwide with clients in 49 states and five countries outside the United States. It has clients of all sizes, from the Fortune 500 to small businesses that use it for just one check per month.

Our comments: If you needed ammunition to move this up the priority list, keep your eye on Zions: It said that its main problem now is just keeping up with the all the requests.

Research results from Yahoo Search Marketing
A Forrester study of all U.S. banking customers (not just online bankers), commissioned by Yahoo and OgilvyOne Worldwide, found that 61% of all banking-product research is being done online vs. 5% via phone and 30% in branch. Similarly, 64% of account monitoring is now down online vs. 16% via phone and 13% in-branch. But account opening at branches still dominates at 84% of new account openings, compared to 14% online and 2% via phone. 

Yahoo also said they expect 50 million online credit card applications in the United States this year.

Our comments: Wow, time to pull out all the stops in your online account-opening initiatives.

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Bank of America's SiteKey a Model for Successful Authentication Systems

By Jim Bruene on April 23, 2006 1:32 PM | Comments (1)

Most banks around the country are busily complying with the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council’s (FFIEC) mandate that they switch their online banking sites to two-factor authentication this year. Playing out against the past year’s flood of identity thefts and data breaches, it’s a necessary and welcome step that will help banks recapture customer trust in the online channel.

Rolling out a new feature is typically as important as choosing one, though, since a clumsy, error-rich rollout can be about the worst marketing tool going. What to do? Take a page from Bank of America’s rollout of its SiteKey authentication system, says TowerGroup senior analyst George Tubin.

“The industry should look to this rollout as a model for implementing consumer-facing technologies,” says Tubin. ”BofA, being who they are, is very adept at implementing them, and they parlayed that into this rollout.”

The key to BofA’s success with SiteKey—launched in collaboration with PassMark Security Inc.(acquired this week by RSA Security Inc.)—was flexibility, says Tubin.  “Whenever you implement anything for consumers, you have to focus on the lowest common denominator,” he says. “Some consumers are very adept at picking things up quickly, but there’s always going to be a segment that doesn’t get it, and when you design these things, you really have to focus on that bottom ten percent of your customer base. The main thing is to recognize that not every idea is easy to understand.”

The bank had already quantified how much they had to lose by doing nothing, and decided to act before security concerns caused attrition, or an actual exodus, among its 15 million online customers. But instead of deciding what was best for their customers and acting by fiat, BofA began conducting focus groups in 2004, focusing on finding an approach that worked, but that was easy for customers to use.  It was conducted like a sort of police lineup, with focus group members given various authentication systems to try, but little bank input.

This gave the bank a good handle on what made a system that would be easy to use and well received. One of the results of this exercise: The bank-designed “watermark” that shows up on user’s screens when they log on to the bank’s website. The watermark got high marks for, among other things, letting customers know the bank cared about security without asking too much of them.

The bank realized that a good authentication system needed to be as invisible as possible, a perception that led them to use risk-based authentication. Risk-based authentication combines identifiers like ISP, computer type and operating system with the customer’s PIN number and other identifiers and thereby quantifies the probability that the customer is who they say they are. The registration and subsequent log-on process create a hedgerow of challenge questions, secure cookies, and other security factors, chosen in collaboration with the customer, that reinforce both the real—and apparent—site and customer security.

The bank was willing to build its own risk-based system—in late 2004 there were only a handful of companies that could deliver a practical system—but chose PassMark after the RFP process. PassMark had already installed a system with the Stanford Credit Union, and that gave it more experience than its competitors.

Then came the December, 2004 rollout, which was incremental, highly publicized, and built for speed. Sanjay Gupta, BofA’s e-commerce executive, wanted the rollout to be finished in half the time such massive projects usually take. The bank got there by taking a “test and learn” approach, initially using bank employees for a voluntary test drive in April 2005.

The data from that test drive was followed by a series of mini-rollouts around the country. This gave the bank time to discover and correct problems when they were still small, avoiding the possibility that unnoticed glitches could become big headaches in a mass rollout. The idea worked: BofA now runs three SiteKey sectors—for California, the Northwest, and the rest of the country.

The bank’s success probably helped the FFIEC bite the bullet on mandating two-factor authentication for all banks, thinks Tubin, who cautions newcomers to be prepared for spikes in call center activity related to implementation when rolling out a two-factor authentication system. He recommends banks take advantage of that phenomenon to harvest feedback from users, allowing the bank to adjust their rollout accordingly. That might mean some training for call center personnel, but the training bill is likely to be significantly cheaper than correcting mistakes before they get big.

BofA also discovered that some customers just don’t take the registration process seriously—leading to forgotten challenge questions, for instance—and that they benefited from employing some fuzzy logic in accepting the answers, since customers don’t always remember the exact form of a challenge answer.

As a result of their experience, says Tubin, BofA incorporated two new security features in 2006: A BofA-licensed version of Earthlink’s ScamBlocker on their toolbar, which alerts users when they’re accessing dangerous or fraudulent sites; and a program of fraud alerts that allow customers to be proactive in protecting themselves and their accounts. Aside from allowing customers to do this without logging on to the BofA site, there’s obvious marketing value to letting a customer know the bank is watching their back. The bank also monitors potential fraud across all delivery channels.

Taken together, BofA obviously didn’t wait to be told what to do, and reaped the benefits, just like it reaped the benefit of offering its customers free online bill payment. At the time the bank did that, giving a billable service away was considered a bit odd, at a minimum; now, it’s considered the gold standard of customer retention. It was somewhat a matter of protecting BofA’s flanks, of course—think what it would have cost if its 27 million customers began flocking to branches for ordinary transactions—but it lit a candle in the darkness.

Why haven’t more banks come as far as BofA? “It’s a hard decision for most banks, because they have a lot of options, and they have to think about which solution is appropriate for them,” says Tubin. Luckily, most third-party providers have made it easy for them, by cutting deals with companies like PassMark; but there’s a lot of work to be done. Lucky, these systems are cheap: Between $0.15 and a dollar per user. (Contact: TowerGroup, George Tubin, 781-292-5213)

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PassMark Security Passes 20 Million Mark

By Jim Bruene on April 12, 2006 4:56 PM | Comments

Passmark_ad_americanbankerAs we predicted almost a year ago (OBR 119), PassMark Security's two-factor authentication system is proving popular. We've heard the usability arguments, we've read the security blogs pointing out the weaknesses, and we even had doubts ourselves after using the system on our Bank of America account.

But the overriding fact of the matter is, if it's good enough for Bank of America and its 15 million users, it's good enough for anyone. While no other major U.S. bank has signed on, the announcement today that Fiserv would make the system available to its 5,000 clients, coming on the heels of the Feb. 28 endorsement from S1 Corporation with 1,000 clients, means the system may win the small and midsize markets.

As further evidence, the company recently announced several new clients including North Island Credit Union <myisland.com> (125,000 members) and Schools Financial Credit Union <schools.org> (100,000 members), who touted their pioneer status with this PR-quote-of-the-year candidate:

"...Schools Financial Credit Union will be one of the first financial institutions in the country to act on Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council guidance that strongly recommends banks and credit unions implement multi-factor authentication by the end of 2006."

Alliance_passmarkFinally, the company made a splash on the other side of the Atlantic by aligning with Alliance & Leicester <alliance-leicester.co.uk>, a major financial institution in the United Kingdom with five million customers. It's a company we've previously singled out for its flashy website and marketing prowess (NetBanker Feb. 23, 2005).

With the launch of the Alliance program last month (see screenshot right), Passmark is now in front of 20 million users worldwide, demonstrating a spectacular first year for the Silicon Valley startup.

--JB

Previous articles:
Online Banking Report: June 30, 2005, Marketing Security
NetBanker Oct. 12, 2005: Scottrade to use Passmark
NetBanker May 26, 2005: Bank of America unveils multi-factor security for consumer accounts

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Reinforcing Online Banking with Your Own Customers

By Jim Bruene on April 7, 2006 12:56 PM | Comments

If you've been in the business as long as I have, you sometimes forget that not everyone is banking online. Even among online users, the penetration has only recently reached the 50% mark (U.S. totals, see OBR 125).

Evidently, banking website strategists also lose sight of this fact. Because banking sites too often seem to ASSUME consumers are willing to transact online. Yet, most consumers, even those registered for online banking, need reinforcement and encouragement to be assured that online banking is a safe and sound practice.

Bofa_homepage_olbWe've reviewed the all-important security messages in great detail (see previous NetBanker articles). But you should periodically run promotions and messaging highlighting the advantages of banking online.

While we love a good sweepstakes that encourages online transactions such as bill payment, good old-fashioned testimonials are also a great tool to encourage usage. Bank of America demonstrates how it's done with a large homepage graphic touting its 15 million users, the largest online banking base in the world (click on inset for a closeup).

Bofa_homepage_olb_landingClicking on the graphic leads to a simple landing page (click on screenshot right) that includes:

· three testimonials running across the top

· security reassurances in the box on the right

· a prominent "enroll now" button on the right

· several benefit statements in the copy

· link to the log-in page for already enrolled customers

--JB

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New Banking Customer Acquisition

By Jim Bruene on April 5, 2006 11:57 AM | Comments

UhaulOne key dynamic of the banking market is the "stickiness" of customers. You have to really mess up to motivate a customer to go through the hassle of unwinding their checking accounts and automated transfers, and setting everything up at a new financial institution. This customer "loyalty" is behind many pricing decisions, from interest rates offered on savings accounts to NSF/OD fees.

However, there is one time when customers literally beat a path to your door, looking to open multiple accounts. That's when they move away from the geographic footprint of their existing financial institution.

Google_movingtophoenix_1So, it's long been the holy grail of banking to find a way of identifying these movers and get them signed up before they go bank shopping in their new place of residence. Over the years, banks have worked with moving companies, large employers, and other sources of data on incoming residents. Millions of expensive, direct-mail packages have been dropped, but the returns are often marginal at best. The problem: households on the move don't read their junk mail, if they even receive it.

Enter the Internet age. What do most households do now once they know they are moving to a new city? They Google it.

Action Items
So, if you know potential customers are Googling your city, you better put your name into areas they are visiting, such as rental listings, real estate listings, school info, and so on. And once you get their interest, your website better speak directly to their situation, because, in the midst of a major move, they don't have a whole lot of time to think about checking accounts.

Bofa_movingcenterYou should have a place on your website devoted to new residents. It doesn't have to be as sophisticated as Bank of America's (click on inset for closeup), but it should tell potential customers:

  1. What a great presence you have in the community
  2. How your prices are competitive
  3. How convenient it is to move accounts to your bank
  4. How easy it is to get ahold of someone who cares (e.g., "chat now with our moving specialist")

We'll cover this subject, including a detailed look at online efforts to attract movers, in the next issue of Online Banking Report (to be published in late-April). 

--JB

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Paper Checks Remain "Business as Usual"

By Jim Bruene on March 16, 2006 12:26 PM | Comments

BizchecksWhen the last paper check is dropped in the mail, it will be a business check. All signs point to that day being over the horizon.

Not that no efforts are afoot to squeeze business checks out of the payments system. At least a dozen companies around the world are trying to automate business payments with so-called order-to-pay software systems, including, in the U.S., Bottomline Technologies, Harbor Payments, and Xign Corp.. Various business payment card systems continue to emanate from the nation’s banks. And advocates of routing business payments through the automated clearinghouse have been working diligently at the task for years.

But checks remain stubbornly alive: According to the Federal Reserve's landmark 2004 Payments Study, total check volumes between 2000 and 2003 only declined from 41.9 billion items to 36.7 billion items. And according to the US Census Bureau's 2005 Statistical Abstract of the United States, consumer payments made by check between 2000 and 2003 only declined from 28.8 billion items to 26.8 items. The 10 billion item difference, says a Fed spokesman, can be considered business checks. This suggests some little progress in squeezing paper out of the system, but no reason to write checks’ obituary.

The most progress in eliminating paper checks is seemingly being made in online bill payment. According to the American Banker’s Association, less than half of all consumer bills—49 percent—were paid by check in 2005, compared with 72 percent in 2001. Since bills represent a large fraction of consumer checks written, this suggests an accellerating trend away from consumer checks,.

But if civilians seem to be edging away from checks, business is apparently sticking to the tried-and-true. This is actually counterintuitive, since businesses would seem to have a lot to gain by giving up paper checks, if only for efficiency’s sake, while civilians, who get free checking, have no such incentives.

As usual, things look different once you’re in the weeds. In this case, a superficial analysis ignores simple balance-of-power and treasury-management issues, not to mention the tyranny of sheer habit.

Aside from sheer convenience, consumers have little to gain from paying their bills online, but as indicated by the numbers, that matter alone–combined with minor carrots and sticks from billers and banks–seems to have turned the tide.

Businesses, on the other hand, not only have a lot more power in their financial relationships than a typical consumer, but also are loath, to say the least, to abandon a treasury-management game that businesses have been playing since prehistory: demand immediate payments (even prepayment), but don’t pay yourself until the sheriff is coming up the driveway; meanwhile, use the float for a hundred purposes.

The irony is that the vendors of order-to-pay software systems can make a very good argument that discarding those old-fashioned treasury-management techniques is good business. Companies using order-to-pay systems, they say, free up working capital from their balance sheets, and that what they lose in float, they more than gain from being able to pinpoint exactly how much money they have on hand.

Tom Glassanos, for instance, president and chief executive of Xign Corp., points out that 19 Fortune 500 companies use his firm’s order-to-pay products, including Charles Schwab & Co., MetLife, Pacific Gas & Electric, and The Williams Companies.

But even he will concede that not every company thinks order-to-pay is a good thing. "There are good reasons why this hasn’t happened yet and continues to go slow,” he says. “There’s a certain (business) population that would like to get on board, but can’t get remittances across. And there’s a lot of work involved in telling your suppliers that you’re going to pay them via ACH instead of by check.”

The result, says Glassanos, is that “Just to get it to work, they find out, seems to them to be a lot more work than the value they get back, and they also have to deal with losing some float. So when they add the plus and negative columns, it doesn’t come out to be all that different, and they decide to go with what they’ve been doing.”

Banks are likewise not overly enthusiastic about the order-to-pay idea, except for US Bank, which has a patented order-to-pay product it calls PowerTrack. Even Glassanos concedes that only one bank uses his stuff, JP Morgan Chase & Co., which uses Xign in conjunction with Vastera, the trade receivables system which it bought early last year. Glassanos says two other big banks have recently signed on, but that he couldn’t disclose their names at NB’s press time.

Why the slow uptake at banks? The reasons are pretty simple. Banks make too much money from the various fees attached to business checking to embrace order-to-pay; for one thing, when you can charge your customer for removing every paper clip in a pile of checks, it’s a hard business to give up. For another, there’s no reason to expect checks to be disappearing anytime soon, so there’s little reason to close a profitable department, especially when most banks’ revenues are under pressure in the first place. And, banks tend to view change as something that has to be adapted to the bank’s interests, leading banks to come up with ideas that make sense for the bank, and not necessarily for the customer.

Card-based corporate payments systems, like Bank of America’s new ePayables product, are a good example. Cards would seem to answer a lot of problems for corporations, including digital data streams, easy tracking, and a means to mimic traditional pay-at-the-last-minute treasury-management games.

There’s only one fly in this particular ointment: The payee has to pay to get their money, in the form of interchange. The alternative would be to accept a discounted invoice in order to get paid early. “If you’ve been paying cash or check or anything for a transaction, the payor has been footing the bill, but here the recipient is paying for the transaction,” an unappealing prospect at best, says Penny Gillespie, president of Gillespie International, and one that payees can easily block.

Looked at this way, it’s not surprising that checks will likely linger—some would say malinger—for many more years. But there’s another reason, one that many overlook: Most businesses aren’t the Williams Companies or Pacific Power & Lights of the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2001 Statistics of U.S. Business, only 26,000 companies had sales over $50 million, out of a total of 5.5 million; and only 103,000 of America’s 4.9 million firms that have any employees at all had more than 100 employees, although those larger companies employed 74 million of the nation’s 115 million workers.

That’s the real rub. There are some 5 million companies in the U.S. that have little time to  automate their accounts payable and receivables departments, which means that trying to sell them an order-to-pay system is a waste of time. At a minimum, the annual return on such a system is not enough to make a compelling case for expensive, complicated software. And payment cards likewise have little application, since smaller companies tend to pay higher discount rates.

This being the case, banks aren’t foolish to hold on to their business checking departments. And your local Postman probably isn’t headed for the unemployment line. (Contact: Xign Corp., 925-469-9446; Gillespie International Inc., Penny Gillespie, 703-815-0706)

 

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Bank of America's Preapproved Card Offer at Logoff

By Jim Bruene on February 23, 2006 9:39 PM | Comments

Bofa_instantcredit_atolblogoutBank of America is making it super easy for online banking customers to accept a new business platinum credit card. The preapproved offer is displayed after logging out from an online banking session. In this example, we had just finished paying our Bank of America credit card bill and were greeted with well-crafted page shown here (click on inset left for a closer view).

Analysis
Using the log-off screen is a great way to get your preapproved offers in front of users at just the time they are thinking about their finances. We also recommend offering a link to the offer within the online banking area. That way, if a user is running a bit low on cash, for example, while paying bills, he or she could click on the offer to obtain additional cash.

--JB

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Manhattan District Attorney and Money Laundering Regulations

By Jim Bruene on February 20, 2006 5:03 PM | Comments

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, together with federal and New York state banking officials, is on the verge of settling serious money laundering charges against the Bank of America Corp. with a reported $25 million fine, making this the second largest money laundering case the long-time DA has settled in three months. In December, the Manhattan DA, the New York State Banking Department, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. settled a similar case with Israel Discount Bank of New York, also for a fine totaling $25 million, including the costs of the investigation.

Continue reading "Manhattan District Attorney and Money Laundering Regulations" »

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New Products, Services, and Company News from Bank of America, Discover Financial and others

By Jim Bruene on February 19, 2006 7:02 PM | Comments

New products, services, and company news from Bank of America, Discover Financial, The Clearing House Payments Co., and more.

Continue reading "New Products, Services, and Company News from Bank of America, Discover Financial and others" »

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Len Heckwolf Moves from Morgan/Chase to Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on February 17, 2006 5:20 AM | Comments

Veteran payments executive Len Heckworth is leaving JP Morgan Chase & Co. to head Bank of America's new payments and receipts product management group, part of BofA's global treasury services unit. He's responsible for all U.S. payments and receipts product management and development, and reports to Skip Heaps, global product management executive for global treasury services.

Continue reading "Len Heckwolf Moves from Morgan/Chase to Bank of America" »

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The Truth about ID Theft from Javelin Strategy

By Jim Bruene on February 13, 2006 1:15 PM | Comments

Judging by media reports, almost everyone in the civilized world has lost their identity to cyber-criminals. But while there has been an unending torrent of news about data breaches and related identity thefts, the damage has been much less drastic than that, says a study from Javelin Strategy & Research.

“The impression in the general public is that identity fraud is spiraling out of control, but what we came away with is the contrary; the growth [in the phenomenon] has been contained,” says Rubina Johannes, the Javelin research analyst who wrote the report.

Continue reading "The Truth about ID Theft from Javelin Strategy" »

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Bank of America's "Keep the Change" Banner on MSN

By Jim Bruene on February 13, 2006 9:50 AM | Comments

Bofa_msn_homepageAlthough we have concerns about the underlying program (see NetBanker Oct. 5, 2005), you have to tip your hat to the marketing execution of Bank of America's Keep the Change campaign. Today a small but distinctive postage-stamp ad on MSN's homepage, tied in with MSN Money headlines (see inset), invites readers to "Open a Checking Account and Keep the Change."

Bofa_msn_landingpageIt's an intriguing headline and likely does well prompting clickthroughs. The landing page (click on inset right for a closeup) is also well done. A graphical explanation of the keep-the-change rebate is shown on the right, which helps alleviate the need for prospects to wade through the 479 words of fine print on the bottom of the landing page.

Another landing-page graphical element that you should immediately consider adopting: pictures of the three key banking products being pitched with simple checkboxes for selection (see below). However, in this case it's used in a backwards fashion. Users are supposed to tell the bank which accounts they already have, rather than the ones they want to buy. This is counter-intuitive and should be redesigned.

Bofa_msn_landingpage_orderform_5

Bofa_msn_ddasav_appAfter selecting the BofA accounts already owned, users arrive on a secure Checking & Savings Account Application page that does a good job reinforcing benefits and referencing the original "Keep the Change" hook (click on inset left). A pop-up box offers live chat with a Deposit Specialist if desired.

Summary
The bank scores high for great online copywriting, superb graphics, and good ad positioning at MSN. We also like how Bank of America reinforces the benefits of automated savings. However, the offer is complicated and smacks of a gimmick that will do little to engender long-term loyalty or create a real savings ethic. Finally, the low 0.50 percent rate paid on the underlying savings account damages the program's credibility and makes it less likely the account will be used to amass meaningful deposit balances.

Grades:
A+ for online advertising and sales (banner, landing page, application)
B+ for encouraging savings
C- for the debit card rewards program

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New Finance Products and Services

By Jim Bruene on February 12, 2006 12:22 PM | Comments

This week's new products and services

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Data Security Standards Set by Major Financial Institutions

By Jim Bruene on February 1, 2006 7:28 PM | Comments

A consortium of six major banks and the country’s largest accounting firms said Wednesday that they were setting uniform computer-security standards, designed to ensure that the third-party computer providers they do business with are adequately protecting both their computer systems and the information those financial firms send them.

“This is good news,” says Avivah Litan, vice president and research director of Gartner Inc. “I don’t think it goes far enough, but it’s smart for them [the institutions] to do it in steps, if that’s what they’re doing. But they need to do it beyond the service providers. They need to do it themselves”

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Fox leaving FinCEN for Bank of America

By Jim Bruene on January 30, 2006 12:54 PM | Comments

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said today that William J. Fox, its director since Dec. 2003, is leaving to become senior compliance executive for compliance risk management at Bank of America (BofA). Fox starts at BofA on Feb. 21; he’ll be replaced as director by Deputy Director William F. Baity, effective February 4.

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Bank Alert Welcome Message

By Jim Bruene on January 26, 2006 5:13 PM | Comments

Bofa_alertwelcome_emailWhenever online banking users make changes to their account preferences, you should confirm with an email. It not only shows you are paying attention, but also provides customers the peace of mind that they accomplished the intended task.

Today we changed one of our account alerts at Bank of America <bankamerica.com>. Within a few minutes, we received this attractive email (see inset). However, you can tell that this particular message was crafted in the pre-phishing days, as evidenced by the old 2004 copyright date (lower left corner), the old 2000-2004 Olympic sponsor logo in the lower right, and hyperlinks back to the log-in page.

Action Items

  1. For better authenticity, include a personalized greeting, shared secret, or truncated account info in your message.
  2. Do not include hyperlinks back to the bank on routine, non-personalized messages.
  3. Update all messages at least annually so they don't carry outdated corporate branding and/or copyright dates.

--JB

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Bank of America's New Security Toolbar

By Jim Bruene on December 12, 2005 6:20 PM | Comments

Bofa_toolbar_closeupBank of America launched a co-branded version of Earthlink's toolbar designed to prevent users from surfing to fraudulent websites. Of note is its official name, Bank of America Toolbar Powered by Earthlink. It's highly unusual for a bank, especially the largest consumer bank in the country, to give a partner such high billing. Our guess, although unconfirmed, is that Earthlink is paying the bank for the product placement.

In a similar manner to eBay's toolbar released in 2002, the BofA/Earthlink version uses red, green, and yellow lights to indicate whether a website is known to be safe (green), known to be fraudulent (red), or unknown Bofa_homepage(yellow). A popup blocker is also included. The toolbar is free and can be downloaded by any Internet Explorer for Windows user, you do not have to be a customer of the bank or Earthlink. According to Earthlink, a Mac version will be available soon. The toolbar does not work in other browsers.

The toolbar was announced in a press release today, and is accessible from a small link on the right of the homepage (click on inset for a closeup).

Analysis
Bank of America's toolbar is the first of what we expect to be a major source of differentiation during the next five years: the branded desktop presence (see OBR 85, for more information). The Scamblocker toolbar is a relatively low-tech entry into the space. More sophisticated offerings, such as Southwest Airlines Ding (NetBanker, 5 Dec), are on the way later this year, if not at BofA, then at its U.S. competitors.

--JB

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Bank of America's Unusual Automated Savings Plan

By Jim Bruene on October 5, 2005 4:37 PM | Comments

Bankamerica_keepthechange_graphic_1We're not sure whether this is incredibly brilliant or insanely stupid, but Bank of America gets high marks for creativity with its latest debit card enhancement. The bank's "Keep the Change" program allows debit card users to round up their purchase transactions to the nearest dollar, with the difference added to a savings account automatically.

To give it a bit more excitement, BofA will add a 5% bonus to each savings deposit. Since the average round-up amount is 50 cents, the bonus costs the bank just 2.5 cents per transaction, a very cost effective incentive program, if it works.

To kick things off, Bank of America will match the round-up amount 100% for the first 3 months. That will be like giving everyone a 50-cent discount on each transaction. That should spur signups for the program.  Bankamerica_keepthechange_math

Analysis
The overall concept of automatic or forced savings is excellent. The bank's press release tosses out stats on the recent negative savings rate and quotes David Bach, the relatively well-known author of "The Automatic Millionaire," a best-selling book that espouses automated investing.

The webpage touting the program is attractive and well written. There are few items in the fine print that users will find potentially disturbing:

  1. You must visit a branch to enroll (ouch!)
  2. The savings account pays just 0.50% and will likely have a service charge unless a minimum balance is maintained (e.g., $300 minimum for Regular Savings)
  3. The savings account has a $100 minimum opening balance requirement
  4. The bank's contribution will be made annually, and only if you keep your account open for a year

But despite the fine print landmines, we like how "Keep the Change" introduces consumers to the concept of automatic savings and helps them store away a few bucks a month. However, most people need more than nickels and dimes going into their savings account. To be more effective, this program needs an easy way for consumers to add to their savings amount beyond the monthly debit card cash.

For example, a month-end email detailing the total debit card change deposited could include a mechanism that allows users to designate an additional amount to be transferred into their savings account.

We don't expect anyone else to copy this program, so it gives BofA a unique selling point for their checking accounts and debit cards. It should make a little money for the bank from increased debit usage and savings account growth, and it will give users a few extra dollars at the end of the year, so what's the harm. But if you are truly interested in spurring automatic savings among your customers, there are more straightforward approaches that should be equally effective and far less complicated (see Online Banking Report, 120/121 for more on automatic savings).

Ref: Screenshot of Bank of America's Keep the Change page on 5 Oct 2005

--JB

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Update: Bank of America's SiteKey Goes Live in Tennessee

By Jim Bruene on June 14, 2005 2:06 PM | Comments

Sitekey_coming_soonBank of America issued a press release saying that it went live today in Tennessee with its OBR Best-of-the-Web-winning multi-factor authentication system. However, a search of the bank's website, using Tennessee as our state, found no mention other than the "coming soon" paragraph that's been posted for the past several weeks (click on inset to read).  

">Read our previous article.

--JB

 

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Bank of America Unveils Multi-Factor Security for Consumer Accounts

By Jim Bruene on May 26, 2005 1:46 PM | Comments

Obr_bestofwebBank of America wins the race to be the first with a viable plan to secure consumer online banking accounts. In an announcement today, it becomes the first major U.S. bank to endorse multi-factor authentication for consumers at login.*

The system, already in use at Stanford Federal Credit Union, is called SiteKey. The clever approach from Bill Harris's PassMark Security provides several layers of security to defeat phishing and keylogging attacks. The company calls it two-way two-factor authentication because not only does the end-user authenticate themselves to the bank, the bank authenticates itself to the user to defeat phishing schemes.

Here's how it works (click on inset below for BofA page):

  1. User provides username
  2. BofA verifies that the login request is coming from the user's previously registered computer; if NOT, user must successfully answer a challenge question based on previously registered shared secrets
  3. After passing steps 1 and 2, the user is shown their previously selected image, so they know they are logging into the true BofA server
  4. User enters their password

The service launches in mid-June in Tennessee with full roll-out by the end of the year.

Bofa_sitekeyAnalysis
Even though it's long overdue, we applaud Bank of America for moving the industry forward. While the program won't be available system-wide until year-end, we're giving it an Online Banking Report "Best of the Web" now because it's the biggest development in U.S. online banking for several years.

The BofA/Passmark system is ingenious for several reasons:

  • Unless a user logs in from a new computer, there is little extra work involved; just a two-step login with username, followed by the password
  • Requires no hardware or out-of-channel coordination by the end-user; shouldn't cause a major increase in customer service expense
  • Defeats phishing by displaying a personal image prior to asking for password
  • Defeats keylogging with the rotating challenge question

If you are at one of the other 15,000 financial institutions in the United States, the clock is now ticking. As your customers find out they are not among the 13+ million consumers (BofA's current online base) receiving extra protection, they will be demanding the same from you. And if you thought BofA was aggressive in its free bill pay promotion, wait until you see the marketing blitz on this one. Extra authentication simply MUST BE in your 2006 plans.

-- JB

*For several years, ING Direct has asked for a third bit of info at login, but the necessary info is relatively easy to obtain (for example, zip code). Also, earlier this year, E*Trade launched security tokens for its high-rollers. But BofA is the first with a broad, secure, and non-hardware-based approach.

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Bank of America Tops One Billion Online Sessions Annnually

By Jim Bruene on April 27, 2005 12:21 AM | Comments

Also at the Net.Finance conference today, Linda Worrell from Bank of America reported that its online channel handles more volume than the call center and ATM network combined.

Here's the breakdown:

13.1 million active online banking customers login in to their accounts an average of 10 times per month. That's 130 million sessions monthly, or 1.6 billion annually.

In comparison:

  • the call center handles 825 million calls annually
  • the 16,000-machine ATM network processes 840 million transactions
  • its 5,800 branches handle 600 million

-- JB

If you'd like to learn more about the future of online banking, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.

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Starbucks gets Creative with Prepaid Cards

By Jim Bruene on April 20, 2005 11:50 PM | Comments

Email_starbucks_cardWhen it comes to stored value cards, Starbucks is the one to watch. It's most recent innovation: a Mother's Day "card" with a place on the plastic where you can jot a quick note to mom (see close-up below).

Don't you wish you would have thought of that?

The Starbucks stored value card, first introduced in 2001, is just now being positioned as a collectible. Stores in the Northwestern United States and in Japan are selling a sealed $10 prepaid card carrying the likeness of popular Mariner baseball player Ichiro Suzuki. The cards are also sold online at Starbucks.com.

AnalysisStarbucks_ichiro_card
We believe stored value gift and travel cards are a natural for online banking. They provide an interesting retail element unavailable with most banking products.

The Starbucks email (click on the thumbnail above) is a good example. What bank product would have worked so well in a Mother's Day promo?

In additio to their marketing benefits, prepaid cards command fees and can be profitable; no small matter in the United States, the land of free online banking and bill pay. 

Starbuck_mothers_day_card_1Ironically, Bank of America recently dropped out of the retail prepaid card business, most likely due to increased state rules and regulations on dormant account fees, one of the primary profit drivers for banks.

Don't let BofA's move worry you. Just be thankful there are now 12 million more potential customers for the rest of the industry to share.

--JB

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Bank of Ameria Wastes Site-Search Opportunity

By Jim Bruene on July 23, 2004 3:02 PM | Comments

Bank of America is the virtual poster child for online banking with some 11 million users and an award-winning website. However, after two years of intense advertising of its free bill-payment service along with more than $100 million in foregone fees,* you'd think a search on their site for "bill payment" would take you to a pitch for its online payment service.

Well you'd be wrong. The first page of search results includes very helpful information on how to pay your credit card bill, but no mention of pay-anyone electronic bill payment or presentment. You have to click on See next 6 answers and go to the subsequent page to learn about online bill payment.

Let this be a lesson to add one more task to your marketing project plans:

Optimize site-search results


*Assume 1 million users times $5/mo x 24 months.

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Categories: Bank of America

Grabbing Desktop Mindshare and Make Online Services Easier

By Jim Bruene on August 1, 2002 8:36 AM | Comments



Private-branded browser extensions
can make online services easier to use and more prominent on users’ PCs


In late 1997, I spoke at a tech-company user conference in Santa Clara,
CA. Immediately preceding me was MECA founder and CEO Paul Harrison.
He was introducing a new online banking program MoneyScape, an
extension of the company’s pioneering, and now defunct, personal finance
software Managing Your Money (MYM). MoneyScape was an online banking
application that used so-called “push technology” to deliver banking
information directly to the user’s desktop. The innovative program died as
MECA changed ownership three times during the next three years.1


Push technology was one of the first Internet ideas to experience a
consumer and media backlash. The streaming of unfocused news and advertising
content grew old quickly once the novelty wore off and the whole concept
fell to earth rather quickly.


Were Mr. Harrison to make the same presentation today, however, he would
have a much better chance of selling the idea.2 Several of the
most successful Internet companies, including eBay, Google,
and WeatherBug, now push content via browser extensions and plug-ins
. The difference this time: a focus on delivering small, highly important
bits of information to users.


02-aug-001.jpg

WeatherBug¾the sixth most-visited Web site with 13 million registered users3¾owes its success to a remarkable program that pushes weather information directly to the desktop. The current temperature, sourced from the closest of more than 5,000+ weather stations in its network, is displayed next to the time in the Windows’ system tray. Clicking on the temperature triggers a quick download of the complete weather picture. The resulting mid-sized window loads on top of whatever application you are working in.

02-aug-002.jpg

 

 

Table 1

Companies Offering Custom Toolbars

Company/
Address

Launch
Date

Comments

Alexa (Amazon)*
alexa.com
1997 (Sept) Alexa, founded in ‘96, launched the first major toolbar. Now owned by Amazon, its latest release features site usage, ownership, and archived historical Web views along with Google search
Yahoo
companion.
yahoo.com
2000 Yahoo Companion is bundled with its instant messaging software.
Google*
toolbar.
google.com
2001 Although the company hasn’t released numbers, the Google toolbar is widely used.
eBay
pages.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar
July 2002 Ebay’s is the most full-featured, offering database services such as alerts and Auction Watch.
Ask Jeeves*
sp.ask.com/docs/toolbar
July 2002 The latest entrant, the toolbar links to a host of features such as weather, stocks, and search.

Source: Online Banking Report, 8/02;        *For Internet Explorer only; Netscape version of Google’s toolbar available from third parties

Financial institutions should consider similar programs to position their brands directly on the browser, desktop, and/or system tray. The simpler concepts, such as providing a shortcut button that sits on the Internet Explorer toolbar, can be deployed for a few thousand dollars or less
Or, for those with larger budgets, ride the coattails of WeatherBug with a private-branded weather service. For those with even more resources, forget about the weather, create a “bank bug” that rides in the system tray alerting users to any changes in account status

1MECA was purchased by Bank of America and NationsBank in 1995. NationsBank (now Bank of America) distributed Managing Your Money software extensively in 1996 and 1997 as its primary online banking platform prior to the launch of Web banking. The MECA unit was sold to Concentrix (formerly CFI ProServices) in 1999. John Harland subsequently purchased Concentrix in Aug. 2000, which quickly sold the Concentrix online banking assets to NetZee in Nov. 2000. Bank of America discontinued Managing Your Money support in early 2002.

2Microsoft Money and Intuit’s Quicken use many of these push features today.

3Unique users at WeatherBug and WeatherBug’s parent, AWS Technologies, for the week ending July 21, 2002 per ComScore Media Metrix.

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First USA and Bank of America Launch New Balance Transfer Site

By Jim Bruene on May 5, 2001 3:52 PM | Comments

Simple Credit Card Balance Transfers

Bank of America’s Web-based balance transfer option for recipients of credit card check mailings.

 


More than four years ago we wrote our first report on online credit cards. In that report we predicted that online balance transfer services would rapidly be deployed. The technology was relatively trivial, the consumer demand was proven, and there were significant profits to be had.

It turns out we were off by a couple of years. Early this year, NextCard was the first major player to introduce the service for existing cardholders. Now Bank of America and Bank One’s First USA division have launched less robust, but very easy to use systems. Both require nothing more than a card and social security number. There are no registration forms to complete or passwords to remember.

We first became aware of the Bank of America program, aptly called Easy Balance Transfer  www.easybt.com  from a standard credit-card-check mailing. The direct mailer provided three options for transferring balances:

1)       use the enclosed paper checks

2)       call the toll-free number

3)       use the Web  www.easybt.com

Those using the Web or phone options could also qualify for a line increase, although the details on how that worked were sketchy.

The program lived up to its billing, taking about 2 to 3 minutes to login, read the instructions and disclosures, and inputting a credit card to be paid off.

First USA’s Web service is very similar, although it’s not mentioned as an option in the credit-card-check mailings we received. We learned of the service from a banner running on top of the login screen at First USA’s Web site. Unfortunately, the balance transfer service is not integrated into its normal account access. Even logged-in users must log in separately to the balance-transfer function. (see screenshots next page).

Overall, we like Bank of America’s slightly better, but both make excellent use of the Web and are a cut above most bank services in terms of ease of use.8


 

Five seconds after logging in, this screen appears with just two choices, Terms or Continue.

The terms are listed in plain language, including the rate, the potential line increase, and the deadline.

The entire balance transfer form is shown above (one additional blank for email address appears below the screenshot). The drop-down box to choose issuer includes 21 names, but you can add anyone.

FirstUSA banner promotes balance transfers from its credit card login page.

FirstUSA Balance transfer offers are shown first.

All costs are disclosed.

The form couldn’t be simpler.

Comments
Categories: Bank of America

Bank of America to Compete in Bill Payment Market

By Jim Bruene on March 6, 1999 3:17 PM | Comments
Bank of America

Chris Callero, Group EVP
Jane Wallace, EVP
425 First. St.
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 622-3456
www.bankamerica.com

Electronic Bill Pay Volume: 800,000 per month

Status Report: On April 13, the company announced its intention to compete in the bill payment and presentment market; with 2 million business clients including 80% of
the Fortune 1000, 30 million retail customers, and one million online banking users, the company will be
a formidable competitor to Checkfree and Transpoint/Citibank.

Comments

BofA has Instant Report Public Record Information on Local Properties

By Jim Bruene on May 4, 1998 3:15 PM | Comments

Bank of America

www.bankamerica.com

Research the value of homes in a target neighborhood
or simply snoop on your neighbors for $9.95

Bank of America (San Francisco, CA; $264 billion; 10.9 million ATM cards) relaunched HomeWorth Search in March. The service, which costs $9.95 per search, allows users to type in any address in the 28-state area, and receive an instant online report of public record information on nearby properties including owner’s name, property address, most recent sales price, sales date, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, and first mortgage amount.

This feature allows users to conduct a quick analysis of a home’s value relative to others that have recently sold (“comparables”) within one-half mile. BofA tested the program a year ago, but it disappeared with no explanation shortly after we reported on it. It worked fine for our neighborhood a year ago (when it was free), but this time we couldn’t get the program to recognize any of the addresses in our Seattle neighborhood. Curiously, when went directly to HomeWorth’s content provider, Axicom’s DataQuick division products.dataquick.com/consumer, it worked fine. Test it yourself at www.bankamerica.com/p-finance/athome/hmworth_ov.html

DataQuick offers free price trend reports. After registering, users enter their zip code and a two-year average-price report is instantly produced at products.dataquick.com/freezip/checkemail.asp.

If you don’t want to deal with the privacy issues raised by delivering homeownership records to anyone with a valid credit card number, you might still look at some of the other services provided by DataQuick. These can be licensed on a private-branded basis for your Web site, or you can simply link users to the DataQuick Web.

bofA-may98-3.jpg

Source: company, 5/22/98

Comments
Categories: Bank of America

Online Mortgage Innovators

By Jim Bruene on May 3, 1998 2:39 PM | Comments

Mortgages may be the first traditional banking product to lose market share to Web-based competitors. Why? It’s a significant consumer purchase, estimated to consume more than 80% of a household’s disposable income in the year of purchase. Second, with thousands of unregulated and highly competitive mortgage brokers scrambling to grab another tenth of a point of market share, innovation is a certainty.

The Pioneers

Company

Claim to Fame

 

Update/Comments

Bank of America First bank to create a nationwide network of cross referrals with Realtors (launched early 1995); first bank to provide access to public databases so that users could research home prices in a given neighborhood (tested in early 1997, launched in Mar. 1998).   For three years running, the BofA mortgage area has been one of the best examples on the Web of how to approach this market; but now all bets are off, as company works through headaches of merger with former rival NationsBank.
Bank of Montreal Launched real-time mortgage approvals Feb. 1997; developed four “doors” into its mortgage Web for first time buyer, trade-up buyer, refinance buyer, and current mortgage customer.   Named OBR Top Milestone of 1998; 15 months later still the only bank in the world with real-time mortgage approval; still using the four doors approach on its Web, an indicator that it’s effective, but graphics need to be modernized.
Countrywide Home Loans First major mortgage lender to embrace the Internet in 1996; an early leader in the development of a short prequalification process; uses email extensively to follow-up with Web prospects.   Still one of the few major mortgage lenders with a robust direct lending effort on its Web site (most others are relying on third parties such as QuickenMortgage or GetSmart to generate leads). According to Countrywide’s Cameron King, online application volume is growing 22% per month from the current level of 500/mo taken online; fundings are $31 million/mo (Mar. 98 data); recently became the first direct lender on the new Real Estate Financing page of AOL’s Personal Finance Channel.
E-Loan First mortgage broker to introduce state-of-the-art online lending capabilities (June 1997); first mortgage lender to integrate interactivity and email updates.   Currently generating 50-200 application per day from 285,000 visitors per month; received venture capital funding in December; became Yahoo’s exclusive loan center merchant in February; inked a similar deal with Lycos in April; also appears on dozens of home-buying sites across the Web.
GetSmart First company to execute a business model based solely on generating mortgage and credit card leads.   Received 114,000 leads in 90 days; in May announced a $13 million dollar marketing campaign for 1998 inking deals with Yahoo, Lycos, Wired Digital, Infoseek, and DoubleClick; total 3-year commitment at those companies slated at $50 million.
Intuit First major brand-name to launch loan referral services on the Web in Oct. 1997.   From Oct. 97 through Mar. 98, QuickenMortgage received 1.2 million visitors who completed 13,000 prequalification requests. Last month, added full online application capability and launched an online sweepstakes to drive traffic to its site.
Salem Five Developed an innovative prospecting tool, a $100-off closing costs interactive coupon, that has been in use since early 1995.   In 1996 and 1997 added real estate listings and other prospecting tools to boost its online sales volume.
SmartCalc
/FinanCenter
In late 1994, became the first lending-related Web site built around interactivity/calculators; SmartCalc division created in June, 1996 to license calculators.   Flagship FinanCenter site is generating 1.5 million page views per month, more than half in the home mortgage area.

Comments

Bank of America Eliminated Online Access Fee

By Jim Bruene on December 15, 1997 4:00 PM | Comments

Bank of America

www.bankamerica.com

Bank of America now offers free account access.

Bank of America (San Francisco, CA; $263.6 billion; 10.8 million ATM cards) eliminated its online access fee on November 25. BofA was one of the few major bank still clinging to the old pricing model: a monthly fee for online account access and bill payment.

BofA has now moved to the industry standard pricing model, free online account access with a monthly fee for optional bill payment. This is the only model that makes sense long-term. Users won’t stand for a fee to “buy” access to data that they have generated themselves and paid for once (via checking account fees or balances), especially when it is far cheaper for the bank to allow access to the data online than via other methods (call center, branch, ATM).

The change at BofA isn’t really as dramatic a departure as it seems. The bank was already waiving monthly fees for many of its most popular checking account packages. Bank customers using Versatel checking (with direct deposit), Prima checking, or MasterCard Relationship account will continue to enjoy account access and bill payment free-of-charge. Everyone else will pay $5.95 for the optional bill payment, a $0.55 monthly fee reduction from the previous charge of $6.50/mo.

Not to be outdone, cross-town rival Wells Fargo (San Francisco, CA; $101.3 billion; 9.9 million ATM cards) instituted a free bill payment program across its entire checking account base, provided the user keeps $5,000 in deposit balances. Otherwise, the bill payment fee is $5/month. Up to 25 payments per month are included free, then a $0.40 per item charge kicks in.

Wells Fargo announces free bill pay on its Web, www.wellsfargo.com .

Separately, BofA also added credit card account data to its HomeBanking package.

Michael A. DeVico heads the Interactive Banking Division at BofA, 415.622.3456.

Comments

Bank of America to Provide Vehicle Financing

By Jim Bruene on August 12, 1997 10:30 AM | Comments

Bank of America
www.bankamerica.com


BofA’s logo already graces the front page of AutoWeb.

Bank of America (San Francisco, CA; $251 billion; 10.8 million ATM cards) signed on to provide vehicle financing for customers of Santa Clara, CA-based AutoWeb Interactive  www.autoweb.com. BofA will provide both purchase and lease financing online in the non-exclusive arrangement. AutoWeb, with a reported 15 million visits per month, is seeking additional financial partners. BofA’s National Dealer Lending Division financed $3 billion in purchases in 1996. In other Web news, BofA is waiving its usual $200 fee for mortgage applications submitted online (screenshot below). Offer is good through entire U.S.

Contacts: Frank Zamani is CEO at AutoWeb, 800.707.9552, info@autoweb.com . Anne Tonks is EVP National Dealer Lending at BofA, 415.622.3456.


BofA is waiving its $200 application fee for mortgage applications submitted online.

Comments
Categories: Bank of America

NACHA’s Internet Payments Conference

By Jim Bruene on August 10, 1997 10:08 AM | Comments

Don’t hold your breath, but the Secured Electronic Transfer (SET) standard for Internet credit card purchases is almost here. MasterCard, Visa and their partners expect to issue the first SET mark — think of it as the SET seal of approval — by Aug. 31, according to industry execs speaking at a recent Internet payments conference in Berkeley, CA.

SET specs were published in June and in late July, MasterCard and Visa formed a body called SetCo to test, certify and police SET-compliant applications. “But it’s not (happening) nearly as fast as vendors would have you believe, and it’ll be up to you to make sure the pieces work together,” Nick DiGiacomo warned bankers attending a meeting sponsored by the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA) and Citation Internet Consulting Group.

DiGiacomo is CEO of Tenth Mountain Systems Inc., which will handle testing with SetCo. Companies that pass will sign a trademark licensing agreement to display the SET logo on their Web site.

Meanwhile, SET pilots continue. Beginning this month, Mellon Bank and MasterCard will issue SET credit cards to Mellon and federal employees to purchase U.S. Savings Bonds and federal surplus merchandise online. Bank of America is slated to conduct a live trial by September.

DiGiacomo urged retail banks to get in on the action by issuing SET-compliant wallets to customers — but don't be surprised when they call with questions, he said. “We recommend setting up informational Web sites to take the offensive,” he said. DiGiacomo’s 10-step SET plan for banks:

1. Learn about it. Give responsibility for setting up a SET program to a staffer, not consultant. “You have to have an internal advocate.”

2. Create plans for marketing, security, roll out, and customer service, and establish criteria for choosing platforms and vendors.

3. Choose a certification authority and get SET software certified through SetCo.

4. Choose a SET server that connects to the Internet, existing banking systems, payment networks.

5. Integrate SET with merchant account balances, statements, payment networks.

6. Select customer electronic-commerce software.

7. Have your SET service tested, preferably by an outside party “so you don’t run into blind spots.”

8. Establish support services such as operations, maintenance and customer service, and make sure systems are in place to meet regulatory, compliance and audit requirements.

9. Participate in a pilot with explicitly stated entrance and exit criteria. Pick “friendly” partners, not Net-heads, as testers. Use results to measure acceptance or resistance to e-commerce in and outside your organization.

10. Keep your SET service updated.

SET was among several Internet payments issues discussed at the first of a series of seminars to be held around the country through October by NACHA and Citation, a Texas-based consulting group.

Other Conference Highlights

Online Bill Pay: Do consumers want to pay their phone bill at the phone company Web site, their gas bill at the gas company site, and so on, or visit one place to pay everything? Checkfree, MECA, Microsoft and BillSite are betting on the latter and building mega-Web sites they’re marketing to telephone companies, utilities and others. But CyberCash VP Richard Crone believes consumers will want to hop from site to site, and utilities will want to stick bills on their own sites so they can sell ad banners. Meanwhile, Internet bill trials continue, and a few pioneers such as National Utility Investors  www.nui.com and Brooklyn Union Gas www.bug.com are already online. Predicted for the future: PointCast type systems that broadcast bills to consumer’s e-mail boxes.

Other Net-Based Debit Transactions: EFunds Corp., a Tustin, CA, online payments company, has outfitted 150 to 200 merchant clients to accept debit payments via the net. Of 100,000 to 150,000 payments processed so far, only 10 haven’t cleared, “so small it’s probably bank error,” said Neil Godfrey, EFunds CEO. According to Godfrey is EFunds is unique in providing merchants with a turnkey system — hardware, software and gateways to banks.

By the Numbers

  • 90% of top 50 U.S. banks will offer full-service Internet banking by 1999.
  • By 2000, 1,100 banks will offer full-service Internet banking.
  • By 2000, 85% of Internet-capable banks will offer DDA accounts.
  • Consumers made $1 billion in purchases on the Web in 1996.
  • Women now constitute 42% of the Internet population.
  • By 2000, consumer and biz-to-biz e-commerce transactions will hit $150 billion.
  • Commercial “.com” Web sites jumped to 623,002 in May 1997 from 123,372 the previous year.
  • 69% of all billers with five million or more customers will begin building BPM by the end of 1997.

Source: Various speakers at CICG/NACHA Internet Payments Conf.

Micropayments: Digital Equipment Corp.’s Millicent micropayment system should be available to consumers by year’s end, offering script in increments of a tenth of a cent to $5. Companies offering content during a trial phase: Reuters, Music411, Songline Studios and Investors Daily. Digital expects Millicent micropayments to grow to $4 billion in revenue by 2000. That’s counting on 25% of the net population spending 50 cents a day, said Stan Hayami, Digital’s Micro-Commerce Business Mgr.

Net-Based EDI: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a $1 billion government research lab in Livermore, CA, spent 10 months and $60,000 moving its electronic data interchange (EDI) operations to the Internet, working with banking partner Bank of America. Two years later, the lab uses the system to make $15 million in monthly payments to vendors, and 96.3% of payables go out on time. So far, Lawrence Livermore is Bank of America’s only EDI customer using the Net, but the bank’s working to line up new customers, according to BofA EDI Specialist Rett Summerville.

Electronic Postal Service: Add the U.S. Postal Service to the list of players wanting into the e-commerce arena. The USPS is looking for partners for test of a time and date-stamped electronic postmark to begin this fall, with commercial availability in summer 1998. Proposed price: 22 cents per message of 50K or less. Law firms and financial services companies are two top prospects for the services, said Leo Campbell, USPS e-commerce manager. The USPS is also looking into offering electronic P.O. boxes, and hasn’t decided whether it will become a certification authority for digital certificates.

More on Digital Certificates: Market leader VeriSign will issue Class I, II and III digital certificates, to be used in SET transactions. Free Class I certificates verify an e-mail address; Class II cost $19.95 and include name, address, e-mail address authenticated against Equifax or other consumer credit database and verified via snail mail (see also QSpace p. 5). Class III aren’t being issued yet, but will involve some type of in-person identity check, said Bob Pratt, VeriSign Product Line Manager. VeriSign plans to roll out a digital certificate corporate outsourcing service this fall.

NACHA: To help speed up development of Internet payments, NACHA’s Internet Council is participating in a project with Mellon Bank, Bank of America, ABN AMRO, and others to test issuing and honoring digital certificates. A NACHA Internet Council working group is analyzing whether consumers could use the Internet to make direct ACH payments, with or without a signature. “If a consumer could transact with a bank to pay a merchant, it could be more practical and useful than making a payment directly to a merchant they don’t know,” said Leilani W. Doyle, a NACHA Internet Council member and Division Manager, Citation Internet Consulting Group.

Coming Attractions

NACHA and Citation Internet Consulting Group will hold Internet payments conferences in Denver, Chicago, Atlanta and Boston between August and October. Find more information on the NACHA Web site www.nacha.org  or call 703.742.9190.

Contacts: Rett Summerville is EDI Specialist at BofA, 415.436.5488. Leilani W. Doyle is Division Manager at Citation Internet Consulting Group, 713.461.1592, ldoyle@cicg.com . Richard Crone is VP at CyberCash, 415.413.0165 or rcrone@cybercash.com . Stan Hayami is Micro-Commerce Business Manager at Digital, millicent@digital.com . Neil Godfrey is CEO at Efunds, 714.259.5266, info@e-funds.com . Nick DiGiacomo is CEO at Tenth Mountain Systems, 619.458.2655, nick@yourservice.net . At the U.S. Postal Service, Leo Campbell is E-Commerce Manager; Kim Parks is New Business Sales Manager 703.526.2655. Bob Pratt is Product Line Manager at VeriSign, 415.429.3427.

Michelle V. Rafter

Michelle V. Rafter covers the Internet for Reuters, WebWeek, the Los Angeles Times and others. Reach her at mvrafter@deltanet.com .

Comments

Ten Ways to Get Noticed Online without Busting the Budget

By Jim Bruene on August 6, 1997 9:26 AM | Comments

Online banking should be promoted online to build awareness and bag new accounts. But don’t throw money away in 1998. There are many low-cost ways to garner attention. Let the mega-banks burn cash educating the marketplace while you invest in high-return niche marketing strategies.


 

Of course, you’ll need more than good products and good services to make a name for yourself in cyberspace. You’ll have to let people know what you do. Fortunately, there are a number of very affordable ways to do this.

The three areas where you can get the most bang for your buck nest year are:

  • events (on and offline)
  • employee training/incentives
  • PR/marketing to stimulate “word-of-mouth”

Events

Event sponsorship is an age-old marketing technique. Use the hype surrounding cyberanything to gain free publicity for your event. A couple ideas:

1. Develop an “online banking class in a box” that you provide to community colleges and other adult education firms to teach night classes in online financial management. Develop special offers that allow participants to try your online services for little or no cost.

2. Stage an “online banking day” or “personal financial management conference” at a convention center or hotel. Consider pooling resources with other financial institutions and/or Internet service providers.

3. Develop a series of online events such as chat sessions with local executives or money-management experts. You’ll probably have a small group actually participate in the session, but you’ll get free publicity citing your Web address. As an added bonus, the online transcripts from a conversation with a high-profile business exec might end up widely linked to from other Web sites. You will need to contact other Webs to make them aware of new transcripts posted online. It helps to provide a brief (25-word) synopsis of the material that they can post on their site along with the link. Don’t forget to include the date the conversation took place.

Employee Training/Incentives

You would probably be amazed at the Internet skills some of your employees have picked up on their own time. Find ways to get these experts involved in your online efforts.

4. Develop an employee online banking “evangelist” program. Evangelists get their own Web site e.g., www.yourbank.com/patsmith/ , special biz cards with e-mail/Web addresses, and other perks. Sales incentive programs could provide free computers, high-speed Internet access, software, or other prizes.

5. Encourage all employees to become PC/Net savvy. Subsidize costs of Net access, computers, modems, etc. Provide financial incentives (such as contests) to get employees to use your online banking program (even though they can get the same info at work).

Publicity/Marketing

Online consumers love to find something useful to do online (perhaps to feel less guilty about all the time spent in the ESPN SportZone). And when they do, they want to share their success with others. Harness this powerful word-of-mouth advertising by creating something compelling for users to talk about:

6. Schedule a time to individually walk reporters through your Web site so they’ll know where to look in the future for quick info.

7. Offer basic account access for FREE (you can charge for value-adds such as bill payment) to make it very easy for a consumer to recommend your program to a friend.

8. Make it easy for your customers to refer others to your Web site. You can easily set up an “E-mail to a friend” button on your Web page. All the user does is enter their own e-mail address, their friend’s e-mail address, any comments, and hit enter (see sidebar on next page for an example). You could also test a customer referral incentive, though this may not be necessary if you make it easy enough. You must acknowledge and thank all referrals.

9. Run a sweepstakes tied to online banking/bill pay usage. Not only does this reward your current customers for using your service, it’s a good way to get the attention of new prospects. Bank of America and Security First Network Bank have both used this technique in the past year. Both used prize pools of $10,000 or less. You could emulate the credit card usage sweeps that crop up each fall by automatically entering each bill payment transaction into the contest. Winners would get their bill paid for free.

10. Test, test and test Web-based advertising and promotion. While it may be premature to launch a Web advertising blitz next year, you need to start trying different approaches. Test animated banners, sweepstakes, teaser campaigns, search engine ad buys, etc. Find out what works and what doesn’t in preparation for an all-out assault in 1999. And be creative in your media buys. It’s a buyer’s market for another year or two, so negotiate everything.

Comments

Ten Ways to Improve Online Customer Service Functionality

By Jim Bruene on August 5, 1997 8:49 AM | Comments

After 12 months of hard work your Web site finally passes muster with the EVPs of Marketing, IS/IT, Legal, and Branch Administration, but can users find out how much a new order of checks cost? Here are some ways to boost your Web site’s usefulness.

For most companies the most important function of a Web site is helping existing customers find answers to product and service questions, reorder products, and build brand loyalty.

You still have some time to get it right. The early adopters using the Web today are accustomed to plodding through confusing user interfaces in search of an elusive kernel of information. Tomorrow’s user looking up an account balance on their WebTV during a commercial on The Tonight Show won’t be so tolerant, which makes 1998 the year to fine-tune your online presence before mistakes start costing real money.

There are three areas of Internet-based customer service that could stand improvement at most financial institutions:

  • Facilitating self-service
  • Responsiveness (speed/quality)
  • Personalization

Self-Service

High-tech companies such as Sun, Microsoft, etc. report millions of dollars of savings each month delivering technical support over the Web. For a financial institution, the savings won’t be as dramatic, but they may have similar effects on the bottom line. Depending on how clever you are in migrating customers to self-service (without alienating your profitable customers in the process), you may be able to get at least some of the more mundane questions solved on the Web instead of your call center (e.g., What is the rate on _____?).

Furthermore, e-mail lends additional flexibility in staffing customer service centers. E-mail queries can be answered during lulls in call volume, or if the call center becomes overloaded, e-mails could be forwarded to back-up staff elsewhere in the company (or at their homes).

Here are some ideas to consider for 1998:

1. Upgrade your online help/FAQs (frequently asked questions). The problem with most online FAQs is that they are not updated frequently enough, nor are they organized in a logical fashion. Part of the problem is that making changes is often a tedious process, taking days, or even weeks to wind their way through the appropriate departments for approval. Why not empower certain customer service leads to log into your Web and make additions/clarifications to your FAQ as needed? Marketing/legal could review changes in “real-time” as part of the posting process, not as a separate step slowing up the process.

2. Build a customized search engine with integrated table of contents. When you look for something in a book you may use the table of contents to find the general area of information, or the index to find citations for specific terms. Your Web should work the same way. The table of contents (or site map) should point users in the general direction of interest (e.g., financial planning for retirement) while your index (search engine) delivers them to the exact right spot (e.g., home equity rates). And make sure you put the search engine through rigorous testing. Many financial institution search engines are laughable. More than once I have found no citations for “online banking” on a bank’s Web that just launched a huge online banking initiative.

3. Develop a full set of interactive customer service forms. Many financial institutions are finding that the biggest cost of a Web presence is customer service. The first line of defense against spiraling customer service costs is helping customers help themselves. But that won’t solve all customer problems. When they do come to your for additional information, use detailed forms with built-in diagnostics that elicit all the pertinent facts right away so that you don’t have to waste time going back for more information. To get an idea of how this works, check out the Member Services area of America Online (screenshot on facing page). Users are taken through a series of yes/no questions to narrow down their problem before requesting assistance.


America Online puts users through a series of diagnostic steps before hitting the free-from
“e-mail us” screen. Keyword <Member Services>.

4. Develop multi-level FAQs that can be browsed or searched. In a multi-level FAQ, only the most common questions are shown for a given subject. Users drill down from the top-level if they want additional information. Check out the QSpace FAQs on credit reports for a good example of how to nest questions, www.qspace.com.

You may also need a search engine that hits only your FAQs. That way someone with a question on balancing a checkbook won’t be taken to the check reorder form. For an example, see the Quicken Support area of Intuit’s Web www.intuit.com.


Intuit’s searchable FAQs begin with the user entering a product name to further refine the search. A similar approach would make sense for financial institutions.

Bank of America’s Contact Area


When you click on
Contact from anywhere on BofA’s Web www.bankamerica.com you are delivered to a page that prescreens your questions. For example, the Technical Questions area asks for basic information such as browser type/version, computer platform, service provider, problem description, error messages, etc.

Bank of America does a good job directing users to the proper area to get help. Internally, this is an enormous help to BofA in providing timely responses. We especially like how they provide mini-FAQs before presenting the e-form to ask a question.


BofA’s HomeBanking help area.

When clicking on HomeBanking users get a 24-question FAQ list that answers the most common questions such as “How much does HomeBanking cost? or “Does HomeBanking work with Quicken?” Following the 24-question overview is a simple e-form to request help. www.bankamerica.com/contact/homebanking.html.

Responsiveness

Expectations of a timely response vary with the medium. When you write a letter, a response within a few weeks is deemed adequate. When you send an e-mail, a response is expected within a few hours. Few firms are delivering that kind of turnaround, providing you the opportunity to become known as the Nordstrom of cyberspace (i.e., provider of tremendous service).

5. Offer instant credit approval even if it’s conditional on employment verification, home appraisal, etc. The big consumer lenders will eventually all adopt some type of instant approval/prequalification. If you intend to compete with the aggressive lenders, you’ll need to consider instant online credit approval. Not only does this position you as a highly responsive lender, done right it could be quite profitable as well.

Only three lenders in North America have gone real-time: Beneficial National Bank, Bank of Montreal, and BayShore Trust, so you still have time to position yourself as a pioneer in this area. We know that online credit applications, especially with instant approval, give your underwriting department a major headache. But you don’t have to sacrifice credit quality to give applicants quick feedback on the likelihood of their loan application being funded.

6. Offer real-time customer service via online “chat” mode. Online chat allows users to type questions and receive real-time typed replies. Chat can be public, visible to anyone in the “room,” or private, visible only to the customer and the customer service rep. Private chat has the most applications for financial institutions, though you could experiment with public chat. There are a number of tools available that allow you to moderate, or censor, chat in real-time so that offensive or inappropriate material is squelched. Though you would most likely want a human moderator involved at all times.

Thanks to new “chat servers” available from several vendors such as iChat or eShare, you can experiment with chat services with little up-front investment. These vendors will host private-branded chat on their servers using their software. You provide the artwork, layout, context and moderator. Start with just a few experimental hours each day where you offer “beta testers” a chance to interact with service reps real-time.

Another advantage of chat is that edited transcripts of pertinent conversations could be posted to add some interesting ever-changing content to your Web.

7. Automatically confirm all e-mails submitted. Every e-mail submitted to your bank should get an immediate response confirming receipt and providing an estimate of when the user will receive an answer. This can easily be done entirely with automation.

8. Provide fast e-mail problem resolution. E-mail customer service has been getting a bad name in cyberspace. Many large companies have done a poor job in staffing this area, and response times (if you even get a response) are often measured in days or weeks instead of minutes or hours as expected from serious Internet users. In our experience, we rarely get a response in the same day, and it is not unusual to wait a week or longer. Differentiate yourself by promising 60-minute turn time on most e-mail queries. Even if you can’t solve the problem entirely, you can get back to the customer within an hour to explain what research is being conducted and an estimated time to expect resolution.

Personalization

We recently spent two months covering personalizing and customizing ideas and tactics so we won’t reiterate those here. Keep in mind that customization schemes will flourish next year as Web publishers take advantage of the latest browser features. You would be well-advised to begin at least experimenting in this area.