ING Direct Archives

Oklahoma Employees Credit Union Posts Seven Specials for Black Friday and Cyber Monday

By Jim Bruene on November 21, 2012 11:37 AM | Comments

imageDuring the past few years we've reported on Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions at financial institutions (last year). ING Direct is the only large bank that has consistently used the post-Thanksgiving holiday in its marketing (see below) and we are glad to see it continue under Capital One ownership.

imageThis year we found another new entrant for our database of holiday offers, 42,000 member Oklahoma Employees Credit Union. It has a prominent black tag on its homepage announcing a "Black Friday Money $ale" (see first screenshot). 

And from the looks of it, the CU has created a pretty hot offer, leading with car loans as low as 1.49% with no payment due for 90 days (well after holiday spending subsides). But that's just one of the seven holiday offers (second screenshot). The CU is also offering:

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday (Nov 23 to 26)

  • 1.49% APR* on New or Used Auto Loans 
  • 1.00% APR^ Off Unsecured Loans
  • Surcharge Free Gift Cards***
Black Friday to the End of the Year (Nov 23 to Dec 31)
  • 90 days no pay**
  • $149 Mortgage Loan Origination Fee^^
  • $49 Credit*^ with New MasterCard
  • 0.49%tt Business Loan Origination Fee


    Oklahoma Employees Credit Union homepage with Black Friday specials (Wed, 21 Nov 2012)


    Black Friday landing page (link)


    ING Direct homepage with Black Friday offers (21 Nov 2012)


    ING Direct Black Friday teaser page (link)
    Note: The bank does not reveal the actual offers until midnight Thursday



    Fine print on Oklahoma Employees Credit Union offers:

      *Annual Percentage Rate. 640+ credit score. Max term 60 months; estimated payment $17.31 per $1,000 borrowed. Min amount $10,000. Existing OECU loan min advance $2,500. Requires automatic payments and eStatements. 
      ** Borrower may defer initial auto loan payment up to 90 days. Interest will accrue from date of advance. 
      ^ Annual Percentage Rate. Reduction from regular earned rate as determined by credit score. 
      *** Up to 5 cards
      ^^ Max 12 years up to $250,000 and 75% loan-to-value as determined by appraisal or AVM. 
      *^ Initial transaction must be made by 1/10/13. Credit to be issued by 2/10/13. 
      tt Owner occupied commercial real estate. Max loan $500,000. Additional closing costs may apply. Normal lending policies apply.


      Capital One 360 Arrives in February

      By Jim Bruene on November 14, 2012 7:23 PM | Comments

      imageContractually, Capital One had just one year to transition away from the ING Direct name and rebrand with its own creation. Last week, it announced the new name:

                       Capital One 360

      While I like the "360" thing, I'm a little disappointed they didn't give it a separate brand, like NAB's UBank. Here's how the bank explains it to customers:

      Red's the new Orange. Since Capital One's colors are red and blue, our new colors are going to be red and blue, too. After all, we’ve got to make sure we're color coordinated and lookin' good for the family photo.

      My take: Most financial institutions are best served by overlaying their trusted name on all their initiatives. But given the provenance of ING Direct, a quirky independent anti-bank bank (though it was owned by a huge financial conglomerate), I thought this might be an exception to the rule. But I don't fault the bank one bit for taking the lower-risk approach. 

      It will be interesting to see how Capital One positions the 360 brand long-term with its other bank and card divisions. image The "360" implies a full view of your finances, so I wonder if they'll be dropping PFM features into the account soon. There are no clues on the bank's "Our pledge" page (accessed via the blue button above the ball). 

      And long-time fans are wondering how much of the old ING Direct quirkiness will be maintained, if any. One promising sign, the landing page at <>, has a clever play on words along with an interactive feature that allows the user to "paint" over the orange ball revealing a maroon 360 one. Very well done.


      Capital One 360 landing page before "brushing" (14 Nov 2012)


      Capital One 360 landing page after brushing


      Note: Not that it really matters, but I was expecting the ball to bounce, as it used to on the ING Direct page, after the 360 was revealed.

      Categories: Capital One, ING Direct

      Can Savings Accounts Be Social?

      By Jim Bruene on January 4, 2012 11:55 AM | Comments (4)

      image I glanced at my ING Direct eStatement alert today (screenshot below) to see what they had to say in the new year. The soon-to-be-Capital-One direct bank is usually pretty creative in its copywriting. And I was not disappointed today. Here's the pitch inside the alert:


      I love the idea of a "Social Network...of Savers," a Facebook-like place where friends help each other keep spending in check and achieve politically correct savings goals such as the down payment on a home, the college fund, or a rainy day reserve.

      But I don't think the Facebook model works in the real world (note 1). Even though it might be interesting to follow your friends' drunk spending (note 2), most users want this info to be kept VERY private (note 3). And in most circles, money accumulation is never openly discussed. Who wants to read about someone's "trip to Tahiti" savings goal when you are trying to get off unemployment?

      In its recent email, ING Direct is NOT looking to create the Facebook of savings in any way. While the bank celebrates savings throughout its marketing (e.g.,, this email offer isn't about sharing with your network, it's about selling to your network to earn a $10 referral fee per new account, up to $500. And that's OK, because everyone loves to share "found money."   

      ING Direct email (4 Jan 2012, 9 AM Pacific)

      ING Direct estatement email alert 

      Referral landing page (link)
      Note: There's even a Flash demo of the referral split for the math challenged.

      ING Direct referral landing page

      1. I'm not saying that all sharing is a dead end. For example, sharing savings/spending goals can work very well within tight-knit groups such as extended families. And compiled/masked data about peer spending/savings is very promising (see Citi's Bundle joint venture). Finally, there are numerous opportunities for "social investing" (our 2008 Online Banking Report on the subject), because it's much more complicated and often openly discussed.  
      2. There is room for "social savings" in the context of sharing discounts, money-savings tips, and so on. But that's not what ING Direct is talking about in this message.
      3. Hence the pivots by the two "class of 2010" startups, Blippy and Swipely, which were founded on a "transaction-sharing" model.
      4. And the bank makes its win-win. The new customer gets the biggest share, $25 for a savings account, a 70/30 split of the $35 up for grabs. New checking customers get $50, from an 85/15 split of $60.
      5. For info on family banking, deposit gathering, transaction sharing, social investing, and much more, see our subscription newsletter, Online Banking Report.

      Comments (4)

      Holiday Promotions at the Top-20 U.S. Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 21, 2011 4:38 PM | Comments

      Since I began blogging in 2004, I've usually run a year-end post looking at the holiday marketing efforts of the top-20 U.S. banks (links below). This year, only 7 of the 20 banks are using holiday or seasonal imagery on their homepages. That's a decrease of 3 over last year.

      As usual, PNC Bank is the gold standard for holiday bank promotions, with its long-running (25+ years) "cost of Christmas index" which quantifies the cost of procuring all the items mentioned in the famous song, "12 Days of Christmas." Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating. 

      Previous posts: 2010, 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


      Big banks in the holiday spirit
      (rated 1 to 5 bulbs)

      PNC: Christmas cost index

      • Cost of Christmas based on the song 12 Days of Christmas

      Score: imageimageimageimageimage



      Landing page: Amazing microsite, wonderful graphics, and slow loading (link)


      Fifth Third: holiday sweeps

      • Pay Your Bills sweeps with holiday graphics
      • Small ad with a card wrapped with ribbon which directs users to branches for "holiday shopping made easy," presumably for gift cards, but neither the ad nor the landing page make that clear

      Score: imageimageimageimage


      ING Direct: Mobile usage sweeps

      • 12 Days of Mobile sweeps

      Score: imageimageimageimage


      Landing page


      Chase: sweeps and car loans

      • Winner Wonderland, credit card sweeps with one entry for every credit card purchase and 5 entries for every donation put on the Chase card
      • Add joy to your wallet, car refinance promotion

      Score: imageimageimage


      BB&T: Visa gift card

      • Small advertisement in lower right

      Score: image image



      TD Bank: Visa gift card

      • Small advertisement in lower right (below the fold on my laptop)

      Score: image



      Key Bank: gift cards

      • Very small gift-card promo, below the fold on my laptop and rotating with a half-dozen other items

      Score: image




      1. No holiday imagery on the homepages of BofA, Wells Fargo, Citibank, HSBC, US Bank, SunTrust, Capital One, Citizens, Regions, Harris, Bank of the West, Union Bank, Comercia
      2. Screenshots taken from Ft. Myers, FL, IP address, between 7 and 8 PM, 20 Dec 2011    
      3. Credit: Happy Holidays animation from


      ING Direct Read-Only Access Code for Third-Party PFMs

      By Jim Bruene on October 20, 2011 5:05 PM | Comments

      Ceramic Coffee Cup with Silicon Lid (530)To my knowledge, ING Direct is the only major U.S. bank blocking third-party PFM access. But users can direct their PFM around the gate with a special "read-only" access code.

      How it works
      It's not particularly easy to find, buried three levels deep in MyAccounts | Preferences | Access Code.

      The default setting is Blocked, as you can see in the first screenshot below.

      But once you find the page, it couldn't be simpler to set up. Simply press the blue Create Access Code button in the upper right, and in a split second, you have created a read-only access code and opened your account to PFM access.

      To change back, you merely click the "Block" button in upper right.

      The only thing missing is an explanation of what to do with the Access Code. Is it the username or password? While that's explained in an link from the first page, it's not on the second page where you need it. (BTW, it's the password).

      The bank also confirmed the new code via email right away (third screenshot).


      Access code main page (20 Oct 2011)

      ING Direct create access code page

      New access code

      New read-only access created at ING Direct

      Email confirmation

      ING Direct access code confirmation email


      Note: OBR subscribers can access our previous reports on security at (published in 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008).


      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct Provides Free Digital Magazine Subscription with Birthday Greeting

      By Jim Bruene on September 30, 2011 5:54 PM | Comments (2)

      ING Direct Happy Birthday Email Sep 2011I like it when businesses I frequent remember a milestone. Typically, it's the anniversary of our first transaction or my birthday. I prefer the former, because it's unique to the business relationship and less cliche.  

      Even though I know it's just a bit of programming back at the home office, it still says something about an organization that they prioritized it over other pressing needs (like a new debit card fee, see note 1).

      Unlike retailers or eateries, who can give customers a free desert and more than make up the cost with profit from the dinner, it's hard for banks to deliver a freebie that has actual value. Last month, I wrote about Discover's month-long double points birthday bonus. That was a winner.

      This week, ING Direct came through with birthday present that has some perceived value. Delivered via email (see opposite) was a complimentary four-issue subscription to ODE Magazine plus a special issue devoted to savings. Granted, it's only the digital edition (note 2), but it's still better than nothing.

      The bank also throws in a 15% discount at its online store. A nice touch, but not a huge value for most customers.

      Landing page to redeem magazine subscription
      Note: Here you can choose digital or printed version (note 2)

      ING Direct offer landing page













      1. Actually, I'm pro debit-card fee. Why shouldn't you charge for an optional-yet-super-convenient service that people use every day? I might have started out at $3/mo and bundled it with more value-adds, but even at $5 it's about 17 cents per day for unlimited usage. So what's the big uproar? Sure, it probably made more sense to have the merchants pick up the tab, but that got Durbined down the drain.  
      2. The landing page offers a choice between printed and digital. However, it's not clear whether that applies to the 4-issue subscription or just the special savers issue.

      Comments (2)
      Categories: Email Samples, ING Direct

      Launching: ING Direct Unveils $10 Million Campaign for Teen Banking

      By Jim Bruene on August 30, 2011 4:18 PM | Comments

      image Just last month we published a report (here) about the large, and mostly unmet, opportunity to bank tweens/teens AND their parents.

      Evidently ING Direct didn't need our report. The direct bank, soon to be part of Capital One, is launching an aggressive $10 million advertising campaign for its new MONEY account (note 1). There's no official mention of the program at ING Direct, except for a wall post on its main Facebook page (see last screenshot).

      However, several online elements have been released:

      Product: There's only a few sentences describing the product, but it sounds like a standard checking account with debit card access. It will have no fees and no minimums and can be managed online (duh) and through a smartphone app.

      Campaign: The $10 million campaign (note 2) is primarily fulfilled via Facebook (see screenshots below) and includes:

      • Advertising on Facebook and online
      • Supporting sweeps has (10) $1,000 prizes, (10) MacBooks, (20) iPod Touches
      • Those submitting pictures of themselves, may get it projected on a Times Square Jumbotron for 15 seconds (begins Sept. 15)

      Our take: With 1% rates killing its traditional value proposition, it makes perfect sense for ING Direct to build for the future by positioning itself as a place that caters to the banking needs of the entire family. Well played.


      1. ING Direct's teen-banking microsite at (30 Aug. 2011)
      Note: In the lower right is a "pre-registration form" where the bank collects the name and email address of interested parties

      ING Direct teen banking microsite at (29 Aug 2011)

      2. Parents are encouraged to send a message to their children to let them know about the sweeps
      Note: The lower right contains a place for parents to send email messages to their children

      2. Parents are encouraged to send a message to their children to let them know about the sweeps

      3. Facebook page at <>

      3. Facebook page at <>

      3. Facebook page info page (Facebook app)

      3. Facebook page info page

      4. Facebook page sign-up form

      4. Facebook page signup form for ING Direct Money

      5. Thank-you page after pre-registering


      6. Wall post this afternoon on main ING Direct Facebook page (link, 30 Aug. 2011)

      6. Wall post this afternoon on main ING Direct Facebook page (29 Aug 2011)


      1. New agency Berlin Cameron is spearheading the effort according to today's Adweek article.
      2. That's about 40% of ING Direct's projected $25 million media spend for 2011.
      3. Hat tip: MyBankTracker
      4. For more on teen banking, see our recent Online Banking Report.


      ING Direct Raises the Security Bar Again with Checkbook Activation

      By Jim Bruene on August 15, 2011 12:44 PM | Comments

      ING Direct has brought a number of security innovations to the United States: 

      • Password entry via pin pad instead of keyboard
      • Trusteer "safe login" browser plugin (previous post)
      • Challenge questions at login (when needed)

        Now add a fourth item to that list:

      • Authorization required when a new book of paper checks is ordered (see update below)

      ING Direct, which famously eschewed paper checks when it launched a checking account, Electric Orange, in 2007, recently began offering a paper-check option. True to form, ING Direct added a few twists to standard industry practices:

      • Paper checks can be bought only in quantifies of 50
      • Each order is just $5
      • Only one set of 50 can be ordered at a time (but once they have been authorized, another set can be ordered)
      • Before the checks can be used, the book of 50 must be activated online (similar to credit/debit card authorization)
      • Because the order must be authorized, third-party paper checks will not work at ING Direct (another security improvement)


      How it works

      The bank isn't exactly pushing paper checkbooks. There are no obvious links to the option on the primary or secondary navigation. Users must click on the Payments tab, then select Overview on the secondary navigation. That brings up a list of the ways to make payments, with "Checkbook" listed half-way down the page (see below).

      New paper-check option at ING Direct (12 Aug. 2011)

      ING Direct's paper check book option 12 Aug 2011

      And the bank's order form is drop-dead simple, unlike most major banks which drop you to a third-party order-entry site.

      One-click check-ordering process

      One-click check ordering process at ING Direct

      Confirmation screen explains next steps

      Confirmation screen explains next steps


      My take

      Offering paper checks is a good move. Most U.S. customers still need the occasional paper check, and waiting 5 days for ING Direct to send one out on your behalf was slow and cumbersome.

      And I really like the authorization feature. Since I was old enough to know about check fraud, I've always felt that a book of checks sitting in my mailbox was a bit disconcerting. This solves that worry.

      Finally, the $5 per 50 pricing is consumer friendly and competitive. The lower quantity (compared to typical 150-200 orders) subtly discourages paper-check usage, but the price is in line with other financial institutions, which typically charge $15 to $25 per 200 checks (note 1).


      PS. ING Direct must be very close to launching remote check deposit. It has a "stay tuned" message posted under the "Deposit Checks" tab in secondary navigation (see below). 

      ING Direct's website implies that remote check deposit is coming soon (12 Aug. 2011)

      ING Direct's website implies that remote check deposit is coming soon

      Update (16 Aug. 2011): I heard from Citibank today. Apparently, they've used checkbook authorization for online account opening since 2007.

      1. And you can pay more: Chase recently dinged me for $23 for a book of 50 money-market checks (which I didn't ask for) when I opened a new business savings account. In comparison, I earned $0.40 (before tax) in interest on the balance. That means it would take more than 7 years to earn enough interest to pay for the book of checks. But I'll give Chase credit for immediately reversing the fee after I dropped the unwanted checks off at the branch. 
      2. Apparently ING Direct changed its homepage navigation items earlier this year. The overall minimalist design remains unchanged. But now, in addition to View My Account, the bank offers three choices: Banking, Investing or Retirement. Previously, there were only two other choices: Open an account and Learn more.


      Is ING Direct to Capital One what PayPal was to eBay?

      By Jim Bruene on June 16, 2011 6:55 PM | Comments (1)

      image Given that ING Direct had to be divested (by agreement with the Dutch government), it couldn't have gone to a more interesting buyer. Capital One was my favorite banking company in the pre-Internet days as it was an absolute direct marketing machine (and still is).

      But Capital One has not leveraged the Internet to the extent I'd expected and as recently as last November, didn't even have a mobile app for the iPhone.  

      ING Direct is the opposite. Much of its 7.6  million customer base and $82 billion in deposits can be attributed to an innovative brand optimized for remote delivery.

      Will ING Direct's online chops boost growth at Capital One like PayPal did for eBay when it introduced epayments into the online marketplace? Wall Street gave it a modest thumbs up, sending Capital One shares up more than 2% on a day when financials were flat. That's a $0.5 billion positive swing in market cap. Not a bad start to the relationship.

      The combined entity will be the fifth largest U.S. bank by deposits (at more than $200 billion) trailing only BofA, Chase, Wells and Citi (table here). However, Capital One would need to acquire six more ING Directs to catch Chase, another one to reach the Wells level, and two more after that to best BofA. 

      My take: I'm not going to pretend to be able to predict the future performance of a $22 billion company paying $9 billion for another. There are so many variables, it makes my head spin.

      But from a remote delivery perspective, they look very complementary. ING offers primarily savings and mortgages acquired online. Capital One is huge in credit cards, auto loans and traditional branch-based banking services.

      So there is one prediction I'll make: The combined entity will be an online marketing powerhouse, and I look forward to seeing how that unfolds.

      Comments (1)
      Categories: Capital One, ING Direct

      ING Direct Adds Phone-to-Phone Mobile Payments Powered by Bump Technologies

      By Jim Bruene on May 2, 2011 7:59 PM | Comments

      imageI've always admired ING Direct's focus on deposit accounts primarily sold and serviced through the Internet. While the bank has diversified into checking accounts, mortgages, and investments during the ten years since it launched, the core website look and feel is virtually unchanged (see 2001 version here). 

      So I was more than a bit surprised to learn this weekend that ING Direct became the second U.S. financial institution to add Bump-powered phone-to-phone payments to its iPhone app. PayPal was first, adding the feature more than a year ago.

      Bottom line: Evidently, with "high-yield savings" stuck at 1%, the giant direct bank needs to be a little more creative on the feature side to attract new business. While bump-to-pay will eventually be replaced with direct communications via NFC or other technologies, it's a nice addition that positions ING Direct as a mobile leader.

      Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011)

      Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011)      Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011) 

      Bump is now one of two choice on the P2P menu on ING Direct's iPhone app (2 May 2011) 


      Note: For more info on mobile banking, see our previous Online Banking Reports.


      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct Raises Price on Overdraft Credit Line by 55%, Still Undercuts Competition by 99%

      By Jim Bruene on March 22, 2011 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

      image This has to be the best notification of a price increase I've ever seen (see first screenshot).

      ING Direct  (USA) famously does not charge OD/NSF fees on its checking account, Electric Orange. But that's a bit of a moot point since the bank doesn't offer paper checks, making it difficult to inadvertently go negative.

      However, the bank does allow overdrawing by few hundred dollars if you so choose. And it charges interest on those "overdrafts" at a variable rate equal to 4% above prime, currently 7.25%. The bank reinforces the no-fee pricing in its standard low-balance alert (see second screenshot below).

      But that low APR is heading upwards. Last night I received an email notification that effective May 15, the variable rate will be increasing to 8% above prime, or 11.25% today, a 55% increase. That's still relatively reasonable for unsecured credit.

      But the bank's email doesn't focus on APR. After clearly disclosing the price increase, it lays out a comparison of what a $100 overdraft would cost the average U.S. consumer for one week, $31, vs. the $0.31 you'd owe ING Direct after 7 days. There are no other fees, transaction or annual, for the ING credit line (complete terms here).

      Well played.

      ING Direct email disclosing OD credit line APR increase (21 March 2011)


      ING Direct email disclosing OD credit line APR increase (21 March 2011)

      Overdraft notice (22 March 2011)
      The bank reinforces its no-fee policy in its email OD alert.

      ING Direct (USA) Overdraft notice (22 March 2011)

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct Running Large Ad on Homepage

      By Jim Bruene on March 17, 2011 5:59 PM | Comments

      ING Direct (USA) is a large online advertiser. And because I frequently click on financial ads, I'm sure they are served to me far more than the average Jo(e). Still, the placement of ING Direct's ad today at surprised me.

      First, I'm not sure I realized that Amazon had turned over that much homepage real estate to third-party advertisers. It must be lucrative. Second, how does it pencil out for ING Direct? That has to be an expensive ad. How many 1% deposits do you have to get to cover those acquisition costs?

      Amazon homepage (17 March 2011, 5 PM PDT, Seattle IP)


      Landing page (link)
      Note: While I like online video for sales support, the length of this 2.5 minute video on how to open a savings account seems a little excessive.


      Off topic: ING's St. Patrick's Day graphic
      ING Direct's homepage today placed its orange ball in a pot 'o gold -- a nice touch -- but I was slightly disappointed they didn't animate the ball jumping into the pot. Clicking the pot took users to the bank's We The Savers blog, with the greeting,"Top o' the mornin' to you, Saver."



      ING Direct Advertises on Email Alerts

      By Jim Bruene on February 23, 2011 10:06 PM | Comments

      image ING Direct (USA) has been a prominent sponsor within Mint's online PFM. However, this is the first time I've noticed the bank advertising via email alert. And specifically, the direct bank is pitching its fee-free Electric Orange Checking account on the bottom of an email alert about a fee on my U.S. checking account. Excellent timing! 

      It's unusual to see an ad on a alert. I spot-checked a dozen or so during the past two months, and this is the only one with any direct marketing. But if it works, I'm sure we'll see more of it. Context-sensitive advertising is what the Web has been built on. email "fee charged" alert (16 Feb. 2011) email alert that a fee was charged to my U.S. Bank business checking account

      ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees (link)

      ING Direct landing page focusing on lower fees


      Service Credit Union Doubles Up on Black Friday Hoopla, Also Promoting Cyber Monday Offers

      By Jim Bruene on November 26, 2010 1:52 PM | Comments

      imageING Direct ran a slew of Black Friday offers again this year (see screenshots below; last year's coverage). And they weren't the only one. Service Credit Union also ran a homepage-dominating ad for its 6 AM-to-noon "doorbuster deals" today:

      • 10% APY 3-month CD with maximum deposit of $1000...$23 in extra interest compared to its regular CD (pre-tax)
      • Fee-free Visa gift cards (limit 5)
      • 1% rate reduction on new personal loans
      • $25 Visa gift card for opening a new credit card
      • Unspecified "in-branch checking account specials"

      The credit union's U.S. branches opened at 6:00 AM to mimic the retail craziness on the day after Thanksgiving. Specials were available until noon only, and all required a branch visit to redeem.

      I was going to say something about the lack of online-redemption options, but luckily I checked back after noon and found that a Cyber Monday promotion had taken the place of the Black Friday ad. Online users are being offered similar specials on this coming Monday (aka Cyber Monday):

      • 7% APY 3-month CD with $1000 max deposit (a $17 interest bonus)
      • $100 bonus for opening a new checking account (requires direct deposit and estatements)
      • $25 Visa gift card for opening a new credit card
      • Free personalized credit card design for first 100 members ($9.95 value)
      • $25 Visa gift card for a referral

      Bottom line: The dual promotion was a clever way to involve both online and in-branch members.

      Service Credit Union placed a bold advertisement on its homepage promoting its Black Friday deals (10:00 AM Pacific, 26 Nov. 2010)


      Later in the day, the CU posted Cyber Monday specials on the homepage (1:00 PM Pacific)


      Landing page (link)


      ING Direct homepage on Black Friday (26 Nov. 2010


      Landing page (link)
      Note: Offers are good for the entire weekend



      ING Direct Adds Kids Savings Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on November 23, 2010 5:12 PM | Comments (1)

      imageWe first opened an account at ING Direct back in 2001, not long after it opened for business in the United States. Almost since the beginning, my wife and I used it to store money and handle allowance bookkeeping for our kids. To keep things simple, we  created sub-accounts from our main savings account.

      That made for a super-easy setup since it takes about 20 seconds (I've timed it) at ING Direct to create a new sub-account. The sub-accounts are nicknamed for each child and automatic transfers drop their allowance in so we no longer had to remember that every week. It's a great system. 

      However, the above approach doesn't officially put the money into the child's name, which could have tax and other advantages. And if you want to provide your kids with online account access, you have to turn over your own username/password. And if you do that, there's nothing to keep enterprising youngsters from making an extra transfer or two into their own accounts. While I'm sure that wouldn't happen in our house (right, boys?), it's not an ideal setup.

      ING Direct solved those limitations in October when it launched special kids savings accounts, which are joint accounts with an adult. But the child gets his own login-info separate from the adult. Kids can log in to check their balance, but only the adult can make transfers.

      The ING Direct kids account pays the same rate as the adult version, currently 1.1%. And there are no fees, an ING Direct custom. The only downside, you have to complete a small application process, which took 3.5 minutes, not much, but still a bit of a chore compared to the 15-second, sub-account set-up process.

      Once established, the new savings account shows up on the adult's main account menu like any other account.

      Bottom line: It's a nice addition to the ING Direct lineup. While relatively bare bones in terms of features and functions, it will be interesting to see what the bank does with it over time such as integrating with Planet Orange, the bank's financial education effort (see screenshot below).

      Landing page for more info on Kids Savings Accounts ( link, 23 Nov. 2010)

      ING Direct Landing page for more info on Kids Savings Accounts

      Kids account application, for adding to an existing adult account
      Note (not shown): On the second step, you choose a 6-10 digit unique PIN for the child and on the third step, you fund the account with a minimum opening deposit of $1.

      ING Direct Kids account application, for adding to an existing adult account

      Planet Orange is the bank's financial education resource <> Note: So far, no integration with Kids Savings

      Planet Orange is ING Direct's financial education resource

      Hat tip:

      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct Reinforces Security Protections

      By Jim Bruene on October 18, 2010 7:48 PM | Comments (1)

      image No matter how long you've been banking online and no matter how good you are at keeping your computer virus- and malware-free, there's always the nagging concern that this could be the time where you end up as part of the national fraud statistics.

      That's why banking websites need to maintain a solid "perception of security" around the login box. Those padlocks, security FAQs, and so forth are an important reminder to customers that the bank is doing all it can to protect their money.

      But it's also important to reach out every once in a while, annually should be enough, through email and statement messaging, to summarize all the protections you've put in place. Saturday, we received just such a message from ING Direct (see below).

      As usual, the direct-banking giant did a great job marrying conversational text with its trademark minimalistic graphical style to reassure customers that they are safe banking online at ING Direct.

      The bank has long been ahead of the "security curve," at least in the United States. It was first with a pin pad for secure password entry. It was one of the first with a security-challenge question and personalized anti-phish emails. More recently, they were the first bank in the world to deploy Trusteer's Rapport browser plugin.

      ING Direct USA email to customers outlining security precautionsSaturday's email discussed four security features:

      • How to identify legitimate emails from phishy ones
      • Reminder to look for your pre-selected image and phrase at login
      • Explanation of the pin pad for secure data entry
      • Encouragement to register your computer

      One other area that could have been addressed is mobile-phone security. Smartphone users have significant security concerns about mobile banking. The bank missed an opportunity to address them and tout its relatively new iPhone app as well.

      But, all-in-all, it's a worthy effort from ING Direct, and something every financial institution should have in its annual messaging plan (note 1).

      Email Header

      From: ING DIRECT <>


      Date: Sat., Oct 16, 2010, at 10:39 AM

      Subject: Here's how we protect you


      Note: For more info on possible customer messaging topics, see the most recent Online Banking Report.

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct (USA) to Offer Special Independence Day Bonuses July 1 & 2

      By Jim Bruene on June 24, 2010 3:52 PM | Comments (1)

      imageI love holiday-themed online promotions. It's the low-hanging fruit of online marketing. Why not dress up your website for the holidays and offer a little savings on the side? Worst case, you get a smile from your customers. Best case, you turn a tidy profit on the effort.

      Last fall, I wrote about ING Direct's Black Friday (pre-Thanksgiving) sale. I liked it so much, I am now the proud owner of an ING Direct mortgage refi thanks to the $683 incentive to apply that day.

      Knowing what a fan I am, the bank provided me with a preview of the offers planned for next weekend to celebrate the events of 1776:

      • Investing for financial freedom: Investors who open a new ShareBuilder account receive a $76 bonus (after making one transaction). 
      • Pursuing the happiness of homeownership: Prospective homeowners who apply for a mortgage  receive $776 off closing costs, a 40% discount. 
      • Liberation from checking fees: A surprise promotion for its no-fee Electric Orange Checking account. 
      • Spreading the wealth of savings: An undisclosed boost to the bank's usual refer-a-friend offer.

      More details will appear on the bank's landing page at 12:01 AM on July 1 <> (see teaser page below, first screenshot). The teaser campaign has already been implemented on the bank's homepage, Twitter page, and Facebook page (see screenshots below).

      Anyone else have something special planned for next weekend? Add it to the comments below or drop me an email.

      Landing page teaser (link, 24 June 2010)

      ING Direct 4th of July sale landing page

      ING Direct homepage

      ING Direct USA home page with indpedendance day sale teaser

      Twitter page preview (link)

      ING Direct twitter page with July 4 teaser

      Facebook page (link)

      ING Direct Facebook page with 1776 sale teaser

      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: $50,000 "Goal Savings" Sweeps from ING Direct

      By Jim Bruene on April 20, 2010 7:51 PM | Comments (1)

      On April 16, the day after 2009 U.S. income taxes were due, ING Direct emailed customers with a little incentive to establish an automatic savings plan or direct deposit (see first screenshot below).

      Any ING Direct savings or checking account customer who has at least $100 automatically deposited into their account is eligible for monthly drawings of $5,000 (April through Sep.). And one grand prize winner takes home $50,000 on October 1st (total prizes awarded = $80,000; full terms and conditions here; FAQs here).

      With interest rates so low, it's a good idea to provide extra incentives to keep the savings habit alive. And April 16 is the second best day of the year to make a systematic savings appeal (the first business day after Jan. 1 has to be the best).

      The sweeps is not mentioned on the bank's main website or within online banking. This seems odd, given that any account holder can win. Perhaps it's coming to the website.

      ING Direct email to existing customers (16 April)


      Landing page includes interactive smartphone app graphic (link)
      Note: Users can drag and drop icons onto the phone's list to simulate a savings plan


      Note: For more ideas on driving deposits online, see our Online Banking Report: Growing Deposits in the Digital Age (Dec. 2008).

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct's Online Mortgage Loan-Status Effort Disappoints

      By Jim Bruene on December 29, 2009 10:16 AM | Comments (1)

      imageI was so enamored with ING Direct's Black Friday mortgage special, 5 years at 3.75%, that I applied online that day (Nov. 27) and have been going through the mortgage refi process for the past month. To determine how the loan is progressing, applicants may call a toll-free number or check their loan status online. While the online option is a little hard to find, it's convenient, at least in the early stages of the process.

      The loan-status feature is buried in the Open an Account page at the bank's main website (see screenshot #1, below). Applicants log in with their customer number and last four digits of their social-security number (screenshot #2). The bank recaps the loan info and displays a quick checklist of the major steps in the process (screenshot #3): 

      • Application submit date
      • Preliminary decision date
      • Document ship date
      • Loan offer acceptance
      • Documents received
      • Home appraisal completed
      • Title search completed
      • Closing date scheduled

      The popup also contains a handy link to an FAQ explaining all these items, but it is missing a logout button.

      Analysis: ING Direct's online loan status is an important customer convenience. It worked great during the first few weeks while the important milestones were being reached. But now at the end of the process, I'm still left wondering what's going on. There is one orange ball left uncompleted on the list, the all-important closing date. So 32 days after I applied, I still don't know whether underwriting has signed off on the income verification, appraisal, and title search, all very real concerns for customers these days.

      The bank has sent only one email during the application process, a short message on Dec. 22, confirming that all the documents have been received.  Given that my 30-day lock period expired over the weekend, the bank definitely needs to improve the frequency and timeliness of its communications. 

      Overall, it's a respectable effort, but not up to the high levels of online support I expect from ING Direct.

      Grades: B for the loan-status tool; B- for location, and C- for proactive customer communications

      1. ING Direct applicants must find the tiny link on the Open an Account page (link; 29 Dec 2009)


      2. Popup loan status login screen


      3. Loan status popup


      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct's Year-End Pitch for IRAs

      By Jim Bruene on December 22, 2009 11:34 PM | Comments

      image This is one of the better times of year to market tax-deferred accounts. ING Direct targets consumers plotting New Year resolutions with this intriguing headline:

      Subject: Is an IRA on your "to do" list?
      Received: 22 Dec 2009, 5:07 PM Pacific

      There's not much to the message. No offer. No graphics. No tease. Just a solid message reiterating the potential tax benefits and emphasizing ING Direct's no-fee options.

      Grade: B+

      Email screenshot
      Note: This message was sent to an existing customer with a savings account and Sharebuilder account, but no IRA.


      Landing page (link)
      Note: Landing page URL is <>



      ING Direct Black Friday Screenshots

      By Jim Bruene on November 27, 2009 6:53 PM | Comments (1)

      As a followup to our pre-Thanksgiving post, here's what the ING Direct website looked like on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving).

      ING Direct Black Friday homepage (27 Nov 2009, 1 PM Pacific)


      Black Friday deals landing page <>
      Note: All the "Learn more" links went to the regular product pages


      Comments (1)

      Holiday Themes: ING Direct Offers Up Anti-Black-Friday Tease

      By Jim Bruene on November 25, 2009 1:34 PM | Comments (1)

      imageRarely does ING Direct disappoint when it comes to adding a little holiday pizzazz to its website. And it's no turkey this year.

      The bank's homepage is given over entirely to a flash animation that starts with its trademark orange ball rising over a cityscape. Then a decked-out turkey joins the scene and its revealed that its a play on tomorrow's NYC Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.

      But the more interesting development is the small orange "Black Friday" sale tag in the upper right corner (see inset). ING Direct has four Black Friday specials that will be revealed at one past midnight this Friday at <>.

      imageWe are sworn to secrecy on two of the deals, but we can tell you that there will be a $683 discount (the average amount American's spend on holiday gifts) on ING mortgage products (currently 3.75%) and a 20% off ShareBuilder deal.

      The Black Friday tease was also emailed to ING Direct customers this morning (see inset).

      My take: The Black Friday promotion, which is being pushed out to media outlets in advance of Friday, is brilliant. It plays perfectly into the more-conservative budget mindsight in the country and gives the press something else to write about beside the long lines at Best Buy at 4 AM Friday.

      Grade: An A+ and an extra helping of sweet potatoes to ING Direct for both timing and creativity.  

      In a quick survey today of the 25 largest retail banks, three others had holiday promotions or themes: 

      ING Direct (USA) homepage (23 Nov 6 PM Pacific)


      ING Direct black friday landing page (25 Nov 2009)


      Zions Bank homepage (23 Nov 7 PM Pacific)
      Note: Trusteer promotion on homepage


      Wells Fargo homepage (25 Nov 2009, 1 PM Pacific)


      Note: For future reference, this post was made on the day before Thanksgiving.

      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct's ShareBuilder Encourages Customers to Follow on Twitter and Facebook

      By Jim Bruene on September 15, 2009 7:05 PM | Comments (2)

      image An email from ShareBuilder arrived in my inbox this morning. Basically, it provides links to the company's Facebook page (4,000 fans) and Twitter feed (1200 followers), so customers can easily sign up to follow the company on these key social networks.

      Call to action: Get our latest offers and more anytime via Facebook and Twitter.

      While the email effort will get action from serious fans, it has a nice branding component for everyone. With very little effort, it demonstrates ShareBuilder's commitment to interacting with customers wherever they happen to be online. The ING Direct unit has also added Facebook and Twitter signup widgets to its homepage (see screenshot below).

      Bottom line: To really drive numbers to its social network sites, ShareBuilder needs to add an incentive, such as a sweepstakes. But a general awareness message is a good first step.

      ShareBuilder email to existing customers (link, 7:01 AM Pacific, 15 Sep 2009)


      ShareBuilder Twitter page (link)


      ShareBuilder Facebook page (link)


      ShareBuilder homepage


      1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report: Connecting to Customers with Twitter.

      Comments (2)

      ING Direct's Electric Orange Checking Gets Bill-Payment Facelift

      By Jim Bruene on July 24, 2009 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

      image ING Direct's (USA) paperless-checking account, Electric Orange, will get a new bill-pay user interface over the weekend (see first screenshot). The direct banking giant has also jazzed up the logo (inset) for its online checking option introduced in early 2007 (previous post).

      The new GUI attempts to make bill payment more understandable. With paper and electronic delivery to merchants, person-to-person payments (also paper or electronic), and expedited payments thrown in the mix, it was hard for users to know exactly which option to select (see second screenshot for old user interface). 

      ING Direct has reorganized payments into four functions and clearly identified the free (#1-3) vs. fee (#4):

      1. Bill pay (paying merchants)
      2. Person2Person (sending to an individual's bank account)
      3. Send a paper check
      4. Overnight a check (for $20)

      The company is also adding the following features (see third screenshot):

      • Electronic bill statements (ebills)
      • Email due-date reminders
      • New sorting options
      • Expanded recurring payment options
      • Simplified navigation
      • Clearly shows estimated payment arrival date

      Customers have been notified through two emails that various aspects of bill pay will not be functioning beginning over the three-day weekend as the system is converted. 

      Analysis: Overall, it's a significant improvement, but there are still confusing aspects for novice users. For example, how do I decide between Person2Person and Send a Check? (see note 1) Why should I pay $20 for overnight, when the same delivery terms seem to be available in free bill pay? I'll withhold final judgment until I have a chance to use it next week.  

      1. New bill-pay interface (link, begins 25 July 2009)


      2. Previous user interface (22 July 2009)


      3. Landing page describing the changes (link, 23 July 2009)


      1. Answer: You have to have the person's bank account info to use the P2P option.
      2. For more on bill payment, see our Online Banking Report on Epayments (also part 1) (published in 2005) and the Online Banking Report 2009 through 2018 Forecast (published Jan 2009). 

      Comments (1)

      Out of the Inbox: ShareBuilder Email Thanks Customers After Second Month of Automated Investments

      By Jim Bruene on July 9, 2009 5:49 PM | Comments (1)

      image This is the first time we've seen a financial services company reach out and congratulate users for a job well done. In this case, ING Direct's U.S. retail investments unit, ShareBuilder, sent a congratulatory email message to me after two months of investing through its Automatic Investment Program, which pulls money from outside checking accounts.  

      The message has several purposes:

      • To reinforce the investment decision
      • To encourage customers to use ShareBuilder Research
      • To incent users to move other brokerage accounts to ShareBuilder with the $100 bonus offer (see landing page, second screenshot)

      What's not to like here? It's timely, relevant, to-the-point (only 75 words in the main body copy) and makes users feel good about themselves. The same thing could be done with loan payments, debt reduction, savings account balance growth, and so on.

      Email: ShareBuilder automated savings congratulations
      (3 July 2009, 6:41 AM Pacific Time)


      Landing page for $100-bonus offer
      Note: The offer is co-branded with Wells Fargo, which is where I originally set up the ShareBuilder account eight or nine years ago.


      Side note: Online account opening warning box
      When looking at the new account application, we encountered this popup when attempting to leave the unfinished app and navigate to the ShareBuilder homepage (see note 1).  


      1. For more info on the subject of online apps, see our Online Banking Report: Online Account Opening, published two weeks ago. 

      Comments (1)

      Progress Bank's Novel Homepage Design

      By Jim Bruene on May 12, 2009 4:42 PM | Comments (4)

      image There's been substantial progress made in website design by banks. Sure, there's still the occasional clunker, but most we look at today (see note 1) rate solid grades in the B+ to A- range. That's up from many Cs and Ds at the turn of the century.

      However, as good as banking websites have become, they still tend to be relatively busy, making visitors spend more time than necessary finding their way through the site (note 2). It's rare to find a financial institution that dares to follow Google's "less-is-more" approach.

      The lone major bank in the U.S. with a 25-word or less homepage is ING Direct, which like Google, has maintained the same look and feel since launch (see screenshots below, today and eight years ago). NextCard (prior coverage) also did less is more, but in its case, that mantra unfortunately was also embraced by its underwriting department, and the company failed in 2002.

      But now we have another example: Progress Bank (note 3). While the depth of its online capabilities could be improved (how about online account opening?), the homepage is brilliant (screenshot below).

      The Florida-based community bank uses just 26 words to describe its five major areas AND pitch a high-yield checking account. Each major area: online banking login, personal banking, business banking, and About Us, has its own circle. And as you mouse over each one, the image in the center circle changes. It's quite striking.

      In addition, the brightly colored circle in the lower left contains a pitch for the bank's featured product, its green 5% APR checking account (note 5).

      Bottom line: I love the look, although I hope they did some A-B testing before springing it on users. It's a great branding statement, but it is also so different, there's a risk that customers might not perceive the bank to be as trustworthy as one with a more traditional layout.

      Progress Bank homepage (11 May 2009)


      ING Direct homepage (12 May 2009)


      ING Direct homepage (2001)


      NextCard homepage (2001)


      1. Online Banking Report All-Access subscribers are entitled to a complimentary high-level website review. Please email our website analyst to schedule a  review.
      2. The exception is online banking login visibility, which is very good. Most financial institutions follow the industry standard of displaying a prominent login area in the upper left or right.
      3. Credit Jeffry Pilcher at The Financial Brand for the find.
      4. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Website Usability.
      5. Unfortunately, the ingenuity disappears as soon as you click on the offer. The pitch is then delivered via a bloated 2-page brochure in PDF format. And there is no ability to apply or inquire about the account online.

      Comments (4)

      Out of the Inbox: ING Direct's ShareBuilder Offers $90 Bonus through Costco Email

      By Jim Bruene on March 26, 2009 5:48 PM | Comments

      image It's that time of year again when U.S. banks and investment companies get a temporary boost from federal income tax refunds and stimulus checks.

      This year, much of that largesse is expected to go towards paying down debt or stashed away into FDIC-insured deposits. But there are still some folks looking for better longer-term returns, so ING's ShareBuilder investment service is giving them a nudge with a $90 new-account bonus  offer (note 1) delivered in the March 25 email to Costco customers. This is higher than the $25 to $50 bonuses we've seen from them in the past.

      The ShareBuilder offer was near the bottom of a lengthy email that arrived at 5:30 PM Pacific time yesterday. In total there were 54 products featured. ShareBuilder was the only financial product. 

      Email from Costco (25 March 2009)


      ShareBuilder landing page (link, 25 March 2009)


      1. The $90 rebate applies to Costco Executive members. Business and Gold members receive $70. In addition, Executive members receive a 25% rebate in ongoing investing fees; Business/Gold receive a 10% fee rebate.


      ING's Ultra-ATM Finder Android App Uses Augmented Reality (AR)

      By Jim Bruene on March 19, 2009 9:50 PM | Comments (5)

      image While working my way through the RSS backlog tonight,
      I found a post from Rob Findley at The Bank Channel, I wish I'd seen a week ago. It would have made a nice example in our latest Online Banking Report on the iPhone and other mobile applications

      image Last month, Dutch giant ING released a Google Android mobile application called ING Wegwijzer (see translated page below), that goes one step beyond the iPhone's GPS-enabled ATM finder apps.

      In the ING (Netherlands) version, you have three choices of how to view the nearest ATMs (see below):

      • List
      • Map (regular or satellite)
      • Camera

      The camera option is very cutting edge. Users point the camera in their G1 mobile phone camera (inset) and the app overlays a pointer to the nearest ATM (see below). The application works for all ATMs, ING-owned and others, but only in The Netherlands. 

      The application was developed for ING by SprxMobile using technology from Australia's Austria's Mobilizy.

      I saw a Japanese startup demonstrate a broader mobile shopping app at TechCrunch50 last September, the Sekai camera from Tonchidot, but this is the first production app I've seen using the technology.

      Bottom line: This is probably overkill in terms of a mobile ATM finder. However, it shows the power and versatility that's rapidly being engineered into mobile phones.   

      ATM location as pointed out by ING app running in camera viewfinder


      ATM locations also displayed via typical mapping

      image       image

      ING landing page for the Wegwijzer (link) (Google translation, 18 March 2009)


      Comments (5)

      ING Direct Delivers a Small Online Banking Treat with Halloween Homepage Animation

      By Jim Bruene on October 30, 2008 4:34 PM | Comments (2)

      image I've written about ING Direct's holiday animations before. While they won't win any new business by themselves, they are part of a brand image that ING Direct cultivates. And it works because many consumers respond positively to a sense of humor even from institutions that are supposed to be serious.

      With consumer confidence at an all-time low, and banks not exactly on anyone's holiday-card list, it's probably not a good time to create a whimsical branding campaign. But if you are ING Direct, which has built its image on bright-orange graphics and hip advertising, you can still have a little fun with the bank's favorite orange holiday, Halloween.

      Visitors to the direct bank's homepage this week initially see white space where the bouncing orange ball normally does its thing. Within a few seconds an orange-eyed ghost comes out of the background (see first screenshot below). It comes towards you, then reveals the orange ball underneath the white "costume" (see second screenshot). Then it ends with the usual homepage (see third screenshot; note 1).

      Very clever (I'd even say LOL, but I've vowed to never to use that term professionally).

      ING Direct homepage (28 Oct. 2008)




      1. The animation runs just once. That's an important element of restraint to preserve the viewing experience. Don't endlessly cycle animations or you'll annoy your visitors. They can refresh themselves if they want to see it again. 

      Comments (2)

      ING Direct Launches "We, the Savers" Manifesto & Microsite

      By Jim Bruene on October 28, 2008 6:53 PM | Comments

      imageI noticed a new graphic on the ING Direct homepage today, "We, the Savers" in the upper-right corner. It leads to a banking version of the Clue Train Manifesto called The Declaration of Financial Independence operated by the bank at <>.

      imageAt the microsite visitors can read the 10-point declaration and sign the manifesto online. The U.S. map includes orange balls in each state that when moused over reveal the number of signers. So far, more than 5,300 consumers have signed since it went live Oct. 10th. All signers can be viewed at the site, but you have the option of leaving only your last initial for privacy.

      When you sign the declaration, a little orange ball bounces over to the map and updates the state count in real time. As a final touch, signers qualify for a free "I save" bumper sticker from the bank's online store.

      The effort is well conceived and well executed, as we've come to expect from ING Direct. microsite from ING Direct (28 Oct 2008)


      "We, the Savers" link on ING Direct homepage (28 Oct 2008)



      ING Direct's $1 Million in FDIC Coverage (email)

      By Jim Bruene on October 8, 2008 11:08 PM | Comments (1)

      image It's not easy deciding what messages to send to customers these days (note 1), but there's no doubt a clear email about increased FDIC coverage is a winner. For example, ING Direct does a great job with this simple and very clear message outlining the temporary increase in U.S. deposit insurance coverage.

      I especially like how they demonstrate how easy it is for joint account holders to get $1 million in coverage (note 2). It's so much easier seeing it laid out in a table. Here's the email sent to customers this afternoon under the subject:

      Subject: Your FDIC coverage just went up

      ING Direct customer email announcing new $250,000 FDIC coverage (8 Oct 2008)

      1. Jeffry Pilcher posted some interesting quotes with differing perspectives on how to approach "crisis communications" in his Financial Brand blog today.

      2. Not that many people need that, but it's still somehow comforting to know that if you had to deposit your lottery proceeds, or if you were Mark Cuban and you shorted the DJIA at 1100 with 8% of your net worth, you wouldn't have to spend so much time opening accounts to deposit your windfall.

      Comments (1)

      Online Banking Report Looks at New Security Technologies that Promise More Peace of Mind

      By Jim Bruene on September 18, 2008 5:25 PM | Comments

      image With bad news pouring down from all corners of the financial services world, it's a difficult time to be a bank marketer no matter what condition your financial institution is in (see note 1).

      imageBut besides sending reassuring emails to your customers, highlighting your strong balance sheet on your website (see inset), and for the few with blogs, dropping the occasional rosy post into the RSS or Twitter feed (note 2), what's a banker to do?

      When fear is rampant, little things can make a difference. Your customers have long been nervous about banking online. Most aren't afraid enough not to use it, but lingering doubt remains.

      Now might be a great time to follow the lead of ING Direct, Firstrade, and Muriel Siebert and introduce a software solution that provides extra security for online banking. While it won't make a Fannie Mae shareholder any happier, it's reassuring in these times that at least there are no crooks stealing your username and password.

      obr_bestofwebOnline Banking Report publishes Security 4.0 (note 3)
      In the latest Online Banking Report, we look at several promising software solutions that allow even malware-infested users to connect safely to their bank. Both solutions earned OBR Best of the Web designations (note 4): 

      • Rapport from Trusteer, now being distributed by ING Direct in the United States and Canada (previous post here)
      • SafeCentral from Authentium, being distributed by Firstrade and in testing at several major banks (Finovate Startup demo video here)

      Online Banking Report: Security 4.0 Tabl of Contents Sep 2008We also take a closer look at Bank of America's SafePass (previous post here), which is an easy way for customers to add an extra security layer to their login, although it won't prevent certain malware to hijack the session. See the inset for the complete Table of Contents.

      Online Banking Report subscribers may download it now here. Others may download abstract here, or purchase here. Cost is US$495. 

      1. But be thankful if your financial institution is not in the headlines right now. I'm in the hometown of WaMu and the headlines this morning were not pretty.
      2. Blog post from Verity CU on 16 Sept.; Twitter update from First Federal today   
      3. Our fourth full Online Banking Report on security/privacy; previous reports were #119, #93/94, and #48
      4. OBR Best of the Web awards are given periodically to pioneering online banking features. It is not an endorsement of the company or product, just recognition for what we believe is an important development. Trusteer and Authentium were the 71st and 72nd recipients of the designation since we began awarding them in 1997.


      Who Has the Holiday Spirit?

      By Jim Bruene on July 2, 2008 11:42 PM | Comments (4)

      image With consumer confidence diving, the banking industry reeling, and even Starbucks closing 600 stores, what we need is a national holiday! Well, happy Fourth of July to U.S. readers, and happy Friday to everyone else.

      What are the big banks doing to celebrate the holiday online? Not much it seems. We are 25 hours away from the birthday, and of the 30 largest banks, only ING Direct and WaMu (in the Seattle area at least) are showing the red, white and blue.

      Anyone else know of a financial institution with an Independence Day theme on its homepage? Drop it in the comments. Enjoy!

      ING Direct's homepage features a fireworks animation (2 July 2008)

      ING Direct homepage with july 4th theme (2 July 2008)

      WaMu trumpets its July 4 Seattle fireworks sponsorship (2 July 2008)

      WaMu homepage (Seattle cookie) 2 July 2008

      Comments (4)

      Enliven Your Website with Streaming Activity, Tickers, or Counters

      By Jim Bruene on June 18, 2008 10:11 PM | Comments (1)

      One thing hard to approximate online is the hubbub of a busy branch, retail outlet, or event. Other than the occasional popup inviting you to chat about whatever financial product you're viewing, most financial websites are lonely experiences. Sure, Web-based video can personalize the online experience, but that's still a one-on-one experience. That's why building an online community is so important in the long run (see note 1).

      Zillow mortgage rate quote ticker 18 June 2008

      Geezeo public newsfeed 18 June 2008One way to demonstrate just how much activity takes place at your website or through electronic banking, is to show a stream of real-time activity. For example, Zillow's new mortgage marketplace shows realtime mortgage quotes as they come in from the mortgage brokers using the site (see above).

      Geezeo recently added a public news feed to its site, similar to what social media users experience at Facebook.

      And ING Direct has counted up the interest in pays customer in a little meter within online banking, as of a few minutes ago it was $4.5 million shy of $9 billion. 

      ING Direct interest paid counter 18 June 2008

      But the most daring example is Progressive Insurance which displays actual specific rate comparisons to its competitors in the center of its homepage
      (see screenshot below). 

      Progressive Insurance quote feed on homepage 18 June 2008

      Financial institutions could show streams of activity in the following areas:

      • credit/debit card transaction data: $63.42 at JC Penney's Minneapolis, MN
      • bill payment transaction data (only to major merchants): $124.22 to PGE, LA, CA
      • funds transfers: A.C. transferred $1500 from checking to savings
      • results from online calculators: $15,000 vehicle at 6.5% for 5 years = $432/mo
      • mortgage quotes/locks: $572,000 purchase mortgage locked today at 6.375% with 1% fee
      • insurance quotes: $1,000,000 10-year level term for 42-year-old nonsmoker for A.E. in  Tampa for $1123/yr
      • interest paid on deposits, checks processed, loans funded, website visits, online banking login, bills paid
      • comments in blogs/forums
      • search terms used on-site and possibly the top results
      • questions asked/answered online

      Of course, you'll need to make certain there is absolutely no data streamed that could be traced back to an individual user.

      1. See the following Online Banking Reports for more information:

      Comments (1)
      Categories: Bank 2.0, Geezeo, ING Direct, Zillow

      ING Direct to Offer Desktop Security Plug-in from Trusteer

      By Jim Bruene on May 27, 2008 5:02 PM | Comments

      image While everyone wants better online banking security, the business case for most solutions is elusive. Even the simple step of adding an password in front of sensitive transactions can cost millions in customer service, enrollment procedures, employee training, and other soft costs.

      So financial institutions, especially in the U.S., have taken a pragmatic approach to security, adding behind-the-scenes monitoring and making it difficult to transfer large amounts of cash out of the bank, rather than incur the expense of more robust login security. Banks have been especially reluctant to get involved in the security of the customer's desktop due to the potential tech support costs and liability issues.

      That's what makes ING Direct's new solution especially novel. The large U.S. direct bank, which has pioneered several security procedures, including multi-factor login and PINpad data entry, will offer a downloadable 400k plugin that creates a "secure tunnel" from the user's computer to the bank (more analysis from Gartner's Avivah Litan here). 

      According to the software provider, Israel-based Trusteer, even if the user's computer is infected with malware, the company's Rapport software defeats all attempts to view, capture, or take over the transaction. It also encrypts keyboard entry without impacting the speed of the interaction with the bank. If it works as billed, it could be a boon for online banking security. 

      The optional plug-in is expected to be made available to the direct bank's 14 million customers worldwide, including 6.5 million in the U.S. The software is already in use by U.S. brokerage Muriel Siebert & Co. which mentions it in the What's New section of its homepage (see screenshot below; read more here).

      " width="539" height="378">

      The software is now available here. It is free-of-charge to communicate with ING Direct and three other websites. Users will likely have the option to purchase a premium version that communicates with a larger number of websites. 

      This so-called freemium business model should help minimize the cost of the software to the financial institution. But the bigger cost issue for the bank is the customer service expense. ING Direct, which has famously kept customer-service costs down by focusing on serving only profitable customers, likely will offload as much of the tech-support burden as possible to Trusteer. But there's no such thing as zero impact. So it will be interesting to see if they can make the ROI work across 6.5 million customers, many of whom haven't a clue about safe computing basics.

      A competing system, Safe Central from Authentium, was showcased at our Finovate Startup conference in April. The full-length demo of the program will be available here within a few days.


      ING Launches Retirement Calculator:

      By Jim Bruene on March 17, 2008 6:04 PM | Comments (1)

      image Last week, ING Group's U.S. unit (note 1) made a splash with two major promotional efforts:

      • Sponsored free access to the Wall St Journal online for an entire day (see screenshot below).
      • Launched a TV advertising campaign,, aimed at the retirement market (press release here, view the spots here). Update 18 March: The company ran a full-page ad for the program in today's Wall Street Journal (p. A7)

      INGyournumber <> is remarkably similar to Wells Fargo's Retire Secure Index that we looked at last week (here). The financial services giant created a special site with a Flash-based tool designed to help you find your "number." That is, the total amount you need to save to provide your desired level of retirement income.

      Financial institutions should draft behind these well-funded efforts, and make sure your retirement tools are prominently positioned within your website.

      ING Took Over The Wall Street Journal Online last Thursday (13 March)




















      1. These promotional efforts from the main ING group, not ING Direct; although the direct banking arm did receive a small link on the bottom of the screen.

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct's $60,000 Sweeps for Automatic Savings Plans

      By Jim Bruene on February 20, 2008 2:13 PM | Comments (1)

      ingdirect_logo ING Direct, renowned for its many contests that have created strong brand-buzz, is offering customers the chance to win one of five monthly $1,000 prizes. Any user with a new or existing automatic monthly deposit of at least $100 is entered into the sweepstakes. In addition to the monthly prizes, one grand prize winner will take home $30,000. The contest runs for six months, so the total payout is $60,000.

      Low-cost incentives to encourage automated savings are a win-win (see note 1). The bank gets a stable flow of deposits to its savings products, and customers end up "paying themselves first" and developing a savings habit. We recently covered WaMu and Wachovia's efforts in this area (here). 

      ING Direct Transfer Money area within online banking (logged in)

      ING Direct transfer money area with sweepstakes banner

      Same area showing second part of animated banner 

      ING Direct online banking screenshot


      1. Unfortunately, the sweeps ended up costing me $700, although it went to a good cause. Since I'm a sucker for a contest, and I didn't have an eligible auto-debit, I went to the bank's Transfer Money page to set up a new one. In the process, I noticed that the auto debit for our son's allowance had ceased working in mid-2005 (note 2). We owed him 31 months of allowance plus interest. Ouch. After taxes, the $1k in prize money will just about get me to breakeven.  

      2. The allowance transfer originates from another ING Direct account, which was likely out of funds in July 2005, so the transfer was canceled. It's up to the customer to reinstate the transfer, which evidently I never did. 

      Comments (1)

      Discovering the Social Economy at Net.Finance

      By William Azaroff on January 27, 2008 9:16 AM | Comments (17)

      Last week’s Net.Finance conference entitled Online Innovations in Financial Services Marketing brought thought leaders together in New York to examine trends and breakthroughs in the world of banking.

      For me, there was one clear take away: The new social tools that allow people to connect with each other online are ushering in a new economy.

      We are moving into a social economy, where collaboration and participation between and among consumers will sway their choices more than marketing messages do. Those companies that enable social participation, add value to people’s lives and create authentic experiences for their customers will lead in this new economy. There were other topics discussed, but this theme kept creeping into the presentations and conversations in a way I had never before encountered. I’m going to narrow in on this one theme, which ran throughout the two days of the conference, and I apologize to those companies and speakers I’m not highlighting here.

      ING DirectJurie Pieterse – ING Direct
      Jurie outlined several of the key ways that ING is handling the power of its marketing and messaging to consumers by opening up its brand to customer participation. It is clear from ING’s early experimentation that it has a brand with strong emotional appeal and resonance. The bank opens the doors to people who engage with the brand to create photos, videos and prose about how their relationship with ING helps them manage their money.

      Jurie explained that when they delivered the prizes in their user-generated content contests, which ranged from $1,000 to $15,000, most winners said that they entered the contests more from a sense of fun and participation than for the money. After this initial experimenting, ING will begin to examine the data to determine if these contest entrants are more loyal and profitable than less engaged customers. I would bet my Electric Orange account they are.

      Prosper.comChris Larsen Prosper
      It is fascinating to watch Prosper evolve their model. Chris spoke at length about the importance of social capital to improving its default rates. The idea is that people who have peer pressure built into their borrowing habits will pay back at a better rate than they do to traditional financial institutions.

      Prosper has found that people who receive at least one of bid from friends or family have significantly lower default rates than those who only borrow from strangers. By leveraging this social capital, the entire community acts more honestly, even if lending to friends and family is a small part of the overall equation.

      WesabeJason KnightWesabe
      Jason sees Wesabe as a community of interest focused on money. By allowing members to tag their financial transactions and share whatever information they choose with the greater community, they create a collective intelligence I find very exciting. I see them as the long tail of financial advice. People discuss better ways to use their money, from smarter investing habits to buying better cuts of meat. All of this collective intelligence fuels a social economy where people rule their situation by having a much healthier relationship to the way they spend their money.

      Verity Credit UnionShari StormVerity Credit Union
      Shari oversaw the creation of the first “bank” blog, which Verity started in 2004. She has strong information and advice to other FIs considering jumping into the world of blogging. It is clear that the blog is an excellent way to humanize the company and engage with their community in an honest and transparent way.

      TradeKingThomas A. Desmond TradeKing
      I was blown away by TradeKing, a company I had not heard of before. Their marriage of social tools inseparable from their trading platform is perhaps the very best example of social media being used strategically by a company that I have seen.

      They have baked community aspects into everything that happens on their site, so, if traders opt in to the community, they can learn from each other based on their actual trading results (similar to, below)

      VZirgin MoneyAsheesh AdvaniVirgin Money
      It took me a minute to wrap my head around Virgin Money’s model, but once I got it, I was hooked. Many people who buy houses get side loans from friends and family to make a bigger downpayment. Same with student loans, or with unsecured personal or business loans. Virgin creates a model around this kind of lending, so both sides can take advantage of the tax benefits available via a documented lending relationship. It creates excellent flexibility, because if a borrower needs to skip payments, the lender can adjust the loan accordingly. The loan can always be turned into a gift at a later date. This takes a part of the social economy which was underground and unseen, and brings it above board, recognizing it as an important part of the overall economy.

      Zecco and TradeKing's models have many similarities (one exception being that Zecco offers 10 free trades each month). Community features are built right into the tools making it easy to track individual investors within the community. That allows the higher performers to gain a following and for newcomers to learn from the veterans. Like TradeKing, Zecco allows community menbers to see the actual trading results and portfolio holding of members (that have opted in), adding an enormous amount of credibilty to discussions about individual stocks and trading strategies.

      It feels more and more to me that we’re at a turning point. I admit that these innovations are small, just barely bubbling up to the surface. But I believe these examples of companies quietly tapping into unmet needs provide a model of the future.

      Anyone working at a financial institution who wants to understand the potential opportunities and threats coming our way should watch these companies and understand their models. If my experience is any indication, the social economy will begin to trickle into your FI's strategies and executive discussions and those who best understand these concepts can help inform, influence and shape the outcome.

      William Azaroff is the Interactive Marketing & Channel Manager at Vancity where he develops interactive marketing initiatives, and pioneered, the groundbreaking change-themed online community. William builds on a decade of experience at digital agencies in Vancouver, Seattle and Los Angeles driving strategy, extending brands to the Web and building relationships for companies in several verticals, including Honda, Disney, Intuit Canada and the Government of BC. He discusses trends and noteworthy achievements in social media at his blog:

      Comments (17)

      Scrooge Runs Bank Marketing at Most Large U.S. Banks

      By Jim Bruene on December 24, 2007 10:00 AM | Comments

      In our annual Christmas/New Years survey of bank websites (note 1), we once again find little use of holiday themes, especially among the very largest. Scrooge would be pleased with the homepages of the top four: Citi, BofA, Wachovia, and Chase which have no holiday images or messages.

      Wells Fargo is the only top-5 bank with a holiday message. The bank wishes its customers Happy Holidays (see below) in a top-of-the-page banner rotating with two other messages: a savings promotion that also uses holiday imagery (below) and an investments banner (not shown). 

      However, this year there is one top-20 bank fully embracing the holiday spirit. ING Direct homepage (screenshot above, download flash in note 2, below) features a full-screen animation that first strings Happy Holidays across the page followed by the ING Direct orange ball rolling across the screen, bumping into the tree trunk, and dumping a load of snow on top. It's very well done.   

      Also, honorable mentions to:

      • Fifth Third and its $10,000 holiday sweeps
      • Regions Bank, which is running a Toys for Tots banner across the top
      • PNC with its annual tongue-in-cheek Christmas Price Index

      Additionally, WaMu and Key Bank use winter imagery. And HSBC, US Bank, SunTrust, BB&T and Citizens are all running small banners for prepaid gift cards.

      Wells Fargo

      Wells Fargo homepage banner

      Fifth Third


      PNC                                                              WaMu


      Key Bank

      HSBC                          SunTrust            US Bank


      Citizens Bank



      1. Websites observed at 9 AM Pacific Time, Dec. 24, from a Seattle IP address.

      2. View the ING Direct holiday animation (here)


      ING Direct to Acquire Sharebuilder

      By Jim Bruene on November 7, 2007 12:24 PM | Comments

      ING Direct will spend $220 million in cash to buy Sharebuilder, a unique Bellevue, WA-based discount brokerage, with upwards of 2 million accounts across 660,000 customers (see previous coverage here). The deal was first reported in the Seattle PI last week (here) and confirmed yesterday (here).

      At an acquisition cost of about $100 per account or $300 per customer, it seems workable at face value. However, both Sharebuilder and ING Direct's core businesses have historically been relatively low margin, so it will take good execution to make the acquisition pay off.

      Many (most??) of Sharebuilder's accounts have come through co-branded programs with 40 banks and 140 credit unions including National City Bank and Boeing Employees Credit Union. It's biggest brand name partner is Wells Fargo (see co-branded holiday promotional email from 2002 below), which not coincidentally, is also an investor in the company. It will be interesting to see if the company's financial institution partners will continue to promote Sharebuilder accounts now that it's a division of ING Direct.  

      ING Direct has offered a small assortment of mutual funds to its customers for years (product page here), but they have not been widely promoted. With the Sharebuilder product, ING Direct will have another tactic to fend off the fierce online competition for high-rate deposits.  

      Update (8 Nov 2007): comScore released interesting traffic data on the two companies today. In Sep 2007, ING Direct had 2.0 million unique users and Sharebuilder had 1.1 million and there was only a small overlap of approximately 100,000 users. So the combined entity would have an estimated 3.0 million uniques. However, most of the overlap represents customers of both companies. comScore data shows that 8.4% of Sharebuilder logins in Sep. also logged in to ING Direct that month. That means 50,000 to 60,000 Sharebuilder customers are already ING Direct customers, meaning the net account pickup is closer to 600,000.  

      Wells Fargo/Sharebuilder email from 2002 (received 16 Dec 2002)

      Wells Fargo Sharebuilder email

      Wells Fargo co-branded Sharebuilder new account application
      (7 Nov 2007):


      NetBank Falls But Don't Blame Online Delivery

      By Jim Bruene on October 1, 2007 6:54 AM | Comments

      I was flying to New York Saturday morning when I read the news in The Wall Street Journal that NetBank had gone under, the largest bank failure in 14 years (note 1). While the WSJ headline, NetBank Failure Shows Online Limits, implied that online delivery shared some of the blame, NetBank's downfall was primarily from poorly underwritten loans, both prime and sub-prime, and most of those originations came the old-fashioned way, through face-to-face mortgage broker sales.

      Over the years I've been acquainted with a number of NetBank employees and have written extensively about their innovations since their launch in 1996, as the second Internet-only brand. Interestingly, the three major U.S. Internet-only brands launched in 1995, 1996 and 1997 are gone: the first Internet-only bank, Security First Network Bank was sold to Centura (owned by RBC) and Compubank was sold to NetBank. 

      But no matter what the reason, a failure of one of the key names in U.S. online banking certainly gives the industry a black eye. My hope is that a forward-thinking bank buys the NetBank brand from the government and relaunches it with much fanfare next year. Sure, there's some negative brand equity this year, but the NetBank name is a classic and shouldn't go to waste (note 2).

      ING Direct, which now lays claim to the retail deposits (note 1), has taken over the NetBank hompage for now (see screenshot below):

      NetBank homepage with ING Direct message

      For more information:

      • FDIC info on the closure here
      • NetBank timeline from the Atlanta Journal Constitution here
      • It takes a failure for a bank to make TechCrunch here
      • American Banker's good summary of the failure, complete with quotes from federal regulators, here


      1. The company was taken over by federal regulators, who will sell off the assets and return all deposits up to the $100,000 insurance limit. About $1.5 billion in retail deposits, and 102,000 customer accounts, have been purchased by ING Direct. The estimated $110 million shortfall will be covered by the deposit-insurance reserves funded by premiums levied to all banks. The failure does not have direct cost to taxpayers.

      2. We said the same thing about NextCard in 2001, but no one followed our suggestion. Now the most well-known website and brand of the most prolific advertiser in the late 1990s has been reduced to a link farm collecting rent from Google Adsense.


      ING Direct Launching in Seattle

      By Jim Bruene on August 7, 2007 6:47 PM | Comments (1)

      I received a mailer yesterday at my Seattle home address announcing ING Direct's upcoming launch in Seattle (see scan below). This version at least was sent only to existing ING Direct customers. Note the inside headline with an appropriate local touch, "Seattle's Getting More Bean for its Buck." 

      There are not many specifics in the orange self-mailer, other than "You'll soon be seeing us all over the cityfrom Puget Sound to Lake Washington spreading the savings message." I'll keep my camera handy to capture big orange visuals as the company arrives on the scene.

      So, it doesn't sound as if we're getting a famous ING Cafe (see inset, the newest one in Chicago). However, I do have the opportunity to earn a $10 referral bonus by handing out the two detachable cards that came with the mailer (see note 1). The new account holder also earns a $25 bonus. Customers can sign up through the mail using the card, or go online to a special landing page <> (see screenshot below).   

      Seattle mailer front

      ING Direct Seattle mailer front

      Seattle mailer back

      ING Direct Seattle mailer back

      Landing page for Seattle offer <>

      ING Direct Seattle landing page


      1.  On the above scan, you can only see the top portion of one of two identical perforated referral cards designed to be given to family and friends. Sorry, my 8.5 x 14 scanner didn't capture the entire self-mailer.

      Comments (1)

      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) 


      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% 


      Mobile Banking from ING Direct

      By Jim Bruene on May 25, 2007 11:05 PM | Comments

      (Originally published at

      Link to ING Direct mobile, redirects to loginThe latest entry in the WAP camp is ING Direct, which recently began delivering Electric Orange checking account data to mobile phones at <>. The "m" may become a trendy indicator for WAP sites, although most have put it in front of the URL, e.g., <>, <>. The idea is to have as few keystrokes as possible without requiring a new URL to be memorized.    

      How it Works
      I used my new Samsung Blackjack with Windows Mobile to access ING Direct's Mobile Orange and almost made it into my account. The /m URL takes you directly to the login page where ING Direct uses the same two-factor Passmark/RSA-powered login on my Windows Mobile device as it does on a desktop browser.

      In my test, I was able to enter my customer number, although it took a while before I realized I had to "double click" on the Enter button. Then I correctly answered the two security questions after several tries, and my personal picture and phrase were displayed. But I could go no further. ING Direct would not accept my PIN, which worked fine on the desktop moments earlier.

      There are several explanations for my problem. It's possible that the bank wouldn't let me in because my desktop session was still active (doubtful). Or ING Direct may have mistakenly kept me out (doubtful). Or it could have been user error (likely). 

      Although, I used the correct PIN number, because of the limitations of my Blackjack, it's difficult to know whether you are typing numbers or letters from the keypad since they are asterisked out in the ING Direct input box on screen. I tried it with and without NUM LOCK pressed; then with SHIFT, then with FUNCTION. Anyway, I was locked out after five or six attempts, and now I can't get in from the desktop or mobile. Hopefully, it will automatically reset tomorrow so I can avoid a phone call to customer service.   

      The reason I bored you with the details of my failed login is that it points out the serious usability issues with mobile banking. Delivering services to tiny screens with tiny keypads that may or may not have dedicated alpha and/or number keys makes the entire experience much less enjoyable. And it will create a new category of support call to customer service. These drawbacks will be fixed in time, but they will be a drag on adoption in the short term. 

      For more information on mobile banking, see our full report at Online Banking Report here.

      Categories: ING Direct, Mobile Banking

      ING Direct Adds Mobile Banking

      By Jim Bruene on May 24, 2007 4:22 PM | Comments

      Link to ING Direct mobile, redirects to loginThe latest entry in the WAP camp is ING Direct, which recently  began delivering Electric Orange checking account data to mobile phones at <>. The "m" may become a trendy indicator for WAP sites, although most have put it in front of the URL, eg. <>, <>. The idea is to have as few keystrokes as possible without requiring a new URL to be memorized.    

      How it Works
      I used my new Samsung Blackjack with Windows Mobile to access ING Direct's Mobile Orange and almost made it in to my account. The /m URL takes you directly to the login page where ING Direct uses the same two-factor Passmark/RSA-powered login on my Windows Mobile device as it does on a desktop browser.

      In my test, I was able to successfully enter my customer number, although it took a while before I realized I had to "double click" on the Enter button. Then I correctly answered the two security questions after several tries and my personal picture and phrase were displayed. But I could go no further. ING Direct would not accept my PIN, which worked fine on the desktop moments earlier.

      There are several explanations for my problem. It's possible that the bank wouldn't let me in because my desktop session was still active (doubtful). Or ING Direct may have mistakenly kept me out (doubtful). Or it could have been user error (likely). 

      Although, I used the correct PIN number, because of the limitations of my Blackjack, it's difficult to know whether you are typing numbers or letters from the keypad since they are asterisked out in the ING Direct input box on screen. I tried it with and without NUM LOCK pressed; then with SHIFT, then with FUNCTION. Anyway, I was locked out after 5 or 6 attempts, and now I can't get in from the desktop or mobile. Hopefully, it will automatically reset tomorrow so I can avoid a phone call to customer service.   

      The reason I bored you with the details of my failed login is that it points out the serious usability issues with mobile banking. Delivering services to tiny screens with tiny keypads that may or may not have dedicated alpha and/or number keys makes the entire experience much less enjoyable. And it will create a new category of support call to customer service. These drawbacks will be fixed in time, but they will be a drag on adoption in the short term. 

      For more information on mobile banking, see our full report at Online Banking Report here.

      Categories: ING Direct, Mobile Banking

      ING Direct Offers 1% Cashback for 60 Days

      By Jim Bruene on May 17, 2007 3:25 PM | Comments (1)

      Email from ING Direct announcing cashback bonus I just received an email (inset) from ING Direct announcing a 1% cashback promo for its Electric Orange debit card. Not surprisingly, the rebate applies only to signature debit, where interchange fees cover the cost.

      Initially I thought it was a permanent feature of the bank's new paperless checking account. But after clicking through to the landing page (see screenshot below), I discovered it's just a two-month promotion, running June 1 through July 31.

      Given ING Direct's staunch consumer advocacy positioning, I am a little surprised it is not a bit more upfront about the two-month time period. Perhaps it's just an oversight, or maybe they are testing different copy treatments.

      The 1% offer is also shown on the bank's main Electric Orange product page (here). Again, there is no mention that it's a promotion until you click through the "1% cashback" banner.

      Overall, it's a good promotion. A clear benefit for the customer and limited duration for the bank. And it helps build awareness that ING Direct supports debit card use at the point of sale, a relatively new feature for the direct bank. See previous coverage here.

      Landing page (here)

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct Adds 220,000 Accounts in Fourth Quarter

      By Jim Bruene on March 27, 2007 5:47 PM | Comments

      The FDIC database has been updated with Q4 numbers, allowing all the data miners to slap on their hard hats and get to work. Since reporting on the tepid third quarter of ING Direct (U.S.) (here), we've been looking forward to the year-end data.

      The biggest surprise is that the bank not only reversed the Q3 account run-off, it managed to add 220,000 new accounts, its best fourth quarter ever. However, things weren't so rosy in terms of deposit balances, which increased just $800 million, the lowest Q4 increase since 2001 when the bank had less than $3 billion in total deposits.

      For the full year, ING added $7.2 billion in deposit for an 18% increase, the first time the bank had less than 40% year-over-year growth. And almost the entire increase came in first quarter. The bank essentially had no deposit growth in the final nine months of the year (see table below).  

      It will be interesting to see what impact its new high-rate Electric Orange checking account will have on deposit and account growth. The account was growing rapidly during the final stretch of the invitation-only launch period, growing from $1 billion on deposit Dec. 31, to $2.2 billion by mid-February (see coverage here).


      Futuristic Friday: Banks in Second Life

      By Jim Bruene on March 10, 2007 9:59 AM | Comments (1)

      Second Life, the alternate reality with four million members worldwide, has a surprising driver, capitalism. According to Second Life Insider, US$1.5 million changed hands yesterday (link here). And if there's money changing hands, there are opportunities for banks and financial scammers (not necessarily in that order).

      In a March 6 search, Second Life Insider found ten banks operating in Second Life (SL) (post here). Several operate only in Second Life, raising numerous questions about the legitimacy of these non-regulated entities. 

      But what most interests us are the six real-world banks that have set up shop in Second Life such as ING's Virtual Holland (see inset above and screenshot below).

      Here's a banks in Second Life timeline:

      Sep. 2005: Wells Fargo is the first real-world bank with a presence in Second Life (SL)
      Dec. 2005: Wells Fargo leaves SL, moving its Stagecoach Island to a new platform (see previous coverage here)
      7 Dec 2006: ABN Amro becomes first European bank in SL (press release here)
      7 Jan 2007: BNP Paribas opens a small test area (post here)
      7 Feb 2007: Swiss bank BCV opens its doors in SL (press release here)
      21 Feb 2007: ING Bank launches website and blog to get users involved in building what it calls Our Virtual Holland <>
      2 Mar 2007: Danish Saxo Bank announces plans to create trading platform in SL (Reuters article here)

      It's hard to predict whether banking will ultimately become a transactional business in Second Life or other virtual realities (note 1). However, with four million registered users and an inordinate amount of press attention, leveraging a Second Life presence for marketing purposes looks to be a winner.

      But if you are going into SL, make sure you mirror the effort with a Web presence that lets the other 1 billion Internet users see what you are up to. And there is no one doing that better than ING, who's taken a Zen approach to its SL strategy. They've made the process of building a SL presence more important than the actual result. Their Web 2.0-inspired website involves the community with blogs, suggestions, and an email list (see screenshot below).

      ING Our Virtual Holland home 10 Mar 2007


      1. For the record, we believe that full banking capabilities, including transactions, lending, currency exchange, will eventually be conducted in virtual communities such as Second Life. Whether it will ever be more than just a niche play, is unknown.

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct's Electric Orange Launched to General Public

      By Jim Bruene on March 8, 2007 7:59 PM | Comments

      I don't know how I missed this yesterday. The Bank Deals blog, which routinely gets this stuff first, was the first to note that ING Direct's much-discussed new paperless checking account is now visible on its website (see below). The full launch follows a 4-month invitation-only period (see our previous coverage here).

      However, the account is not currently running on the homepage, which tonight was rotating through three product offers:

      • 4.5% Orange Savings
      • 6.0% Orange Mortgage
      • Orange retirement accounts: Traditional and Roth IRAs  

      ING Direct, along with Everbank, are currently running ads on Google for "electric orange" and "electric orange ING Direct" (see inset). The landing page, shown below, includes a Jane Kim Wall Street Journal clipping.  Interestingly, the ING Direct landing page still says you must first open a savings account to qualify for the checking account. The Website carries no such restriction.   

      We'll have more info on the account as we run it through its paces.

      ING Direct product page

      ING Direct's product page with Electric Orange checking

      ING Direct landing page from Google AdWords ad


      ING Direct Makes Checking (Almost) Fun Again

      By Jim Bruene on February 22, 2007 4:47 PM | Comments (13)

      According to, the "modern" check dates back to the early 1500s; that is, if you don't count chiseled IOUs from the Roman era 2,000 years earlier (see history here).

      Five-hundred years ago, I'm sure a "user customizable" piece of paper you could trade for a goat was an exciting new way to pay for something. But there hasn't been a whole lot of innovation since then. As a matter of fact, the paper check-writing practice has all but disappeared in most countries.   

      That's why it's newsworthy when someone puts a new spin on a five-centuries-old product as ING Direct is attempting with its new Electric Orange (EO) checking, currently in invitation-only trial, but soon to be released to the entire country. And they are having some early success, landing more than 60,000 accounts as we mentioned here, and creating some online buzz as Ron Shevlin points to here at Marketing ROI.  

      What are the features of Electric Checking

      • Cool name
      • Great user interface for payments (see screenshots below)
      • Same-screen initiation of electric (ACH) or paper payments
      • 24-hour payment delivery for $15 fee
      • High-payment limits: $100,000 for paper, $25,000 per day on debit card, $5,000 for ACH, and $1,000 per day on ATM withdrawals
      • Good branding with the ING Direct no-nonsense design, colors, and copy
      • 100% fee-free (other than a few rare items)
      • 4% to 5.3% interest depending on balance (see note 1)
      • 30-second account setup for existing ING Direct customers
      • Easy-to-use website and online access
      • No paper checks

      Electric Orange is an outstanding product, with one major exception which I'll discuss later. The online integration of electronic and paper payments on the same screen makes it intuitive to use and perhaps the best bill-pay suite on the market (see screenshot below). With 32,000 free ATMs, high interest rates, and a MasterCard debit card, this account competes fairly well with old school checking accounts that also come bundled with unlimited free access to 5,000-square-foot human-powered branches. 

      But I take issue with the account's most unique feature, "no paper checks" (see note 2). While I understand the marketing advantage of this anti-paper non-benefit, it's actually somewhat limiting for account holders. Instead of not supporting paper at all, why not simply charge a hefty transaction fee for paper checks while keeping electronic items fee-free? Sell me bright orange checks for $5 per 100 and charge a quarter per cleared check. That'll keep the volume down, while allowing customers the convenience of the old-fashioned paper check. And ING Direct gets the "viral marketing" benefit of those bright orange negotiable instruments being literally flown across the country.

      I'd be willing to give up preprinted paper checks if a good subsitute were available. Reading earlier descriptions of the account before its introduction, I thought the bank had invented a new in-home process for printing checks, like printing through Quicken but a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, the paper option is good old online bill pay, complete with five-day mailing delays. That won't cut it when you need to pay the lawn guys standing in your front yard with a truck full of toxic liquid (see note 3).  

      The last missing piece in EO is electrification of the deposit process. Since the bank opened its doors in late 2000, it's been exceptionally easy to ACH money into the account. That's been one of its key growth drivers. But now that it offers full checking services, the bank should adopt remote deposit capture technology so EO customers could zip paper checks to them over the Net (see USAA's remote deposit service here).

      ING Direct Electric Orange main payments screen
      Select electric or paper checks

      Electric Orange "send paper check" interface
      Looks just like a "paper" check, and no need to have the payee set up prior to creating the payment (see next step)

      ING Direct "add payee" interface
      If the payee in the previous step is new, users simply "address" this virtual envelope to set up the payee; users also have the option of not saving the payee info.


      1. In online forums and blogs, some confusion has been expressed about what happens within this account when more than six transactions are made in a single statement period. In the account disclosure, ING Direct says that each Electric Orange account is divided into a savings account and checking account, and that the bank will direct deposits into the appropriate account as it deems appropriate, but that after six transactions, all funds will be put into the checking subaccount. However, all monies EARN THE SAME RATE OF INTEREST, so there is no impact on the customer, nor does the customer even see these transfers. It's a technical manipulation that saves ING Direct from having to maintain transaction account reserves on most balances, thereby cutting costs. 

      2. Actually ING Direct does offer "remote paper check" initiation via the online bill pay function where users choose from electric or paper checks (see screenshot above). The bank just doesn't allow users to have the paper in their own hands.

      3. The bank does offer a quicker ACH payment function, but you need to have access to the bank account number of the recipient, which is not readily available from most people/businesses to whom occasional checks are written. And ACH usually takes 48 to 72 hours to post in the recipient's account, unless they are ING Direct customers.

      Comments (13)

      New Account Totals for ING Direct's Electric Orange Checking

      By Jim Bruene on February 16, 2007 2:23 PM | Comments

      ING Direct debit cardYesterday, posted an article (here) citing new account totals for ING Direct's Electric Money checking account:

      • 60,000 accounts, a 1.5% penetration of the
        bank's 4 million accounts
      • $2.2 billion in new deposits, a hefty $37,000
        per account*

      Two weeks ago (Feb. 1), the bank said it had attracted 42,000 accounts (see post here).

      The inset is an actual Electric Orange MasterCard debit card. 

      *An average of $37,001 if you ignore my $100 account


      ING Electric Orange Reviews

      By Jim Bruene on February 16, 2007 2:00 PM | Comments (2)

      Much virtual ink has been spilled over ING Direct's Electric Orange account, and the new checking account isn't even available to the general public. From its Internet cafes to subway sponsorships, this is a bank that knows how to generate buzz, which really isn't all that easy with checking and savings accounts (see here for previous coverage of ING Direct).

      Searching for <"Electric Orange" + review> on Google, we found six full-scale reviews of the product among the first 100 organic listings (10 pages of results using the default settings). All were blog postings. Most were moderately positive, and only one took shots at the bank calling the rates "too good to be true" (see Watch Your Wallet below).

      It illustrates an interesting new phenomena, the power of the personal finance blogosphere. Most top-ranked search results belong not to mainstream press accounts, but to bloggers writing from various levels of knowledge about banking and finance. Most of the top-ranked blog reviews were thorough, factual, and relatively unbiased. But a few bits of misinformation creep in now and again, such as the rumor that the account stops paying interest on the sixth transaction in a statement period (false, by the way). Financial institutions should monitor these postings and jump in with a comment and/or email to the author to correct any factual errors.

      Here's a list of what the personal finance bloggers are saying about Electric Orange:

      1. Highest-ranked review on Google (#2 overall)

      Date: 13 Feb. 2007

      Verdict: Positive


      2. Second-highest ranked blog review (#4 overall)

      My Money Blog Header

      Date: 2 Dec. 2006

      Verdict: Positive


      3. Third-highest blog review (#5 overall)

      Date: 30 Nov. 2006 (#7 overall)

      Verdict: Positive


      4. Fourth-highest blog review (#33 overall)

      Date: 29 Nov. 2006

      Verdict: Neutral



      5. Fifth-highest blog review (#46 overall) (Callahan)

      Date: 4 Dec. 2006

      Verdict: Neutral



      6. Sixth-highest blog review (#65 overall)

      Date: 28 Dec. 2006

      Verdict: Somewhat negative


      Comments (2)

      ING Direct Books 42,000 New Electric Orange Checking Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on February 5, 2007 11:03 AM | Comments (1)

      According to an American Banker story last week (here), as of Feb. 1, ING Direct had cross-sold 42,000 (see note 1) checking accounts to its 4.3 million savings customers, a penetration of 1%. Keep in mind, the new checking account has been slowly rolling out over the past 60 days to current customers only (see note 2), and is not yet mentioned on the bank's website. It is expected to be launched to the general public within the next 30 days. 

      You can view these initial results in two ways: 

      Glass is half full -- Even with just 42,000 accounts, ING Direct may have the largest "Internet only" checking account base, at least when measured by the number of active accounts

      Glass half empty -- Because ING Direct's checking account pays 50 to 80 basis points (0.50% to 0.80%) more than savings on $50,000+ balances, many (most??) of the new checking account customers simply moved large balances into the checking option, providing few incremental deposits.


      1. Make that 42,001 accounts. I just opened one this morning. It took all of about 30 seconds to do it. Existing customers simply choose an account nickname, enter the dollar amount they want transferred into the account (from the pre-existing link from an outside account), and agree to the disclosures. See below for the confirmation screen.
      2. I received my invitation to open an Electronic Orange account last week (screenshot here). I've had an account there since 2001.

      ING Direct Electric Orange confirmation screen CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Comments (1)

      ING Direct's Deposit and Customer Totals Decline as Direct Bank Competition Intensifies

      By Jim Bruene on February 1, 2007 10:52 AM | Comments

      Ingdirect_homepage_logoballFor the first time in its short six-year history, ING Direct's U.S. division showed declines in both total deposits and customer accounts during third quarter, the latest data available (see the table below, originally published in our year-end industry forecast, Online Banking Report #137). Although the runoff was relatively small $600 million in deposits, or about 1% from the peak, and 150,000 accounts, or about 4% from the peak it's a clear indicator that the entry of Emigrant Direct, HSBC Direct, and especially Citi Direct have taken a toll on the direct banking giant.

      Looking at quarterly results below, you can see that average account balances began declining in Q1 2005, as some of the hottest money, large balances held by extremely rate-conscious consumers, moved to better paying accounts; still, total deposits and customers continued to grow rapidly through 2005 and into 2006. However, in the second and third quarters, deposits began to flatten as the number of accounts grew only 230,000 compared to 560,000 in the same period a year earlier.

      ING Direct appears to have deliberately slowed growth by maintaining deposit rates 50 to 100 basis points lower than the new entrants. With its marketing muscle, the bank could choose to grow deposits if it closes the rate gap. The bank's new checking account, gradually rolling out to current customers, may help stem the tide, with higher rates for larger balances (see coverage here).

      Table: ING Direct Deposit and Customer Totals: 2000 to 2006 (click to enlarge)


      PDF version of this table here.


      Everbank Takes on ING Direct with 6.01% Checking Account Campaign

      By Jim Bruene on January 31, 2007 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

      Everbank launched its "What are you waiting for?" campaign today by giving away 2,500 free subway tickets at 6:01 AM in lower Manhattan. The time was chosen to coincide with the 6.01% APR promotional start-rate on its FreeNet checking account (see Note 1). 

      The campaign targets ING Direct's soon-to-be-released Electric Orange checking account, which currently pays beta users 3% on balances under $50,000 and 5.3% on balances greater than $50,000 (see Note 2).

      Everbank launched a microsite called <> with direct comparisons to ING Direct (see screenshot below).

      Everbank <> landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Clicking the large Compare Banks button in the lower right leads to a comparison to ING Direct and several other major competitors (see screenshot below):

      Everbank "whyruwaiting" comparison to WaMU, ING Direct, Bank of America and Bank of Internet CLICK TO ENLARGE

      The campaign has not been extended to the Everbank website, which shows a banner for the 6.01% offer, but no mention of "Why are you waiting?" (see screenshot below). 

      Everbank homepage with 6.01% FreeNet checking banner CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Clicking through the banner leads to the following page:

      Everbank's FreeNet checking landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE


      1. The 6.01% is a promotional "teaser" rate is good for three months, then resets to the "regular" rate which are currently as follows: 
           Under $10,000 = 3.25%
           $10,000 to $25,000 = 3.30%
           $25,000 to $50,000 = 3.60%
           $50,000 to $100,000 = 4.00%
           More than $100,000 = 4.41%

        The minimum deposit is $1,500 and the maximum that earns 6.01% is $100,000.
      2. ING Direct customers can also easily transfer funds into the companion savings account which pays 4.5%. ING's Electric Orange account began rolling out in waves to its 4 million savings account customers in December (see coverage here). Coincidently, I received my invitation yesterday (see screenshot below). 

        Email invitation for ING Direct's Electric Orange checking account CLICK TO ENLARGE
      Comments (1)

      WT Direct takes on ING Direct at

      By Jim Bruene on January 23, 2007 9:53 AM | Comments (2)

      Kiplinger published an article on the state of online banking (see article here). It's an interesting read, but it's the WT Direct ad in the upper-right corner that I found most interesting (see screenshot below). WT Direct is the new direct banking arm of Wilmington Trust (see coverage here).  

      WT Direct ad on CLICK TO ENLARGE

      It's a Flash animation that's part parody of the whack-a-mole banner ad and part a direct shot at ING Direct.

      Viewers are directed to:

      "Hit the ball and get a really great rate."

      That's when the humor begins. Attempting to move the cursor over the ball causes the ball to move away. So there is no way to actually click on the ball. After a few seconds a new screen appears with two words, "Give up?" It's a not-so-subtle dig at  ING Direct rates which are revealed on its homepage usually after an orange ball bounces across the screen. ING Direct is currently paying 0.75% less than WT Direct on a $10,000 balance (see note 1).   

      WT Direct Flash animation part 2

      Then finally, it's revealed who is sponsoring the ad, WT Direct: 

      WT Direct Flash animation part 3

      The landing page reinforces the banner ad with a direct comparison to ING Direct's payout with the animated graph in the lower-left corner (see screenshot below).

      WT Direct landing page from Kiplinger ad with parody of ING Direct orange ball CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Nicely done.


      1. After the first 60 days, balances of less than $10,000 earn just 0.6% at WT Direct. ING Direct pays 4.5% on all balance levels.

      Comments (2)

      Holiday Gift Ideas From My Bank?

      By Jim Bruene on December 4, 2006 10:49 PM | Comments

      Link to ING Direct store Who'd have guessed banks would become a popular source of holiday gifts, other than good old-fashioned greenbacks of course?

      Now that niche audiences can be targeted with online promotions during the holidays, many financial institutions are marketing financial products packaged as gifts. Prepaid Visa/MasterCards are the hottest item, but there's also potential in other areas. 

      Gift cards
      The second most popular gift item this year, after apparel, is expected to be prepaid cash cards. While the majority of the $20+ billion purchased will be direct from retailers, hundreds of banks and credit unions, such as Boeing Employees Credit Union (BECU) have joined the fray (see email below). If marketed right, financial institutions could gain a significant share of total sales. See our previous post here about integrating gift cards into online banking for more information.

      Boeing Employees Credit Union gift card email BECU CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Credit reports
      is taking advantage of the giving season to market credit reports and/or FICO score gift certificates. The cost is $20 for a three-bureau credit report, $15 for the FICO score and explanation, or $30 for both (see email below). An even better gift would be a year of credit monitoring.

      Equifax email for credit report gifts CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Investment accounts
      For years, ShareBuilder has marketed "the gift of stock" during the holidays. This year, many of its partners, such as National City Bank, are offering a $50 gift card as a bonus for new accounts (see screenshot below). That way grandma and grandpa can give junior something that's good for him, an investment account for the future AND something he'll actually like, $50 to spend at the mall.

      National City Sharebuilder landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE

      Piggy bank 2.0
      The Savings Machine from ING Direct For the younger set, ING Direct has for a year been selling The Savings Machine, a toy bank/calculator/ATM machine. And judging from the note on its website,* it's proving to be a popular Deal of the Month with a lower $17.95 price tag which includes free shipping (see inset). Several years ago, ING Direct reported nearly a million dollars in sales from its online merchandise store <>, an inexpensive way to get its name on the street.

      *Note by the "Savings Machine" product page today: All orders placed from 4 Dec to 11 Dec will be shipped out the week of 11 Dec due to the large amount of backorders.


      ING Direct to Launch Online Checking Account in February

      By Jim Bruene on November 27, 2006 11:28 AM | Comments

      As previously reported here, direct-banking giant ING Direct (U.S.) <> will soon be in the checking account business with the Feb. 1 launch of Electric Orange.
      (No word on whether the German band of the same name will be part of the launch event.)

      In an interview published yesterday in Delaware's The News Journal, CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann revealed important details about the effort:

      • It would be made available to about 10% of the bank's 4.4 million customers in December
      • The nationwide launch is scheduled for Feb. 1
      • ING Direct is planning to add 500 workers at Wilmington's headquarters to support the product, an expansion of more than 50% from its current headcount of 900
      • The account will NOT have paper checks, but it will allow customers to print one from their home computer if necessary
      • The interest rate will be 3%, about a third less than its savings rate of 4.4%
      • Surcharge-free ATM access will be provided through the Allpoint network of 32,000 machines

      Product postioning
      While the account sounds relatively standard for an online-only checking account, the ability to print a check from home is an interesting feature we haven't seen before. It sounds like ING Direct will be marketing ease-of-use benefits, most likely centered on the bill payment function.

      ING Direct "cash cow" promotion in ChicagoThe catchy name combined with ING Direct's marketing flair (see picture right from its Chicago cash-cow promotion) should make for an interesting product launch. We'll be paying close attention here and testing the account as soon as possible.

      There is little reason for most consumers to choose a branchless bank for their main checking account when they can get free checking PLUS branch services at their local financial institution. ING Direct has long understood this and has not squandered resources on a limited-appeal product.

      However, with more than 4 million customers, they have a large enough base to make a profit on a checking account, even a (relatively) lightly used one.

      Due to the bank's ease of use and well regarded brand, it should be able to convince a portion of its base to use Electric Orange checking as an auxiliary account, perhaps as the household bill-pay account.

      If the bank moves 5% of its $47 billion in savings deposits into the checking account, it would save $3.5 million annually in interest expense. Add another $3 billion in net new deposits at a 3% spread and Electric Orange pulls in $10 million per year, enough to cover expenses anyway.


      TreasuryDirect adds Virtual Keyboard

      By Jim Bruene on August 11, 2006 12:45 PM | Comments

      A number of banks, including ING Direct <> and ABSA <> have added virtual keypads to defeat keyloggers, but the U.S. Treasury Department's Treasury Direct <> website is the first time we've seen an entire virtual keyboard. The layout is scrambled after each login, an extremely non-user-friendly feature.

      The Treasury may have added a bit more security than is necessary, especially in light of Aite Group's <> latest research that online banking fraud in the United States was a scant $4 million last year (correct, that is no typo, it's MILLION as in 4 cents per U.S. household). The virtual keyboard itself would defeat most hacks; there's no need to scramble it every time.


      Thanks to MyMoneyBlog for the tip. Interestingly, most of the 16 comments on the new security feature were negative because of the extra hassle.


      Union National Bank's Gold Cafe

      By Jim Bruene on May 20, 2006 11:11 AM | Comments

      Unionnational_goldcafe_logoTalk about thinking outside the box: Instead of serving coffee in its branches, Union National Community Bank <> is serving checking accounts in a cafe. Unionfinancial_goldcafe_pic_1The $400 million bank, headquartered in Mt. Joy, Penn., is using a strategy similar to ING Direct, except UNCB has gone as far as to remove its brand from the name, calling the financial store "Gold Cafe" (see picture right).

      The cafe features a full retail coffee operation with coffee, lattes, tea, smoothies and so on priced at $1.45 to $4.45 and pastries and desserts from $1.75 to $2.25. The coffee service is run by Lancaster County Coffee Roasters.

      Unionnational_goldcafe_homepageThe branding has also been extended to its website,, where the concept is supported with an emphasis on the lengthy hours, 6:30 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5:00 pm on Sundays, 82 hours in total. The website also features information on an iPod giveaway during its May 11-13 grand opening. The only banking product mentioned is free checking in the lower-right corner (see screenshot).

      The branch, er cafe, located near a major community college in Lancaster, Penn., includes a coffee bar, couches, an outdoor patio, fireplace, free Wi-Fi, and the ubiquitous plasma screen monitors. The bank has also created Sip, a "cultural newszine" available only in the cafe. A second cafe is set to open later this year in Centerville.

      We can't predict whether this concept ultimately works. Although we like the new-age branch concept popularized by Umpqua and others, this might be over the top. One of the biggest reasons to build branches is for their advertising value, placing the bank's brand in front of thousands of commuters and errand-runners each day. By calling it the Gold Cafe, the UNCB loses the normal branding value, but the highly unusual strategy will generate a large amount of publicity, overcoming the initial customer confusion of using a bank named "Gold Cafe." However, this is a unique situation that wouldn't readily work for other financial institutions.

      Unionnational_goldcafe_homeThe initial website is just a single page (see above) and badly needs an upgrade to cash in on all the publicity. At a minimum, prospective customers should be able to get a virtual tour of the cafe and open an account online. The site will be heavily visited by banking analysts and reporters and should do a better job supporting the publicity it's bound to attract, although the parent's home page does include a series of photos of the new concept along with a Gold Cafe link in the main navigation (see screenshot right).

      If anyone has a chance to visit the branch, let me know what you think of it.



      ING Direct's "Unmortgage"

      By Jim Bruene on April 11, 2006 9:00 AM | Comments

      Yup_logoWhen  everyone is swimming upstream, sometimes the best strategy is to head down. In the soft drink world, 7-Up's "uncola" campaign is legendary. The J Walter Thompson campaign launched in 1967 ranked 61st on Advertising Age's Top-100 All-Time Advertising Campaigns (compiled in 1999). In that spirit, ING Direct Canada's "unmortgage" campaign is bound to grab attention <>, even without the fizzy water.

      Ing_ca_homepage_1How often have you seen "the best mortgage is no mortgage" at a lending site? The direct banking pioneer doesn't even use the word mortgage on its homepage, instead posting an "unmortgage toolkit" along the bottom navigation (click on inset for a closeup). To further reinforce the unmarketing strategy, an unmortgage sweepstakes promises $20,000 to two customers to assist in paying down their mortgage balance (see screenshot below).

      Unfortunately, the bank does not make good on its homepage promise. Clicking on the Unmortgage Tool Kit, simply drops users into a relatively standard mortgage page with information on new mortgages, refis, and home equity (see screenshot below). Where's the "help me unmortgage my home" button, or the "five steps to eliminating your mortgage" worksheet, or even a "talk to one of our unmortgage officers today" graphic.

      Ing_ca_mtg_homeAfter a great tease, the company leaves users hanging. Hopefully, they'll remodel their mortgage page with ways for prospective customers to follow through on the unmortgage promise. Since ING trademarked it, you may not be able to use that clever name. But anyone can follow the powerful strategy of working to get your customers out of debt and back into the savings habit.

      Ing_ca_mortgage_logo_2In the United States, as baby boomers head into retirement often loaded with mortgage debt, "mortgage retirement" is likely to become a major focus in the personal-finance press for decades. Now is a good time to make your mark as the unmortgage expert in your area. While it may not land you on Ad Age's Top-100 list, it could keep your mortgage officers busy for years to come.


      Marketing Database -

      If you're in need of inspiration for financial marketing ideas, check out the Interactive Financial Marketing Database from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.


      Paperless Checking Accounts

      By Jim Bruene on March 23, 2006 8:22 AM | Comments

      Ing_ball3_1If the statute of limitations on "I told you so" is seven years, then word that ING Direct is contemplating a "checkless" checking account called e-Orange comes in just under the wire. Our Virtual Checking Accounts report, which outlined just such an account, was published six years and eight months ago (OBR 50/51) (see note 1).

      We've always enjoyed the ING Direct story because it defies conventional wisdom in so many ways. Here are the "rules" that the Dutch banking giant, thirteenth largest in the world, has broken:

      1. Branchless, Internet-only banks can't build a large deposit base
      2. Large entrenched financial institutions can't create a hip online brand
      3. Mass-market banks must offer checking accounts

      Worldwide, the ING Direct unit serves 15.7 million customers, and in 2005 it earned a profit of 617 million euros, about 9% of the parent's earnings. The U.S. version accounts for about 20% of the customer total, approximately three million accounts, and has been portrayed as profitable by company execs.

      Why "checkless" checking?
      No details are available on what an e-Orange checking account might look like. The company will only say that it's in "testing" in the United States. We've held an account at ING Direct since it opened (Q3 2000), and we haven't been approached. But it's pretty easy to guess what it would include:

      1. Simple account-to-account transfers (already part of its savings product)
      2. Online bill payment
      3. Debit/credit cards
      4. A high rate of interest, although checking is a point or so less than savings accounts

      The lack of paper checks may be more a publicity stunt than a true cost savings, although if they succeed in keeping the paper out of customers' hands, it might help keep funds on deposit. Consumers facing a fat tuition bill may be more likely to pull out the checkbook connected to their Citibank account rather than arranging an electronic deduction from e-Orange.

      The company, which portrays its savings account as a "companion" to the customer's existing branch-based checking account, is likely not looking to displace the typical 30-transactions-per-month checking account. More likely, they are positioning it more as a money market account with a competitive interest rate along with the convenience of paying a few major bills from it on an infrequent basis.

      With ING Direct's core savings product under attack from all sides (see previous NB articles), it has to look to other avenues of growth. A unique checking account, one that bags free press and a few billion in deposits, makes a lot of sense for a company with a keen grasp of how to make bold, attention-grabbing launches (see note 2).


      For more info:

      End Notes:
      (1) The seeds of that report were published a year earlier in Creating the of Financial Services (OBR#38/39)
      (2) The company has entered new markets with clever stunts, such as giving all transit riders a free ride (Washington DC, SF-Bay area); a free tank of gas (LA); coffee bars in prime locations (NYC, Philly); and so on.


      ING Direct Personalizes Emails for Security

      By Jim Bruene on January 27, 2006 6:10 PM | Comments

      Ingdirect_personalized_emailING Direct <> is the latest bank to move to greater personalization in order to distinguish its messages from phony phishing attempts. The bank has added the customer's first name and masked all but the last three digits of the customer's number (click on inset for a closer look).

      The message at left was sent to customers to market ING's latest deposit promotion: 4.75 percent APR for new money.

      Ingdirect_personalized_alertThe same technique is also used for routine account alerts (see inset right).

      Note: The high-impact sales pitch for its 4.75 percent deposit promotion.

      While it doesn't prevent phishers from attempting to recreate the same look (see footnote), it's an effective first line of defense. Besides, the personalized greeting is a friendler way to communicate with customers. Citibank has been using a similar approach for more than a year (NetBanker, May 30, 2005).

      Citi_phishFootnote: Yesterday, we received a fake email that recreated the Citibank personalized area in the upper-right corner. The crooks just left blank the Email Security Zone in the upper-right corner, figuring many users won't look that closely at the box (click on inset for a closer look).



      ING Direct Savings Account Demo

      By Jim Bruene on December 15, 2005 1:31 PM | Comments

      Ingdirect_demoING Direct US <> has added an online demo, perhaps the only pure savings account demo online: a good idea, if you are serious about the high-rate deposit business. Users need reassurances you are trustworthy and competent. A good online demo helps on both counts (click on inset for closeup). To view the demo yourself, click here.



      ING Direct Adds Virtual PIN Login Pad

      By Jim Bruene on November 16, 2005 4:00 PM | Comments

      Ingdirect_usa_pinpadING Direct's <> three million U.S. customers now must enter passwords into the site with an on-screen PIN pad. Users have the choice of clicking on their numerical PIN or typing the corresponding letter into an on-screen box (see screenshot below). The letters are scrambled each time to defeat many keylogging programs.

      Although, the virtual PIN pad technology has been widely deployed elsewhere in the world, it's new in the United States.

      Until recent deployments at Bank of America (NetBanker May 26), Citibank (NetBanker May 30), E*Trade (NetBanker March 2), and a handful of others, ING Direct has been the sole U.S. bank making at least a minimal attempt to make login more secure. For the past four years, it's required a third piece of information at login (partial social security number or year of birth). It's not really multi-factor authentication, because the third piece isn't too difficult to figure out, but it at least provided the perception of better security (click on screenshot below to see closeup of login page).

      Ingdirect_usa_pinpad_fullThe virtual PIN pad, first used by ABSA Bank in 2003 (see Online Banking Report 96/97), isn't foolproof, but it does make it tougher for key-loggers and phishers to successfully recreate the login process at the bank. It's also a relatively inexpensive improvement with very little customer impact. In fact, I'd expect that the customer response is overwhelmingly positive.

      If the bank combines these cosmetic security features with robust behind-the-scenes authorization controls, it should have enough to keep the crooks at bay AND satisfy regulators.



      ING Direct and the Internet-only Banking Redux

      By Jim Bruene on May 4, 2005 5:05 PM | Comments

      Ing_on_bankrate_1During the height of the bubble, there were dozens, perhaps hundreds of banks secretly planning to launch Internet-oriented brands. But the strategy fell out of favor with the very public downfall of WingspanBank, which lost funding during a corporate restructuring at Bank One; followed by the collapse of NextCard, which went belly-up after a ill-advised bet on sub-prime credit.

      But despite these public failures, there was never anything wrong with the underlying strategy. Quite the opposite. Direct banking has been a viable business model ever since deposit deregulation in the 1970s. The Internet only makes it easier to reach and serve customers.

      Case-in-point: ING Direct, still not five years old in the United States, has amassed 2.5 million accounts holding $29 billion in deposits at year-end 2004, making it the 30th largest financial institution in the United States. If they continue to grow at the same pace, they should be close to cracking the top-20 by this time next year. Their laser sharp focus on savings accounts, trendy branding, and consistent high rates has put them on the map.

      This success has not gone unnoticed around the country. They are frequently discussed at industry gatherings and internal planning meetings. However, you aren't likely to see many of its more traditional competitors jumping on the high-deposit bandwagon. It doesn't make sense for them to alienate their customers and branch employees by offering higher rates online. And they are not about to reprice their entire deposit base to compete with ING Direct and the other high-rate institutions.

      Emigrant_direct_on_bankrateHowever, I think you will see smaller banks look to the Internet for growth using new brands or brand extensions. In perhaps the most aggressive launch since ING Direct in 2000/2001, Emigrant Savings practically owns the deposit real estate at In a recent visit, the bank's Emigrant Direct brand not only had the top banner, they also bought the skyscraper on the left-hand side, effectively "framing" the entire content screen (click in the inset for a better look).

      Note to ING Direct, check your skyscraper ad at (see above). Emigrant Direct has hung a small ad on the bottom of your banner that looks like part of your ad. I hope you are at least getting a discount from 


      If you'd like to learn more about the future of online banking include internet-only, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.


      ING Direct Fundraising ($320,000) for Tsunami

      By Jim Bruene on January 28, 2005 4:16 PM | Comments


      ING Direct posted a Tsunami Relief Fund button on its main account view page (see above). So far, customers have kicked in $320,000. It's less than a buck an account, but it's still a sizable contribution in total. ING as a company has also pledged more than $1 million.


      • The donation function is completely integrated, so it couldn't be easier.
      • A link is provided to learn more about the organization that will administer the donations.
      • Customers get feedback on results, in this case $320,000 raised, so that customers can take pride in the total amount raised.

      Note also: The pitch in the middle of the screen (above) to sign up for electronic statements to be entered into prize drawings including a plasma TV. Refer to our Jan. 18 article for more on that sweeps.

      -- JB


      Making Online Banking Fun

      By Jim Bruene on January 18, 2005 4:22 PM | Comments

      Is banking ever fun? Not really. The best you can hope for is that it's "pleasant."

      How about online banking? It might have been classified as fun the first couple times you tried it, but it's not fun anymore unless you happen to have lots of money piling up in your account.

      Is it possible to keep it fun? Yes, but you'll have to continuously innovate. As Seth Godin points out in Free Prize Inside: The Next BIG Marketing Idea, "The price of WOW keeps rising." In other words, what impressed your customers today, no longer impresses them tomorrow.

      One innovation that we'd like to see more widely used is rewards programs for online delivery. It doesn't have to be as expensive as frequent flier programs, more like the free Cokes you can win from time-to-time under the bottle cap.

      1. ING Direct has a monthly raffle for its customers who have opted to receive email statements (which automatically shuts off the paper). Every quarter one of its 2 million customers wins a plasma TV, another wins a laptop, and a third wins a digital camera or portable DVD player. The total prize pool is about $5,000 per quarter, which amounts to one cent per customer per year, less than 1/500 of the cost of mailing a monthly statement.

      2. PFF Bank & Trust (Pomona, CA) is running a bill payment usage sweeps during the first three months of the year. The promotion is advertised with eye-Pff_sweeps_1 catching graphics on its home page. Every time a customer pays a bill they are entered into the sweepstakes for a cool electronic "toy," January is the iPod (of course), February is a digital camera and printer, and March is a 19" LCD television. The total prize pool is just $2000 for the entire promotion.

      -- JB


      Branchless Banks now Hold 2% of U.S. Retail Deposits

      By Jim Bruene on January 13, 2005 10:36 AM | Comments

      The Wall Street Journal published a story today that marks the growing importance of branchless online banks, Online Banks are Boosting Yields. Our sister publication, Online Banking Report, was the source for the article's market statistics on branchless banks, which have developed a small, but significant following around the world.

      In the United States, there are several dozen branchless banks, but more than three-quarters of the total branchless bank deposits are held by two banks, ING Direct and E*Trade Bank. Total branchless bank* deposits in Q3 2004 were about $65 billion, or 1% of all U.S. deposits, or about 2% of all deposits under $100,000. See below for more specific details.    

      Branchless Bank Deposits
      As of Sept 30, 2004, the deposit totals of the major branchless banks are as follows:

      ING Direct       $26 billion in 1.9 million accounts ($14,000/acct)
      E*Trade Bank  $23 bil in 2.3 million accounts ($10,000/acct)
      NetBank          $2.7 bil in 200,000 accounts ($14,000/acct)
      Everbank         $2.3 bil in 370,000 accounts ($6,200/acct)
      All the rest      $5 to $10 billion total
      Total               $60 to $65 billion

      Total US Deposits
      The total amount of deposits held in U.S. commercial banks on 9/30/04 was $6.4 trillion including retail and commercial deposits.

      If you look only at deposits of $100,000 or less (a proxy for retail deposits), total deposits were $3.7 trillion.

      Branchless Bank Deposit Market Share
      Branchless banks hold about 1% of all U.S. deposits ($65/$6400).

      Looking at just deposits under $100k, branchless banks hold just under a 2% share ($65/$3700), actually 1.8% if you want to be more precise.

      Source: FDIC

      What it Means
      It's not as big of a splash as Amazon made in books, but it's a solid start for an niche about 7 years old (Netbank started in 1997). I expect it will continue to grow 25% to 35% per year for the rest of the decade, eg, doubling the branchless banking deposit base every 2 to 3 years.   

      *We define "branchless bank" as a separately branded insured depository institution that derives the majority of its business through direct methods (mail, phone, online) with minimal brick and mortar presence. We are excluding direct banking units operating under lending or insurance brands such as Principal Bank, State Farm Bank, IndyMac, MBNA, and so on.



      MBNA Might Acquire Egg

      By Jim Bruene on May 3, 2004 4:56 PM | Comments


      The Wall Street Journal today reported that MBNA was considering a purchase of Egg, the UK-based Internet bank and credit card issuer. While the primary purpose of the acquisition would be to pick up the bank's 2.8 million card accounts, MBNA would likely consider expanding the Internet banking franchise into the United States.

      We think the U.S. market is ready for another innovative Internet banking brand. Look at what ING Direct (USA) has accomplished in under four years: built a successful franchise with more than one million accounts and $16 billion in deposits (year-end 2003).


      Password Procedures at 15 Financial Institutions

      By Jim Bruene on April 8, 2003 7:23 PM | Comments

      Using our live test accounts, we changed passwords then subsequently “forgot” the new one to test how major financial institutions handle the situation. Overall, most received good marks, although everyone has room for improvement.  



      Table 1

      Password Scorecard

      Safe Practices




      Use a third password or challenge question




      Disable Internet Explorer AutoComplete




      Require 4 or more characters in passwords




      Bank determines username




      Require more than account number and social security number for online password reset




      Send confirmation of password change to email address




      Send confirmation of online password reset to email address




      Send confirmation of password reset to mail address




      Allow more than 3, but less than 11 unsuccessful password attempts*




      Warn users in advance of account lockup




      Source: Online Banking Report, 4/03
      *We believe users should have at least 5 login attempts, with clear instructions before and after lockout


      Testing process

      1. Login with existing username and password

      2. Change password or username

      3. Logout

      4. Use online password reset if available

      5. Attempt to log back in 10 times with an incorrect password



      American Express


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Needs improvement

      (1) Browser AutoComplete function not disabled
      (2) No email confirmation of password change
      (3) Account lockout too quickly, after third login try

      Password structure: User defined, 6 to 8 characters with at least 1 letter and 1 number

      Username structure: 5 to 20 characters with
      at least 1 letter

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: No

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Online password reset: Yes, with card number, 4-digit card ID (on face of card), work phone number, last 4 digits of soc, and 5-digit zip code

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts: Yes, after third attempt; red warning issued after attempt two

      Online username retrieval: Depends, certain accounts can retrieve their username online, others must call; we were in the latter group so could not test this feature

      AutoComplete is not disabled on the login screen.

      User friendly: American Express warns users after their second unsuccessful login that they will be locked out after one more attempt.

      Password reset, step 1: Enter userid, card number, and 4-digit code from back.

      Password reset, step 2:
      Enter personal info for authentication.


      Bank of America Credit Card


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Good

      Weakness: No email confirmation of password change

      Username structure: User defined, 9 to 20 numbers

      Password structure: 4 to 7 characters; cannot repeat 4 or more in same sequence as username; cannot be same character repeated

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: No, must call

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after 4 attempts; help section carries clear warning

      Online username retrieval: No

      BofA provides a helpful popup screen with each unsuccessful password attempt.






      Centura Bank


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Fair

      (1) No email confirmation of password change
      (2) No warning of account lockout
      (3) No customer service link or HELP available from login screen

      Username structure: Social security number (with dashes)

      Password structure: 6 to 15 characters

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Password change: Online with old password; but neglected to provide an on-screen confirmation that the change occurred, an annoying usability flaw

      Online password reset: No, must call; password sent via postal mail

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after sixth unsuccessful attempt; no prior warning

      Online username retrieval: Unnecessary (SSN)

      Centura had the best login screen “security look and feel.” It also provides a link to disclosures, but not a single mention of customer service or online help, even after making an unsuccessful login attempt. Evidently the bank’s lawyers have been through the site, but where’s customer service?


      Charter One Bank


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Needs improvement


      (1) Browser AutoComplete not disabled

      (2) No email confirmation of password change
      (3) No warning prior to account lockout
      (4) No message after account lockout

      (5) A bit too easy to gain read-only account access for new users; requires account number and social security number. However there is a crucial safeguard for bill payment which requires mother’s maiden name, date of birth, home phone number, and a 2-day waiting period.

      Username structure: Social security number

      Password structure: Must be at least 6 characters

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: No

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: No, must call

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, not sure when it happens, sometime before the tenth attempt; the bank does not provide a warning of impending lockout, nor does it let you know after you’ve been locked out, you only receive a cryptic
      error message.

      Online username retrieval: Unnecessary (SSN)


      AutoComplete has not been disabled
      at account login.


      New users enroll with social security number and account number. Note the excellent use of security graphics during enrollment.


      Chase Bank


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Good

      (1) No email confirmation of password change
      (2) No warning of upcoming account lockout
      (3) No message after account lockout

      Username structure: User defined, must include one number

      Password structure: 6 to 10 characters, 1 of which must be a number

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, with name, account type, account number, social security number, and two user selected challenge questions

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, sometime during the first 10 attempts; no warning message and no indication when account is lockout out, a “try again” message just keeps repeating

      Online username retrieval: Yes, displayed online after entering name, account type, account number, social security number

      Chase is one of the few banks offering online retrieval of forgotten usernames. After correctly entering name, account number, and social security number, the username is displayed. At that point you can login if you know your password. If not, you can retrieve your password online by answering two previously selected challenge questions. This is great from a usability standpoint, but the bank should send a confirmation via email and/or snail mail.

      To reset the password, users answer two
      previously established challenge questions. 



      DeepGreen Bank


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Needs improvement


      (1) Browser AutoComplete not disabled

      (2) No email confirmation of password change

      (3) No minimum password length, can be a single letter or the same as the username
      (4) No warning before account lockout
      (5) No message after account locked out

      Username structure: User defined, can be all alpha

      Password structure: 1 to 14 characters, can be the same as the username or a single character

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: No

      Online password change: Yes, with old password and mother’s maiden name

      Online password reset: Yes, with social security number and mother’s maiden name

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, but not sure when because the lockout is not disclosed until the user attempts to login with correct username/password.

      Online username retrieval: No, must call, then wait
      7 to 10 days to receive in the mail

      A common security vulnerability: Failure to disable IE 6’s AutoComplete function.






      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Needs improvement

      (1) AutoComplete not disabled
      (2) No email confirmation of password reset, even though it can be reset with info available to an identity thief, SSN and mother’s maiden name
      (3) No email or on-screen confirmation of p/w change
      (4) No warning before account lockout
      (5) No help on login screen for the memory challenged

      Username structure: Initially set as social security # (with dashes); can be changed online one time; 8 to 24 characters, not similar to current username, not same as password, not offensive, at least 2 numbers and 2 alphas

      Password structure: 8 to 16 characters with at least one number and one letter, not similar to username, not similar to prior password, not the same reading backward and forward

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: No

      Password change: Online with old password; no confirmation of the change provided on-screen

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Online password reset: No, must call; new temp password given over the phone after providing SSN, name, address, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after fifth attempt, must call to reactivate; no warning prior to lockout

      Online username retrieval: No, must call

      Everbank provides no help at login for users that forget username or password, just a lengthy warning written by the lawyers.


      First USA Credit Card (Bank One)


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Fair

      (1) No email confirmation of password/username change or reset; especially important given relative ease of resetting username/password
      (2) No warning before account lockout

      Username structure: User defined, 7 to 16 characters, case sensitive

      Password structure: 7 to 32 characters, case sensitive,  must have at least 1 number, may not use the same letters consecutively, cannot match username or social security number.

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online username change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, with credit card #, social security #, signature panel code, and expiration date

      Online username reset: Yes, with credit card number, social security number, signature panel code, and expiration date

      Email confirmation of password or username change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts: Yes, locked out after four attempts, no warning given

      First USA is the only financial institution tested which allowed usernames to be reset online; nice for usability but a confirmation of the reset should be emailed and/or mailed to the cardholder.


      Harris Direct (brokerage)


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Good

      (1) No email confirmation of password change (thought there is for password reset)
      (2) Only 3 login attempts allowed before lockout (but can reset online relatively painlessly)

      Username structure: User defined, 6 to 15 characters

      Password structure: 6 to 8 characters

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, a new disguised password is emailed after entering username and birth date; the new password is a created from the account holder’s mother maiden name and social security number but is not disclosed in the email, e.g. the first 2 letter of mother’s maiden name plus last 4 digits of social security number.

      Email confirmation of password change: No

      Email confirmation of password reset: Yes, confirmation also sent via snail mail

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after third attempt, but can be reset online; no warning before lockout

      Online username retrieval: No, must call

      HarrisDirect allows online reset after your account has been locked out for excessive login attempts. It was the only company which emails a disguised new password when resetting. For good measure, they also mail an identical confirmation.                    




      ING Direct


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Excellent

      Username structure: Account number

      Password structure: 4-digit number (called PIN)

      Second password/challenge: Yes, one of 5 user-specified questions asked at login (see below)

      IE 6 password remember disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Email confirmation of password change: Yes; confirmation also sent via postal mail

      Online password reset: No, must call

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      No (not in the first 10 attempts)

      Online username retrieval: Unnecessary (acct #)

      ING Direct is the only bank we know of using a challenge question at login. In addition to account number and password, one of these five rotating questions must be answered correctly:

      •  first 4 digits of social security number

      •  zip code of mailing address (first 5 digits)

      •  birth year (4 digit)

      •  last 3 digits of social security number

      •  last 4 digits of social security number

      We like the concept, but the implementation is weak. By simply refreshing the browser screen, the would-be thief can select which question to answer, one of which is zip code, which is trivial to ascertain. 




      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Fair

      (1) AutoComplete not disabled on the password reset screen (it is disabled on login page)
      (2) Username (email address) known to others

      Username structure: Email address

      Password structure: 8 to 24 characters case sensitive; recommended, but not required that it include upper and lowercase and at least one number or special character

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Varies; yes, on main login screen, no on password reset screen

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, via email; must answer secret question via email link; if unable to access original email account the new password is sent via snail mail

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: Yes

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after 10 unsuccessful attempts; a lockout warning appears after the seventh attempt

      Online username retrieval: Not necessary since username is equal to email address


      PayPal is one of the few financial companies using cookies to automatically insert usernames at login. The company has used this approach since inception, so they must feel that the improved usability more than compensates for the decrease in security.



      PayPal’s online password reset process requires the user to have access to the email account registered with the service. If not, users answer one of four authentication questions (top screen) and the password is mailed to a one of the previously confirmed snail mail address (bottom screen).

      PayPal explains after the seventh incorrect password attempt that you have 3 more tries before lockout. This is a far more reasonable approach than many banks’ three-strikes-and-you-are-out policy.




      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Fair

      (1) No email confirmation of password change
      (2) Account lockout too quickly, after 3 login attempts, but can be reset relatively easily online

      Username structure: Account number or social security number

      Password structure: 6 to 8 characters including at least one number BETWEEN the first and last characters; cannot match or be a subset of username

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, in one of two ways;
      (a) If logging in with account number, you must provide social security number, date of birth, home phone number, and correctly pick a security in your account from a list of 10 choices including “none of the above”
      (b) If logging in with a social security number, you must only provide the answer to the secret question.

      Can also reset via automated phone system.

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after 3 attempts; no warning prior to lockout

      Online username retrieval: Not necessary (acct. # or soc. #)

      Schwab’s unique password reset process requires the usual social security #, birth date, and telephone, plus users must correctly choose one of ten securities in the portfolio (including “none of the above”).          



      US Bank


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Good

      Weakness: No email confirmation of password change

      Username structure: User defined, 8 to 24 characters

      Password structure: 8 to 24 characters

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, with ATM card number and ATM PIN; new password displayed online

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after 6 attempts; can reset online or wait 24 hours; no prior warning

      Online username retrieval: No, must call

      Password change screen. Note the prominent placement of what happens next.


      Forgotten password can be reset online with
      ATM card number and PIN.


      Wells Fargo


      Password Scorecard

      Grade: Good

      (1) No email confirmation of password change
      (2) Account lockout too soon, after 3rd login try

      Username structure: Social security number

      Password structure: 5 to 8 characters

      Second password/challenge: No

      IE 6 AutoComplete disabled: Yes

      Online password change: Yes, with old password

      Online password reset: Yes, with statement account number and ATM PIN; those without an ATM PIN are directed to call customer service.

      Email confirmation of password change/reset: No

      Account lockout with excessive login attempts:
      Yes, after 3 attempts; user redirected to online password reset page; no prior warning

      Online username retrieval: Unnecessary (SSN)

      Wells offers six options for where to go
      immediately after login.

      After three unsuccessful login attempts users are directed to reset their password, which can be done online with account number and PIN.    


      Mutual Fund Investing Through ING Direct

      By Jim Bruene on November 5, 2002 7:59 PM | Comments

      ING Direct highlights three model mutual fund portfolios.
      Looking for a way to score points with your customers while bringing in some revenue for your financial institution? Take a long look at your investments section. Are you just dumping your customers into a discount brokerage or do you actually help them make sense of the options available: asset allocation, indexed mutual funds, automatic savings plans, FDIC-insured accounts, IRAs, SEPs, 401ks, 529s, Roth IRAs, and so on.

      Investing is confusing and stressful in the best of times, but with the recent downturn and volatility in the stock market, consumers are looking for advice from unbiased sources. Banks and credit unions are ideally suited to deliver believable solutions. For example, ING Direct offers three recommended baskets of indexed mutual fund: conservative, moderate, and aggressive.

      Categories: ING Direct

      ING Direct A Fresh Approach to Net-only Banking Combined with a “Best of the Web” Savings Account.

      By Jim Bruene on August 8, 2001 8:50 AM | Comments

      ING Direct wins an OBR Best of the Web for its creative approach to selling and servicing savings accounts. While most banks treat savings like an afterthought, ING Direct gives this overlooked product center stage. How many banks put their savings rate on the home page? (4.40% APY in upper right).



      The Company


      ING Direct, as you might have guessed, is the direct banking arm of Netherlands-based ING Group (US$600 billion assets; 100,000+ employees). ING Direct, fsb,  the U.S. division based out of Wilmington, DE, is one of six direct banking units. The others are in Canada, Australia, France, Italy, and Spain. The Canadian division is the oldest, launched in April 1997, even before the Web became a major factor. It boasts a customer count of 400,000 with more than US$3 billion in assets.

      The U.S. unit was launched in Sept. 2000 and has attracted 230,000 customers and $2.1 billion in deposits during its first year. By 2001 standards, the company has spent relatively lavishly in its branding campaign, especially in the eastern United States, where it also opened a pricey Internet café in Manhattan. Its TV spots, catchy black-and-white except for a bouncing orange ball, tout the company’s high savings rate, which a year ago was a more eye-catching 6.50% (APY) compared to its current 4.40%. You can view the ads on its Web site.

      The Products

      The biggest surprise in ING Direct’s product line is what it doesn’t offer. There is nary an electronic banking service in sight: no checking account, no ATM card, no credit card, and no bill payment.

      After seeing many Net-only banks sink millions into exotic transaction accounts, ING Direct decided to use the old-fashioned savings & loan model, concentrating on savings accounts and mortgage lending. The company also offers a revolving loan product and certificates of deposit.

      The entire brand, and all products, are wrapped in an appealing orange name and logo: Orange Savings, Orange CDs, Orange Loan Account, and Orange Mortgages. The Web site and collateral material all use an orange-and-blue color scheme with orange balls directing the eye to key navigation choices. And the biggest surprise came in the mail when the first paper statement arrived. It’s the first we’ve received that was obviously designed by someone outside the IT department. The statement includes a large orange in the upper left-hand corner that highlights the interest you earned during the statement period. That’s great relationship marketing.

      ING Direct’s elegant funds-transfer function features a simple interface where funds can be transferred among ING Direct accounts and to/from outside account. Funds can be moved immediately (far left), at a future date (middle), or set up on a recurring schedule (far right).

      Note: (1) The current balance is placed next to the account name to cut down on transfer mistakes.

      (2) The bank disables the browser toolbar within the online banking area so navigation is cleaner.


      ING Direct’s online newsletter, appropriately named “Bright Spots,” is gorgeous and customer oriented. It’s delivered via PDF plug-in. On a broadband connection, it’s a great solution, but at 1.4 MB too slow-going for dial-up users. The bank should add an HTML version for the 56k crowd, or at least warn users before dropping a 1.4 MB download on them.




      Conventional wisdom holds that savings accounts, while a profitable adjunct to a customer’s checking account, are unproductive to sell as a stand-alone product. In the bricks-and-mortar world, where checking accounts rule, that logic is undoubtedly correct. But in cyberspace, where you can’t even give checking accounts away, the math is different. Even low-balance savings accounts, equipped with ACH funding, quarterly paper statements, no check processing expense, and virtually no customer service, can provide a positive contribution1. And if the company can cross-sell enough revolving credit and mortgages, they could turn an acceptable profit for its parent.

      We think ING knows something that Compubank and SFNB never figured out; after all, ING has been running a successful direct banking operation in Canada since early 1997. If you combine good rates, easy funds transfer (e.g., ACH), and attractive packaging, you can build accounts and balances.

      During its first year, the company added nearly 5,000 accounts per week. An impressive rate, considering it took SFNB several years to get its first 10,000. Of course, ING Direct has a marketing budget that far exceeds most online competitors. But its marketing would be in vain if it didn’t have such a compelling product.

      But ING’s apparent success isn’t just from throwing money at the problem. If that were all it took, and Wingspan would be the biggest banks out there. From top to bottom, ING Direct has built an elegant and well-executed online bank, from its Web site to its toll-free customer service and monthly paper statements.

      That said, ING’s delivery is far from perfect. For example, it’s online customer service, both from an information standpoint (FAQs) and availability (no prominent links) is surprisingly weak. Following is a list of overall strengths and weaknesses of ING Direct’s online services.

      1Full disclosure, OBR’s Editor has consulted for ING Direct in the past.

      2We use “contribution” in the accounting sense, where the variable revenues are greater than the variable expenses, therefore providing a positive contribution towards paying fixed costs, and hopefully an overall profit.



      •     Great brand and positioning, the Orange is appealing (no pun intended) and memorable; the “get back to basics” tone is right for the times
      •     Superb Web site design: graphics, layout, navigation, copy-writing
      •     Users can choose account nicknames, an essential feature to encourage multiple savings accounts (college fund, junior’s allowance, etc.)
      •     It’s very easy to setup an additional savings account after the first is established; it takes less than 60 seconds using the Open New Account tab within the online banking area
      •     Transfer Money can be used to move money within your ING accounts or to/from an outside account(s)
      •     Transfer Money also features future-dated transfers and recurring transfer setup
      •     Excellent online newsletter
      •     Refer-a-friend program: the referral source gets $10 and the new account gets $25; we like that 70/30 split of the bonus pot; its good for everyone
      •     Within the online banking session, the browser toolbar is disabled, forcing users to use the bank’s navigation (for the most part, this works well, although there are a few rough spots)
      •     Opt-in and changeable marketing preferences
      •     Attractive consumer newsletter delivered online via PDF
      •     7/24 customer service; a rare show of customer support from a Net-only bank these days
      •     Outside accounts authenticated using the two-deposit algorithm pioneered by PayPal (although interestingly, you don’t have to verify the outside account for the initial deposit)



      • Why the café in Manhattan? (And another set to open in Philly.) It seems like fluff at best, even counter productive, given their company’s “back to basics” positioning. But we don’t spend much time in NYC, so maybe we are missing something. Check it out yourself on E. 49th between Park and Madison Avenues.
      • And speaking of fluff, the company recently added the above shop@INGdirect logo to a prominent position on its home page when we clicked on it, we expected to see a clever pitch for savings accounts or loans, but it’s a link to its merchandise store to buy hats, shirts, and orange Slinkys, even a $525 mountain bike. The stuff is cool, kind of Kozmo-ish (oops! not a good association), but does anyone really want to pay money to advertise their bank? It seems like a colossal waste of prime home page real estate; the link to the company store should be buried in the About Us section, where the bank groupies will find it anyway. Now, should I get the ING polo or New Zealand rugby shirt?
      • No support for wire transfers, even for account funding.
      • No online method for adding additional outside accounts to move money to/from (only the first account used to fund the initial deposit is setup online); a laborious snail-mail procedure is required to add additional accounts which includes writing a paper check to the bank “for any amount, even $1.00.” The bank should allow the use of a voided check.
      • A limit of 3 outside accounts can be linkedd
      • FAQs are very skimpy, just a single page; and don’t address many routine questions
      • Not enough discussion of security issues; it needs to provide more assurances to prospective depositors
      • No service/fraud guarantees
      • It’s difficult to login: ING assigns a random and difficult-to-remember 7-digit customer number to use for logging in; compounding that frustration is that the bank doesn’t use the password you selected at signup, instead a 4-digit PIN, also selected at account signup, is used
      • No online method or hints for retrieving forgotten passwords, you must call customer service
      • Weak email customer service; I couldn’t even find it my first time on the site, it’s hidden in a tiny link in the lower-left corner of the online module  and it’s a generic sales address, ; it makes you feel like they want to avoid online interactions
      • No Web-form for composing customer service queries
      • Within the online banking module, the toll-free customer service number is not prominently displayed (outside the secure zone it’s well positioned)
      • When establishing an automatic recurring transfer, there is no email confirmation of the setup; worse there is no online way to change, cancel, or even look at what you’ve established; you must call customer service to make changes or cancel
      • No email confirmations of deposits or transfers
      • No wire or ATM access to savings account funds; users must wait 2-3 days for withdrawals to arrive at another account via ACH (electronic transfer)

      ING Direct’s email customer service support consists of a single generic email address directed to the sales department, .



      Despite the long list of needed improvements, most of which are relatively minor, we really like what ING Direct is doing. They are putting sizzle into an otherwise commodity-like banking product. Given the 230,000 customers they’ve pulled in so far, it appears the American consumers agree with our assessment. Combined with its Canadian operation, ING has made strong inroads into North America. It will be interesting to see what they do next.


      Note: Refer-a-friend pitch in upper right. This text rotates with an “earn $250” graphic.

      ING Direct Canada  uses an entirely different look and feel.

      ING is currently advertising in The New York Times YourMoney email letter. 


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