Update (1 April 2015): I received two calls from BankMobile this afternoon, including one from its president, Warren Taylor. Apparently, my authentication failure was not due to my faulty memory or credit bureau errors. It looks as though I fat-fingered a typo in my social security number (lesson #4, use double-entry of soc numbers, especially on mobile) leading to some bizarro out-of-wallet questions. Anyway, my apologies to BankMobile for the kerfuffle. As to the issue of communicating to rejected applicants, the bank says it is working on new follow-up communications to rejected applicants.
After whining about the current state of the mobile banking user experience yesterday, I was contacted by a reporter writing about mobile banking startups. He was curious about how the mobile user experience at the newcomers compares to that from major banks.
That got me thinking. While I've been impressed with the UIs at Moven, Simple, and GoBank, I hadn't tried a new one for a while. So I decided to check out BankMobile, the mobile-first brand of Customers Bank, that has been getting a lot of press lately (for example, Mary Wizniewski in American Banker, David Gerbino in The Financial Brand). The new mobile-only bank uses technology by upcoming FinovateSpring presenters Malauzai and Mitek.
I first visited BankMobile online (above) to see how they presented themselves. Much of its opening pitch, in addition to FEE FREE (see above), centers on using the mobile camera for account opening, bill payment and mobile deposit...a compelling message for smartphone users.
Since I'd yet to use camera-enabled account opening, I was looking forward to the experience. While I had a little difficulty getting the drivers license captured, it worked as promised and successfully OCR'd my info into the account application. I just had to add my phone number, mothers's maiden, and social security number manually and I was almost done.
After selecting three security questions, the only thing left between me and a new bank account was the dreaded credit-bureau-enabled authentication step. When this technique first made its way online, I failed it repeatably. But in the past few years, I've gotten better at it. But this time, I was foiled. I know I got the first question right. Then I had to answer "Does not apply" to two questions in a row, a bad sign. Then the fourth question was guessing what year I opened a particular credit card (really, I am supposed to remember that?). Apparently I got it wrong, since my "application" for a checking account was denied.
I understand the requirements to authenticate new customers. And it's not BankMobile's fault I failed. But it's super frustrating. I presented a valid drivers license (front and back), input my personal info, and answered at least 2 of 4 authentication questions correctly. And since I didn't get that third one right, likely because of a credit bureau error, I'm unable to open an account. And were I a normal consumers, I'd be worried about whether I'd just been tricked into providing my personal info and copy of my drivers license to some crook. Even if I wasn't that paranoid, I might still have questions about how that personal information will be used.
But the worst part is that there is no way to appeal the decision. All I received was a cryptic on-screen message saying "201. We are sorry, as we are not able to open an account for you" (see inset). No explanation. No number to call "if you believe you received this message in error." No alternative sign-up option. They didn't even send me an email followup. It was almost enough to make me wish they had a local branch (and I haven't felt that way for a long, long time).
When you move to mobile account opening, soon to be a must-have capability, please do yourselves a favor and consider what to do with those that fail your authentication stage. It's OK to make them jump through some reasonable additional hoops, but just letting them go is bad for business. Everyone under the age of 30 knows how to screen cap and post various business fails to social media. Don't be that company.
Instead, institute a second chance process:
1. If authentication fails, take applicants to a "need more info" page.
2. On that page, include the following:
A.) A sincere apology, ideally from a real person
B.) Explanation of what might have gone wrong, situations where you are unable to approve an account, and assurances that the applicant's private info is being held safely and confidentially
C.) Outline simple steps to resubmit the application
D.) Email, phone and text message addresses to get help (including hours of operation if not 24x7)
3. Send an followup via email and text message, apologizing and linking to the page outlined above