02/02/2011 02:24 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Get Rid of Internet Banking

If you think about the way we have digital banking and web presence structured today, it is actually wrong. Most banks today already have a well developed 'public' presence in the form of www site, and a separate 'secure' portal as a transaction or services platform "behind the login" -- normally called "Internet Banking." The problem is, that this basic structure is not the optimal configuration for customers, nor for the bank moving forward.

Why is it so?

Largely the reason for separating public website and internet banking comes down to historical elements. The major driver is purely evolution of two separate platforms. While there had been early attempts at some sort of transactional platform for banking through dedicated networks, these largely failed until the internet provided a common infrastructure for simple online access to services. While transactional banking was an obvious fit to the IP world, when the internet emerged commercially it was more about brochureware -- and thus the content was less about functionality and more about marketing and sales. Thus emerged two disparate platforms -- one was functional or transactional technology, and the other was about revenue and sales.

Traditionally speaking the "dot com" presence was owned by the marketing, or in some misguided cases corporate communications who mistook the home page as a staging ground for press releases and investor relations messages. Internet Banking, however, being largely about a front-end to transactional services (such as viewing a statement, getting account balances, transferring funds and paying bills) was driven by the IT teams who were in charge of integrating the browser with the bank core systems through some sort of middleware. To this day, these teams just don't understand each other, so the hope that one day public and secure web presence could work together, is hard to visualize.

The Biggest Revenue is Behind the Login

The problem with these two separate views of the world, is that it no longer makes sense for the customer. 90% of daily traffic to most bank website goes to the login button, so conceivably your most attractive targets (i.e. existing customers) are ignoring all of the marketing spend on nice sales messages, flashy graphics and landing pages, and they're going straight through to the tasks they want to complete behind the login. Behind the login, most banks adopt a quite sterile marketing environment, with very limited sales communications, largely focusing on execution.

The fact is, based on these analytics, you probably need to be spending at least 90 per cent of your Web marketing budget on building offers and campaigns for existing customers through the Internet banking secure portal, but the IT guys don't get any of that. The core advantage to selling behind the login is that the acquisition process is dead easy. You already have all the customer information (KYC), so compliance is simply a click-based existing customer acquisition, rather than copious forms or entry to provide proof of who they are, their credit risk assessment, etc. These are simply the easiest customers to convert.

However, shifting marketing spend to behind-the-login is not really the answer either.

Tomorrow's web presence will be very different...

The future of using IP to connect with customers is understanding that there isn't and shouldn't be two separate web-based platforms. The fact is that if you think about content I need everyday from the bank, stuff like my account balance, my transaction history, upcoming payments, etc -- this probably doesn't need to be subject to a full-blown, two-factor authentication model. In most cases, this information could be shown contextually into my banking experience just based on a cookie and 'remember me' authentication model (think or Facebook).

Marketing journeys could start one of two ways. For example, if I come to your site as a result of a search on mortgages, the homepage needs to respond to your interest in mortgage immediately, along with recognizing if you are an existing customer. For example, if you are an existing customer, you'd see immediately what you are pre-approved for, or if you are an existing mortgage customer then you might see a refinancing option or a competitive offer for bundled home insurance.

Much of the content we need is going to be contextual too. So I need you to tell me my credit card balance when I'm on a third-party credit card site, about to use my card, instead of just refusing the transaction because I'm over the limit. I need you to start getting me offers for products and services when and where I need them, not waiting for me to come back to the site or a branch. I need to have a place I can go which centralizes this relationship and defines when and we can work together, what communications I receive from you, and a place where I have a tailored view of my footprint with the bank, etc.

So rather than the public site and internet banking, the future looks a little different. The future of the multi-channel content environment will be:

  1. The Customer/Bank Dashboard - beyond PFM, this is the relationship control panel
  2. Journeys - Product and service engagement opportunities that could start through mobile, search, social, and migrate to acquisition
  3. Contextual - Understanding triggers and behaviors as an opportunity to commence a journey
  4. Execution - The day-to-day functional stuff such as transferring money, paying bills, etc.
  5. Customer Dynamics - Building out the supporting processes, cross-silo metrics, IT Integration, etc
This will be distributed across mobile, tablets, desktop, PC, ATM and other interfaces. This is all has the potential to happen within the next 3 years. The thing is - I can guarantee there are at least two department heads who are going to find this transition very difficult to deal with...