A slow economy notwithstanding, the country's largest banks are rapidly improving the functionality and usability of their online offerings to more effectively cross-sell products and services, generate greater cost savings and more efficiently monetize their fast growing Internet customer base, according to the Gomez Q2 2003 Internet Banker Scorecard.
In fact, our latest online banking Scorecard features several shifts in the rankings, while showing the effects of a sustained blizzard of activity in the Internet delivery of services to consumers.
Most significantly, Wells Fargo wins for Overall Score, eclipsing five-time consecutive winner Citibank. Always high ranked since the Scorecard's 1998 debut, Wells Fargo takes the top spot during a review period in which it launched an online deposit statement archive and more extensive bill presentment services, among other enhancements.
On the surface, the pioneering Web bank appears to have left elements of its eight-year-old online offering untouched. But in actuality, the breadth of products supported with education, applications, account look-up and money movement is industry-leading. Meanwhile, additional attention is paid to how customers use the offering; the bank exquisitely pre-fills applications and delivers extensive help, online banking demos and reliability guarantees.
Wells Fargo, moreover, has jumped to the front car of the online document delivery bandwagon, joining other large retail banks -- Bank of America, Wachovia, Wells Fargo and Bank One -- which all offer either online check images or online statement copies to most retail deposit customers. Wells Fargo's offering, however, goes one step further: it makes available seven years worth of online statements.
Citibank, meanwhile, made several tweaks to its account management area during the review period (which ended March 14, 2003), enhancing an already comprehensive offering through which customers can open up and manage a wide range of bank and investment products. New useful services include a listing of pending transactions on the customer's secure homepage. Other enhancements, however, might leave customers non-plussed (such as the ability to change the colors of the lines dividing the sections of the homepage) or confuse them (such as additional, overlapping navigational elements customers can use to access account information).
Wachovia On The Ascent
Wachovia earns the distinction of fastest mover among Scorecard banks since our previous ranking (rising from number 15 to 7 Overall). The bank, which is nearing completion of the offline and online integration of recently-merged First Union and Wachovia, updated the transfer functionality on its Web site to include future-dated and recurring transfers with end dates. It also made bill pay tasks simpler by summing pending bill payments and presenting the date and amount of the last payment to the merchant when a customer is scheduling a payment.
New Entrants Emerge
Associated Bank made its Scorecard debut, while Ohio Savings and PNC returned after a short hiatus (PNC made the cut after adding an online checking account application - now a minimum Scorecard requirement). Associated, which offers online check and deposit slip imaging, finished number 25. PNC came in at number 18, powered in some part by a robust, user-friendly account application center. Ohio Savings rounded out the Scorecard at number 30, buoyed by its strong support for applications, hindered by its lack of account management features heavily weighted on the Scorecard, such as check imaging.
Change Is The Only Constant
Some site upgrades were finished too late for consideration in this Scorecard. Union Planters, for example, rolled out an entirely new account management area powered by Corillian two weeks past our cut-off date. The Memphis, TN bank dropped off the Scorecard based on an evaluation that revealed improvements to the public area but also an early-generation account management area that has since been updated.
As the introduction of a new number-one bank and the replacement of three banks with new entrants suggest, the storm of enhancements and redesigns in online banking is increasing in intensity. Charter One, which dropped one place to third for Overall Score, is promising customers a new, improved online banking offering any day now, while Cherry Hill, NJ-based Commerce Bank offers a credit card payment feature so new customer service representatives hadn't yet heard of it during our testing.
Meanwhile, inter-FI transfers are now the talk of the online banking town. With money still available for consumer banking initiatives and document imaging already on their sites or in the development queue, banks are seizing on new and different features, and many have recently, or will soon launch redesigned offerings.
Clearly, the pace of online banking enhancements is not slowing -- it's merely changing form and focus.
Chris Musto is vice president of research at Gomez, Inc., a Waltham, MA Internet benchmarking and advisory services firm. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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