Online Banking Attracts Customers - InformationWeek

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Online Banking Attracts Customers

Online banking has become the third most important factor in choosing a bank, following only free checking and fee and service charges.

Online banking has become the third most important factor in choosing a bank, following only free checking and fee and service charges, a web analysis firm said Thursday.

More than 56 percent of consumers surveyed by Keynote Systems Inc. said online banking and bill payment services were very important factors in choosing a bank, more so than the physical location of bank branches and ATMs.

The two leading considerations were the pocketbook issues of free checking and fee and service charges, rated as most important by 68 percent and 67 percent of the respondents, respectively.

The popularity of online banking follows a general shift to the use of more web services, Bonny Brown, director of research and public services for Keynote, said.

"Two of the top frustrations (listed by respondents) in dealing with a bank were waiting on the phone and too many steps on a phone to get to a representative," Brown said. "People appreciate the convenience of the online service."

Keynote, which tracks web site performance across many industries, based its findings on surveys of customers of the 10 leading online banking sites. In addition, the organization analyzed the interactions of 2,000 consumers with their banks' sites in determining which institutions offered customers the best overall online experience.

National City topped the list, followed, in order, by Washington Mutual and Bank of America.

Keynote also found that consumers are relying more heavily on online services, which has led to an increase in expectations. Ninety-two percent of the banking customers use the Internet for checking transaction history, 51 percent for checking and printing their monthly statements and 43 percent for paying bills.

One in 5 download transactions to a desktop financial software product, such as Quicken.

The banks, however, performed poorly in cross-selling customers, Keynote found. Services such as credit-card offerings and savings accounts were listed on the homepage, but were not easily accessible when a customer logged into their persona account. Customers, 38 percent, were most interested in credit cards, followed by savings accounts, 21 percent, and mortgages, 21 percent.

Banks are gradually making it easier for customers to apply for additional banking services, Brown said. The two top banks in the study are "very strong in cross-selling."

"In general, banks are trending upward, and are doing better in this area," Brown said. "(Customers) are seeing some improvement."

The other banks considered in the study were Bank One, Chase, Citibank, Sun Trust, U.S. Bank, Wachovia and Wells Fargo.

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