theme song (400K mp3)


past static

Proposal for a New Model of Banking Information Presentation and Navigation

UPDATE June 24,1999: It looks like this is already being done on a limited scale. Companies like Weisenberger have "asset allocation modeling" products that are web-capable.

As bank web sites evolve, the desire to enhance the interactive experience grows. How the information is presented must take innovative steps to satisfy increasing customer expectations. Below are three possible scenarios of organizing banking information on a web site, the last being my recommendation which is put into context by the first two scenarios.

1. Categories Parallel Organization Chart

Presenting services as those inside the bank know them and give the customer an unfettered view of what is offered.

Analysis: It is rare when this is the right approach; only "expert" customers with extensive experience and/or private banking accounts might appreciate this perspective. This approach has great potential to confuse and counteracts any advantage that creative marketing could bring.

2. Categories Approximate Customer Situation

Categories will correspond with conventional banking markets, e.g. personal/private/business banking where users self-select their type. This is the most banks use now.

Analysis: This approach works well when users have familiarity with how banks differentiate groups of services. But there is potential for losing business when customers are unfamiliar with products available to them either because of simple ignorance or because products are hiding in categories customers do not self-select.

3. Categories Correspond with Benefit to Customers

Start with an appeal to the customer’s fundamental banking needs: safety, convenience, borrowing, and future growth. Navigating these categories results in a gradually more specific information flow leading to actual services.

Analysis: This approach relates services the customer knows to other services they might find useful because they are grouped according to the customer’s particular situation, rather than an arbitrary traditional banking sector. This approach also better presents the overall picture of financial management: saving wisely and portioning investment assets over the whole spectrum of services based on the person's situation. Educating the consumer becomes the prime focus and results in customers who are knowledgeable about what services they need and why they need them.

This is outside the normal paradigm of how banks relate to consumers, so there is a gap to close. Traditionally this role has been served by a financial advisor, be it a book, a certified financial planner, or a relative. This role is crucial to a person’s money management because it presents the 30,000 foot view of investing, saving, and spending. Our current presentation-by-sector approach gives consumers many small tools for small problems; we avoid the big picture. Our pages describe the benefit of individual products but not how those products fit into the larger picture of a financial plan. We can provide more by becoming their digital financial advisor. This can be done in several mutually inclusive ways, for example:

  • Promote the Resource Center Evolve the current idea of solution-based "resource centers" into the primary informational and navigational element for learning about services. These sections are already education and benefit focused, so integrating products using embedded navigation would be a natural fit.
  • Associate the Benefit with the Service Provide both the presentation-by-sector and the presentation-by-benefit approaches simultaneously. Some web sites do this by displaying "products" and "solutions" as top level navigational elements, although I doubt customers find the term "solutions" compelling or intuitable enough to pursue. Rather, a more sophisticated technique of subtly interweaving products within the context of solutions could be effective. Any method that continually and closely associates the product with the overall educational message will keep the consumer from feeling lost. For example, Yahoo! associates general categories with specific information (probably derived from popularity statistics) within their directory listing.
  • Digital Financial Consulting Gradually, each service moves into a digital form, eventually digital financial consulting must make this move as well.

I propose providing a centralized tool for general financial planning, storing customer's basic financial information and using it to provide personalized educational elements and product information. Where other sites provide rule-based marketing to personalize the bank's information, this tool could provide rule-based financial consulting to personalize the customer's financial plan.

Relate this to how a brokerage site lets customers store and track their investment selections, along with how online calculators let customers make simple finance calculations. By persistently storing financial indicators such as income, liability, savings, and age we can offer general advice and pair this advice with our educational articles and product information.

flow chart

Developing such a system could prove expensive. There are several ways to position this product in order to show a return on investment:

  1. Charge a subscription fee for the service, at least until others offer it for free.
  2. Offer only a limited version for free, and charge a subscription fee for the whole service.
  3. Offer a limited version for free, and make the entire system available only to the bank's customers. This would draw in new customers and possibly new leads for the Financial Services group.
  4. Feature the service in the Investment Lounges to enhance their value.

A bank would address liability issues with disclaimers, just as is done now with in-person consultations.

past static


Search this site:

home page

  Copyright 1999-2002 Victor Lombardi