Branch Banking and Trust (BB&T), <bbt.com> has one of the better-looking bank homepages. Although a bit cluttered for our taste, the colors, fonts, and other design elements are well conceived (see screenshot below). It's certainly far better than the previous version, which was replaced in late 2003.
One area that's a bit unusual is the prominence of the TurboTax cross-promotion. On Saturday, Feb. 24, the BB&T website displayed a prominent start button in the upper-right PLUS a medium-size (250 x 125) banner along the left side (see screenshot below). Update: The TurboTax banner is NOT displayed today; it appears to have been replaced by the bank's $50 bonus for a new checking account. The start button remains.
I'll give BB&T credit for timeliness, but for the few buck-per-return in fees, I'm not sure online tax prep warrants so much attention. It's especially surprising to see a major bank dropping users into a third-party site with no warning message about impending transfer. Also, although TurboTax's co-branded site carries three links back to BB&T, it's primarily Intuit-branded with separate registration and login required (see second screenshot below).
While millions will use Turbotax online during the next seven weeks (see 2005/2006 sales right), there is still an underlying security concern that keeps many users from entering their family's social security numbers and intimate financial details into a website at a software company.
We'd like the co-branded TurboTax site a whole lot better if it was integrated into online banking, especially with an automated data-import function and security assurances.*
If you are thinking about promoting TurboTax this tax season, here are the pros and cons to consider:
- Positions your bank and website as useful for everyday financial tasks
- Associates your brand with a powerful, positive personal finance brand which sold more than 12 million copies of TurboTax/TurboTax online last year
- Reminds customers to get started on their taxes; reinforces the role of the financial institution as a consumer advocate
- TurboTax online is an excellent program that simplifies a complex task about as much as possible
- Raises security concerns about the submission and storage of ultra-sensitive financial info online
- Could be bank liability if a phishing scheme or website takeover results in exposure of sensitive data
- Generates customer service calls to ask questions about BB&T's involvement or about taxes in general
- Necessitates tech support if customers have questions or problems with TurboTax
- Competes with other bank promotions for users' attention
- Users may be disappointed to discover they have to undergo a completely separate registration, username, password, and so on at the TurboTax site
What do you think? Do homepage references to other service providers reinforce the bank's brand while providing some fee income, or should financial institutions concentrate on their core services?
BB&T Homepage, 24 Feb. 2007 <bbt.com>
*Interestingly, BB&T is silent on the security issues inherent in the co-branded site. They neither display the typical "you are leaving our site" warning, nor provide any disclaimers about the use of a third-party site.