Bill Me Later Lands at #6 in the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing List

Link to Inc. mag listing for Bill Me LaterIt's isn't often you see one of the companies that we write about make it to the top of Inc. Magazine's list of fastest growing private companies (note 1). But this year, Timonium, MD-based Bill Me Later landed at number six.  

To make it to the top, it takes an amazing amount of growth over a three-year period; in Bill Me Later's case, 87-fold, usually combined with a very small number in the base year ($600,000 in 2003) to top the chart (note 2). 

The self-reported revenue figures for the company are:

2003: $610,000
2006: $53.6 million
3-Year growth: 8,650%
Number of employees: 100

The company's been on a fabulous run and it will be interesting to see how long they stay private. Depending on the credit quality of the company's receivables, it could be an attractive acquisition target for a traditional financial institution or for a certain Web-based payment giant. 

Two other companies we follow made the top 500:

#205: CreditCards.com (Austin, TX) with an amazing $43 million revenues, up 10-fold from its $3.7 million in 2003. With 16 employees, the company does almost $3 million per.

#382: CashEdge (New York, NY) up 7.5 fold from $2.4 million in 2003, to $20.4 million last year, 315 employees. 

Congratulations to this year's high fliers.

Notes:

1. The Inc. list was expanded 10-fold this year to 5,000 companies 

2. The percent-growth rankings are far more dependent on the denominator than the numerator. If Bill Me Later would have had $400,000 less revenue in 2003 they would have grown 268-fold and topped this year's list. However, even $10 million more in 2006 revenues would only push them up one spot. 

YADB* Huntington Goes Direct

First reported by Bank Deals today (see note 1), Huntington Bank has recently launched a new direct bank, called DirectHuntington <directhuntington.com>. It goes against the naming convention of having "direct" follow the main brand name, but it shouldn't make too much difference. Still, the bank should secure domain-name rights to HuntingtonDirect.com, currently used by New.net Inc to post a few generic banking links and throw a pop-up or two at unsuspecting users. 

Huntington chose a color palette that makes it stand out from other financial institutions, a good move. However, the yellow 5.30% APR doesn't stand out as well as it should given its importance in the purchase decision (see sceenshot below).

But once again the CashEdge-powered online application leaves a lot to be desired (see previous coverage here and second screenshot below). But before you can even see the application, you must agree to the "Consent for Electronic Disclosure," a terrible first impression for someone who's thinking of sending you ten-grand or more (see screenshot below).

Direct Huntington pre-application consent for electronic disclosure

The upper-right Online Guarantee is a nice touch, but it links back to the main Huntington site which might be confusing for users (see screenshot below).

Direct Huntington online deposit application page 1

There is no mention of DirectHuntington at Huntington's main website <huntington.com>. However, there's a secret code (anywheresavings) you can enter into the Special Offers box that takes you to the direct banking site. 

*Yet another direct bank

Note:

  1. The Bank Deals writer had a relatively uninspiring call with DirectHuntington's customer service when he researched the account. 

The iGoBanking/CashEdge New Account Application Needs Improvement

Link to iGoBanking home page As mentioned earlier this week (previous post here), Flushing Financial's new Internet offering iGoBanking features a great price, modern homepage design, visible rates, and an overall good user experience.

iGoBanking application hosted by CashEdge CLICK TO ENLARGEAt least until prospective customers decide to buy. Once the user clicks the grammatically challenged link, "iGo Open a New Account," things go downhill quickly. The application (see screenshots right and below), hosted by CashEdge (see related post here), fails to maintain the user experience from the bank's homepage.

In fact, the application is a circa 1999 all-text affair that leaves you wondering if the graphic designers at CashEdge are on strike. Here are a few of the problems:   

  • No Customer Service or Help on the application
  • No telephone number
  • No way back to the homepage, the bank's logo is NOT clickable
  • Overall lack of design and graphics, even the logo in the top looks like a low-resolution version
  • The application steps are hardly visible because the white font is too thin to be easily read through the blue background
  • Social security number required on first page
  • Application is massive in length for a simple savings account (see screenshots below); we realize the need for regulatory compliance and security, but it should be either shortened or broken into smaller steps to maintain

For more on best practices in application design, refer to Online Banking Report (#104).

Screenshot: iGoBanking application page 2 (click to enlarge)

iGoBanking/CashEdge application page 2

CashEdge Claims 25% Share of 2006 Online Account Openings

I had a good chat with CashEdge <cashedge.com> VP Neil Platt at BAI's Retail Delivery last week. The company is busy working on a much-needed channel integration initiative so that account applications begun online can be completed with a phone call or even a branch visit, with no need to start all over from scratch.

Source: Cashedge CLICK TO ENLARGEThe company hopes it can capture half of what it estimates is 70% of completed online applications that go unfunded
(see chart inset).
If that's true, the payback for the solution, at least at larger financial institutions, will likely be measured in months, if not weeks.

Other projects in the works:

  • Cross-selling other bank products during the new account-opening process
  • Facilitating other types of applications, such as loans
  • Improving risk management by tapping additional data sources outside the credit bureau

CashEdge is a great example of a specialist that carves out a profitable niche in a relatively narrow, but risky area of online operations, new account funding. Thanks to big clients such as Citibank, the company is on track to facilitate one million online account openings this year, about a quarter of the estimated 3.5 to 4 million new checking and savings accounts opened this year online (Note: CashEdge estimates). 

The company ranked number 101 in INC Magazine's list of the 500 fastest growing private companies. According to the published figures, the 177-person company grew from just over $1 million in revenues in 2002, to approximately $10 million in 2005.