YADB* First National Bank of Omaha Launches FNBO Direct

The battle for online savings deposits has another entrant, First National Bank of Omaha. The new effort, branded FNBO Direct, launched in January according to Wikipedia and other sources. It's the second new direct bank of the year, following Direct Huntington earlier this month (see post here).

Both banks offer virtually identical products. DH pays 5 basis points more, but that's only $5 more per year per $10,000. FNBO has a $1 minimum, while DH wants $1,000 to open. Both use the CashEdge instant account-opening suite, on which we've commented before (see here).

Although, FNBO Direct clearly discloses its parent bank, the new savings account is completely separate from other First National Bank of Omaha accounts. It cannot be opened in FNBO branches, nor can it be linked to FNBO online banking.

FNBO Direct is not currently advertising at Google, Yahoo or BankRate.

FNBO Direct homepage from First National Bank of Omaha

*Yet another direct bank

ING Direct Books 42,000 New Electric Orange Checking Accounts

According to an American Banker story last week (here), as of Feb. 1, ING Direct had cross-sold 42,000 (see note 1) checking accounts to its 4.3 million savings customers, a penetration of 1%. Keep in mind, the new checking account has been slowly rolling out over the past 60 days to current customers only (see note 2), and is not yet mentioned on the bank's website. It is expected to be launched to the general public within the next 30 days. 

You can view these initial results in two ways: 

Glass is half full — Even with just 42,000 accounts, ING Direct may have the largest "Internet only" checking account base, at least when measured by the number of active accounts

Glass half empty — Because ING Direct's checking account pays 50 to 80 basis points (0.50% to 0.80%) more than savings on $50,000+ balances, many (most??) of the new checking account customers simply moved large balances into the checking option, providing few incremental deposits.


  1. Make that 42,001 accounts. I just opened one this morning. It took all of about 30 seconds to do it. Existing customers simply choose an account nickname, enter the dollar amount they want transferred into the account (from the pre-existing link from an outside account), and agree to the disclosures. See below for the confirmation screen.
  2. I received my invitation to open an Electronic Orange account last week (screenshot here). I've had an account there since 2001.

ING Direct Electric Orange confirmation screen CLICK TO ENLARGE

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


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

ING Direct’s Deposit and Customer Totals Decline as Direct Bank Competition Intensifies

Ingdirect_homepage_logoballFor the first time in its short six-year history, ING Direct's U.S. division showed declines in both total deposits and customer accounts during third quarter, the latest data available (see the table below, originally published in our year-end industry forecast, Online Banking Report #137). Although the runoff was relatively small $600 million in deposits, or about 1% from the peak, and 150,000 accounts, or about 4% from the peak it's a clear indicator that the entry of Emigrant Direct, HSBC Direct, and especially Citi Direct have taken a toll on the direct banking giant.

Looking at quarterly results below, you can see that average account balances began declining in Q1 2005, as some of the hottest money, large balances held by extremely rate-conscious consumers, moved to better paying accounts; still, total deposits and customers continued to grow rapidly through 2005 and into 2006. However, in the second and third quarters, deposits began to flatten as the number of accounts grew only 230,000 compared to 560,000 in the same period a year earlier.

ING Direct appears to have deliberately slowed growth by maintaining deposit rates 50 to 100 basis points lower than the new entrants. With its marketing muscle, the bank could choose to grow deposits if it closes the rate gap. The bank's new checking account, gradually rolling out to current customers, may help stem the tide, with higher rates for larger balances (see coverage here).

Table: ING Direct Deposit and Customer Totals: 2000 to 2006 (click to enlarge)


PDF version of this table here.

Everbank Takes on ING Direct with 6.01% Checking Account Campaign

Everbank launched its "What are you waiting for?" campaign today by giving away 2,500 free subway tickets at 6:01 AM in lower Manhattan. The time was chosen to coincide with the 6.01% APR promotional start-rate on its FreeNet checking account (see Note 1). 

The campaign targets ING Direct's soon-to-be-released Electric Orange checking account, which currently pays beta users 3% on balances under $50,000 and 5.3% on balances greater than $50,000 (see Note 2).

Everbank launched a microsite called <whyruwaiting.com> with direct comparisons to ING Direct (see screenshot below).

Everbank <whyruwaiting.com> landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE

Clicking the large Compare Banks button in the lower right leads to a comparison to ING Direct and several other major competitors (see screenshot below):

Everbank "whyruwaiting" comparison to WaMU, ING Direct, Bank of America and Bank of Internet CLICK TO ENLARGE

The campaign has not been extended to the Everbank website, which shows a banner for the 6.01% offer, but no mention of "Why are you waiting?" (see screenshot below). 

Everbank homepage with 6.01% FreeNet checking banner CLICK TO ENLARGE

Clicking through the banner leads to the following page:

Everbank's FreeNet checking landing page CLICK TO ENLARGE


  1. The 6.01% is a promotional "teaser" rate is good for three months, then resets to the "regular" rate which are currently as follows: 
       Under $10,000 = 3.25%
       $10,000 to $25,000 = 3.30%
       $25,000 to $50,000 = 3.60%
       $50,000 to $100,000 = 4.00%
       More than $100,000 = 4.41%

    The minimum deposit is $1,500 and the maximum that earns 6.01% is $100,000.

  2. ING Direct customers can also easily transfer funds into the companion savings account which pays 4.5%. ING's Electric Orange account began rolling out in waves to its 4 million savings account customers in December (see coverage here). Coincidently, I received my invitation yesterday (see screenshot below). 

    Email invitation for ING Direct's Electric Orange checking account CLICK TO ENLARGE

HSBC Direct Attracts 350,000 Accounts

In a Jan. 1 case history published in Direct Magazine (article here), HSBC Direct says it has attracted 350,000 customers since the launch of its high-yield savings account just over a year ago (Nov. 2005).

Assuming typical high-yield balance levels of $8000 to $10,000 per account (our estimate), the bank has attracted more than $3 billion in deposits. The bank has marketed its 5%+ APR account heavily, so it's not likely that the new business is making much of a profit contribution yet. 

Based on the bank's reported online ad spending, its acquisition costs were $75 per account from the online spending only, not including what it spent in other media to support the direct business unit (see note 1).

The bank said it is working on new products to offer through the direct bank. This is a crucial step in the evolution. There just aren't enough customers with $10,000 savings balances to feed all the financial institutions looking for new deposits. HSBC's ability to sell other services to its 350,000 new customers will determine the long-term success of the direct banking initiative. 

Thanks to former Forrester senior analyst, Ron Shevlin, now VP at Epsilon, for the link in his Marketing ROI blog. 


  1. According to data from TNS published in American Banker here, HSBC spent $20 million online during the first three quarters of 2006. To calculate the acquisition cost we annualized the online spending and divided by 350,000. This calculation excludes the portion of non-Internet advertising that went to support the direct unit. The bank's total ad spend was $42 million during the first 3 quarters of 2006.

WT Direct takes on ING Direct at Kiplinger.com

Kiplinger published an article on the state of online banking (see article here). It's an interesting read, but it's the WT Direct ad in the upper-right corner that I found most interesting (see screenshot below). WT Direct is the new direct banking arm of Wilmington Trust (see coverage here).  

WT Direct ad on Kiplinger.com CLICK TO ENLARGE

It's a Flash animation that's part parody of the whack-a-mole banner ad and part a direct shot at ING Direct.

Viewers are directed to:

"Hit the ball and get a really great rate."

That's when the humor begins. Attempting to move the cursor over the ball causes the ball to move away. So there is no way to actually click on the ball. After a few seconds a new screen appears with two words, "Give up?" It's a not-so-subtle dig at  ING Direct rates which are revealed on its homepage usually after an orange ball bounces across the screen. ING Direct is currently paying 0.75% less than WT Direct on a $10,000 balance (see note 1).   

WT Direct Flash animation part 2

Then finally, it's revealed who is sponsoring the ad, WT Direct: 

WT Direct Flash animation part 3

The landing page reinforces the banner ad with a direct comparison to ING Direct's payout with the animated graph in the lower-left corner (see screenshot below).

WT Direct landing page from Kiplinger ad with parody of ING Direct orange ball CLICK TO ENLARGE

Nicely done.


1. After the first 60 days, balances of less than $10,000 earn just 0.6% at WT Direct. ING Direct pays 4.5% on all balance levels.

Yet Another Direct Bank: WT Direct from Wilmington Trust

Link to WT Direct website It may be premature to give the direct banking trend a cynical acronym such as YADB, meaning "yet another direct bank" (see Note 1). However, it's getting more difficult to distinguish one 5% high-yield offer from the 27 others (see Note 2).

The latest top bidder on Google (see End Notes) is WT Direct <wtdirect.com>, a new direct banking brand from Wilmington Trust. Its sole product is a 5.26% APY savings account. To encourage trial, the bank pays the advertised rate on any balance for the first 60 days. On day 61, the rate drops 466 basis points to 0.60% unless you've stored $10,000 or more in the account. The bank clearly discloses both rates.

The homepage is direct and to-the-point (see Note 3). While not as flashy as ING Direct or iGObanking, it communicates the benefits in an efficient manner. The landing page from its top-ranked Google ad (see Note 4) is better, with a chart showing how it beats ING Direct.

The application is well conceived (see below), with few of the problems identified in our earlier critique of iGObanking's online app (see previous post here). The one improvement we'd recommend: Divide the personal info section into two steps, first getting the "public" info (name, address, email address), then asking for the private stuff (SSN, driver's license, etc.).

WT Direct savings application CLICK TO ENLARGE

End Notes

1. Modeled after YASN, a term used in tech circles for "yet another social networking site."

2. In BankDeals' weekly high-rate summary, 27 banks were identified as offering 5% or more APY on online savings accounts (see post here).

3. WT Direct homepage screenshot (click to enlarge)

WT Direct homepage CLICK TO ENLARGE

4. WT Direct search ad on Google (4 Dec. 2006 search on "savings account gifts" from Seattle P.I. at 3 PM PST)

Google results for "savings account gifts" CLICK TO ENLARGE

E*Trade Bank and Flushing’s iGoBanking Join the 5% Online Savings Account Club

<Updated 12/1/06 with more details>

Two new entrants in the so-called high-yield savings market launched this week:

  • E*Trade Bank <etradebank.com>: Its new 5.05% Complete Savings Account was advertised in the Wall Street Journal today and took next-to-top honors in Google search results for "best savings accounts" (see end note 1, screenshot below).
  • iGoBanking <igobanking.com>: The new online brand from Flushing Financial launched Monday with a 5.3% rate on an online savings account (see end note 2, screenshot below).

iGoBanking (click to enlarge)

Flushing Financial's iGoBanking CLICK TO ENLARGE

As previously reported, Flushing Financial launched its entry into the online savings market. The 5.3% APY no-minimum account ranks as the fourth highest in the nation according to the Bank Deals blog (see list here). The rate leader continues to be E-Loan's at 5.5% (see our coverage here).

However, iGo can claim the highest no-minimum rate in the nation since E-Loan and the others require at least $5,000 to qualify for the higher rate.   

The bank will focus on deposits, CDs, and savings in 2007 and may expand to home equity and mortgage lending in the future.

The website is attractive and relatively well designed. The online application is hosted by CashEdge (see related post here). Unfortunately, the outsourced application fails to maintain the look and feel of the main website and may cause a few applicants to second guess their decision to sign up (click here for a more thorough analysis of its application design). 

E*Trade Bank (click to enlarge)

E*Trade Bank Complete Savings page CLICK TO ENLARGE

E*Trade's Complete Savings account builds on the direct bank's lineup of award-winning products (see previous coverage here). The bank flat-out understands the market and the medium.

The landing page for the new savings offering is brilliantly laid out with Google-like simplicity using just 25 words of copy (other than the table and the below-the-fold fine print). Notice how they show specific competitive prices, including high-yield market leader ING Direct. But what most consumers will remember from the chart is the "6X national average" rate.

Finally, the "Open an Account in Minutes" and "Free, one-click transfers to and from any institution" address user concerns on both those issues. And the small padlock with E*Trade's protection guarantee helps users understand security issues.

End notes:

  1. Search conducted at noon PST, Nov. 29 from Seattle IP address (see screenshot below).
  2. Source: American Banker, 29 Nov. 2006 (article here)

Google search results for "best savings account"

Google search results for "best savings rate" CLICK TO ENLARGE

ING Direct to Launch Online Checking Account in February

As previously reported here, direct-banking giant ING Direct (U.S.) <ingdirect.com> will soon be in the checking account business with the Feb. 1 launch of Electric Orange.
(No word on whether the German band of the same name will be part of the launch event.)

In an interview published yesterday in Delaware's The News Journal, CEO Arkadi Kuhlmann revealed important details about the effort:

  • It would be made available to about 10% of the bank's 4.4 million customers in December
  • The nationwide launch is scheduled for Feb. 1
  • ING Direct is planning to add 500 workers at Wilmington's headquarters to support the product, an expansion of more than 50% from its current headcount of 900
  • The account will NOT have paper checks, but it will allow customers to print one from their home computer if necessary
  • The interest rate will be 3%, about a third less than its savings rate of 4.4%
  • Surcharge-free ATM access will be provided through the Allpoint network of 32,000 machines

Product postioning
While the account sounds relatively standard for an online-only checking account, the ability to print a check from home is an interesting feature we haven't seen before. It sounds like ING Direct will be marketing ease-of-use benefits, most likely centered on the bill payment function.

ING Direct "cash cow" promotion in ChicagoThe catchy name combined with ING Direct's marketing flair (see picture right from its Chicago cash-cow promotion) should make for an interesting product launch. We'll be paying close attention here and testing the account as soon as possible.

There is little reason for most consumers to choose a branchless bank for their main checking account when they can get free checking PLUS branch services at their local financial institution. ING Direct has long understood this and has not squandered resources on a limited-appeal product.

However, with more than 4 million customers, they have a large enough base to make a profit on a checking account, even a (relatively) lightly used one.

Due to the bank's ease of use and well regarded brand, it should be able to convince a portion of its base to use Electric Orange checking as an auxiliary account, perhaps as the household bill-pay account.

If the bank moves 5% of its $47 billion in savings deposits into the checking account, it would save $3.5 million annually in interest expense. Add another $3 billion in net new deposits at a 3% spread and Electric Orange pulls in $10 million per year, enough to cover expenses anyway.

NetBank for Sale?

After a string of divestitures and the shuttering of money-losing operations, NetBank is returning to its core retail banking roots (see coverage here and here).

Whether the company remains an independent entity is up to its management and shareholders, but at least one analyst is speculating about a 2007 sale.

While not in a position to judge the value of the entire enterprise, I do know the brand itself has considerable value. The URL alone is worth millions. It could make a nice entry point into the U.S. market for an international bank looking to capitalize on the direct banking model, e.g., ING Direct.

The bank was launched in 1996 as Atlanta Internet Bank and went public in mid-1997. It was renamed NetBank in 1998 after securing the rights to the domain name for a reported $150,000.

NetBank was the second Internet-only U.S. financial institution, the first to go public, and the first to become relatively well known.

Prosper Markets to Savers at Google

If you thought it was tough competing with the direct banks and their 5% savings products, now you have a legitimate company advertising rates of 8% or more. Of course, this is no FDIC-insured product; it's the interest rate paid to lenders at Prosper's person-to-person loan marketplace.

The person-to-person lender was bidding aggressively today at Google on both "high yield savings" and "online banking." The ads typically made the fourth position in the right-hand column, putting them "above the fold" (see inset).

The company is testing three different ads, all focused on rate levels substantially higher than the 5% to 5.5% advertised by the competition. Prosper is testing a straight up "8%" ad, an "8% to 12%" ad, and an "8% to 29%" one (see below). 

The ads lead to one of two landing pages. Here's the slick one that looks more "bankerish": 

Landing page from Google ad

Or the more "Web 2.0" version that no one will confuse with a bank ad. There is even a small eBay logo visible in the screenshot (used by one of the participants seeking to bankroll an eBay store), a smart touch for a company that is positioning itself as "the eBay of lending." 

All-in-all, it's a good effort put forth by Prosper, which can only succeed if it attracts enough money into the marketplace. 

For more information on Prosper, Zopa, and the entire person-to-person market, see Online Banking Report #127.