Keeping Tabs on the Financial Blogosphere

Blogpulse_logo_1 Writing in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketPlace section, William Bulkeley discusses a new technique for tracking consumer opinions of products, companies, and other topics. The article, Marketers Scan Blogs for Insights, explains how marketers, PR departments, and brand consultants are using free and not-so-free tools to scan the so-called "blogosphere."

We tested Intelliseek’s BlogPulse on some security topics we’ve been researching and found it to be an effective tool. There were more blog citations than we found in a Google search, and they were better organized. Also, BlogPulse provides a trending tool to gauge the relative strength of a search term over the past 6 months.

Blog_plus_trendingHere we compared "phishing" to "online banking" and found similar activity levels for both terms (click on the inset for a better look).

While this tool won’t replace traditional market research, it may be worth checking out from time to time.


2004 Online Financial Services Ad Spending

JP Morgan Chase and Citibank led all banking and lending companies in online ad spending according to the most recent American Banker survey of financial services spending (May 2005).

Chase’s $50 million in online advertising was 21% of its entire advertising expense, the highest among major banks, and considerably above the 11% online share across all financial services companies. In comparison, Citi’s $49 million spent online was only 9% of its total advertising expense, slightly below the industry average.

NetBank, the 16th biggest online advertiser, was the percentage leader, funneling all but $100,000 of its $4.9 million in advertising into online initiatives. Two other major online advertisers spent more than half their money online last year: ING Direct spending 60% of its $40 million total online, and MBNA spending more than half its $14 million online.

Lending Tree, Quicken Loans, HSBC, Sovereign and East-West Mortgage all devoted about one-third of their advertising into the online channel.

Top-20 Financial Institutions Online Advertisers*
2004 Online Advertising (% of total advertising)*
1. JP Morgan Chase  $50 million (21%)
2. Citigroup              $49 million (9%)
3. American Express $28 million (9%)
4. Bank of America    $25 million (9%)
5. ING Direct            $24 million (60%)
6. Lending Tree        $22 million (31%)
7. Ameriquest           $16 million (13%)
8. Quicken Loans       $10 million (33%)
9. Wells Fargo           $9.2 million (14%)
10. HSBC                  $8.3 million (39%)
11. MBNA                  $7.0 million (51%)
12. Wachovia            $6.3 million (7%)
13. E-Loan                $6.1 million (21%)
14. NetBank              $4.8 million (98%)
15. Discover             $4.7 million (6%)
16. GM                     $3.8 million (4%)
17. Royal Bank          $3.2 million (12%)
18. Sovereign           $2.8 million (33%)
19. East-West Mtg.    $2.7 million (32%)
20. WAMU                $1.9 million (2%)

*Banking, Lending, Mortgage, or Credit Card segments only, does not include online brokerage, insurance, or investments.

If you look at the brokerage and mutual fund category, the spending accelerates. Four online brokers Ameritrade ($65 million), Scottrade ($63 million), Schwab ($58 million), and E*Trade $52 million) each outspent even the largest financial institution, and Netstock Direct ($32 million) outspent all but Citi and Chase.

Top-10 Brokerage & Mutual Funds

2004 Online Advertising (% of total advertising)

1. Ameritrade   $65 (64%)

2. Scottrade     $63 (87%)                              

3. Schwab        $58 (35%)                              

4. E*Trade        $52 (77%)                              

5. Netstock       $32 (99%)                              

6. Harrisdirect  $24 (78%)                              

7. Vanguard      $12 (31%)                              

8. TD Bank        $10 (17%)                              

9. Fidelity        $5.3 (4%)                               

10. T.Rowe Price $3.8 (5%)

Download the Excel file with more details.    



Bank of America Tops One Billion Online Sessions Annnually

Also at the Net.Finance conference today, Linda Worrell from Bank of America reported that its online channel handles more volume than the call center and ATM network combined.

Here’s the breakdown:

13.1 million active online banking customers login in to their accounts an average of 10 times per month. That’s 130 million sessions monthly, or 1.6 billion annually.

In comparison:

  • the call center handles 825 million calls annually
  • the 16,000-machine ATM network processes 840 million transactions
  • its 5,800 branches handle 600 million


If you’d like to learn more about the future of online banking, check out the Online Banking & Bill Pay Forecast: Current, future and historical usage: 1994 to 2016 from our sister publication, The Online Banking Report.

Synovate Reports Credit Card Direct Marketing Futility


Synovate reported the results of their annual tracking study of U.S. credit card solicitations. Like the number of branches, the totals just keep growing, despite the inevitable decline in their effectiveness.

In 2004, the U.S. card issuers sent a record 5.25 billion solicitations, to about 75 million households (71% of all U.S. households). It averaged 5.7 offers per month, or 70 annually. And you don’t need a degree in economics to predict the results: record low response rate of 0.4%, down 2/3 from as recently as 6 years ago (1.2% response in 1998, see chart above).

It’s almost surprising that the average household gets less than 6 card offers per month, we’ve gotten that many in a day. And no one here has responded to an offer since the last century. 

But I digress. The point is that financial services marketing departments all over the country are looking for cost-effective alternatives. If you figure traditional DM costs $1 per piece when you load in all costs, the acquisition cost has increased from $80/acct in 1998 to $250/acct in 2004. 

And thanks to the spam overload and phishing hype, it doesn’t seem like email will be the answer anytime soon.

What’s left? It’s that captive audience called online bankers. Here is a group of customers you know extremely well, thanks to tracking their bill pay activity, and that come to you several times a week on average. Grab some of that DM budget this year and show what kind of sales you can deliver. 


More Online Fraud Statistics from Gartner

Fruad_solutions_grid_from_gartnerFraud-fighting vendors, Quova and Cyota hosted a webinar today featuring Avivah Litan, from Gartner.

A couple interesting Gartner stats that you can use in trying to gain additional resources to boost your authentication procedures:

  • Within 3 years (YE 2007), 60% to 75% of U.S. banks will use more than username/password at login. That’s up from zero today.
  • In the year prior to Gartner’s April 2004 consumer research, a projected 1.8 million consumers gave up their account info to phishers; this group was three times more likely to have been victimized by online fraud.

You should be able to view an archived version of the webinar at Quova within the next day or two.


Identity Theft Statistics from Javelin Research

Building on last year's FTC study, Javelin Strategy & Research and the Better Business Bureau, released the latest study of financial fraud and identity theft in the United States. A similar level of fraud was found in the late-2004 polling compared to the FTC survey fielded in mid-2003.

How_personal_information_stolen_click_toBoth studies found that just under 5% of U.S. adults, around 10 million, had been victimized in the prior 12 months, with total losses, primarily to financial institutions, of about $50 billion.

One of the major conclusions is that consumers are more likely to be victimized through offline methods compared to online methods, leading Javelin to conclude in their press release:

Internet-related fraud problems are actually less severe, less costly and not as widespread as previously thought.

However, this conclusion that is disputed in Bob Sullivan's MSNBC article by both Gartner's Avivah Litan and FTC attorney, Lois Greisman.

Here are the key findings:

How was your personal information obtained (i.e. stolen)?
     6%  via online methods
     36% via offline methods
     58% don't know

There are two ways to look at those numbers.

The Javelin take: Of those that know how it happened, offline identity theft outnumbers online identity theft 6-to-1, so let's not overstate the online threat.

The Gartner take: In consumer research, much of the online fraud will be self-reported in the "do not know" category, so the data is inconclusive. Avivah Litan says in the MSNBC article:

The general population doesn't really know how the information is stolen especially, with credit card fraud. If you do have a good guess, it usually is because you are in a fight with family member or neighbor. The study is biased towards people who know how it happened.

Our Take
Anytime you have a survey where the majority of participants select, "don't know," it is difficult to draw precise conclusions.

We think these results are promising for the fraud-fighting potential of the online channel, but they don't vindicate it either.

If you assume that the same 6-to-1 offline/online ratio applies to the "don't know" category, that means about 10% of last year's identity theft occurred via online methods, or 1 million cases costing $5 billion dollars.

Regardless of what the analysts say, that's a problem that needs fixing.




Baseline Online Broadband Usage Statistics

Here are the Yankee Group’s baseline PC and online usage forecast, as cited by The Seattle Times today:

2003: 112 mil US HHs >>> 74 mil online >>> 30% broadband
2004: 113 mil US HHs >>> 78 mil online >>> 38% broadband
2005: 114 mil US HHs >>> 80 mil online >>> 45% broadband
2006: 115 mil US HHs >>> 81 mil online >>> 52% broadband
2007: 116 mil US HHs >>> 83 mil online >>> 58% broadband
2008: 117 mil US HHs >>> 84 mil online >>> 63% broadband

How to read: In 2003, 74 million of the total 112 million U.S. households went online through their home computers; 30% (22 million) of those going online use a broadband connection, the remainder (52 million) use a dial-up connection.

See Online Banking Report (#114) for the corresponding online banking forecast.


Branchless Banks now Hold 2% of U.S. Retail Deposits

The Wall Street Journal published a story today that marks the growing importance of branchless online banks, Online Banks are Boosting Yields. Our sister publication, Online Banking Report, was the source for the article’s market statistics on branchless banks, which have developed a small, but significant following around the world.

In the United States, there are several dozen branchless banks, but more than three-quarters of the total branchless bank deposits are held by two banks, ING Direct and E*Trade Bank. Total branchless bank* deposits in Q3 2004 were about $65 billion, or 1% of all U.S. deposits, or about 2% of all deposits under $100,000. See below for more specific details.    

Branchless Bank Deposits
As of Sept 30, 2004, the deposit totals of the major branchless banks are as follows:

ING Direct       $26 billion in 1.9 million accounts ($14,000/acct)
E*Trade Bank  $23 bil in 2.3 million accounts ($10,000/acct)
NetBank          $2.7 bil in 200,000 accounts ($14,000/acct)
Everbank         $2.3 bil in 370,000 accounts ($6,200/acct)
All the rest      $5 to $10 billion total
Total               $60 to $65 billion

Total US Deposits
The total amount of deposits held in U.S. commercial banks on 9/30/04 was $6.4 trillion including retail and commercial deposits.

If you look only at deposits of $100,000 or less (a proxy for retail deposits), total deposits were $3.7 trillion.

Branchless Bank Deposit Market Share
Branchless banks hold about 1% of all U.S. deposits ($65/$6400).

Looking at just deposits under $100k, branchless banks hold just under a 2% share ($65/$3700), actually 1.8% if you want to be more precise.

Source: FDIC

What it Means
It’s not as big of a splash as Amazon made in books, but it’s a solid start for an niche about 7 years old (Netbank started in 1997). I expect it will continue to grow 25% to 35% per year for the rest of the decade, eg, doubling the branchless banking deposit base every 2 to 3 years.   

*We define "branchless bank" as a separately branded insured depository institution that derives the majority of its business through direct methods (mail, phone, online) with minimal brick and mortar presence. We are excluding direct banking units operating under lending or insurance brands such as Principal Bank, State Farm Bank, IndyMac, MBNA, and so on.


TowerGroup posts Realistic Estimate of Phishing Fraud Losses

Link: TowerGroup

The financial services analyst continues to weigh-in on the estimated losses due to phishing and identity theft, with the latter becoming a catch-all for all financial fraud. Estimates from the FTC, Gartner, and Javelin have run into the billions.

Many media outlets have jumped on these estimates and made the incorrect leap that the losses were due solely to online fraud and phishing. Now, much more slowly the story is emerging that the actual online portion of these fraud losses is much smaller. Some even argue that online banking has reduced the total amount of fraud since consumers are able to pay closer attention to their accounts.

TowerGroup‘s latest report on phishing losses pegs the 2004 loss at $140 million worldwide; or about $1 per online banking household. That’s still a big number, and one that seems a bit high in our view, but it’s far less than the billion-plus implied by Gartner earlier this year. It’s also much less than the $500 million figure (for US only) recently released by the Ponemon Institute in a study commissioned by NACHA and Truste.

So is the online channel a help or detriment to the age-old battle against crime? From a monetary perspective, we believe it’s been a net loss so far. As Tower pointed out, it’s not just the actual losses, financial institutions spend far more in prevention and detection than they lose to the crooks.

But long-term, we are absolutely convinced it will be a much safer environment for banking compared to the paper-intensive processes it replaces.

— JB,