Remote Deposit Sightings: Wall Street Journal & PNC Bank

It takes a long time before a new process or technology becomes "conventional wisdom," something that is accepted at face value without questioning its pros and cons. While we are still years away from that happening with remote deposit technology, at least the mainstream press has picked up on its benefits, one of the first steps towards mass adoption.

The latest example was in today's Wall Street Journal special Small Business section. In "Branching Out," a general article on banks' growing interest in small businesses, author David Enrich prefaced an Aite Group "levels the playing field" quote with this (p. R6):  

Remote deposit makes it less important to select a bank based on its location or number of branches–which many big banks tout as a key selling point.

The key take-away here is that banks should make sure remote deposit services are prominently featured in checking/cash management offers aimed at attracting new business clients. 

Google search on remote deposit capture CLICK TO ENLARGE For example, PNC Bank is currently running a remote deposit promotion with a free scanner for customers who sign up before the end of April (see landing page screenshot below). The service is powered by Bankserv (PNC data sheet here;

The promotion is well-placed on Google, with the fourth-highest AdWords placement giving PNC the top-right slot (see inset).

However, neither the promotion or remote deposit are mentioned on the bank's main business checking account marketing page (see second screenshot below). We like the promotion, the first we've seen advertising a free scanner via Google, but the bank seems to be missing the chance to grab new accounts with the freebie.  

PNC Bank landing page from Google search on "remote deposit capture"
(Seattle IP address, 19 March 2007, 9 AM PDT)

PNC Bank landing page from Google search on "remote deposit capture"

PNC Bank main business checking page (19 March 2007)

PNC Bank main business checking page (19 March 2007)

Holiday Bank Marketing Continued

As mentioned last week (here), U.S. banks are starting to get more creative with their websites, with 12 of the 30 largest (note 1) injecting a bit of holiday spirit into their websites.

This year, three of the top-30 banks had major holiday themes running on their homepages; in 2004, none did. And today we viewed another nine with minor holiday sprinkles, making 12 in total. Two years ago, four banks had minor holiday-themed promotions.

We expected to see more banks marketing gift cards, one of the hottest holiday gifts, especially during the last few days before Christmas. Only four banks mentioned gift cards on their homepages on Dec. 24 (note 2):

  • National City
  • BB&T
  • North Fork Bank
  • Commerce Bank

Here is a rundown of those with major holiday themes:

  1. Citibank: Citi had the best overall holiday theme as  it continued pushing its 5% e-Savings Account, with a clever 5% "ornament" hung next to traditional Christmas decorations (see screenshot below).

    Citibank holiday homepage CLICK TO ENLARGE

  2. PNC Bank: Runner-up was PNC with its unique brand of holiday marketing, a tongue-in-cheek look at the cost of the items listed in the popular Christmas song, Twelve Days of Christmas. It's a holiday tradition at PNC which has been tracking the holiday index for 22 years (see screenshot below).

    PNC Bank holiday homepage CLICK TO ENLARGE

  3. Bank of America: The largest online bank used a holiday theme, and $100 off a Dell PC, to encourage users to join the other 20 million BofA customers using its online banking. Customers hitting the bank's homepage were greeted with an animated banner displaying a wrapped package, which after two seconds changed to the Dell deal (see before and after screenshots below).

    Showing before and after package animation:

    Bank of America holiday homepage before CLICK TO ENLARGE

Bank of America holiday homepage after CLICK TO ENLARGE

Other top-30 banks with holiday-oriented images on their homepages:

  • Chase Bank: snow globe with 0% credit card offer
  • Wells Fargo: packages
  • Washington Mutual: snowball with 30-second credit card application
  • Citizens Bank: packages with a debit card rewards promo
  • National City: snowflakes with gift card promo
  • BB&T: packages with a gift card promo
  • Countrywide Bank: snow and packages with a loan promo
  • North Fork Bank: Radio City promo with $15 off coupon and gift cards
  • Commerce Bank: packages with gift card promo


  1. According to Online Banking Report's list of the 150 largest U.S. financial institutions as of 31 March 2006 (link here).
  2. Searches conducted during late morning (EST) on Dec. 24, 2006, from a southwest Florida IP address. Although gift cards were not mentioned on US Bank's homepage on Dec. 24, we had seen them advertised on previous visits, although not necessarily on ithe homepage.

Final Bank Marketing Score: Steelers 2, Seahawks 1

Pnc_steelers_homepageAs we analyzed PNC Bank’s identity protection services (see previous article), we happened to notice this timely photo of its hometown Pittsburgh Steelers, scheduled to compete Sunday in the Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks (click on inset for closeup). PNC is the official bank of the Steelers.

We were curious as to how many banks were leveraging Super Bowl fever in the states of Washington and Pennsylvania. Using Yahoo’s directory, we found only one of 27 Washington Banks (see below), and two of 68 Pennsylvania banks with homepage references to their home teams.

Firstmutual_seahawkcdAnd only First Mutual Bank <> in Bellevue, Wash., has a promotion tied to the big game: a 4.05 percent "Championship Rate" on its High-Yield Money Market Deposit Account (click on inset for closeup).

Fidelitybank_steeler_homepageThe two Pennsylvania football tie-ins were simple eye-catching graphics on the homepage from Fidelity Bank (click on inset right for closeup) and PNC Bank (see above).


Editor’s Note: Since the Steelers won 21-10, we are wondering whether bank website appearance may be a leading indicator of Super Bowl performance. We’ll see next year.

PNC Bank Bundles ID Theft Insurance with Checking

Pnc_idtheftlogoHow do you make your checking account stand out from the one across the street, around the corner, or two clicks away in Internet Explorer? It’s not easy if you want to maintain or increase profitability.

Several banks, including Washington Mutual (NetBanker Nov. 8, 2005) and PNC Bank, use a relatively new technique that is inexpensive and plays to the current hysteria surrounding online security: identity theft insurance. Pnc_idtheftinsurance

In PNC’s case, three of its core checking account options come bundled with $2500 to $5000 in insurance: Premium Plan, Choice Plan, and of course Digital Checking (click on inset right for more details). Free Checking does not include ID theft insurance.

Action Items
Before giving away identity theft insurance, look instead at creating a profit center around fraud protection services. As we discussed in a previous Online Banking Report (OBR 83/84), identity theft protection and related credit bureau-monitoring services are among the few relatively easy fee-income opportunities online.

Pnc_truecredit_cobrandIn fact, PNC Bank sells a full suite of credit bureau services housed under Identity Theft Safeguards in the Personal Finance area. The options range from a $29.95, one-time, three-bureau report to relatively pricey $120/yr and $180/yr subscription plans powered by TransUnion’s TrueCredit, an OBR Best of the Web winner in 2002 (click on inset for closeup).


Where’s the Holiday Bank Marketing?

These days most major online retailers and consumer sites dress up their websites for the holidays.

Unless, they are bank sites.

Each year we surf major banks looking for holiday happenings. We were surprised again this year to find little creativity on bank home pages. On Dec. 21, none of the largest 30 banks in the U.S. had a major holiday theme running.

Two banks, National City (#11) and LaSalle (#15) were running prepaid gift card banners. And two others were running small holiday-themed promotions running, AmSouth Bank (#27) and PNC (#20).

PNC is running a tongue-in-cheek look at the cost of purchasing the items in the popular holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. This year the total cost was $17,300, up 2.4% since last year. The bank has been tracking the cost for 20 years and provides a long-term look at the price increases. It’s very clever, providing valuable publicity and a positive impression of the bank.

AmSouth Bank has an interesting holiday promotion, one that ties directly to online banking a bill payment. Website users can personalize a holiday greeting card and send it to anyone with an email address. Users are encouraged, but NOT required, to use the cards as a notification of a check being sent through AmSouth’s bill payment system. The default "personal" message even says:

A monetary gift is being sent through AmSouth Bank, please look for it in your mail in the next 7 days.

Greeting card users do NOT have to be bank customers. AmSouth doesn’t say whether it is capturing email addresses. We would have to assume not.

Action Items

Add a holiday promotion for your 2005 marketing plan. It’s a great way to jazz up your website for the holidays and you can include a sales promotion at the same time, especially for prepaid cards or gift checks.



If you’d like to learn more about the financial interactive marketing efforts, check out the Interactive Financial Marketing Database from our sister publication, the Online Banking Report.

Innovators in Small Business Online Delivery

Innovators in small business online delivery


Table 55

Watchfire/Gomez Small Business Scorecard



Dec ‘03

Number Sm. Biz Clients

1 (tie) Bank of America


2.5 mil1

1 (tie) National City



3 (tie) Key



3 (tie) Wells Fargo


1.3 mil2

5 (tie) Chase



5 (tie) Fleet



5 (tie) Wachovia



8 Bank One



9 (tie) HSBC America



9 (tie) U.S. Bank



Source: Watchfire, 6/04 <>
Other banks evaluated, but not making the top 10: Bank of New
York, BB&T, Citibank, Citizens Bank, Comerica, Fifth Third Bank
(150,000 clients), LaSalle, PNC Bank (200,000 clients),
SunTrust, UBOC, Washington Mutual (250,000 clients)
1American Banker, May 18, 2004, BofA total includes
2American Banker, Oct. 1, 2003

Our first report on small business banking was produced in the fall of 1997
(OBR 29).
At that time, few banks were specifically targeting small businesses. Then,
a Yahoo search for “small business” and “banking” yielded only 19
results compared to 2.5 million today. In the late 1990s, most banks were
still busy building out their consumer interfaces. Even as recently as 2001
(OBR 70/71), we found few major innovations to report on. Our
favorite small business banking service was OneCore
 which was
shuttered shortly thereafter, at least as a direct provider.  

Today much has changed. Everywhere you look, banks are innovating to
serve the small business market more effectively. According to
GomezPro unit the best small business banking sites
are Bank of America and National City, tied for first place in
its year-end 2003 scorecard (see Table 55, right). 

Other online innovators in the small business market:

  •          Barclays Bank (London; $800 billion) uses its
    website to target startup businesses with a broad array of support
    services that many startups would find essential, including a free
    business checking account for the first year. It’s so impressive, we’ve
    given it our second Best of the Web award this year
    (see next page).
  •          PNC Bank (Pittsburgh, PA; $70 billion) and
    have both announced plans to offer remote check deposits,
    something most U.S. banks will support within a few years. One of the
    last reasons to visit the branch will be eliminated when clients can
    feed paper checks into a scanner instantly depositing the cash into
    their account and storing the image into their online banking archive

    This service is a shoo-in for an OBR Best of the Web once it goes
  •          NetBank (Alpharetta, GA; $4.1 billion) which
    launched a new small business initiative a year ago, has attracted 1,600
    businesses with $38 million in deposits ($24,000 average deposit). If it
    keeps to the announced third-quarter launch, NetBank may be the first
    bank to offer remote paper check scanning



Barclays provides valuable services for startups

Why do the U.K. banks do a better job serving small businesses online
compared to their U.S. counterparts?1 Perhaps U.S. banks are
underestimating the value of services targeted directly to small business
owners. Or maybe they’ve found it too difficult because business owners
won’t bother switching bank accounts to save a few bucks a month. That’s why
it makes so much sense for Barclays Bank to focus on startups
at its business website <>. After all, if you
succeed in being a startup’s first bank, you have the inside track to retain
its business over time.

Barclays business homepage (see below) is dominated by a shaded
area asking the important question, Starting a business? Even though
the vast majority of visitors already have a business and a banking
relationship with Barclays, those most likely shopping for services are
startups. The bank also offers Pain relief in a box, a proprietary
business management and accounting program targeted for tiny businesses or
startups that haven’t settled on an accounting software system.

1Two out of three of our Best of Web winners for small
businesses are headquartered in the U.K.


Barclays’ small business Starter Accounts consist of the following
features and benefits:

  •          Current account (checking) with an overdraft facility; free
    for the first 12 months, 18 if you also maintain personal accounts at
  •          Savings account
  •          Loans, subject to credit approval of course
  •          Insurance
  •          45-minute free consultation with a business/marketing
  •          45-minute free consultation with an accountant
  •          30-minute free consultation with an attorney



NetBank and PNC to offer remote deposits

According to recent press reports, both NetBank (American Banker,
May 20) with 1,600 small business clients and PNC Bank (Wall Street
, June 8) with 200,000, will launch remote deposit service for their
business customers. Although details of the yet-to-be-launched services are
sketchy, it is expected that business customers will be able to scan paper
checks into a remote device that transmits images to the bank for immediate
deposit. PNC estimates the scanners will rent for $15 to $25 per month. No word
on pricing from NetBank. The NetBank service is expected in late third quarter
and PNC expects to roll-out by yearend. Alogent
 is the
technology provider for NetBank.

Benefits for small business owners:

1.   Saves time/money: Frees business owners from the daily/weekly
trek to the branch, something 80% of online self-employed households reported
doing during the past 30 days according to Javelin Strategy

2.   Improves cash flow: Checks can be deposited immediately rather
than collecting dust waiting for the owner’s next trip to the branch

3.   Streamlines record keeping:

i.    the original check can be filed as a paper receipt if desired

ii.   a back-up electronic image is stored at the bank if questions arrive

4.   Improves customer service: Check images can be quickly retrieved
and emailed if
a dispute arises

5.   Saves storage space/cost: Paper checks can be destroyed much
sooner, eliminating storage and security issues

6.   Improves management control: Owners can spot-check deposit
activity by looking at actual check images, rather than staff-entered accounting

Speaking as both as a small business owner and an industry analyst, this is a
great service and a strong candidate for a Best of the Web award once it
becomes operational.