ING Electric Orange Reviews

Much virtual ink has been spilled over ING Direct's Electric Orange account, and the new checking account isn't even available to the general public. From its Internet cafes to subway sponsorships, this is a bank that knows how to generate buzz, which really isn't all that easy with checking and savings accounts (see here for previous coverage of ING Direct).

Searching for <"Electric Orange" + review> on Google, we found six full-scale reviews of the product among the first 100 organic listings (10 pages of results using the default settings). All were blog postings. Most were moderately positive, and only one took shots at the bank calling the rates "too good to be true" (see Watch Your Wallet below).

It illustrates an interesting new phenomena, the power of the personal finance blogosphere. Most top-ranked search results belong not to mainstream press accounts, but to bloggers writing from various levels of knowledge about banking and finance. Most of the top-ranked blog reviews were thorough, factual, and relatively unbiased. But a few bits of misinformation creep in now and again, such as the rumor that the account stops paying interest on the sixth transaction in a statement period (false, by the way). Financial institutions should monitor these postings and jump in with a comment and/or email to the author to correct any factual errors.

Here's a list of what the personal finance bloggers are saying about Electric Orange:

1. Highest-ranked review on Google (#2 overall)

Date: 13 Feb. 2007

Verdict: Positive


2. Second-highest ranked blog review (#4 overall)

My Money Blog Header

Date: 2 Dec. 2006

Verdict: Positive


3. Third-highest blog review (#5 overall)

Date: 30 Nov. 2006 (#7 overall)

Verdict: Positive


4. Fourth-highest blog review (#33 overall)

Date: 29 Nov. 2006

Verdict: Neutral



5. Fifth-highest blog review (#46 overall) (Callahan)

Date: 4 Dec. 2006

Verdict: Neutral



6. Sixth-highest blog review (#65 overall)

Date: 28 Dec. 2006

Verdict: Somewhat negative


Trabian’s “Give With Us” is a Cost-effective Way to Start a Blog AND Make a Difference

When's the last time you saw a new Web app that:

  1. Was good for your brand
  2. Was useful for your customers/members
  3. Gave your employees a voice 
  4. Helped your community
  5. Had zero IT support cost
  6. Allowed you to begin blogging with virtually none of the risks of a typical blog
  7. Caused non-customers to bookmark your site and/or subscribe to its feed
  8. Prompted the local press to write glowing reviews
  9. Put your name in front of community organizations, and their well-connected board members
  10. And was affordable?

Take a look at the Web-based volunteer clearinghouse originally conceived by CU thinktank Filene Research Institute. The application is being commercialized as Give With Us by Trabian, a Dallas-based design firm that built Filene's prototype called My Community Connection (see note 1). 

You can see the original Filene version in production at SELCO Community Credit Union <>, where 77 volunteer opportunities have been posted since its launch less than six months ago (see note 2). The revamped, and much more Web 2.0-looking, version from Trabian will be housed at the cleverly named <>. The online product tour is not yet available, but we have the world premier exclusive screenshot below, courtesy of Trey Reeme of Trabian.

How it works
The application is basically a blog where anyone can post volunteer opportunities. Readers can take action by clicking a button to either:

  • Sign up
  • Email a friend
  • Leave a comment

Unlike other community websites that are bookmarked once then forgotten, users can sign up for a feed so that new opportunities continue to flow to their feedreader or browser. Hopefully, they'll add an email subscription option for the majority of users who are not yet using feeds.

The cost is $2,500 upfront plus $1,000 annually for the license. I don't need to tell you what a bargain that is. You get state-of-the-art blog design and functionality for the price of a Yellow Pages' ad.

You will need to assign a staff member to moderate the blog, clearing postings and comments for final publication. Assuming two posts and a couple comments each week, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes a day. But it needs constant attention, you can't have the moderator on vacation for a week with no substitute.

The biggest problem will be attention, or rather lack of it. How do you get overworked volunteers and nonprofit staffers to take time to post volunteer opportunities? Even harder, how do you get the community to remember to look at your blog when they are in a volunteering mood?

SELCO has a link on its homepage <>, but how do you reach out to the larger community to make this relevant? The SELCO website has 77 volunteer postings, but only 3 comments in the past 6 months. That suggests it's relatively lightly used by those donating their time. 

But any new offering takes time to get rolling. It's not unrealistic that you could end up being THE place in your market where volunteer opportunities are publicized. But that will take more effort than just posting it on your homepage.

For example, searching for "volunteers in Eugene," SELCO's home market, doesn't bring up the CU's site until result number 160, far too low for anyone to notice (see note 2). Selco should consider using Google AdSense to get its program listed in search results. With no other bidders, it'll only take a dime or so to get the number-one listing.

Another way to receive more attention would be integrating the volunteer opportunities with fund-raising services. For example, a financial institution could create a "donate here" button for the organization's website that instantly deposits donated funds into the nonprofit's checking account. 


  1. Trabian is a specialist in Web 2.0 design and so-called "social media." The company also built Filene's website along with several interesting credit union sites; refer to its website for a client listing. SELCO Credit Union's My Community Connection CLICK TO ENLARGETrabian also runs the OpenSourceCU blog tracking, which tracks blogs and other social media in the credit union market.   
  2. Click on the screenshot at right to see the front page of SELCO's My Community Connection site.
  3. The number-one result is a competing site,
    which lists 98 opportunities in a tabular format.

Verity Credit Union Website Hacked

Update (Nov. 12, 10 AM PST): Twenty-two hours later, the Verity website has been taken offline, but the blog is still running. However, there are no new posts since the original, although Verity's Shari Storm has responded to several member comments. From information in the comments, it sounds like Verity's log-in page was redirected for up to four hours on Saturday morning beginning about 6:00 AM. At least one member said they answered "screening questions" including mother's maiden name.

Seattle-based Verity Credit Union is in the midst of a major website spoof that began earlier today. The credit union is reporting that the log-in function to online banking, located on its homepage (upper-right below), has been redirected by a hacker.

Apparently, only the log-in function was hijacked. The credit union has control of its homepage and plastered a large warning over the front. The link after the warning, "more information," linked to the Verity blog for updates (see below).

Verity CU home page with warning CLICK TO ENLARGE

It appears the log-in process is back under the credit union's control, although the warning is still there. When attempting to log in at 3:15 PM with a test name (I do not have a Verity account), I was redirected to an error message at <>, which appears to be a legitimate Verity secure page. There was no follow-up question asking for my credit card number as mentioned in the blog post (see below).

The incident was first posted to their blog at 12:02 PM today (see post below).

Blog post on the hack

The silver lining
As bad as this is, Verity should be applauded for the rapid response, using both its website and blog to get the word out. Presumably, they also emailed customers, but those messages may or may not be believed in this day of rampant phishing.

You can follow the ongoing drama at the Verity blog, where customers have been redirected for the latest news. We'll keep you posted.

Live Chat in Online Banking Grabs Some Ink

Citi_myhomeequity_livechatAlthough our readers won't find much new information in today's Wall Street Journal article, Online Banking Strives for the Human Touch, it's significant for two reasons:

  • Another example of a leading personal finance writer looking for "the next big thing" in online banking (see also NetBanker June 28); expect a wave of these stories through year-end
  • The article included a full-text screenshot of a banking chat session with SunTrust. You might circulate this among your reps so they understand that what they write in a chat session potentially becomes part of the "public record" (by the way, the SunTrust rep, and/or the marketing guru who scripted the canned responses, deserve a raise for their sales technique).

If you make it to the end, you'll find a couple interesting online lending factoids:

  • Bank of America claims an 8-fold increase in online-mortgage sales in Q1 2006 compared to the year earlier quarter, with live-chat part of the reason; it also said home-equity loan volume doubled
  • Citbank says 90% of its live-chat users complete a home-equity application, presumably at its <> site mentioned earlier in the story (see screenshot above); the bank also said it expects to originate $2 billion in home equity loans online in 2006, double that in 2005


National Bank of Australia Helps Users Create Ads for its World Cup Soccer Team

Nationalbankaus_worldcup_makead_logo_1Earlier in the year, we lamented the lack of creativity by banks in leveraging Super Bowl mania at their websites (see NetBanker Feb. 3). Not so with the other "football."

Nationalbankaus_worldcup_makeadNational Australia Bank promotes its World Cup entrant, the Socceroos, with a clever, make-your-own ad microsite (see screenshots below). A small graphic on its homepage (click on inset for closeup) leads users to the interactive ad-building site. Users create custom video shorts by dragging-and-dropping video clips into a storyboard. User then adds own text and chooses from several soundtracks to complete the creation. Ads are posted online and can be viewed either by looking at "the latest," "the most popular," or celebrity ads. There are 320 posted as of today.


This is smart in so many ways:

  1. The novelty of the website creates positive publicity in the media, on and off-line.
  2. The bank creates a positive association with its brand by leveraging the national pride generated by a World Cup entrant.
  3. Nationalbankaus_worldcup_makead_example_2 The "cool factor" of interactive content positions the bank as "with it."
  4. As users upload their ads to video-sharing services such as YouTube, the bank will get a viral marketing boost. The bank wisely plasters its name at the beginning and end of the content, positioning itself on an equal footing with the end-user author (see inset). 

This is another clever example of user-generated content, something we'll see more of as mainstream businesses ride the wave of blogging's popularity: MySpace, YouTube, and 10,000 Web startups. (Click on the link below for additional screenshots). —JB

First page of the ad making microsite:


Listing of favorite ads:


Listing of celeb ads:


Union National Bank’s Gold Cafe

Unionnational_goldcafe_logoTalk about thinking outside the box: Instead of serving coffee in its branches, Union National Community Bank <> is serving checking accounts in a cafe. Unionfinancial_goldcafe_pic_1The $400 million bank, headquartered in Mt. Joy, Penn., is using a strategy similar to ING Direct, except UNCB has gone as far as to remove its brand from the name, calling the financial store "Gold Cafe" (see picture right).

The cafe features a full retail coffee operation with coffee, lattes, tea, smoothies and so on priced at $1.45 to $4.45 and pastries and desserts from $1.75 to $2.25. The coffee service is run by Lancaster County Coffee Roasters.

Unionnational_goldcafe_homepageThe branding has also been extended to its website,, where the concept is supported with an emphasis on the lengthy hours, 6:30 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Saturday, and noon to 5:00 pm on Sundays, 82 hours in total. The website also features information on an iPod giveaway during its May 11-13 grand opening. The only banking product mentioned is free checking in the lower-right corner (see screenshot).

The branch, er cafe, located near a major community college in Lancaster, Penn., includes a coffee bar, couches, an outdoor patio, fireplace, free Wi-Fi, and the ubiquitous plasma screen monitors. The bank has also created Sip, a "cultural newszine" available only in the cafe. A second cafe is set to open later this year in Centerville.

We can't predict whether this concept ultimately works. Although we like the new-age branch concept popularized by Umpqua and others, this might be over the top. One of the biggest reasons to build branches is for their advertising value, placing the bank's brand in front of thousands of commuters and errand-runners each day. By calling it the Gold Cafe, the UNCB loses the normal branding value, but the highly unusual strategy will generate a large amount of publicity, overcoming the initial customer confusion of using a bank named "Gold Cafe." However, this is a unique situation that wouldn't readily work for other financial institutions.

Unionnational_goldcafe_homeThe initial website is just a single page (see above) and badly needs an upgrade to cash in on all the publicity. At a minimum, prospective customers should be able to get a virtual tour of the cafe and open an account online. The site will be heavily visited by banking analysts and reporters and should do a better job supporting the publicity it's bound to attract, although the parent's home page does include a series of photos of the new concept along with a Gold Cafe link in the main navigation (see screenshot right).

If anyone has a chance to visit the branch, let me know what you think of it.


Capturing the Blog Buzz about Prosper

Prosper_blogger_listings If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Or so the saying goes.

In an online financial services first, newly launched person-to-person loan marketplace Prosper (Netbanker Archives) includes an "In the Blogs" section in its online Media Room. The link, positioned between the traditional "In the News" and "Press Releases" sections, allows users to easily read about the company in pre-selected online blogs (click on inset for a closeup).

This provides much more material to view than the three news articles and single press release the 3-week-old company has posted. The company has control over the content; so don’t expect to see links to any ProsperSucks blogs down the road. 

For Prosper, the blog links provide several benefits:

  • Several are authored by Prosper group leaders, so they contain ongoing encouragement for the lending exchange
  • The newness of their business model provides good fodder for inclusion in wide variety of blogs
  • They are too new to have much negative talk in the blogs

Action items
Most financial institutions receive little press play, there just isn’t that much newsworthy in the daily battle to sell and service deposit and loan accounts. However, if you are well received in your community, you may be receiving good feedback from local bloggers. Linking to these posts could be a valuable addition to your "About Us" section.


E*Trade Bags Millions in Free Publicity

Etrade_protectionguaranteeWow. It’s not often a press release rates an article in BOTH The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. But that’s exactly what happened today when E*Trade made the relatively innocuous announcement that it wouldn’t hold its brokerage customers responsible when their accounts were defrauded.

Etrade_securityarea_1Consistent with previous innovations, the online brokerage and banking powerhouse wrapped its new message with impressive graphics and copy (see inset above-left for graphic displayed on its homepage today). Clicking on Learn More leads to an impressive security area where E*Trade touts four main protective measures (click on inset above-right for a closeup)*:

  1. Security tokens
  2. Electronic statements with paper turnoff
  3. Email alerts
  4. Antiviral and firewall software, which can be purchased through a link to Norton (60-day free trial offer); users can also run a real-time scan to check for vulnerabilities

It just goes to show you how skittish the public has become about online security. I’d wager that most brokerage customers are sophisticated enough to realize they will eventually get their money back if it’s stolen from their account. So this is a non-event from a financial standpoint. E*Trade even admits that online fraud cost it only $2 million last year, less than the cost of one of their famous Super Bowl ads. The brokerage also said there were "fewer than 50 incidents," implying a fraud loss of approximately $40,000 per incident.

Evidently E*Trade’s marketing department prevailed over its legal counsel and actually put the company’s fraud-protection policies in writing. It’s amazing that makes headlines in 2006 and may say more about the growing need to cover your behind to fend off the class-action bar even if it means scaring off customers.

We hope this prompts other financial institutions to take similar action. One of the main functions of financial institutions is safeguarding assets. Customers, online or otherwise, shouldn’t have to guess whether certain types of fraud are covered. As any good lawyer would say, "Put it in writing."


*The screenshot displayed here is only the top portion of the security area, to download a screenshot of the entire page, click here.

Should You Launch a Financial Podcast?

Fccu_podcast_logoPodcast was voted the 2005 Word of the Year by New Oxford American Dictionary. That alone is enough to make it an interesting marketing technique, even though it’s more associated with music than banking.

So far, two U.S. financial institutions have jumped on the podcasting bandwagon:

  • The first financial podcaster was Stockton, CA-based Financial Center Credit Union <>. Its rambling, 56-minute first effort, Personal Finance Tips, from CEO Michael Duffy, was posted on Apple’s iTunes on August 30. The program is more philosophical than factual and sounds almost unscripted, as if the CEO just sat down and talked about whatever came to mind for an hour. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than his mother or marketing manager listening to the whole thing. Since then, they’ve published two more installments of the series: a 31-minute Personal Finance Tips, posted Oct 17, and a nine-minute discussion of phishing and pharming on Dec. 14. The latter program, which did NOT feature the CEO, was a more appropriate length and dealt with facts and actionable information.

    Fccu_podcast_page_1While the content is of questionable value, the website design is good, positioning the CU as hip and with it. The podcast series is entitled, Talkin’ About the Benjamins, and features a clever visual of Ben Franklin with the signature Apple earphones on his head (see inset above left). The credit union has a link on its homepage to a dedicated podcast page (click on inset above for closeup) that explains how to subscribe to the series via Apple’s iTunes site or to download directly from the CU site in MP3 format.
  • The first bank to post a podcast was UMB Bank <> out of Kansas Umb_podcast_1City. The first of the three planned recordings was posted Dec. 5, The Ins and Outs of 401(k) Retirement Plans. The bank also makes its podcast available for free downloading at the iTunes store or directly at the bank’s website. The recording is a question-and-answer session with UMB Portfolio Manager Casey Matthews. The UMB program is also relatively amateurish, with the participants nervously chuckling at their own jokes. At more than 24 minutes, it’s too long, but for a listener with little knowledge of retirement plans, it’s not a bad educational program.

    In contrast to the marquee placement of FCCU’s podcasts, UMB bank buries the program in the middle of a long list of content within the News and Information part of the website (click on inset above for a closeup). This considerably diminishes the marketing value.

The question isn’t really whether to podcast or not, but rather whether audio/visual content should be added to your website. The answer to the second question is a resounding YES. It’s time to leverage the high-speed Internet connections enjoyed by the majority of your customers with professional audio and video content. There are numerous programming tools that can be used; the most common is Macromedia FLASH, to develop good audio and video programming.

There isn’t really a pressing need to provide the information in the proprietary iPod format. The number of users who will want to download your sales pitch and listen to it on the train ride home can be counted on one hand. However, given the hype surrounding everything iPod, it’s not a bad idea to post your work as an iPod recording.

If you do end up with a podcast, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep it short and to the point: Strive for a tight, overall length of no more than 5 to 10 minutes. If the subject matter needs more time, break the broadcast into multiple parts.
  • Make it professional: Listeners expect a degree of professionalism from their bank that they don’t expect from other podcasters. If you can’t afford to hire a pro to develop the program, try tapping into the eager broadcasting majors at a local university or community college. At the very least, develop a script and practice before broadcasting.
  • Use a Q&A format: We like UMB’s format, pairing an interviewer with a bank expert. Had they kept to the 10-minute limit, it would have been worth listening to.
  • Lose the humor: Banking is serious. It’s OK to use some humor in advertising and promotion, but a broadcast from the bank should not include any attempts at humor, and NO laughing at your own jokes.
  • Post it at iTunes: Easily explain how to find it, so that users can quickly subscribe to future broadcasts.
  • Most important, marry the audio broadcast with visual aids: UMB’s 24-minute podcast on retirement savings would be much more effective with supporting visuals, especially as they run through several examples of after-tax returns of various investment options. A standard webcast using PowerPoint and an audio presentation would be far more effective, although less likely to land you a write-up in the local newspaper.


Know Your Banking Customers, Especially Reporters

Mark_twainRemember the old saying (usually attributed to Mark Twain), "Never pick a fight with someone who buys his ink by the barrel." An unnamed "national bank" has created an enemy of LA Times reporter Steve Lopez, who so far, has not publicly identified the bank that refused to reimburse him for the $2000 drained out of his account after an ATM-card-skimming incident. But given his location, and the hints in the article, it’s probably Wells Fargo, BofA, or WAMU. Given our personal experience with the relatively strict Wells Fargo credit card authorization guidelines, combined with the relatively small WAMU checking account base, our money is on BofA as the culprit.

In this particular case, the bank did the right thing initially, crediting the reporter’s account for the $2000. However, it reversed the amount four weeks later, sending a form letter with no explanation. In a followup call, the bank service rep told Mr. Lopez that he had not returned phone messages from bank investigators, so they concluded the disputed ATM withdrawals were "authorized and posted correctly."

Action Items
This type of bad publicity is entirely avoidable:

  1. Prevention: Your ATM system should not allow four $500 withdrawals in three days, unless the customer has a history of large cash withdrawals.
  2. Notification: All large ATM withdrawals should trigger alerts, first by email, then by phone if the withdrawals continue.
  3. Communications: Make sure you communicate the results of your ongoing investigation clearly to the customer. Customers should receive a stream of emails, letters, and phone calls keeping them apprised. If possible, all emails should be posted to the customer’s online banking account to create a paper trail.

    Most of the above steps are relatively expensive to implement if not supported by your current systems. So you might want to consider a fourth item:

  4. Flag reporter accounts: Treat reporters like VIPs, making sure their accounts are flagged, and that you bend over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt when disputes arise.


Bank Websites Should Provide Secure Connections to Legitimate Fund-Raising Sites

Wachovia_homepage_graphicWhen natural disasters strike, such as the Southeast Asia tsunamis or Monday’s Hurricane Katrina destruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, banks should use their considerable web reach to help their customers make safe and secure donations to sanctioned relief agencies such as the Red Cross.

With all the concern about online phishing and fraud, consumers need a trusted conduit to make donations. And the sooner the link is posted, the better. As bad as it is, for much of the country, it will no longer be top-of-mind in a few days or weeks.

Major banks fail to respond thus far
Granted its only been three days, but we were surprised to find that of the largest 50 U.S financial institutions only three, Chase ( and, Wachovia ( and, and Washington Mutual (, have posted links to the Red Cross to make online donations (see Wachovia banner above).

Seven others had hurricane-related information, but no links for donations:
Regions, AmSouth, Navy FCU, Compass Bank, and of course New Orleans-based Hibernia all had information on branch closings
USAA posted tips for dealing with the aftermath of a hurricane
Commerce Bank (NJ) ran a headline ticker on the top of the homepage offering to match donations up to a total of $50,000 (which strikes us as bit stingy if you are going to blast it across your homepage)

Action Items
The best response, from a customer service and PR perspective, is to announce a corporate contribution and provide secure links to the Red Cross and other relief agencies. Contributions should also be accepted via mail or in-branch.

Wachovia_redcross_1Wachovia does it right, with a small, but highly visible homepage link explaining its efforts and providing the important message, You Can Too (see inset above). Clicking on the link leads users to a landing page that explains Wachovia’s $250,000 corporate commitment along with two important links (click on inset for a closeup look):
1. Donate Now link to a Red Cross store established on Yahoo handle Katrina donations
2. Email this page to spread the word

Even if your bank is not prepared to make a corporate contribution, it can still support fund-raising efforts with a link to the official donation site.


NBC Nightly News Takes the Banking Industry to Task Yet Again

Nbc_nightly_news During the past year, NBC Nightly News, more than any other national show, has publicized fraud concerns in the online channel. They played a large role in publicizing the $90,000 apparent key-logging loss by a Bank of America small business customer in Florida. They also covered, rather sloppily, last summer’s flawed Gartner study about multi-billion dollar losses in identity theft.

QchexThe most recent story, which appeared on television last night, covered demand draft fraud initiated at among other locations. The NBC Nightly News story appears to have been based primarily on a May 24 article by MSNBC’s Bob Sullivan in his closely watched online column on ecommerce. Sullivan was also the primary source for the Gartner story.

When NBC goes on the air pointing fingers at the banking industry’s security practices, you better be ready with a response. Your branches and customer support personnel should be briefed on the subject and be prepared to answer customer concerns. You should also prepare a response in your online service HELP/FAQ area that addresses the issue.

In the future, you might want to pay attention to Bob Sullivan’s columns. If he’s writing about it, and if it’s a new twist on an Internet scam, there’s a good chance the Nightly News will pick it up. Had you been reading his column yesterday morning at 8:15 am, you’d have had a day to prepare damage control.

As far as solving the demand draft problem, that’s something we’ll leave to the regulators. But requiring Internet originators like to verify account ownership before processing a debit, would be a good first start.