Cyber Monday in Banking

imageI’ve written about Black Friday promotions at ING Direct (see note 1), Service Credit Union, and the growing Small Business Saturday event spearheaded by American Express (which even earned a tweet from  Obama).

This year I also noticed a trickle of activity on Cyber Monday as well. It’s probably better than Black Friday for online/mobile campaigns. Better yet, use the approach of Visions FCU (screenshot 2 & 3) and use the entire weekend to maximize the impact. 

Cyber Monday promos:

  • 50% off credit-monitoring products from Quizzle, the spinout from Quicken Loans (see email below)
  • Visions Federal Credit Union offered a loan special from Black Friday through Cyber Monday (screenshot below). The CU reported $10 million in loans on Friday alone.
  • Navy Federal Credit Union offered bonus rewards-points for purchases made online

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Cyber Monday email from Quizzle (link; Monday, 7 AM Pacific, 28 Nov 2011)

Cyber Monday email from Quizzle

Visions Federal Credit Union Thanksgiving weekend loan special (28 Nov 2011)

Visions Federal Credit Union Thanksgiving weekend loan special

Visions landing page (link)

Visions FCU landing page Black Friday landing page

Navy Federal Cyber Monday cashRewards promo (link)
Note: Given the date shown, this page is likely a carryover from 2010. But it’s still available via “Cyber Monday” searches on Navy Federal’s website.

Navy Federal Credit Union Cyber Monday landing page

Notes:
1. ING Direct was at it again with seven offers over the Thanksgiving weekend (Deposit Accounts has the full rundown). However, the specials did not extend into Cyber Monday.   
2. 1st Financial Federal Credit Union ($210 million, Wentzville, MO) and Heritage Community Credit Union ($200 million, Sacramento, CA) offered loan deals on Black Friday according to CreditUnionsOnline.com

Quicken Loans Shows Customer Focus with Call Center Wait-Time on Homepage

Every time I visit Quicken Loans, I find something else to like about this lender's online efforts (previous coverage here). Here's the two latest from today's homepage:

  • News flash on homepage announcing today's rate action at the Fed, complete with brief mortgage sales pitch (middle of page). This screenshot was taken at 3:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, about four hours after the Fed decision was announced.
  • Call center wait times posted. Each time I've checked (today and last week), it said "Wait time is less than 10 seconds." (upper right corner … see also closeup below). The 800-number is part of the header across every page.

Quicken Loans home page with Fed rate news 25 June 2005

Close up of call center area in upper right:

Quicken Loans wait time estimate posted 25 June 2008

Quicken Loans is *Really* Using Twitter

imageLast week, I may have jumped the gun when I thought I'd found a bank using Twitter (post here). It's pretty apparent that E*Trade is not officially involved with that Twitter account.

But the ever diligent Ann-Marie Murphy was quick to add to the comments that her company, Quicken Loans, is *really* using Twitter to support its Quizzle personal finance site (see Quizzle coverage here). Beginning Feb. 22, the mortgage lender has posted 52 updates through last week (those would be called "tweets" if you are a real geek). That's about one per day, a good steady flow, without inundating the follower. 

Here's Murphy's rationale for using Twitter:

We've found it to be a great way to chat with our site visitors, get honest and helpful feedback to make the site better and give interesting home-related tips to followers. I especially like the instantaneous feedback. Ask a question, get a bunch of answers from folks who enjoy helping others.

Now this is what a real Twitter update stream looks like, complete with custom design. Nice.

Twitter page for Quicken Loans

Free “Ad-Supported” Credit Scores from Credit.com, Credit Karma, and Quicken Loans

image In August 1997, QSpace (now owned by Experian) was first to bring credit report data to the Web. The cost was $12 per report (see note 1), a price that has changed little over the ensuing 10 years.

Three years later, in October 2000, WorthKnowing.com introduced the concept of ad-supported (i.e., free) credit scores (see Online Banking Report, #66, article reprinted here). But the company failed to make it through the dot-com crash and ceased operations (note 2). Both QSpace and WorthKnowing earned OBR Best of the Web awards for their innovations.

It took seven years for the concept to reemerge, but now two Bay Area rivals are offering free credit bureau info in exchange for permission to present credit and other product offers. And just as I was about to finish this post yesterday, Quicken Loans introduced Quizzle, a personal finance/credit portal that also offers free credit bureau info (yesterday's post here).

Here are the players:

  • image Credit Karma: This San Francisco-based startup, with backing from Prosper's Chris Larsen, is delivering an actual credit score computed by TransUnion, one of the three major U.S. credit bureaus. It does not precisely match the commonly used FICO score from Fair Isaac. And the scale is different, with a top score of 900 instead of 850. The credit score service is still in closed beta, but we'll see if we can get some invites from the company. Credit Karma will be presenting at our FINOVATE Startup conference April 29 in San Francisco, if you want to meet the team behind this new service.
  • image Credit.com: Another San Francisco company, but one that dates back to 1995, recently launched a similar system, called the Credit Report Card. Credit.com CEO, Adam Levine, presented his other company, Identity Theft 911, at our inaugural FINOVATE conference last fall in NYC (video here). Credit.com provides a full evaluation of your actual TransUnion credit report and assigns letter grades to five different components of the overall score (see third screenshot below). The score is shown on a chart at the top that appears to top out at 850. The report is extremely well done. Like Credit Karma, the company earns fees from targeted offers. In our case, we were given a choice of applying for two Citibank cards.   
  • image Quizzle powered by Quicken Loans: Quizzle's business model is completely different because it's run by a financial institution instead of a lead generation site. The idea here is to get customers and prospective customers to use Quizzle frequently so that when the time comes for a new mortgage, the user remembers to apply at Quicken Loans. See yesterday's post for a complete overview.

Credit Karma homepage (15 Feb. 2008)

Credit Karma homepage

Credit.com Credit Report Card homepage (15 Feb 2008)

Credit.com credit report card

Credit.com Credit Report Card (top portion, detailed analysis of each section not shown)

 image

Note:

1. QSpace charged $12 for the first credit report, then $5 each to reorder. Data was from Experian (see Online Banking Report #28).

2. TransUnion now owns the WorthKnowing domain name.

Quicken Loans Enters the Personal Finance Space with Quizzle

image Two years ago, computerized personal financial management was a two-horse race: Intuit's Quicken vs. Microsoft Money. Both full-featured. Both relatively easy to use. But both were packaged software apps, clearly not the future of consumer computing.

Fast forward to 2008: We now have two dozen startups, several banks, and other financial stalwarts, offering online personal finance of every size and shape (see Online Banking Report 142/143 and 131/132).

image The latest entrant: Quicken Loans, which launched an open beta of Quizzle, an online budget and personal finance portal that features home values, mortgage advice, and free credit reports/scores from Experian (see note 1).

Quizzle also calculates what it calls your Quizzle score based on your credit score, home value, savings, debt, and household income/expenses (see second screenshot, below). Debt payments are imported from credit report data, but users can edit the information or add other items to improve the results.

Quizzle also provides home-value estimates calculated from public records, but in my case, it's no Zillow, and listed a home value that was significantly wrong (see note 1).  But it's simple to edit the number with your own estimate. Quicken Loans should consider tapping Zillow's API to provide a second opinion.

The sign-up process
Signup is simple with users providing name, address, birth date, email address, income, and home-purchase date. Email address is verified with a message that must be confirmed. Then identity is verified online using data pulled from the Experian credit bureau.

This is the same procedure used by every online credit-report provider with one huge exception. Quicken Loans DOES NOT REQUIRE A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER, a huge usability and privacy gain. The company is allowing credit-report access based on a name/address/birth date match. That's a welcome improvement for the user.

Analysis
There are a few rough edges in the tool. The home-equity portion is not well explained. In my example, my home value was shown to be about $50,000 more than the loan balance. However, in the equity portion of the tool, it showed that my home equity to be zero. Evidently, the site uses an 80% LTV criteria to calculate the amount of home equity available to lend against. While that's a perfectly reasonable assumption in today's credit environment, it should be spelled out in detail.

But overall, it's a great tool. The really free credit report and score alone are enough of a payback to gain consumer usage. The rest of the Quizzle score is less useful, but still interesting. And seeing it all in one place is fantastic. It will be interesting to see how Quicken Loans pulls me back to the site in the future.

Quizzle is off to a great start, and I look forward to seeing more companies, including banks, credit unions, and card issuers, integrate credit scores/reports into their online offerings (see note 2).

Overall scores:
    Look and feel (user interface) ==> A
    Credit information ==> A+
    Other tools ==> B
 

Quizzle home (18 Feb. 2008, prior to entering a ZIP code)

Quizzle from Quicken Loans home 18 Feb 2008


Overview pages showing the makeup of the overall Quizzle score

(upper right)

Quicken Loans Quizzle main results page

Note:

1. Quizzle uses a 900-point scale for credit scores, padding 50 points to everyone's score compared to Fair Isaac's FICO that tops out at 850. This makes you feel a little better about your score. No doubt, credit score inflation will continue, with someone using a 1,000-point scale in the near future. 

2. WaMu has provided free credit scores to credit card customers for several years.

OK, Two Major U.S. Financial Services Firms Not Named Wells Fargo are Blogging (Quicken Loans)

An interesting aspect of blogging is that when you get something wrong, you are quickly called on it, oftentimes through public comments. While I hate making mistakes, I like the fact that it's easy to correct the record with an update to the original entry.

So I was glad to see the comment yesterday from Ann-Marie Murphy (here) informing me, and the world, that Quicken Loans has been publishing a blog for more than a year. Making them, not PayPal, the second major U.S. financial-services company to blog. And after looking at it, I was doubly glad she took the time to comment, because it's a top-notch blog and it gives me the chance to do something I've always wanted to do, work Dave Matthews Band into a blog post. I figured if Ron Shevlin can blog about the Grateful Dead four times (here), I can at least slip in one DMB mention.    

The well-designed Quicken Loans blog is called "What's the Diff" and is run under its own URL <www.whatsthediff.com>. It features stories written by employees, and guest bloggers, about making a difference in the world. Published entries win a slick t-shirt.

It just so happens that the most recent entry chronicles the experience of Quicken summer intern, Mark Messing, as he helped push stuck vehicles out of the mud-filled parking lot at the Cuyahoga Falls DMB concert (see note 1). It's well written and exudes a positive, can-do attitude that leaves the reader with good feelings about the company.   

The Quicken Loans blog is more of a recruiting tool than a marketing device. Notice the big red button on the right asking, "Are you the difference?" That's designed to attract high-achievers to apply for a position with the company. Clicking on the button brings job candidates to an attractive "careers" landing page that carries the same "The Diff" theme, and has its own URL <www.quickenloanscareers.com>. It's very well done. That attention to detail in the recruiting process no doubt helps it achieve its position in the Fortune and ComputerWorld 100 best places to work. 

The only gripe I have with THE DIFF is the 3-column layout with the blog entries in the middle. While not uncommon, blog readers tend to expect the posts to be in the far-left column. This non-standard layout makes it slightly harder to navigate for first-time visitors. But this layout does help expose more content, so it's not a terrible tradeoff.  

Grade: A+

Note:

1. Like Mark, I've been stuck in the endless line out of the parking lot at The Gorge here in Washington state, most recently this past Sunday night. But instead of waiting in line for an hour, we got out of our car and visited with some friends we'd met that night. Now that's not a good enough story to make the What's the Diff blog, but it does help me win a bet!

Quicken Loans Develops a Google Gadget; Pageview Counts Released by Google

Desktop showing Google Gadgets CLICK FOR CLOSEUP On Tuesday, Google began publishing usage information for its popular gadgets here. That's Google's name for widgets that can be imbedded on personal start pages including, but not limited to, the personalized version of Google's homepage at <google.com/ig> or PC desktops running Google desktop. 

For example, I have three Google gadgets running on my XP laptop, a snow globe displaying the crummy Seattle weather conditions and forecast, a Weatherbug widget showing the conditions where I'd rather be, and a calculator (click on inset for a closeup). 

Listed below are the most-popular gadgets last week (note 1) and their approximate pageviews (note 2). The only one related to financial services was a currency converter, which surprisingly was the 19th most popular gadget, with an estimated 2.8 million views last week. In addition, two other currency converters had another 1.1 million page views, bringing the category to just shy of 4 million. Use this list to generate ideas on non-financial content that could be added to your website to increase its appeal.

In the Finance category, only 10 English-language gadgets had more than 100,000 pageviews. After currency conversion, the two biggest were a stock tracker with 900,000 and a loan calculator with 500,000 (see Table 2, below).

Analysis
The growing popularity of gadgets and widgets provides an opportunity for financial institutions to develop branded gadgets for various functions, such as monitoring rates, calculating exchange rates, and tracking stock and commodity indexes (for more info, see note 1). We looked at several widgets last year including the Mortgagebot-produced mortgage rate tracker and the Mac-only bill pay tracking widget from billQ (see previous coverage here). 

Quicken Loans Google gadget Most of the gadgets at Google were developed by outsiders. In its instructions to developers, the company claims you could write a gadget in five minutes (see instructions here). Even if it took five days, the payoff could be impressive. For example, the only financial brand with a Google gadget is Quicken Loans <quickenloans.com> which posted an attractive rate tracker and payment calculator (see inset). Although its gadget had only 7,000 pageviews last week, that's still 350,000 annualized. An impressive return for a trivial programming expense.

Table 1: Most popular Google Gadgets across all categories

More than 100 million
131 million >>> Date & Time (only "default" gadget on Google's personalized start page)

More than 10 million
39 million >>>> Driving directions
27 million >>>> Daily horoscopes
27 million >>>> Wikipedia
14 million >>>> Word of the day
13 million >>>> Dictionary.com

More than 5 million
9.5 million >>> Search YouTube
8.9 million >>> Current moon phase
8.1 million >>> PacMan v2.0
6.2 million >>> NASA image of the day
5.5 million >>> Babelfish

More than 2 million
4.9 million >>> Google Maps
4.5 million >>> Free Sudoku puzzles
3.6 million >>> Art of the Day
3.4 million >>> Bible verse of the day
3.2 million >>> DIGG viewer (posted by Digg.com)
3.0 million >>> Simple calc
2.9 million >>> World clocks 
2.8 million >>> Currency converter
2.7 million >>> IP address lookup
2.6 million >>> Hangman (word game)
2.4 million >>> National Geographic photo of the day
2.4 million >>> Calendar
2.2 million >>> My webcam
2.1 million >>> Famous optical illusions
2.1 million >>> Countdown

More than 1 million
1.9 million >>> Crossword of the day
1.9 million >>> Free text messages
1.7 million >>> Interesting photos of the day
1.6 million >>> A joke a day
1.6 million >>> To do
1.6 million >>> Local NWS radar
1.5 million >>> Google docs and spreadsheets
1.5 million >>> This day in history
1.4 million >>> Mighty optical illusions
1.4 million >>> Romantic quote of the day
1.4 million >>> Your daily horoscope
1.3 million >>> Local gas prices
1.3 million >>> Search eBay
1.3 million >>> Spellcheck
1.2 million >>> Brain teasers
1.2 million >>> US Traffic info
1.2 million >>> My Google groups
1.1 million >>> Weather by Weather.com
1.1 million >>> My IP
1.1 million >>> Today in history
1.1 million >>> Terror alert level
1.1 million >>> Braingle – daily brain teaser
1.0 million >>> Frogger
1.0 million >>> Yahoo mail

Table 2: Most popular Google gadgets in the Finance category

2.8 million >>> Currency converter (pixelmedia.nl)
910,000 >>> Stock portfolio
800,000 >>> Currency converter (donalobrien.net)
500,000 >>> Loan calculator
300,000 >>> Stockchart
270,000 >>> Currency converter (ac-markets.com)
210,000 >>> Crude oil watch
160,000 >>> Bombay stock exchange
120,000 >>> Mortgage rate watch
110,000 >>> Live gold

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Source: Online Banking Report search at Google, 1 March 2007

Notes:

1. We looked at traffic levels of the first 264 gadgets listed under "popular" at Google's gadget directory: http://www.google.com/ig/directory?synd=open&source=gpvl&num=24&cat=finance

2. Google's explanation of the pageview count:

Gadget pageview statistics are approximate only– for precise statistics, we recommend the use of Google Analytics inside your gadgets. Gadget pageviews represent the number of times that the gadget was rendered, including Google Personalized Homepage, Google Pages, Blogger, Google Desktop, and across thousands of independent pages around the web.

3. For more information on the broader subject of delivering financial services direct to the user's desktop, see our Online Banking Report #85, Grabbing Desktop Mindshare, which is a bit outdated, published in 2002, but still worth a look.