FinovateSpring Sneak Peek: U.S. Bank

A look at the companies demoing live at FinovateSpring on May 8 through 10, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Register today and save your spot.

U.S. Bank, the fifth-largest commercial bank in the U.S., provides mobile and online tools that allow customers to bank how, when, and where they prefer.


  • U.S. Bank is changing the game for corporate travel and expense management
  • First-to-market technology
  • Customer-centric approach delivers a better experience for travelers and travel managers

Why it’s great

U.S. Bank is radically changing the way organizations manage business travel and expense management through this ground-breaking technology.


Bradley Matthews, SVP & Head of Middle Market Product, Partners and Marketing

Matthews is a seasoned financial services executive with a stellar record in strategy and new product development, and a distinct background in robotics and artificial intelligence.

Tory Passons, VP & Group Product Manager

Passons is an experienced business executive with a diverse background and proven track record in developing new partnerships and product technologies.

US Bank’s Way-Too-Long Customer Survey


A few months ago I received an email (above) from US Bank where I’m a long, long-time customer. It was a simple request for my opinion on the bank’s products and services. I was slightly put off by the wordy intro, which concluded with a 31-word sentence telling me how important my opinion was. But that’s just the editor in me. As I was about to press the Begin Survey button, I noticed that I was about to enter a 25-minute questionnaire hell. That was all I needed to know, I left it undone and went on to other things.

Twenty-five minutes! That’s just too long for any normal customer. Ideally, keep online surveys to 5 minutes at most or you risk losing the attention and thoughtful answers of your respondents. If you really need a half-hour of your customers’ time, provide some type of thank-you gift, even if it’s just a chance to win $500. Otherwise it’s almost insulting to ask for that much time with no reciprocation.

Bottom line: While you are not going to lose customers with a lengthy survey, you probably won’t get valid results due to so many dropouts. But you most certainly will irritate a good portion of the recipients. Don’t do it.


Mobile: One-Size-Fits-All vs. Niche Banking Apps

us bank itunes iphone apps

US Bank’s iOS app lineup 


Early on in the smartphone era there was a debate as to whether native apps or the mobile web would carry the day. As an early iPhone user, I was solidly in the native apps camp. Some day there will be a better interface, but until then it’s an app world (though not every headline writer agrees). And now the question for financial institutions is not whether you need a native app, it’s how many do you need?

Until recently, most financial institutions hoped to have a one-size-fits-all mobile app, just like on the desktop. That’s the option that lowers development costs, simplifies tech support, and makes digital banking easier to manage. But since most financial institutions serve many customer segments, bundling too many features into one UI really gums up the overall experience.

So we are seeing more and more financial companies developing multiple native apps to support distinct business groups, customer segments, and even charitable activities. The most prolific? US Bancorp with 43 iOS apps alone, 28 of which are white-labeled for its affinity credit-card customers (see screenshot above).

Delving deeper, let’s look at the 25 most-popular free finance apps in the U.S. Apple App Store (data is from mid-March, when I started this post). The 13 financial institutions in that group have a combined 123 apps, for an average of nearly 10 per bank. However, excluding US Bank’s 28 white-label apps, the total is 93, or 7.2 per FI.

Bottom line: You may not need 7 or 8 apps, but it’s clear that multiple apps optimized for individual use have an advantage in usability and focus (ROI is a much more difficult question of course). In addition to a core mobile-banking app, most mid-size and larger FIs should evaluate dedicated apps for the following segments:

  • Youth
  • Small businesses
  • Mobile wallet/cards (credit/debit/prepaid)
  • Saving/budgeting/personal finance
  • Home buyers/mortgage/home equity
  • Car buying/auto loans
  • College financing/student loans
  • Retirement/wealth management/investing
  • Optional: Insurance, HSA, any other stand-alone business line


Table: Number of iOS apps per financial services provider

Banks & Card Issuers: Total of 123 apps across 13 financial institutions

  • US Bank: 43 (14 branded, 28 white-labeled affinity partners, 1 nonprofit)
  • PNC Bank: 14 (all branded)
  • Chase: 11 (6 Chase branded, 5 JPMorgan branded)
  • American Express: 10 (8 branded, Plenti, Expert Care)
  • Citibank: 10 (all branded)
  • Bank of America: 9 (4 BofA branded, 5 Merrill Lynch branded)
  • Capital One: 8 (7 branded, 1 CreditWise)
  • Wells Fargo: 5 (all branded)
  • TD Bank: 3 (all branded)
  • Discover: 3 (1 branded, 2 Diners Club)
  • Navy FCU: 2 (all branded)
  • BB&T: 2 (all branded)
  • USAA: 2 (1 branded, Savings Coach)

Payments: 15 apps across 4 companies

  • PayPal: 9 (7 branded, Venmo, Xoom)
  • Square: 4 (all branded)
  • Western Union: 1
  • Google Wallet: 1

Insurance: 2 apps from 2 companies

  • Progressive: 1
  • Geico: 1

Personal finance/investing: 18 apps across 6 companies

  • Intuit: 13 (12 branded, Mint)
  • Credit Karma: 1
  • Digit: 1
  • Acorns: 1
  • Prosper: 1
  • Robinhood: 1

Mobile Monday: Communicating Critical App Updates via Email



       Email from US Bank to mobile banking customers (12 Nov 2015)

Last week I wrote about how much I liked US Bank’s new native app. So I understand why the bank is anxious to get users ported over to the new version. Customers are going to like it. Guaranteed.

Yet I was a little surprised, just a week into the new version, to receive an email warning that the previous app was about to stop working (see message above). This urgency makes customers question whether something is seriously wrong with the previous version. The message is also annoying in that it doesn’t really give the customer any clue as to whether their version is the current one, or not. It provides only the version number (2.1.76) which is the cut-off between good and bad apps.

This message offers so many opportunities to improve that I was compelled to compile a top-10 list of gripes (plus 2 bonus nitpicks). They are listed, more or less, in priority order:

  1. I had already updated to the new version, so this message was completely unnecessary. And if the bank doesn’t know which version I’m using, it should say so.
  2. There is no explanation of why it was suddenly so urgent to upgrade. Skeptical users were left to their imaginations, not something you want in these days of widely publicized security breaches.
  3. usbank_appversionnumberInstead of talking about version numbers, why not just describe the new app? It looks completely different! A quick description and screenshot would have been understood by 90% of the readers, and would have allowed users to move on with their day, rather than having to engage in a tedious “find the version-number hunt.”
  4. If you must use a version number, then at least explain how to find it. The email failed to address that key point in the body, fine print, or within any links provided within the message. It’s not that simple to find the version number. You must log in, find the hidden primary navigation, choose “About the App” and notice the version number in the lower right corner (see inset). 
  5. If you are going to make such a big change, use a whole number for the new version of your app. In this case, it would be easier to say, “Use v3.0 or later.” 
  6. The links provided to update the app did not go to the iTunes app-update page, but instead went to a marketing page at And the marketing pages, while well done, also did NOT link to the app store’s update pages. In fact, to confuse things still further, the marketing page said the new version “was coming soon.”
  7. The only way to get help was to make a phone call to the general 800 number; no direct line to tech support was given. And not even an FAQ page, email address, chat, or any other type of digital link was provided for help in responding to this matter.
  8. The email message was not optimized for mobile. It was hard to read on my iPhone 6.
  9. It does not specifically address what happens if you don’t update within the next few days; “discontinuing support” has a number of meanings from simply not getting tech support to completely not working.
  10. The bank’s message concluded with thanks for being a mobile banking customer, but they could have also thanked me for taking time out of my day to deal with this “Maintain access … update now” emergency subject line in my inbox.
  11. <Nitpick #1> The first sentence of the second paragraph uses “new” three times.
  12. <Nitpick #2> The closing sentence repeats the “enhanced convenience” copy point. This is a generic benefit at best and shouldn’t be invoked twice in a 150-word message. The resulting inconvenience to update makes their value judgment of questionable importance.

Bottom line: Customer communications are not easy, especially with newer technology. So make sure to test them with some less-savvy users before hitting publish.

Mobile UI: US Bank Tackles New Navigation Conventions


As I was taking a tour of US Bank’s gorgeous new mobile app (above), I was reminded of an ongoing problem in mobile UI, lack of navigational consistency. For anyone over 30, you’ve seen this play out before. It took nearly a decade (1995 to early 2000’s) for websites, especially in financial services, to conform to pretty straightforward navigation conventions (tabs on top, login in upper right, etc.).

usbank_previousWhile responsive design—one website for desktop and mobile—has made things a little less standardized, desktop browser navigation is still pretty easy to figure out. And there’s always the back button to get you out of a jam.

Not so on smartphones. First-generation mobile banking UIs generally used the bottom of the screen to showcase 3 or 4 navigational choices, often with a More button to expand the choices. This worked OK since early apps usually had limited functions.

But as banks redesign their apps to a more modern esthetic, the bottom navigation bar is disappearing. That looks great, but how do users find key functions?

That brings me back to US Bank’s new app. When I finished admiring its newly sleek design, I was momentarily thrown for a loop on how to get out of the main page. The familiar buttons at the bottom were gone (see older screenshot right). And initially I didn’t see the “hamburger menu” in the upper left corner—a stacked column of three bars (upper left), or a stack of small dots (following line items)—which have recently become fairly common design conventions.

usbank_nav_closeupusbank_mobile_nav_optionsSo it turns out that US Bank has located navigation options in two spots, neither particularly easy to see on a phone.

(1) The hamburger menu is there in the upper left, but it’s small and looks like it’s part of the logo (see screenshot at left and closeup at right)
(2) The smaller context-sensitive menus are positioned directly to the right of each account. Deposit accounts have three navigation choices (Pay/Send, Transfer Money, Deposit)

Bottom line: US Bank has delivered what may well be the best looking big-bank mobile app yet, at least in the United States. It is also packed with new features such as no-login balance inquiry and customizations. So kudos to the team at US Bank, which also led the pack on desktop UI more than a decade ago!

That said, the almost-hidden primary navigation is a case of the design getting slightly ahead of its users. While users may soon get used to the new nav links, I recommend a few adjustments in the meantime:

  1. Add navigation instructions to the “feature tour” when users open the app for the first time.
  2. Make the hamburger menu stand on its own by increasing its size and placing it away from the US Bank logo (below the logo, or in the upper right which is wide open).
  3. Consider adding the word “menu” below it for a few months, at least until users get the hang of it.


Update 16 Nov 2015: Digital design guru Jakob Nielsen just published an overview of mobile navigation echoing our concerns with the hamburger menus.

US Bank Adds “Thank a Banker” to Homepage

usbank_thankabanker_boxUS Bank has been on a roll lately, appearing in our blog more times this summer than in the previous three years. Its latest novelty? A unique “thank a banker” function, complete with smiley face emoji, prominently located at the bottom-middle of homepage (below the fold on my 13-inch laptop). It’s shown to both customers and non-customers.

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I don’t see the harm, it would seem to be a fairly low-usage feature to warrant homepage real estate. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. It’s great brand positioning, essentially saying, ‘Hey, look. we aren’t one of those impersonal banks. Our customers love us so much we have to put a box on our homepage to collect all the compliments.’

And then if anyone actually does use it, the bank gets a stream of attaboy/girls to send out to staff. Clever. Hopefully, the bank sends the customer a nice thank-you email (I hadn’t received one 30 minutes after submitting form).

The website function is outsourced to an employee-recognition specialist, OC Tanner. An URL is displayed to US Bank customers as they fill out the 13-field form, a hefty 9 of which are required fields (see second screenshot below).


More importantly, I like the Labor Day loan sale at the top of the US Bank homepage (see below). It’s traditionally a big car-buying weekend, so it’s a great time to promote vehicle lending, especially with the still ridiculously low APRs available here.


US Bank homepage (3 Sep 2015, 10:00 a.m. Pacific):


US Bank “thank-a-banker” form (link):




Design: Creating Online Awareness of Digital Banking

design_iconThere is only one reason I visit a bank’s website: to learn about its online and/or mobile banking features. Granted, understanding digital banking is my livelihood. But normal people looking for a new checking account, credit card or loan also need to understand digital capabilities. Even for those that need the comfort of knowing there’s a branch nearby, online/mobile is still a key attribute for the vast majority of consumers, and businesses, shopping for banks.

So I don’t understand why digital features are often relegated to a sub-menu buried in the Personal Banking section. Of the 10 largest U.S. retail banks, only two, US Bank and BB&T, feature online banking in high-level navigation. This is little changed from our mid-2013 overview.

My favorite among the mega-banks (again) is US Bank, which highlights digital on the upper left and uses both “online” and “mobile” in the navigation tab:


placement also works with “Online Services” on the far right of the top line. While that naming is okay, it would be better to see “mobile” mentioned. So, I’d recommend changing it to “Online & Mobile,” which is the same number of characters.

Plenty of smaller banks and credit unions are already showcasing their digital features. For example, San Diego County Credit Union uses “Online & Mobile Banking” along its top navigation.


Image licensed from

FinDesign: Making it Easy for Visitors to Find Online/Mobile Banking Features

image I know our readers have passed graduate level coursework in digital banking. But sometimes, even the PhD candidates need a refresher in the basics. Here’s a fundamental that too many financial institutions neglect:

Make it super easy for visitors (non-customers especially) to find information about online and mobile banking

Just about every bank has an obvious login button in the top-right or top-left corners (or Chase who has it plastered in the middle). That’s fine for existing customers. But what about those simply shopping banks? You would think that online/mobile capabilities are pretty important to someone checking you out online!

The big-four U.S. banks do a good job exposing online and mobile features. Citibank is especially focused with its “bank online….make memories offline” tagline mid-page (screenshot below).

But finding the online banking features often requires menu hunting (see BofA, Chase, and Wells below) and/or promotion scanning (see Citibank, Wells and Atlantic Regional FCU below). And sometimes, it’s below the fold (Sterling Bank, BECU) or a screen away (see Comerica below).

Bottom line: You don’t want to get too cute with the fundamentals. That’s why we like the direct approach of both U.S. Bank and Bank of American Fork who position Online Banking as the first tab in their primary navigation (screenshots below). Alternatively, startups Moven and Simple use page-dominating screenshots of their mobile app to position themselves with mobile bankers (see below).


Bank of American Fork
No, that’s not a typo. This community bank blankets American Fork, Utah, with its 13 branches. It places online banking in its own tab, plus it launches a huge mega-menu detailing all the personal and business online and mobile features. (Plus it has cookies, the kind you eat, in one of the four rotating promotions).


US Bank
US Bank is the only one with an “online banking” tab. And it’s positioned in the pole position. Mobile banking is listed in the mega-menu.


The big 4 (alpha order)

Bank of America
While it’s not in the main tab, both online and mobile are mentioned on mega-menu displayed when you hover over the “Bank” tab. And there is an online banking promo in the lower left.


Similar approach to Bank of America. However, online and mobile are buried pretty far down the popup mega-menu.


Citi does not beat around the bush. Their entire homepage is devoted to driving users to online banking (first screenshot). And those that launch the mega-menu, see online banking, billpay & Popmoney at the top (second screenshot). However, the bank has no mention of “mobile” anywhere.



Wells Fargo
Online & mobile have the top position under “Banking” on the homepage. In addition, there are promotions and links scattered about the homepage.


Other examples

Atlantic Regional Federal Credit Union (link)
If you don’t have online banking in the main nav, you need to compensate elsewhere. Atlantic Regional’s BancVue-designed site uses the fashionable full-page graphic to draw attention to its four rotating promotions. Number 2 leads shown below leads directly to online banking info. The CU is also running a mobile banking announcement across the top of the page.


Bank Simple
Simple turns the double-play with an excellent welcome video and a snazzy shot of its iPhone app in action.


Moven Bank
Moven is all about the mobile, and visitors can’t miss that with the page-dominating visual.


The bank currently has no mention of online banking on its homepage. However, once a visitor goes to the Personal or Small Business page, it is listed on the drop-down mega-menu.



Note: We cover financial website and mobile design issues periodically in our Online Banking Report (subscription).

Holiday Website Promos at the Top-20 Banks

In my annual look at holiday offerings from major banks, I found that Scrooge still roams the halls at many of the big names. Only eight of the 20 largest U.S. banks are using holiday-themed promotions or graphics (note 1). That’s one more than last year, but still two less than 2010.

As usual, PNC Bank is the exception with their two-decade long holiday CPI (Christmas present index). BB&T, Comerica and Fifth Third are also festive this year with gift card promotions supported by seasonal graphics. And US Bank, Citi, Key and Regions Bank used some holiday imagery.   

The scrooge list: top-20 banks with no holiday promotions or graphics on Dec. 20): 
Bank of America, Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Capital One, Chase, Citizens (RBS), Harris Bank (BMO), HSBC, ING Direct (Capital One), SunTrust, TD Bank, Union Bank (Mitsubishi UFJ), Wells Fargo

Following is a quick overview of the promotions, including a 1-to 5-bulb rating.

Previous year-end holiday posts: 2011 (big banks), 2011 (CUs/community banks), 2009 part 1, 2009 part 2, 2007, 2006, 2006, 2004


Big banks in the holiday spirit
(rated 1 to 5 bulbs; screenshots from Thursday, Dec 20)

PNC Bank

  • Gift Hunt tied to its Christmas CPI (based on the song 12 Days of Christmas)
  • Visa Gift Card promo (in rotation of four homepage promotions)

Score: imageimageimageimageimage

Hompage: PNC is leading with its 12 days of Christmas price index


PNC Bank microsite with gift hunt link


Also running gift card promo in rotation


BB&T (20 Dec 2012)

  • Holiday themed graphic featuring mobile check deposit
  • Small ad for gift cards




Fifth Third

  • Rotation of three holiday themed promotions
    — Holiday billpay sweeps
    — New Years savings pro
    — Gift cards





  • Prominent gift card promo across page and in lower-left corner




Key Bank

  • Holiday graphic, but no product promotion





  • Toy shopping background image




US Bank

  • Pitch for online banking, convenient while shopping



Regions Bank

  • Small saving money tips




1. Observations taken between 2pm and 3pm Pacific on Thurs Dec 20 from Seattle IP address, Chrome browser with no cookies
2. Animation from

Everbank Takes Gold in Change Sciences Ranking of Small Biz Banking Online Sales, BB&T is Runner-up

Small Biz Banking Ranking from Change SciencesI’ve had a consumer account at Everbank since shortly after it launched in 1998. And I’ve continued to be a fan, both of the bank, and of its co-founder and product-guru Rob Foregger’s subsequent work at Personal Capital and others. But I hadn’t realized that Everbank excelled on the small biz side.

Change Sciences, which quantifies and compares bank user experience in various verticals, ranked Everbank #1 in its just-published report (subscription) on online sales of small-business banking services.

As you can see from the methodology below, Change Sciences is looking at the discovery and sales process for small biz banking, not the actual online banking experience itself.

Everbank took first by a solid 3-point margin over runner-up BB&T. Most of the big banks were bunched just below BB&T. PNC Bank and US Bank were just a point lower and BofA was just two points lower. SunTrust and Wells also finished four points under BB&T.


Everbank offers an extensive menu of business benefits via mouseover dropdown menu (6 Aug 2012)



Note: Change Sciences methodology (from its website)

Each site is evaluated (via desktop browser) against a series of criteria by a Change Sciences analyst. The analyst reviews pages and screens that are part of a critical user task. As the tasks are evaluated, the analyst does three things:
• Looks for predefined user-experience characteristics and features.
• Evaluates the page for ease of use or usability, and applies heuristics accordingly.
• Looks for unexpected enhancements, which we call pleasant surprises.

Tasks evaluated:
• Getting a first impression
• Learning about the bank’s approach to its small-business customers
• Finding out about checking and lending products
• Learning about online banking
• Getting to apply options

US Bank Adds Debit Card Section to Online Banking

imageUS Bank, which has been busy building new online features of late, recently (note 1) added a debit card section to its online banking site. The new Check Cards & ATM Cards section is displayed on the default Your Accounts main page (see first screenshot). 

Clicking on the debit card name takes users to an info page which outlines debit card withdrawal and purchase limits along with the accounts accessible through the card. I’ve banked there for 20 years and today is the first time I’ve ever known my daily limits.

The bank included embedded “help” bubbles around some of the key terms. But there are no direct links that explain the options or how to alter them (e.g., request an increase to my daily limit). 

Bottom line: Treating debit cards like their own “product” makes good strategic sense. Users benefit from the added transparency, and it helps position the card as a value-add, something that could even support fees for premium options (e.g., a higher withdrawal limit, rewards, multi-account access, etc.). 


US Bank’s main online banking view now includes a debit card section (2 Aug 2012)

US Bank online banking features a debit card section

Users can click through to see the specific limits associated with the debit card
Note: On the right, the bank upsells Visa Money Transfer, a $1.95 per transaction P2P payment option

US Bank debit card info box


1. I’m not sure when it was added, but today was the first time I noticed it.