Great PR: Fast Company’s "One Bank to Love," Triodos Bank

imageOne magazine I always look forward to receiving is Fast Company, not only do they love the same companies as we, but their pages are chock full of ideas and real-world case studies. I find something inspiring in every issue.

But I was surprised to spot (April issue) this headline in the upper-left corner of the cover —

One Bank to Love

— and immediately thought of Vancity. But the object of Fast Company’s affection this month was Triodos Bank, a Dutch bank founded in 1980 (company timeline) with a mission similar to my Vancity friends in Vancouver. Wikipedia says Triodos is a pioneer in ethical banking and that it “lends only to companies and nonprofits with social or ecological benefits.”

image And to prove that they follow this mantra, Triodos maintains an open database of the organizations it lends to. You can search by country and sector, or narrow your search to specific topics such as “wind farms” (see UK results below).

Search results at Triodos Bank UK for “wind farms” (link, 24 March 2010)


Relevance to Netbankers
While many negative stories have yet to run, the tide may be about to turn. The press will increasingly be looking for positive stories where banks and credit unions are helping customers and small businesses flourish. You can help by identifying individual success stories within your customer base.

Or go full bore with a searchable database of your commercial loan customers, especially those in nonprofit sectors. Naturally, this requires written consent from your clients, but if there’s something in it for them (e.g., free publicity), you should get quite a few takers.

If that’s a little too open, you could anonymously map commercial loan recipients (similar to the screenshot above). That would demonstrate your involvement in various communities/neighborhoods without a lengthy consent process. 

Future Friday: Verity Credit Union’s Earth Day Tie-in

It's quite likely that energy consumption and environmental issues will grow in importance over the remainder of this decade and well into the next one. Financial institutions can play a positive role in promoting environmental causes both by their actions, such as Vancity's pledge to be carbon neutral by 2010, and by offering products that reduce paper consumption, such as eStatements and electronic payments (note 1). 

Seattle's Verity Credit Union <> demonstrates another approach: offering an environmentally friendly premium for home equity applicants. The free compact fluorescent light bulbs are relatively low-cost but have a lasting value to the customer. Finally, the credit union wraps it all up neatly with a tie-in to the upcoming Earth Day (see homepage screenshot below and note 2).

Verity Credit Union homepage


1. Because saving paper also saves the bank money, be just a bit careful that you don't come off as overly self-serving when promoting estatement options. Passing on some of the savings to the end-user and/or donating a portion of the savings to a good cause, could ease any criticism you might get.

2. The Earth Day promotion was one of five promotions offered in the main ad box, accessed via a Seattle IP address at 4 PM April 20, 2007.   

Online Banking and Marketing Statistics from Net.Finance

Net.Finance 20007 landing page Since I'm a numbers junkie, whenever I'm at a conference, I try to note as many meaningful statistics as possible. By meaningful, I mean a number that provides an outsider with some insight into the business. Merely saying, "we beat our expectations by 63%" does NOT qualify, unless the speaker also shared their expectations. 

The flow of numbers was about a bit below average during the three days I attended Net.Finance, but the two professional researchers on the agenda, Jim Van Dyke of Javelin Strategy and Asaf Buchner of Jupiter Research, delivered slides chock full of statistics. I will check with them to see if they are willing to share with our readers. 

Here's some of the nuggets buried in the presentations from the other experts on stage: 

Most Eye-Opening Stat

  • Link to Prosper homepageDuring the past 14 months, more than 280,000 messages have been posted on the discussion forum, according to CEO Chris Larsen (see here for Colin Henderson's complete notes on this session).

    My take: That's an amazing level of consumer engagement with the new lending platform. To put that in perspective, Wells Fargo's Student Loandown blog has received 98 total comments during its eight months online.

Best Stat to Drop in a Business Case:

  • Link to VerityCU homepageShari Storm, CMO, Verity Credit Union, said that 1% of its new members named the blog when asked how they heard about Verity; the new members had an average of 2.7 accounts with $9,000 in deposits and $11,500 in loans (excluding mortgage); furthermore, the CU's blog, launched in Dec. 2004, now has 1,000 readers (see here for Colin Henderson's complete notes on this session)

    My take: While I don't recommend trying to turn this single data point into an ROI calculation, it's the first time I've heard a financial exec say something about blogging that the finance folks will appreciate (chalk up another first for Verity).

Stat that Most Contradicts My Previous Position:

  • Link to Vancity's changeeverything blogVancity's blog, launched commercially in Sept 2006, now has 1,000 registered users who've generated more than 2,000 blog entries and comments; in total, the site has had 45,000 unique visitors according to William Azaroff, Interactive Marketing Manager (see here for Colin Henderson's complete notes on this session)

    My take: Despite my reservations about whether it would gain traction without a financial services perspective (see our Online Banking Report on Bank 2.0 here), Vancity's unique blog has gained a small, but growing, worldwide following, and, more importantly, has contributed measurably to Vancity's efforts to help its community and create positive brand positioning for the CU. Nice work.  


  • Key Bank's most popular podcast, top stock picks by John Caldwell, has recorded 70,000 visits and 12,000 unique users, according to Interactive Marketing Manager Mickey Mencin
  • Colin Henderson, BankWatch blogger and former BMO exec, mentioned that 39% of Canadians are now reading blogs 

Online Marketing:

  • Colin Henderson also cited Forrester findings that 50% of recent financial buyers did 100% of their research online; 30% performed both on- and offline research; and just 20% conducted all the research offline. In Citibank's late 2005 new checking account promotion, the bank gave away 275,000 iPods, according to Charles DeFelice, SVP customer information environment (it wasn't specified if this was the POTENTIAL or ACTUAL number given away, since consumers had to follow through with a number of electronic activities over a period of months in order to qualify for the freebie
  • Jon Kaplan, head of Google's financial services group, said that 60% of Google users have a personalized (Google) page and that 20% of Google search volume originates from these pages
  • GE Money's SVP of Strategy Vincenzo Picone said the company has 300 million customers with $190 billion in assets across 54 countries which led to a net profit of $3.5 billion in 2006; the company has 2010 targets for 300 million unique visitors; $20 billion in online originations and 1 billion transactions via the online and mobile channel
  • U.K.'s Lloyds TSB experienced a 71% revenue lift (against a control) on its homepage by implementing Touch Clarity's (now Omniture) targeted ad server which uses a number of variables to determine which ads should be shown to an individual visitor; according to Omniture's Brent Hieggelke who showed results from a case study presented by Lloyds TSB at a recent conference

Mobile Banking:

  • Jennifer Vos, director of Citi Mobile, Citibank's new mobile banking service, said that one-third of current Citi customers have input mobile phone numbers into the bank's alert system; furthermore, the new mobile offering was piloted by 100 employees, who have recently been joined by another hundred users in the southern California market

Small Business Banking:

  • Wells Fargo has 150,000 "very active" small-business online banking users according to Eskander Matta, SVP of internet services group; businesses are making $45 million in payments per month with the bank's DirectPay servic
    e launched just a year ago


  • 94% of ING Direct's customers would recommend it to a friend, according to John Owens, Head of Marketing

Online Banking:

  • Customer satisfaction in online banking, while on the rise, still trails online retailing by five percentage points, 78% vs. 83%, according to Larry Freed, CEO Foresee Results