Wells Fargo is Second Online Personal Finance Provider to Join the 1-million Club

imageIn April, we reported on the robust adoption of Bank of America's online personal finance manager, My Portfolio (see note 1), used by 10% of the bank's 25 million online bankers. The results are especially impressive given that it's a full-featured module accessible via online banking, but not particularly well integrated.

imageIn comparison, Wells Fargo offers a completely integrated PFM tool, My Spending Report, that's extremely simple to use, but offers limited functionality. On Oct. 29, the bank made an important improvement, adding a basic budgeting tool, Budget Watch, to what had been essentially a list of transactions divided by category.

The bank told me last week they have 1 million monthly users, making it the second online PFM provider to break the 1-million mark (after BofA). Wells has about 15% of its online banking base (note 2) using the tool, a slightly higher penetration than BofA. Again, not surprising considering how well it is integrated. The budget tools should boost penetration.

Who'll be the next one to join the 1-million club? Mint, with about 500,000 users in its first 15 months in business, is headed that way, possibly as early as late next year.  Chase/WaMu could get there in a few weeks, if they added online personal finance to their feature set. Quicken Online, now that it's free, should get there relatively quickly as well.

Note:
1. BofA's My Portfolio is powered by Yodlee.

2. Excluding Wachovia accounts.

Wells Fargo Uses Splash Screen After Login to Reinforce Safety & Soundness

image The best time to get your customer's attention is right after they log in to look at their account. That's why login-screen marketing should be in your mix (see previous coverage). But, your message is not necessarily welcome at that point, so it's a marketing option best used judiciously.

Wells Fargo makes good use of the technique this month with an open letter from CEO John Stumpf. It's been a while since I logged in to my Wells Fargo account, so I'm not sure it was posted. But it carries an October date, so it was probably later in the month after Wells Fargo prevailed in its bid to buy Wachovia.  

Many financial institutions have posted we-are-still-going-strong messages during the past few months. The Wells Fargo message isn't particularly noteworthy, other than they don't beat around the bush asking, then answering, the question:

What does (the Wachovia acquisition) mean to me as a Wells Fargo customer?

Wells Fargo splash screen displayed immediately after logging in (10 Nov 2008)

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Login, Logoff Marketing Messages from Bank of America, PayPal, US Bank, WaMu and Wells Fargo

image After returning from some R&R in Iowa and Kansas, I logged into my banking and credit card accounts to see what I'd forgotten to attend to before leaving town. Luckily, everything seemed in order this time.

Always on the lookout for online marketing examples, I thought it would be  interesting to compare and contrast the marketing messages presented to users as they logged in and logged out of five major banking sites. 

  • Bank of America (business and personal credit cards): BofA typically has a marketing message at login and logoff.
    Login  The bank's brokerage division is pitching free Morningstar mutual fund research. I haven't seen this one before, and it seems a bit wordy, so it may be the first time for this offer (see screenshot #1 below)
    Logout  A pitch for a cash-back business credit card. It's a good offer, but perplexing, given that I already have a business and personal card with BofA. Not sure why they want me to have three (screenshot #2).
  • PayPal (verified account): PayPal has used log-in splash-screens almost since it began in 1999 with a mix of marketing and service messages. But they don't overuse the technique, so it's noticeable when they have a new splash-screen running.
    Login  No marketing, just direct entry to main screen
    Logout  No marketing, just a landing at the usual PayPal merchant emporium (screenshot #3)
  • US Bank (multiple accounts): I don't think I've ever seen a marketing message from US Bank at login or logoff. I believe I've seen a service message at login a few times over the years, but it's extremely rare.
    Login  No marketing, just dropped on main account page as usual
    Logout  No marketing, just a brief "you've been logged out" message
  • WaMu (business checking): I've had the account only a few months, but WaMu has frequently posted marketing messages at login, and they've been relatively creative, as you'd expect.
    Login  Pitching its WaMu Live concert promotion which provides exclusive access to summer events to WaMu credit and debit card holders (screenshot #4). 
    Logout  No marketing, just a solid recap of security precautions, a good message to leave with online banking users (screenshot #5).
  • Wells Fargo (credit card): Wells uses marketing messages frequently at both login and logout.
    Login  Electronic statement (paper turnoff), something I've not done yet (screenshot #6).
    Logoff  Home equity loans (screenshot #7)

What's Innovative?
There wasn't anything particularly enlightening in these examples. The WaMu Live pitch was the only truly unique message. For the most part, they were typical, well-crafted marketing messages you'd expect from these major players. That's fine now, since most customers don't yet have "banner fatigue" at their online banking site. But going forward, the messages will need to be more targeted and more interesting to get attention and action from jaded online users.

The other issue is frequency. You'll figure this out through testing, but there's a line you don't want to cross where a splash-screen message presented at every login ceases to be effective and is just plain annoying.

Finally, for financial institutions, such as US Bank, still not using this login real estate for sales messages, your customers thank you; however, quick-loading, targeted messaging, used with discretion, should benefit your bottom line.   

1. Bank of America login screen for business-credit-card only account (1 Aug 2008)image

2. Bank of America logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

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3. PayPal logout (1 Aug 2008)

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4. WaMu login screen (31 July 2008)image 

5. WaMu logout screen (1 August 2008)image

6. Wells Fargo login splash screen (1 Aug 2008)

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7. Wells Fargo logoff screen (1 Aug 2008)

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Snack-Sized Innovation: Safe Deposit Box Content Archives

image I heard from a new company last week that has created a service to help life insurance and bank-account holders to notify beneficiaries periodically that they are named on the account. According to FindYourPolicy.com (see screenshot below), $1 billion in insurance policies go unclaimed each year due to unknown or lost beneficiaries. Although it sounds simple, tracking down beneficiaries can be a timely and expensive process. Outsourcing some or all of that is an appealing idea.

However, as a consumer-direct service, I don’t think FindYourPolicy.com will get a lot of traction. The list price of $29.95 plus $3.95 per month is a lot for twice-yearly postcards (see note 1) to your beneficiaries. But the company is likely more interested in setting a high retail “value” on the service so they can wholesale it to financial institutions for pennies on the dollar.

Using the same concept for safe deposit boxes
While the beneficiary notification is an idea deserving of a second look, I was more intrigued with another of its features, safe deposit documentation and notification service. I just spent 30 minutes last Friday making a trip to the bank to look in my safe deposit to see if my son’s social security card was there (note 2). Of course, it wasn’t. I could have saved the trip if I’d had good records on its contents. I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere, but it would likely take much longer than 30 minutes to find it.

Ideas to help memory-challenged customers like myself:

  • Simplest: It would be great if my bank had a simple email-like software app available near the safe-deposit area where I could list the contents of the box and then email the info to myself AND store a record of that communication within online banking so I could access it years from now when the email is long lost.
  • Harder: In addition to manually entering info, have a scanner available so that I can scan copies of the documents in the safe deposit box for a digital record.
  • Hardest: Extend the service to the home/office and allow me either to store items virtually, using my home/office scanner, or by uploading/emailing documents into the virtual safe-deposit box. This is the core idea behind vSafe from Wells Fargo.

However, as Tripp Johnson at Gonzobanker so eloquently laid out in this article, there are  serious questions regarding overall demand for virtual safe-deposit services, not to mention pesky compliance issues that cannot be ignored.  

FindYourPolicy.com homepage (29 May 2008; see note 3)

FindYourPolicy.com homepage

Note:

1. Why TWICE yearly? Once per year seems like plenty. Or how about one postcard and one email message each year? (Update 1 June: The reason for mailing 2x per year is that the U.S. Postal Service forwards mail only for six months, so with this frequency the company ensures it gets the forwarding address. (See comment #2 from Michael Hartmann of FindYourPolicy.com

2. My bank is requiring a faxed copy of my 18-year-old son’s social security card in order to add him to my account. I’m all for good authentication (who isn’t?), but that seems extreme. More on that in a future post. 

3. Sometime during the past 10 days, FindYourPolicy.com added the “member of American Bankers Association” seal. It’s a reasonable touch, but it only means they’ve paid at least $1,250 for a service membership to the ABA.

Wells Fargo Supports "Retire Secure" Radio Buy with Search Engine Marketing

image I don't know if Wells Fargo has saturated the entire Seattle market, or just the radio station I listen to, but I've heard its ad for a web-based retirement tool a dozen times in the past week or so.

I like the radio spot. It takes a complicated subject and creates interest by asking, "What is your RSI score?" Then, sending listeners to the Web to take the bank's Retire Secure Index test. It's interactive, it's timely and it makes good use of a multi-media approach. 

And Wells Fargo uses search engine marketing masterfully to ensure that interested prospects find their way to the bank's retirement landing page. The bank has purchased Google AdWords for various retirement terms (see first screenshot below) and created a unique landing page (second screenshot) and URL <wellsfargo.retiresecureindex.com> that has quickly moved to the top of the organic search results (see note 1).

Retirement tool
The tool itself is good. It's not easy to make a retirement savings worksheet compelling, but the bank does about as good a job as you can expect. After a 60-second intro by the friendly virtual spokeswomen (see second screenshot), the user completes a short form that takes about two minutes. The on-screen spokesperson talks you through it, but I tuned her out since it's relatively straightforward stuff (note 2). 

After a few seconds of calculation, and a clever drum roll, Wells delivers an RSI number (see third screenshot), which is the number of years you can maintain your desired income level after retiring. It's a good way to present the results, focusing on the positive. Users can go back and change the inputs or go into advanced mode to add home equity, business equity and/or part-time employment.

At the end, users are encouraged to contact the bank through a branch or toll-free telephone number to talk to an investment rep. There is also a link to open an IRA online. All in all, it's a good effort to engage users with a difficult topic.

Overall scores:

  • Radio advertising: A+
  • Search engine marketing: A
  • Retirement tool: B+
    Provide an option to continue without the virtual spokesperson (see note 3)

1. Google results for "wells fargo retire secure" (10 March 2008, noon)

Google results for "Wells Fargo retire secure"

 2. Wells Fargo Retire Secure Index Landing page

Wells Fargo Retire Secure index landing page

3. Call to action

Wells Fargo RSI score and call to action

Notes:
1. For more information on search engine marketing for financial institutions, see our latest Online Banking Report (here). 

2. The audio can be turned off, but the spokesperson cannot be made to sit down or go away (see note 3).

3. The first option on the original landing page is to choose "dial-up" or "high speed" versions of the tool. The dial-up version does away with the audio/video track and just presents the static form.

Scrooge Runs Bank Marketing at Most Large U.S. Banks


In our annual Christmas/New Years survey of bank websites (note 1), we once again find little use of holiday themes, especially among the very largest. Scrooge would be pleased with the homepages of the top four: Citi, BofA, Wachovia, and Chase which have no holiday images or messages.

Wells Fargo is the only top-5 bank with a holiday message. The bank wishes its customers Happy Holidays (see below) in a top-of-the-page banner rotating with two other messages: a savings promotion that also uses holiday imagery (below) and an investments banner (not shown). 

However, this year there is one top-20 bank fully embracing the holiday spirit. ING Direct homepage (screenshot above, download flash in note 2, below) features a full-screen animation that first strings Happy Holidays across the page followed by the ING Direct orange ball rolling across the screen, bumping into the tree trunk, and dumping a load of snow on top. It's very well done.   

Also, honorable mentions to:

  • Fifth Third and its $10,000 holiday sweeps
  • Regions Bank, which is running a Toys for Tots banner across the top
  • PNC with its annual tongue-in-cheek Christmas Price Index

Additionally, WaMu and Key Bank use winter imagery. And HSBC, US Bank, SunTrust, BB&T and Citizens are all running small banners for prepaid gift cards.

Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo homepage banner

Fifth Third

Regions

PNC                                                              WaMu

 

Key Bank

HSBC                          SunTrust            US Bank

      

Citizens Bank

BB&T


Note
:

1. Websites observed at 9 AM Pacific Time, Dec. 24, from a Seattle IP address.

2. View the ING Direct holiday animation (here)

Wells Fargo Launches CenterStage, a User-Generated Video Promotion

Tomorrow, Wells Fargo is expected to launch a user-generated video contest that will place the winning entry into a 30-sec commercial that plays during January's Rose Bowl, with an audience of 35 million or more. The winner will be chosen by public voting on the contest website. Entries are due by Nov. 26.

Although, this type of contest has been done before including last year's Super Bowl (see previous coverage of Intuit's TaxRap here and Lending Club here), it's the first time a major U.S. bank has launched such a high-profile effort. It should provide Wells with excellent publicity while supporting its social media and branding efforts.

The whole effort is first class, from the Center Stage website, to the pre-taped audio tracks in various genres, and the contest rules and prizes. And while the sample video's are cute, don't listen to them at bedtime. Trust me, you don't want "The Wells Fargo Wagon" running through your head as you try to get to sleep. 

Wells Fargo Pushes Mobile Banking on Logout Page

Just two days after announcing its browser-based (WAP) mobile banking service (press release here), it's already showing up in the bank's cross-marketing efforts. When I logged out of my Wells Fargo account this afternoon, I was greeted with this message:

Clicking on Sign Up Now takes you to this topnotch landing page (here). The Take a Tour button in the lower right triggers a short animated demo of the mobile service right on the landing page:

Wells Fargo landing page for mobile banking


Wells Fargo mobile banking login as displayed on Nokia N70Features

The bank is using a new, shortened URL, <wf.com> for mobile access, a huge keystroke advantage over <wellsfargo.com>. Both <wf.com> and <mobile.wellsfargo.com> go directly to a mobile phone-optimized secure sign-in page (see inset). The mobile service offers:

  • account balances for checking, savings, mortgage, home equity, brokerage, auto loan, student loan, and credit cards
  • transaction history
  • funds transfer between Wells Fargo accounts

 

Note:

1. An interesting side note to the announcement: The first result in a Google search for "wells fargo mobile" still leads to an August 2002 CNet story on Wells Fargo's decision to shutter its original mobile banking platform launched in 2001 (see inset).

Wells Fargo Confirms Tests of ClairMail’s SMS Banking System

CIO Insight recently published a long article called, Will Mobile Banking Take Off? Reporter Dan Briody discusses Wells Fargo's mobile efforts and how their implementation parallels the early days of online banking. Wells EVP Steve Smith is quoted at length.

There's not much new for anyone closely following the space; however, about two-thirds into the article, we discover Wells Fargo is testing SMS banking, using ClairMail as its service provider. Not a huge surprise, but it lays to rest the rumors.

With Bank of America, Citi, and Wachovia grabbing the headlines this year with mobile initiatives, Wells Fargo could create a buzz with an SMS offering by being the first major U.S. bank to go that route. Several weeks ago, Bank of Stockton became the first U.S. bank to align with ClairMail (link here).

On a personal note, I can't wait. The ever-diligent Wells Fargo fraud department, which must have my home phone number on speed dial, will hopefully start texting me when I use their card outside of Seattle, saving us both a lot of time and expense.

For more info see our Mobile Money and Payments report here.

Wells Fargo Continues its Social Media Innovation with a MySpace Page

Wells Fargo avatar on MySpace Wells Fargo marked the one-year anniversary of its first blog, Guided by History, with a Q&A today with the bank's Social Media VP, Ed Terpening. The post appeared in the the bank's Student LoanDown blog (post here), which just made it past the six-month mark. I've already weighed in on its blogging strategy (see previous coverage here), so I won't repeat myself.

The bank is experimenting with a number of social media outlets to extend its brand and see what works and what doesn't. Not all of these will pan out. The MySpace presence seems like a long shot, but then again, the cost is negligible so it’s worth a try. Wells Fargo has wisely not posted a pure "banking" presence, but instead used one a character from its StageCoach Island game (see screenshot below). 

Bottom line: The bank's willingness to try new things has created an impressive lists of "firsts:"   

  • First U.S. bank with a blog (though Verity Credit Union beat them to it by more than a year)
  • First bank with a student loan blog
  • First bank with a business banking blog
  • First bank in the world with a Second Life presence
  • First bank on MySpace at <www.myspace.com/stagecoachisland>, really more an extension of its StageCoach Island game which also has its own blog here (see below; though several credit unions beat them to it)
  • First bank with 2, 3, and 4 blogs
  • First bank with an avatar persona on MySpace
  • First bank with a VP Social Media (who appears to be proactively reaching out to the blogging community)

Wells Fargo MySpace page

Wells Fargo Adds Value to Mobile Bill Payments, But Not in the Way You Are Thinking

If you've been reading this blog for long, you know I'm going through a "mobile" phase. There's two reasons for that:

1. It's an interesting and important extension to online banking, our core area of expertise.

2. I am in the process of writing two extensive reports on the subject, the first was published a few weeks ago on mobile banking (link here) and the second is due out by the end of the month on mobile payments.

FRONT: Wells Fargo credit card insert touting cellphone protection So I had to laugh when I opened by Wells Fargo credit card bill today, not at the size of the bill which was not at all funny, but at the insert that fell out pitching, "cellular phone protection at no cost" (see front of insert right, back of insert below).  

This is a different type of "mobile payment" than what I've been thinking about lately. But, this Wells Fargo program is brilliant, and has a much better business case, at least in the short term.

Here's what Wells Fargo is proposing:

1. Put your mobile phone bill on automatic payment via your Wells credit card.

2. In the event your phone is damaged or stolen, you will be reimbursed for up to $100 in damages, after a $50 deductible (see note 1).

Analysis
The business case for this program looks fabulous. Assuming an average mobile phone bill of $60/mo x 12 months x 1.5% ROA = about $10 per year in revenue. While the cost should be just a few pennies per year in insurance payouts, given the difficulty in filing a claim. 

Even though the bank will pay out benefits to cardholders who had their cellphone charged to Wells even without the incentive, the bank should earn 10x to 20x the cost of the program each year. BACK: Wells Fargo credit card insert on cellphone protection Maybe Wells can put some of that windfall into a new mobile access to online banking and credit card info. 

Note:

1. To keep costs down, the maximum number of claims is two per 12-month period, $200 in total. And the claim procedure is  cumbersome, especially for a maximum payout of $100. You'll need copy of receipts, statements, other insurance coverage, police reports, and so on. The full details of the fine print are online here.   

Back Story: Wall Street Journal’s Article on Online Financial Planning Tools from Banks

The Wall Street Journal published an extra section yesterday on personal finance entitled, Your Money Matters. Online financial tools were highlighted in Jane Kim's, "Check it Out: New online tools from financial institutions can help consumers manage their money." 

Here's the back story on several of the items mentioned in the article:

  • Our sister publication, Online Banking Report, was cited as the source of the following statistic: "About 16% of U.S. households used some personal-finance feature at least once in 2006. That percentage is expected to climb to an estimated 33% by 2016, with nearly three-quarters of those households using personal-finance tools offered by their financial institution online."

    The information cited in the WSJ story was contained in the report we published last fall in Personal Finance Features for Online Banking (OBR 131/132see Table 3, p. 3, lines 4 and 10). Current usage estimates were based in part from data provided by Javelin Strategy as shown in Table 2 on the same page. 

  • Wells Fargo My Spending Report CLICK TO ENLARGE In the article, Bank of America's My Portfolio was the first of two existing personal finance tools mentioned. The service, powered by Yodlee, was quietly launched in December and was covered in NetBanker at the time (link here) and received an OBR Best of the Web award in our final report of 2006 (OBR 137) where it was rated the third most important development of 2006.   
  • The second example cited was Wells Fargo's MySpendingReport (see inset and previous coverage here). The service, which is basically just a consolidated view statement data across the bank's transaction accounts, is a great example of positioning online banking features in a way that resonates with users. It was awarded an OBR Best of the Web in 2005, finishing the year as the tenth most important new development of the year (report here).

The story finished with hints of new services planned for later this year at Everbank, Bremer Financial (powered by Corillian), and a Digital Insight tool that allows users to hand enter additional bill payments in order to their entire payments picture in one place.