Friday Favorites: Financial Institutions Honor Veterans

If there’s one thing Americans can agree on, it’s honoring and celebrating the service of our veterans both past and present. Given the contentious election week in the United States, you’d think U.S. financial institutions would be rolling out the red, white and blue on their websites on Veterans Day today. But there was surprisingly little activity at the major banks. Most had the same old-same old on their homepages. Even Navy Federal Credit Union passed on adding anything extra for the day.

The only top-50 banks with Veterans Day graphics were Bank of America, Zions and of course USAA, all displaying page-dominating graphics on their homepages (see below). We also looked at a few credit unions (at random) and found BMI Federal Credit Union and PenFed honoring vets (see below).

Zions bank homepage featuring Veterans Day homage
Zions bank homepage featuring Veterans Day homage (11 Nov 2016)

 

USAA homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)
USAA homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)

 

Bank of America Veterans Day image on homepage (11 Nov 2016)
Bank of America Veterans Day image on homepage (11 Nov 2016)

 

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PenFed Credit Union homepage on Veterans Day (11 Nov 2016)

 

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BMI Federal Credit Union leads with a Veterans Day announcement (11 Nov 2016)

Zions Bank Supports its Brand with Holiday Graphics

image Before we move on to more weighty matters, here’s one last example from Holiday 2012.  Zions Bank had the most decked out website we’ve observed in the past two weeks. Because it ranks just outside the 20 largest U.S. banks, it didn’t make last week’s holiday roundup. But since it was so decked out, I thought it was worth a followup.

On New Years Day, Zions had holiday-related messages playing on three of its six rotating homepage themes.

  • EZ Budget, its budgeting tool that helps track and manage spending for an event (previous coverage of the tool)
  • General mobile banking pitch with a “tracking holiday spending” use case
  • Happy New Year greeting

Bottom line: Without breaking the bank, Zions projects a timely, modern look that supports its brand.

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Zions Bank hompage featuring EZ Budget spending tracker (1 Jan 2012)

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Zions Bank homepage featuring mobile banking wrapped in holiday theme

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Zions Bank homepage with “Happy New Year” greeting

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Holiday Themes: ING Direct Offers Up Anti-Black-Friday Tease

imageRarely does ING Direct disappoint when it comes to adding a little holiday pizzazz to its website. And it’s no turkey this year.

The bank’s homepage is given over entirely to a flash animation that starts with its trademark orange ball rising over a cityscape. Then a decked-out turkey joins the scene and its revealed that its a play on tomorrow’s NYC Thanksgiving Day parade balloons.

But the more interesting development is the small orange “Black Friday” sale tag in the upper right corner (see inset). ING Direct has four Black Friday specials that will be revealed at one past midnight this Friday at <ingdirect.com/blackfriday>.

imageWe are sworn to secrecy on two of the deals, but we can tell you that there will be a $683 discount (the average amount American’s spend on holiday gifts) on ING mortgage products (currently 3.75%) and a 20% off ShareBuilder deal.

The Black Friday tease was also emailed to ING Direct customers this morning (see inset).

My take: The Black Friday promotion, which is being pushed out to media outlets in advance of Friday, is brilliant. It plays perfectly into the more-conservative budget mindsight in the country and gives the press something else to write about beside the long lines at Best Buy at 4 AM Friday.

Grade: An A+ and an extra helping of sweet potatoes to ING Direct for both timing and creativity.  

In a quick survey today of the 25 largest retail banks, three others had holiday promotions or themes: 

ING Direct (USA) homepage (23 Nov 6 PM Pacific)

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ING Direct black friday landing page (25 Nov 2009)

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Zions Bank homepage (23 Nov 7 PM Pacific)
Note: Trusteer promotion on homepage

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Wells Fargo homepage (25 Nov 2009, 1 PM Pacific)

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Note: For future reference, this post was made on the day before Thanksgiving.

Zions Bank Replaces Holiday Gift Planner with eZ Budget Site

image Last year, I discovered a cool little web-based PFM app from Zions Bank, the Holiday Gift Planner (see previous post). It helps plan and track holiday gift lists and purchases (see second screenshot below).

I used it to track 2008 holiday purchases for our kids. I credit the app with not only keeping us on budget, but making the process a little less harried. I liked it so much, I awarded it with an OBR Best of the Web award. My only complaint: it should be an iPhone app.

But this weekend when I clicked my bookmark for the site to enter my son’s “wish list”, I received an error message, “site not found.” I was afraid Zions had discontinued the service. After a search, I found that the site had been replaced by a similar, but more advanced PFM site, called Zions Bank eZ Budget (running on its own URL).

eZ Budget remains free and open to anyone, customers or non-customers. It still has the gift planner module which is very similar to last year’s model (second screenshot). One addition: integrated links to the Zions website to see savings or financing options (see top-left in screenshot 2). And like last year, a Zions banner ad runs across the top.

But it’s been expanded to have three other robust planning modules:

  • Monthly planner (screenshot 3)
  • Project planner (screenshot 4)
  • Event planner (screenshot 5)

Unlike last year when the gift planner was plugged on its homepage, there is no mention of the PFM module on the bank’s website. However, eZ Budget is prominently mentioned on the bank’s Facebook page (screenshot 6). And according to Compete, the new site has about double the traffic, 4,000 unique visitors, compared to 2,000 a year ago.

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Source: Compete, 23 Nov 2009

My take: This is a simple and cost-effective way to provide basic budgeting tools to bank customers. I wish Zions had also kept the standalone Holiday Gift Planner which had an attractive holiday look and was less daunting to begin using. But I can understand why the bank would not want to support two planning tools. More importantly, the iPhone version is still on my wish list. More on that tomorrow. 

1. Zions eZ Budget homepage (23 Nov 2009)

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2. Gift Planner module
Note: Default setting is “Christmas”; but can choose Birthday, Valentines, Wedding, Mother’s day, Father’s day, Hanukkah, or create your own.

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3. Monthly Planner module

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4. Project planner module
Note: Default setting is “home remodel”; but can choose landscaping, baby room, or create your own.

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5. Event planner module
Note: Default setting is “wedding”; but can choose birthday, vacation, or bridal shower or create your own.

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6. Zions Facebook page (link)
Note: Zions is giving away a $100 Best Buy card each month to new Facebook fans.

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Note:
1. For more information on the PFM space, see our Online Banking Report on Personal Finance Features.

Zions Bank also offers Trusteer Rapport

image In yesterday’s post, I missed an important client of Trusteer’s anti-malware software. Zions Bank, a leader in showcasing its online security efforts (see 2006 post on multi-factor authentication), is the only Trusteer client to feature the program on its homepage (see below).

Zions Bank home page (10 June 2009)

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Zions Bank security page (link)

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 Zions Bank Rapport page (link)

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Best of the Web: Zions Bank’s Holiday Gift Planner Wraps Personal Finance into a Neat Package

imageAs I was publishing my earlier post on the Thanksgiving message on the Zions Bank homepage, I noticed a small Holiday Gift Planner banner in the lower left corner (see inset below). Expecting to find a pitch for Visa or MasterCard gift cards, I clicked on it and was surprised to find a very cool holiday microsite called at MyHolidayGiftPlanners.com (see screenshot 1 below and note 1).

imageThe gift planner is a personal financial management tool for planning, budgeting, and tracking holiday gift expenditures. Users create a gift list for each person by entering a budget amount per person, an estimated cost for each planned gift, and then later the actual amount spent.

The tool does all the math, tracking progress against each recipients’ gift list and how the total holiday budget is faring (see screenshot 2). It even includes a space for capturing gift-buying notes (see below). This year’s list will be archived to provide a handy reference for next year. Hopefully, the bank will use email to draw users back next year.

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Consumers could do the same thing on a spreadsheet or within most personal finance programs. However, Zions has built an elegant solution that is faster and more convenient. I’ve always done this for my kids on a piece of paper which I inevitably lose and/or leave out on the table where anyone can read it. I look forward to keeping this list bookmarked and password-protected on my computer this year. 

Anyone can use the program, you needn’t be a Zions customers. It takes seconds to sign up inputting name, email address and password (see screenshot 3). The site gently cross sells credit cards to pay for itself. There’s a banner that runs across the top of the planning page (screenshot 2) and a link to special cardholder discounts on the main page (screenshot 4).

Zions should turn the planner into an iPhone/Android app to help users track gift purchases on the go and avoid the need to print the list prior to the trip to the mall.

obr_bestofweb Bottom line: The Zions gift planner is a great example of how to creatively use branded financial management tools to both help customers and create synergy with banking products. We’re giving Zions our sixth OBR Best of the Web 2008 award for creating a simple solution to help customers avoid holiday overspending, a pesky personal finance issue that is top-of-mind this year. 

 

1. Homepage of Zions Bank’s gift planner (28 Nov 2008)

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2. A credit card cross sell runs across the top of my personalized gift planner

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3. Email address is captured for future marketing purposes

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4. Credit card discounts are displayed along with an credit card application

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Note:

1. Evidently the planner was available in early December last year. The first blog mention was 7 Dec 2007.

Zions Direct Uses eBay to Auction New-Account Vouchers

Link to Zions eBay store While not the first bank to experiment with eBay auctions (see note 1), Zions Direct is the first to open a dedicated site within eBay and the first to sell "new-account vouchers" (see screenshots below).

Apparently the vouchers, listed in the gift certificate category, skirt eBay rules against auctioning financial services. The buyer of the certificate can redeem them for a cash deposit into their Zions Direct brokerage account. Zions Direct also auctions CDs every week directly on its website (see previous coverage here).

Bidding starts at $0.99 for the vouchers which range in value from $500 to $1,000. Bidders can pay via PayPal or check. The amount of the voucher is deposited directly into the buyer's Zions Direct account, which is required to redeem the voucher. So not only are buyers receiving cash at a discount, they also can earn frequent flyer miles and a free grace period if their PayPal account is connected to a rewards credit card. There is no requirement that buyers be new customers, nor are their limits on how many certificates can be purchased. In fact, bidder shecdoggy bought 5 of the vouchers totaling $4,000 at a total discount of $72.50.

So far the bank has sold 16 vouchers worth at total of $12,800 to 9 unique bidders for an average of $12.50 less than face, a discount of 1.6%. And there are currently 10 vouchers up for auction (see screenshot below). As more people have caught on, the spread has been reduced to less than 1% on recent auctions (see past and present listings here, Zions Direct eBay store here).   

Analysis
From a marketing perspective, this is brilliant, at least in the short run. For a cost of $15.95/mo for a basic store, and $30 to $40 per voucher (mostly in eBay/PayPal fees), the bank gets its name on eBay, numerous mentions in blog posts and press stories, a cool ad on its homepage (see screenshot below), positions itself as innovative and provides customers a nice little spiff.

Long-term, however, the terms will have to be adjusted or the bank will just be handing over easy money to the "gamers." The certificates will be purchased at face, or slightly over, by existing customers who rack up frequent flier miles and a do a little interest arbitrage during their credit-card grace period. The bank will need to lower the amount of the vouchers to $100 to $200 to reduce the potential for gaming, or if possible, restrict purchases to one per customer. Another cost reduction tactic would be to disallow PayPal payments, but that would reduce the effectiveness of the promotion. 

Zions Direct Auction Listing

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Zions Direct eBay Store

 

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Zions Direct Homepage (18 Jan 2008)

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Note:

1.  In the late 1990s PNC Bank was the first to try CD auctions. In 2004, WaMu used eBay technology in a market test (see previous article here).

Future Friday: CD Auctions at Zions Direct

Several banks, including PNC in the bubble days and WaMu through eBay in early 2004, have tried auctioning certificates of deposit (see Online Banking #104). Those first attempts were aimed at retail depositors, an unlikely audience for a several reasons. First, the demographics of retail CD buyers is decidedly older and they tend to be fiscally conservative, not the right group for a new-fangled way to buy from the bank. On the other hand, CD auctions are a great way to introduce a bit of Web 2.0-style innovation into what is mostly a commodity.    

Zions Direct: Results of Mar 27 CD auctionSo Zions Bank, through its Zions Direct division, has chosen a different path. Instead of creating an eBay-like environment for retail investors, it is using its non-bank investment division to sell CDs like the Treasury Dept sell t-bills. The certificates are sold at a discount to par, resulting in an acceptable yield for the bidders. 

Analysis
While PNC and WaMu's efforts were clearly just market tests that were shuttered after a few months, the Zions auction platform is full-featured. It appears to have staying power provided the bank is comfortable with the prices its paying. 

Clearly, this is not a retail playground. There were 20 bidders making a total of 28 bids with a median bid dollar amount of just $10,000. However, there were three huge bidders, all playing with $2 million in cash, that set the final prices. Most likely it was someone in a large company treasury department looking to increase its yield on excess cash by a basis point or two.   

But even though the big money sets the rates, the small depositors can still win since everyone received the same "market-clearing" rate. For example, four of the 14 winning bidders in the March 27 auction were small CDs of less than $5,000:

Winning bidders by size of deposit:

  • 4 had $1,000 to $4,000 
  • 5 had $8,000 to $20,000
  • 2 had $90,000 to $100,000
  • 1 had $200,000
  • 1 had $536,000 (partial fill of $2 million bid)
  • 1 had $1 million (they also had non-winning $2 million bid)

It makes sense to set rates for large deposits this way. It mimics the way the capital markets already function. And it allows motivated smaller depositors to join the "action," receiving what they are likely to perceive as a fair price since it was set on the open market. Some day, the majority of CD dollars will be sold this way.

Finally, an added bonus for the first-mover, it positions Zions as innovative, fair, and looking out for its customers. The word of mouth and press attention should quickly pay back the investment Zions made in the platform.

More information:

  • Press release here
  • American Banker article here
  • Online Banking Report #104 here

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Zions March 27 CD Auction Results
(see screenshot right or view archived page here

Product: $2,000,000 in 5-month CDs

Bidders: 28 bids from 21 bidders

Final Price: 5.506% rate

Start date: 20 Mar 2007

End date: 27 Mar 2007 (6 PM EDT)

Discussion: Two $2 million bidders tied at the market-clearing rate, one ended up with a partial funding of $537,000 and one ended with zero, so had Zions made more money available, it could received total deposits of $3.6 million at 5.506% rate.