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Gmail’s New Priority Inbox Should Inspire Banks to Do the Same with Electronic Statements

image I’ve been on a bit of a campaign this summer (writing in Online Banking Report here and here), about the need to move beyond the static online “data dump” model to a more measured approach in delivering precise financial info when and where the customer needs it. 

We mostly looked at outbound messaging and streaming systems: email, text, RSS and third-parties such as Blippy and Swipely. But the same logic can be used to improve the financial home base, the online statement.

Google’s new email option, Priority Inbox (aka Magic Inbox), introduced to Gmail users this week (note 1), is a great example of how this could work. Instead of always displaying email (or transactions) in chronologic or reverse-chronologic order, use algorithms to show items in order of importance (see screenshot below).

The bank-transaction importance-ranking would obviously include the size of the item. But it would also position unusual payments of any size at the top of the list so that users could more quickly identify fraud or errors. And, as with Gmail, users should be able to label and flag transactions for future reference (note 2).

A service like this would have saved me hundreds of dollars this year, by alerting me immediately that my cell phone bill had mushroomed, and that I needed to switch to an unlimited-minutes plan.

Gmail Priority Inbox (1 Sep 2010)
Note: There are no messages in the top priority area called “Important and unread” because I’d read them all. Google provides a little note of congratulations for clearing out that portion of the inbox.

Gmail priority inbox is a good model for online banking and credit card statements

1. Google has offered similar algorithm-based ordering in its RSS reader for some time. I’ve been using it for almost a year and am a big fan. It really helps lift the best posts to the top of the 600 or so I get each day. I will use Twitter a lot more when it offers the same type of functionality (Does anyone know of a Twitter client that arranges tweets by importance?)  
2. And like Google, banking users should be able to store their transactions for as long as they are customers. See our Online Banking Report on Lifetime Statements for more info.