10 security tips your account holders need to hear

As you gear up for Cyber Security Awareness Month, consider sharing these ten tips with your account holders

As we move into Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’ve assembled a list of security awareness tips that should be top of mind for account holders doing any type of online banking, or even just accessing the Internet in general. Many of these are likely things you have heard before, but a little repetition can go a long way. As you gear up for Cyber Security Awareness Month, consider sharing these ten tips with your account holders:

  1. Take infections seriously; a virus may not just be a virus. Most of us, if we’re honest, have probably been guilty of thinking that if our PC gets infected with something, it’s not that big of a deal—that’s what our IT department is for, after all. They’ll have whatever the latest nasty bug we’ve contracted wiped from our machine and we’ll be back on track in no time… right? Wrong. These things are not named after scary critters for no reason—they are serious and have serious implications. Think about the effect financial malware can have on your personal finances or to your small business’s network immediately upon download.
  2. Control access to your machine. Think twice before walking away from your computer to get that third cup of coffee without first locking it. Even worse is leaving your machine unattended in public, or in the backseat of your car during happy hour. Malicious physical access to devices can be an overlooked attack vector. It’s amazing how quickly files can be dumped or unintended access to sensitive information gained during a quick few minutes away from your machine.
  3. Trust but verify: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t fall prey to schemes that play on your natural inclination to trust. Being trusting is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s important to verify before taking action. Be wary of things like employment offers to make a quick buck, claims that you are a lucky winner of something, or limited time offers to cash in on an opportunity. Simply put: if it sounds too good to be true, don’t be too quick to believe it.
  4. Don’t use insecure Wi-Fi or unknown machines for banking. Sensitive online activity, such as online banking, should only be conducted from a device that belongs to you on a trusted network. Paying a few bills while you’re sipping your favorite latte at a local coffee shop may seem innocent enough, but what do you really know about others who are connected to that public Wi-Fi? Sniffing traffic on a public Wi-Fi connection can be shockingly simple, and can leave everything you are doing on that network free for the taking.
  5. “TMI” – Don’t overshare on social media. We may all be guilty of sharing too much information (TMI) at times. Don’t let social media be your outlet for sharing “TMI” about yourself to millions of people all over the world. Social media outlets are information gold-mines for anyone who may be looking to learn more about their next victim. Knowing where you vacation, the name of your pet, and your mother’s maiden name may come in quite handy for someone attempting to impersonate you.
  6. If you’ve got it, update it. If you don’t need it, delete it. Updating your software is not something you should do only when your machine slows to an unbearable crawl because it hasn’t been updated in months. Installing the latest versions of software ensures that what you are running has the latest security patches and keeps you protected. Update your software as soon as new releases are announced, and delete any unnecessary programs on your devices that you don’t need in day-to-day business. Installing lots of nonessential software just provides increased exposure points for you and your information.
  7. Scrutinize your email. Many of us comb through hundreds of emails every day, and clicking through and opening these emails is second nature. However, email is one of the most common attack vectors and is a quick and easy way for attackers to drop malware onto your PC or mobile device, or to trick you into providing sensitive information. Pay close attention to any emails that appear to come from slightly odd senders, and be extremely wary of any email requesting you to provide or confirm sensitive information. Your financial institution should never ask you to confirm or provide any type of personal information via email. Report suspicious emails to your employer and delete them completely without opening or clicking any contained links.
  8. Be mindful of what you plug in. Throwing files onto a USB drive can be a quick and easy way to share information. However, it’s also a quick and easy way to spread malware. Only plug removable media that you know and trust into your devices, and never share these storage devices amongst multiple parties.
  9. Knowledge really is power. When it comes to online banking, it pays to be in the know. Use your financial institution’s real time alerts to keep yourself aware of anything that is going on in your account that may not be normal. Setting these alerts to deliver to multiple targets (voice calls, SMS text messages, and email) can help ensure their safe and quick delivery. Notify your financial institution immediately if you receive an alert regarding activity you did not generate.
  10. Get away from the “that can’t happen to me” mindset and prepare yourself. Live by the adage that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Believing that “it can’t happen to you” is a very risky position to take. Educate yourself on security precautions that you can take to prevent yourself or your business from becoming a victim. Work to spread the word of online safety to your friends, colleagues and families and be proactive in putting security measures into place.


Cyber security and the threat landscape are constantly evolving, and keeping your institution and your account holders as secure as possible requires their participation. Use October to stress the importance of cyber security and remind your account holders of their own role in keeping themselves safe.

Virtual courting site for selecting vendors?

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a site like eHarmony© where financial institutions could find vendors who are compatible with them? For all I know it already exists, as these days there seems to be an app for every conceivable thing under the sun. (However, if someone steals this idea and makes millions, I want something for the thought.) This new wave of compatibility algorithms makes me wonder: how in the heck can a banker confidently decide which vendor to partner with, when they’re all slingin’ the same buzz words and promising the moon while clickin’ through fancy demos?

Even if there isn’t a solution similar to a dating website, there is something valuable about approaching the vendor-buyer relationship like, well, a relationship. That’s why the best way to determine compatibility is to actually pay the vendor a visit.

Maybe this seems like an obvious answer, but you’d be surprised at how easy it is get swept up in the ceremony of sales pitch.

In fact, several years ago I heard a salesman tell a banker something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The banker repeatedly mentioned how slick one of the salesman’s competitor’s demo was. The salesman politely, yet confidently, replied, “With all due respect, these days two guys and a twelve pack in a college dorm room can create a pretty sweet demo.” You couldn’t argue his point— just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t, and shouldn’t, judge a software solution by its demo.

It’s an unfortunate truth in the sales industry that sometimes reps don’t always shoot straight. Believe it or not, I once lost a deal to a competitor who did not even have an interface to the core processor of the bank whose business we were competing for, yet told the bank they had nine referenceable clients for that particular core. Nine! I don’t know how they settled on nine as the magic number, but I guess if you’re going to lie, lie big! I always wondered why this bank never attempted to call any of the references to confirm whether they were happy with the vendor, or to see if they even existed. Sadly, sometimes the folks tasked with the due diligence have motives of their own, which is another powerful reason for why you should pay the companies you’re considering partnering with a visit.

I mean, why wouldn’t you? You’re about to invest a tidy sum of dollars and putting your personal reputation, the company’s brand, shareholders’ interests and, in many cases, the welfare of your account holders on the line. Heck, on multiple occasions I’ve had animal shelters visit my house to make sure the dog I wanted to adopt would be in good hands and they didn’t leave a single stone unturned. In my time at Q2, I’ve interviewed lots of our clients, and the last question I’ve asked them all is, “Why did you ultimately decide to partner with Q2?” Remarkably, nearly every one of them told me the same thing: “It was your people and your culture.” How else can you gain a sense of those things without paying the company a visit? Or know for sure that the company you’re considering isn’t in fact two guys and a twelve pack in a college dorm room?

User experience: What is it and why all the hype?

“Experience schmicksperience.” There is no doubt in my mind that this phrase has been uttered, or at least thought, by many a banking executive in response to a member of their staff expressing the need for an improved online account holder experience. Yours truly has witnessed a few such reactions first-hand. As one who believes strongly in the value of a quality user experience for online banking users, I’m hopeful that a fairly recent event will convince the skeptics who disregard user experience. But first, what exactly is user experience?


According to the Nielsen Norman Group—pioneers in the field of evidence-based user experience research, training, and consulting—user experience (UX), “…encompasses all aspects of the end-user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products.” Carrie Cousins of Design Shack—an online locale that covers all things web-design related, defines user experience as “…how a person feels when interacting with a digital product.” Cousins adds that UX encompasses many other factors, including but not limited to: “…usability, accessibility, performance, design/aesthetics, utility, ergonomics, overall human interaction and marketing.”


While some folks find it necessary to distinguish between usability—how things work— and user experience—how things feel, most lump the two terms together when discussing the totality of an end user’s digital experience. Plainly put: user experience concerns how things look, feel, and operate. This concept tends to be abstract and difficult to quantify, which is why it doesn’t fit neatly into the CFO’s spreadsheet. It’s hard as heck to quantify it; hard as heck to truly appreciate; and hard as heck to sell to bankers who are already paying a bunch for their digital channel efforts every month. So how did it become such a big deal, and why all the hype? Believe it or not, there’s science behind it.


One of the earliest and most interesting studies around UX was conducted by the UK Design School between Dec. 1993 and Dec. 1994. Researchers tracked the share prices of publicly traded companies who had won awards for their focus on design and UX, and then compared them to various indices such as the FTSE 100 and the FTSE All Share index. They found that the design-focused companies out performed all others by more than 200 percent. And that was over the course of a five-year bear market, a three-year bull market, and the beginning of the recovery in 2003; the superior performance of the design-led companies persisted throughout.


Intrigued by the findings of the UK study, in 2006 researchers in Canada created a UX fund of their own, comprised exclusively of companies well-known for their UX prowess, such as Google, Apple, and Netflix, and promptly invested $50,000. Their original plan was to sell after one year, but when they realized a nearly 40 percent return in year one, they simply couldn’t sell; four and a half years later, the fund had matured 101.8 percent! These two studies kicked off a wave of UX studies around the globe, as more and more business leaders began to grow curious. U.S.-based Watermark Consulting conducted a study from 2007-2012 that found that the top ten leaders in customer experience—based on Forrester Research’s Annual Customer Experience Index— outperformed the S&P with close to triple the returns, at a cumulative total of +43 percent. In spite of a growing mountain of evidence in support of UX investment, skeptics remain.


Which brings us back to that “fairly recent” event I referenced earlier. On Oct. 2, 2014, Capital One– yes, that Capital One– acquired San Francisco-based Adaptive Path. Why was this so significant, you ask? Because, Adaptive Path and the folks they employ are considered by many as the gurus of UX. The huge-font verbiage that adorns the Adaptive Path corporate home page makes it very clear what they do and what they believe: Great businesses are built on great experiences. We make those experiences happen. If you explore their website further, you’ll encounter such statements as, “When Adaptive Path was founded (2001), UX (user experience) firms didn’t exist…” Not only are they the gurus of UX, you could also say they invented the space. And Capital One just acquired them – lock, stock, and barrel. If you’re someone who provides financial services to consumers and you haven’t been taking all this UX stuff seriously, it’s officially time to begin doing so–others are taking it very seriously. It can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Words Have Meaning…Names, Power

The Patagonian Toothfish proved to be so popular that several years ago there was concern the species was on the verge of ecological collapse. How is it possible you’ve likely never heard of this fish, yet enough of it is sold and eaten each year to threaten its viability? The ugly creature was remarkably unpopular until it was marketed under the more attractive and exotic name, Chilean Sea Bass, by an enterprising fish wholesaler.


Everything from fish names to product and feature titles is responsible for creating powerful first impressions for consumers. Based on consumer impressions, products and features either experience widespread adoption or massive failure. Specific to financial services, here is a more concrete example: Mobile Remote Deposit Capture. If you’re a banker or commercial client, this is a great name for taking a picture of a check and depositing it remotely, versus driving to the local branch. However, if you’re a consumer, this is jargon. Taking high-value business-centric features like the remote capture of a check for deposit to consumers is a great way to create a high-value, self-service workflow. However, the packaging and naming must create logical connections and context associated with the features. Essentially, you have to create a brand around the feature for consumers to connect with and embrace.


The more complex the function, the more important it is to create an intuitive message about the what and why of a new feature. Without establishing a relatable name, value proposition and brand, consumer adoption and satisfaction of valuable workflows and features are likely to lag. Naming, branding, and complexity are key elements to consider when delivering business services to consumers in ways that delight, rather than frustrate them.


Products and services are named with the same goal in mind: to say something about the product that a lengthy explanation cannot. Easy Deposit is a tremendously popular name for Retail Mobile Remote Deposit Capture because it communicates the benefits of the feature. The emphasis is on the function (deposit) and the benefit (ease). The value proposition is built into a simple name that provides the context for use and a promise of why consumers should care.


The second key component of bringing a business-oriented service to the consumer space is to think about the complexity of the task required to achieve the result. Transfers from a locally held account to an account at another financial institution via online or mobile banking are typically fulfilled via the ACH network, but not presented this way to retail customers. Given the lack of familiarity with ACH processing, a feature called ACH payment would be confusing. Therefore, further exploration for a name that creates context for consumers is vital for success.


Beyond the naming, this feature’s adoption benefits by reducing the choices of how the transfer is made, as well as the complexity required to set it up. Rather than a model in which end users create a recipient and bind an account triplet (ABA, account number, type) for the external account, the workflow for identifying the target account is simplified and broken into multiple steps, each step with an explanation of the required data and how to obtain it. Addressing the how in this case will prove as valuable to consumer adoption as addressing the what,demonstrating the power of fusing naming conventions and technology.


Finally, in this particular example, careful consideration of the entry point for this feature, which is often the transfer menu item, should be considered. The typical distinction between an internal funds transfer and an external ACH-fulfilled transfer is likely hidden or invisible to consumer banking customers. After a self-service linking process (often involving micro deposits), the external accounts should be presented alongside the account holder’s internal accounts as options for transferring funds.


Packaging, including naming and reviewing workflows, will greatly influence how consumer banking customers will perceive the value of business features or services.  Creativity and workflow review will make the difference between success and failure.  Ensure the features and benefits are easy to discover, use, recall and share. Ultimately, a well-packaged feature may require significant effort to repackage and market, but without this effort, business features are likely to live in obscurity – like the nearly forgotten Patagonian Toothfish – rather than embraced and adopted by millions.


This article was originally printed in the September/October 2014 issue of Western Banker magazine.

Defining Your Customer Experience Leads to Loyalty

Let’s face it, defining a superior customer experience is a tricky prospect. Everyone knows what “customer” means. The confusion arises from the word “experience.” What does that word mean in the context of providing financial services? Is it 24-hour support? Does it mean products work as advertised and your account holders are happy – or just not complaining? What exactly constitutes an “experience”?

A few years ago, Harley Manning at Forrester created a definition of “Customer Experience.” He noted an experience must come from the perspective of the customer and have three components: 1) be useful (deliver value), 2) be usable (make it easy to find and engage with the value), and 3) be enjoyable (emotionally engaging).

This is a pretty good definition, however, I would summarize superior customer experience this way: Superior customer experience occurs when a company or an institution consistently exceeds customer expectations, leaving them with a feeling of delight.

Most businesses – including financial institutions – aim to provide superior customer service. That being said, the definition of “superior” is often times defined by the company, rather than its customers. The problem is, the essence of “customer experience” is individual and emotional. The key, then, to providing this experience is to create a business that focuses on delighting each end user.

A huge factor in this endeavor is that consumer expectations of their FIs are now driven by their non-financial brand experiences with services such as Netflix and Facebook, who offer applications on any device, anywhere, at any time. Customers now expect a unified experience between their smartphone, tablet, and online banking services. This experience not only has a consistent user interface and navigation, but it is optimized for each specific device. A tablet-first design is also critical because it provides both access to the services your FI offers and enables customers to swipe, touch, and tap intuitively in an engaging way.

Beyond the “any” access strategy, becoming aware of all of the ways that an account holder comes into contact with your organization is necessary. If you are a typical financial institution, customers can walk into a branch, call you on the phone, see your ads, read about you in the newspaper, go to your website, talk about you via social media, access virtual support, open your statements and other snail mailings, talk with the CEO at Kiwanis, and more. Have you planned for a great experience to be the logical outcome of your account holder’s interactions or are you just hoping it will happen?

Make a specific organization-wide focus to change the interactions you have with your account holders at every touch point, with a focus on creating an experience, built over time. Your strongest asset is your people and they are human, so they will make mistakes. However, if you compile a storehouse of superior experiences with your account holders, one bad event will not deter from their overall emotional response. By investing in delivering a positive emotional response from your account holders – consistently delivered from every touch point – you will come closer to acquiring the one trait that you can no longer buy or generationally expect, loyalty.

Are We There Yet?

Well, the Marketing Kings of the Universe have done it again – pushed much of the world into a tizzy. Picture it… CEOs texting their charges at dark-thirty in the morning asking, “what are your plans”; relationship managers and customer service reps checking their email every five seconds to see if their talking points have arrived; product development folks wiggin’ out in a frantic we-must-get-our-hands-on-the-SDK-or-die fervor; and citizens of the world buying up every last one of the Cliff Bars and Vitamin Waters in preparation for their strip-mall-sidewalk camp outs!!

You probably guessed what I’m talking about. Apple’s BIG iOS 8 and iPhone 6 release. As with Michael Jordan in the waning seconds of a game, the weather in Seattle, or the dysfunction in Washington, the question remains: Really, this, again? And not only again, but touted as being ‘bigger than ever’?! Truly, you know it’s a big deal when an eleven-year-old girl who has spoken of her “first phone” since about age five says, “Dad, I know you and mom would get me the iPhone 5 for my birthday, but I’d rather wait a month and get the iPhone 6.” Let’s not even address how the armor-hewn shroud of secrecy surrounding the Announcement Event has fed the hysteria.

Hyperbole aside – it is a big deal, especially the iOS 8 release. Here’s why. The ripple effect of Apple’s forthcoming operating system will affect a wide swath of humanity. Developers really do need to know what impact these advancements will have on their apps; companies whose customers rely on these apps really do need to know how their end users might be impacted; and customer service reps who support the users of said apps really do need to know how to answer questions around them. Preparation is indeed in order.

At Q2, we’ve been diligently preparing and anxiously waiting along with the rest of the world, trying as best we can to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers, and our customers’ customers. I’d venture to say these preparatory efforts have touched every corner of our company – from the CEO down. I’d also venture to say – at great risk I realize – that we’re as prepared as we can be. We’ve studied the impact from every conceivable angle, considered all potential participants, and reflected ad nauseam on the lessons learned from the iOS 7 release.

We also know that we can’t possibly account for every conceivable variable under the sun—and  we are in good company. In August 2010, Microsoft released 14 security patches in one day, to address 34 vulnerabilities. And in 2005, Oracle released 88 patches for security vulnerabilities over a four month period – that’s 22 a month! The point being, it ain’t easy. You can have 128,000 employees and more resources than Solomon and still not get things right.

But, we have a great advantage. Armed with a virtual banking platform intentionally constructed to accommodate change, and the knowledge that, even in a worst case scenario, no lives will be lost, we have confidently awaited the big day. That being said, we apologize in advance to the Inupiaq fisherman with no thumbs for the slow load times in the Beaufort Sea and maybe the placement of the navigation buttons on the ATM locator page. Glitches aside, we are ready and see this as another opportunity—one that may transcend any product release—to prove our commitment to partnership.

Beyond Faster Horses

I once believed that I wanted more Star Wars films to be made (note: I am, of course, a huge nerd1). I was not happy with the Star Wars film that I eventually received in the summer of 1999 — known in my circle as “The Menace That Shall Not Be Named.” Most of my demographic segment have an attachment to the original Star Wars films that borders on unhealthy, as we saw those films during a part of our pre-adolescence during which the style, tone, and content are maximally impactful. What I wanted was to be five years old again, awed by cinematic spectacle and inspired by uncomplicated heroism. To ask a film to take me to this place again as an adult was admittedly a tall order (it does not help that the prequel films are awful, a note that I cannot resist adding here).

New Coke, Heinz’s EZ Squirt green ketchup, and the McDonald’s Arch Deluxe burger are well-known examples of consumer product failures that arose from research into consumer preferences and interviews with target consumers. Software suffers from a similar problem, as end users crave familiarity in their expressed preferences but find the delivery of that content or experience uninspiring. In the design world, many practitioners go so far as to assert that listening to users directly is a practice that all but guarantees failure. The reason being that it is difficult for users to accurately express insight into their own experiences and to divorce their actual preferences from the preferences that they wish to express in front of others. Few of us would admits publicly to watching “Amish Mafia”, but the show has had four seasons (note: I do not watch “Amish Mafia”2).

This is not a call for all of us to stop listening to our customers, far from it. However, there can be a broad gap between the stated end-user preferences, such as “just make it work exactly like it did before” and the actual end-user performance and experience. Measuring end-user engagement and task completion with software interfaces is critical for arriving at objective assessments of usability and capability, not just using interviews and ad hoc feedback to drive design. The counterexample that illustrates this principle is the extermination of physical keyboards on mobile phones driven by the iPhone’s introduction in 2007. Although many end users expressed strong preferences for a physical keyboard, the industrial design and performance of full-screen touch interfaces is clearly superior for apps (and arguably for messaging). Or as I sometimes like to daydream of Henry Ford lamenting: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Innovators hear the desire for the faster horse and think about how to fulfill this wish in a better way.

1 I have, as an adult, watched the entire Star Wars Holiday Special (look it up if you dare).

2 I do not watch it, but I would Executive Produce the show out of my own pocket if the Star Wars prequels could vanish from existence.

There’s Gold In Them Thar Hills…

There’s still gold in them thar hills, and the best part is, today, there’s no shovel required to mine it. What gold, you ask? The opportunity mobile business banking represents for community financial institutions. With net interest margins harder to see than Wonder Woman’s plane – it’s invisible – and regulatory and compliance expenses growing like kudzu – it can grow 7 ft. in a week – mobile business banking is an opportunity that community FIs should jump all over – ASAP! Why? Because the opportunity is huge; it will bring in new business; it will reduce attrition; and it will generate fee income. If all of that’s not a gold mine, then I don’t know what is.


Did you know that Barlow Research estimates the potential revenue from fees and deposits in the SOHO (small office/home office) segment alone at $36.2 billion? These are companies who typically have ten or fewer employees – many of whom are likely already doing their retail banking with community FIs just like you. According to a 2013 study by Power Consulting, during which 839 in-person audits were performed by small business owners at 38 FIs across the country, nearly 40% of FIs audited never even mentioned their FI’s business mobile offerings. Have you told your potential SOHO accounts about your mobile banking solution? With Power Consulting estimating 12% of SOHO accounts could convert to business clients if their FIs mentioned mobile business solutions, now is the time to promote mobile business banking.


The mobile channel – smartphones and tablets – has officially become the channel of choice for consumers, and account holders of your FI are probably no exception. In fact, in 2014 access to the Internet via mobile devices eclipsed that of the desktop. The aforementioned Power study found that of the small businesses already utilizing mobile business solutions today, 32% of them access it two-three times per week. That’s two-three times per week you’re able to engage, cross-sell, upsell, consult and nurture your most lucrative clientele via the virtual channel. The same Power study found that 66% of small business owners would be likely to switch FIs for a superior mobile offering – 66%! When you consider the average small business relationship generates 50% more revenue than an “affluent” retail customer, mobile business banking will become a major focus for strategically minded community FIs.

In a case study by the CEB Tower Group, mobile banking customers were 53% less likely to attrite than non-mobile banking customers. When combined with mobile bill payment, they were 82% less likely to attrite. If mobile means sticky and mobile business means an opportunity to acquire new, highly-profitable accounts, then the case for mobile business banking as a serious – and profitable – attrition reducer is obvious. If further support is required, then consider the PPC Group found small business owners 40% more likely to consolidate their personal and business accounts at the FI currently serving their retail needs. A mobile business solution is the heavy-duty toggle bolt of attrition reducers – the proverbial golden handcuffs.


With the Feds continuing to chip away at interchange income and overdraft protection fees – and consumers more aware of FI fees than ever before – mobile business solutions are a beacon of light on the fee income horizon. Charging fees for business banking solutions has been an acceptable practice since the first online cash management solutions arrived, and mobile business solutions are no exception. A 2013 Aite Group study found nearly 30% of businesses currently using mobile business solutions pay their FIs more than $100.00 a month; it drops to 20% for those businesses not currently utilizing mobile offerings. And across all small businesses surveyed currently utilizing mobile business solutions, almost 50% currently pay their FIs more than $50.00 a month. Time equals money, especially for busy small business owners – Who wouldn’t pay for more time?


Mobile business banking could just be the most lucrative opportunity at hand for community FIs. Besides bringing in new business, retaining current business and generating fee income, executing on a mobile business solution will dramatically alter the way your FI is perceived in the markets you serve – it will position you as a leader and strengthen your brand. The best news of all: the market is virtually untapped. As of Q4, 2013, only about 30% of FIs with less than $10 billion in assets offered a mobile business solution. With your FI focused on growth through differentiation and your account holders focused on the freedom to bank anytime, anywhere, and on any device, the time is now to develop, deploy and advertise your mobile business solutions. After all, there’s gold in them thar hills.


Enjoy the blog? Visit our site again soon to read more from our industry experts—and to continue learning about trends in small business banking, read the ath Power Consulting report, “Small Business Mobile Banking.”

Are you a good banking solution or a great one?

“Sometimes you have to leave today’s good for something great,” an account holder recently summarized about the interactions with her long-time, hometown bank. This got me thinking—from a consumer’s perspective, all the work we do can often be summed up in a single word. So, what differentiates a good banking solution from a great one? And when and how is that determination made?

This account holder’s perspective was that, while her good bank adequately delivered on the features they offered and had provided an acceptable level of service, she had no expectation for innovation—even if she never realized she wanted any. Overall, she had no complaints as she didn’t know what she didn’t know and the institution had provided a sufficiently good experience with classic banking products and delivery.

In contrast, her new, ‘great’ bank was simply more innovative than she expected. She was attracted by the bank’s technology reputation and ability to open an account online, and once she was enrolled there was no slowing down. She learned she could utilize the bank’s technology to do everything important to her, including mortgage and lending via apps and e-signatures. Though not groundbreaking in the financial services industry, this convenience and self-service experience was entirely new for her. The ability to e-sign loan documents from her phone while in a meeting or deposit a check from her kitchen table was exactly what she needed at this time in her life.

When asked what makes her relationship with her new financial institution better than the first, she remarked, “This great bank constantly innovates and releases new features that I not only adopt and use regularly, but—in some cases—have become very dependent upon, especially through my mobile devices.” “The feature just appears. It looks and feels organic, and there is no bumpy enrollment or adoption process. I love this bank and their attention to me as a technology user.” Couple that very positive emotional response with great call center service and this institution has created a self-described loyal customer who, without a branch interaction, evangelizes their great banking experience as though it were a hot new mobility app—which, in reality, it has also become.

In the business of banking, it is easy to forget about the significance of emotional connection to a brand or experience. Traditional banking functions such as checking a balance or withdrawing money from an ATM are not emotional experiences. Or are they? If someone is heading out for an evening and cannot find an ATM or must pay a fee through a non-affiliated ATM, there is negative emotion associated with the irritation of not having easy access to their cash. If banking requires an appointment or lengthy wait at a branch, away from an individual’s life, the experience can be emotionally negative before it even begins. Conversely the examples noted above transformed an individual who was simply an account holder into an excited, vested and emotionally connected cheerleader for the brand. Emotional connection is a very real part of whether your business is characterized as good, great or any of many other single word descriptors. And fortunately today, reinforcing that emotional connection through technology makes that much easier than a generation or two ago where branch location and new account opening gifts were among the only tools available to keep customer experience positive.

We’ve touched on ‘good’ versus ‘great’ from a consumer’s perspective, but how does that work from the service side of the counter? Is simply investing in new technology enough? The answer is both yes and no. Yes, a technology investment that is properly marketed and deployed can increase customer happiness with your brand and increase feature adoption in the near term, but the pendulum can swing in the other direction by investing in the wrong technology and/or deployment method. Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Does a new feature fit naturally into the digital channel or is it a third- party offering that looks “bolted on?”
  • Does the offering’s workflow feel the same through all your electronic channels?
  • Does it match the workflow the user would experience in the branch? (an easy miss as many institutions stop thinking about the downstream affect at feature rollout.)

“Future-proofing” requires investing in a strategy that allows new features to feel organic on the digital platform and to the account holders’ interactions with your brand. In a world of rising consumer expectations, spending the time up front to map an experience that feels the same wherever an account holder touches your brand is important. This can oftentimes be as simple as using the digital channels with the account holder in the branch, so workflows don’t just feel the same, butare the same. For example, using a tablet equipped with your electronic offerings to help solve an account holder’s problem in the branch keeps your servicing touch points aligned in both form and function. This continuity through every interaction subtly and repeatedly reaffirms your institution’s commitment to innovation and account holder experience.

Today’s account holders are choosing their financial institutions for their commitment to thoughtful, relevant innovation. So in the year 2014, it’s important to ask yourself: what’s your innovation reputation?

Customer Experience: From the I to the O

I ran across a thought-provoking article from our friends at GonzoBanker. The crux of the article deals with one bank’s frustration with increasing their efforts at “customer experience” without experiencing an associated increase in new account acquisition (via referrals) or account penetration with existing customers. The banker quoted increased the level of knowledge that his branch staff had on products and services in order to increase the perceived “value” of his FI’s services.

My immediate thought was that the banker did what “he” thought would create a better experience for his customers. I believe there is a big disconnect with what most financial institutions management “thinks” creates a great customer experience and what customers think is a great customer experience. We’ll call this the “I-Focus”, an internal effort at improving the customer experience. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that an I-Focus isn’t valuable. It’s just incomplete. What’s missing is the “O-Focus”, the outward look at what drives customer behavior, preferences and activities. Customers are voting with their time and wallet: they want more mobility, more engaged self-service, more freedom to access the bank at a time and place of their choosing. No amount of additional training classes for branch staff will enable the type of experience that customers are electing. And this is not just a financial services issue; they are selecting self-service for shopping, travel, entertainment, and much more.

Start by determining which customers you want to keep (I’d suggest the profitable ones, however you measure that) and the customers you want to acquire (Gen Y and Gen Z potential customers represent acquiring $41 trillion of wealth over the next 30 years …) and then find out what is a great experience for them. Ask them. No, I don’t mean a SurveyMonkey email, I mean really ASK THEM! I find when I ask someone about what makes an experience memorable for them, they will always offer up something. Then categorize these in a meaningful way and determine what it will take for your FI to get from what you offer today to the experience the targeted customers want. Determine the O-Focus first; then determine the appropriate I-Focus course of action that will create the appropriate environment for the desired increase in new accounts and total account penetration.

Starbucks is selling coffee. Amazon is selling books, music, lots of stuff. These are commodities, nothing special. Both of these entities have created an “experience” and work diligently to continue to make that experience special. They know that the experience is emotional and is different for different customers and create an environment where that experience is valued. Now go into O-Focus mode and do the same.

Bouncing Transactions

Fraud resulting from account-takeover attacks continues to increase. And the mechanisms by which the fraud is being perpetrated continue to vary as fraudsters use creative ways to ex-filtrate stolen funds from financial institutions. While ACH and wire transfer fraud aimed at commercial account holders continues to be the most damaging and prevalent, an interesting trend has been seen emerging targeting retail customers. Fraudsters have begun to leverage external funds transfer as a new way to defraud customers—only they‘re using account linking to other FIs to “bounce” the transactions around before withdrawing.


Recently, we’ve noticed an uptick in the number of fraud cases (approximately 6 cases involving just over $170k in 2013) reported by our FIs involving fraudulent transactions created via incoming external transfers soon after new accounts have been opened. The general scenario works like this. A new account holder [fraudster] opens an account and enrolls in online banking. Shortly after enrollment, generally less than a month, the fraudster links the new account to an external account, or sometimes multiple external accounts, held at other FIs. The fraudster initiates an ACH-debit transaction, transferring funds into the newly created account. The funds are quickly withdrawn from the account in a number of ways, including ATM withdrawals, checks, or outgoing external transfers. Be on the watch for these types of activities. Examine your existing controls around funds transfer entitlements, and consider implementing additional mitigating controls, including:

  • Limit the ability of net new customers to link accounts or initiate external transfers through online banking. Consider using a minimum of at least 30 days after the initial opening of a new account with your financial institution.
  • Monitor ACH-debit activity (inbound transfers). Although it doesn’t represent the same risk as an outgoing transaction, it is still important to watch for anomalous activity.
  • Review existing entitlements and abilities current account holders have based on historical usage.

Hooked On Mobile

As a person who regularly travels back and forth from Connecticut to Austin, I have to admit that I really rely on the ability to connect to work and home via mobile on a variety of devices such as my iPhone or iPad. During presentations, I often talk about how we have truly become a mobile society and talk about how, for many, the mobile device (be it a smartphone or tablet) has become an extension of who we are. I joke that we could be 10, 20 or 30 miles, etc. from home and realize that we forgot our cellphone and immediately turn around and go back and get it.

Our mobile devices have even become the last things we put down at night and the first thing we pick up in the morning. That became even more apparent to me recently, when I had left the office to head to the airport with an associate and realized when we were almost at the airport that I had forgotten my iPhone on my desk. Since I was flying back to Connecticut, I sat there thinking how I would be able function without my iPhone until I returned to Austin next week. I thought about how much I rely on this simple device to check email, communicate and importantly do my banking as I travel. To say I was panic stricken would be an understatement. Luckily my associate was able to reach someone in the office who was kind enough to drive the phone the airport, and I was reunited it with. Imagine if you were in a similar situation, and I am sure you could relate.

In the Thursday, March 07, 2013, edition of USA Today there was an article on the topic of “Always Working” that discussed how mobile has become an integral part of our daily lives, be it work or personal. The article mentioned a Pew Research Center Study that cited that nearly two thirds of full time workers own smart phones, up from 48% two years ago, and one third own tablets, up from 12%.  I imagine that when you factor everyone else who own smart phones or tablets, we’d all agree we are hooked on mobile and our devices.
With more mobility comes more convenience, especially when it comes to banking, and with that comes even greater opportunity for banks and credit unions to better serve their markets. People are looking to convenient ways to connect with their financial institutions as evidenced by the following:

1. The ability to connect any time anywhere is appealing as demonstrated by all the articles and the ongoing list of statistics about the growth of mobile.

2. Like other ebanking transactions such as online transactions, mobile is cost effective and less expensive than traditional transactions done at a branch or via a call center.

3. Consumers, both retail and commercial, are demanding access to financial institutions via mobile or tablet devices for their banking needs. Study after study is confirming this type of demand.

4. The ability of financial institutions to connect to their customer via a multitude of channels deepens relationships and provides the additional opportunity to connect with consumers.

5. Adoption rates of mobile and mobile banking will only continue to rise as more and more of us realize the convenience. And it is not just a younger generation trend. Just walk into an Apple store and at the table you see groups of all ages learning how to use the iPhone and iPad and you’ll see my point.

6. Mobile has become top of mind for businesses and consumers, and this includes banks and credit unions looking to raise their service levels.

With all this in mind, it goes without saying that opportunity exists for banks and credit unions to extend their footprints and better serve the people like me who are simply hooked on mobile.

For the financial institutions out there, have you developed your strategy around mobile/tablet banking? Is your mobile strategy integrated into your overall ebanking offing?  If not the time is now. Opportunity is knocking.

Managing the Access to Our Digital Lives

Passwords. They’ve become an integrated component to how we function in our daily lives. They are designed for protection of privacy, and they represent a first line of defense in securing our digitals lives and cyber personas. And in some cases, our only defense.

Sending, receiving, emailing, accessing, transacting, purchasing, banking, subscribing, submitting, authorizing and social networking…just to name a few. As a result of the digital age and the growing number of interactions we have with electronic systems, I personally, am prompted for a password between 15-25 times each day – and sometimes in excess of 30.

As creatures that thrive on the euphoric principle of convenience, we often find ourselves constantly looking for ways to achieve more of it. While, at the same time, battling the perceived obstacles that seem to work against us and our quest to attain even more convenience(s) in our daily lives.

Translate this to how many of us view the obstacle of passwords. The number of daily online interactions that require our use of passwords is undoubtedly increasing. However, our tolerance for managing this growing mountain is endearingly low…. and that may be an understatement. As a result, we’ve gravitated towards a dangerous practice known as “password re-use”. Simply stated, our convenience is more important to us than our security. Agreed?

Look at the recent breaches of user passwords from services such as Facebook, Yahoo!, LinkedIn, eHarmony and other popular social-networking sites. Following these incidents, websites quickly surfaced publishing lists upon lists of these compromised passwords – and in many cases, usernames as well…which, in many cases, just so happened to be an email address.

Arguably, one could downplay the potential damage resulting from the unauthorized access to one of their accounts listed for the above sites. But, would you downplay the risk if one of these lists published your username and password for your online banking site? Absolutely not. And thus is the inherit problem that exists when re-using the same or similar passwords across online banking, social networking, and other e-commerce sites.

So, what measures can we be taking to help us avoid this problem and our tendency to opt for reusing passwords?

1. At a minimum, establish unique and complex passwords for use when accessing your online banking site. Inquire with your bank to see if they offer other factors for online authentication, such as tokens or OTPs (one-time passwords).

2. Use a personal passphrase instead of a single word, and build a password based on the words contained in the phrase or sentence. “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought…” could be remembered as “4scanse”.

3. Consider a password management tool to help generate and store unique passwords for each of the sites you visit. Some of the most popular include RoboForm (my personal favorite), LastPass, and KeePass, to name a few. These tools will encrypt your saved passwords for safe online or offline storage and access.

Following such practices will reduce your risk of an attacker gaining access to your sensitive credentials. Only you can help yourself.