While the media, analysts and other industry observers all devote enormous amounts of time and attention to mobile banking and mobile payment developments, of which there seem to be new several new ones each day, there’s a quieter channel change going on that’s received little attention. That is the growth in online banking.

Consumer research conducted recently by Novarica found that not only are 38 percent of the U.S. population avid users of online banking services (versus the 12 percent to 18 percent of mobile banking users, depending on whose estimate you go by), but the number of people who prefer to use the online channel for basic banking transactions has grown around 30%. Online banking is now the go-to destination for 70 percent of Novarica’s survey respondents when researching products and for 68 percent when checking account balances. Sixty percent of consumers prefer to transfer funds online, again more than any other channel. For those of us old enough to remember 1995, when Security First Network Bank opened the first internet-based bank and got the stalled online banking movement moving, these numbers are high.

And in an oddball sign of the times, Japanese electronics manufacturer Sony wants to open an online bank in Australia. Japanese paper The Nikkei has reported that Sony intends to begin online banking operations in Australia as early as fiscal 2012. Sony Bank is the largest online bank in Japan with $23 billion in assets. It also plans to extend its reach throughout Asia.

Many banks’ online banking platforms are ten years old or older. When asking their banking clients about their intent to invest in online banking, Novarica analysts found that more than 40% of are evaluating new online banking features such as person-to-person payments, click-to-talk, and account aggregation.

“With online banking now well established, banks are investing to upgrade their infrastructures to support new capabilities, as well as to support improved integration with other channels,”says Madhavi Mantha, principal and head of banking research at Novarica. She recommends that banks consider several enhancements to their online banking programs. One is integration with personal financial management, so that a customer could analyze their spending and savings habits with their account information pre-filled into the charts and tables. Another is targeted offerings, such as merchant rewards and loyalty programs. A third is online account opening – Citi and Wells Fargo have been working to improve their online account opening process. A fourth is the ability to easily set up email and mobile alerts online.


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