Q&A with Mike Boush, VP, eBusiness, Discover Financial Services

Peter Wannemacher

Earlier this week I caught up with Discover’s Mike Boush to talk about his keynote at the upcoming eBusiness Forum, where he’ll explore innovations in eBusiness at Discover. Here’s a snippet of our conversation, and a sneak peak of Mike’s session at the event:

Q: What digital initiative have you undertaken in the last 12 months that you're most excited about?

A: I love what we're doing with partnerships online. It's creating a whole lot of value for customers and, frankly, getting us out of the "must be built at Discover" mentality. It started with an integration with PayPal in order to deliver peer-to-peer payment services. The program leverages PayPal’s huge delivery platform, and customers love it. Then we introduced an integration with Amazon that lets customers pay for their Amazon.com purchases with the cash they earned through our Cashback Bonus rewards program. This really highlights the difference between competitors' "points" programs and our straightforward cash, and the transparency shows just how great our program is. And recently, Google announced our integration of Discover card enrollment into the Google Wallet from our website, which is convenient for customers and helps position us in the mobile payments space. These integrations are just a sample of what we've done, but they become powerful illustration of what we can do when we team up and innovate with other great companies. 

Q: What gets in the way of delivering the right experience to your customers?

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The Business Case For Personal Financial Management

Benjamin Ensor

Back in November 2006, a startup called Wesabe first showed the potential of online money management. Packaged personal financial management (PFM) software for PCs like Intuit's Quicken had existed for years, but Wesabe, Mint.com and a handful of other startups showed the value of using customer data, and community, to help people understand their finances better.

Since then, hundreds of banks, credit unions, wealth management firms, and other companies have launched a range of spending categorization, budgeting, peer group comparisons, and other money management features for their customers.* The leaders are increasingly making money management available in mobile and tablet apps, as well as on their websites. Fuelled by the poor state of many of the world's developed economies and growing use of digital channels, customer interest in online money management is substantial, as my colleague Reineke Reitsma wrote on her blog a few months ago.

Yet despite the growing number of firms that already offer money management, and the evident interest of some customers, many financial services eBusiness executives still question whether the business case adds up. Our new report on The Business Case For Personal Financial Management addresses that question. Here's what we found:

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Royal Bank Of Canada, Citi, & Wells Fargo Top Forrester’s Digital Sales Rankings In 2012

Peter Wannemacher

Every year, Forrester employs its Website Benchmark (WSB) methodology to evaluate the effectiveness of North American banks’ digital sales efforts. This year, our evaluation has yielded two reports: 2012 Canadian Bank Digital Sales Rankings and 2012 US Bank Digital Sales Rankings. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) leads all of North America.RBC again took the top spot in the 2012 Canadian Bank Digital Sales Rankings, scoring 77 out of a possible 100. It continues to tweak and improve an already good design; the bank started a major redesign in 2009. RBC continues to excel in areas big and small: For example, the firm presents fulfillment options in an easy-to-read format (see screenshot below). In 2012, Royal Bank of Canada improved its navigation, content, and online application functionality, and its score for 2012 reflects that improvement.
  • Citi and Wells Fargo top the US banks.Citi and Wells Fargo topped Forrester’s 2012 US Bank Digital Sales Rankings by delivering on multiple levels. Both banks combine good usability with exceptional account-opening processes. For example, Wells Fargo uses presentation best practices to make its checking account fees clear to customers and prospects (see screenshot below).
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You Need Your Customer More Than Your Customers Need You

Harley Manning

Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.

If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.

Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I  moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.

In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.

Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?

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Read This Blog, Win A Prize!!!

Peter Wannemacher

It’s the latest craze sweeping the nation… No, I’m not talking about Fruit Ninja, I’m talking about gamification.

There's a reason "gamification" is the buzzword on the tip of so many tongues these days. It takes ideas and structures from games - the video kind and other types - to guide companies in their quest to affect consumer behavior. So should digital strategists at banks and financial institutions use gamification to meet their business objectives?

We’ll get to that, but for now let's start by clarifying what we're talking about. Forrester defines gamification as:

      The insertion of game dynamics and mechanics into non-game activities to drive a desired behavior.

These mechanics come in many shapes & sizes – SCVNGR, a mobile game developer, has a list of more than 40 – but here’s a quick list of four major ones:

·         Points. The most basic element of gamification, points is any type of virtual currency – or, in a few cases, IRL currency. Digital strategists at banks & credit card companies have used this tool for years in the form of rewards points. 

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What Can Bank eBusiness Executives Do About The Euro Crisis?

Benjamin Ensor

These are worrying times for people across Europe as the euro lurches towards another crisis, with leaders talking openly about the possibility of Greece leaving the euro and reports of customers starting to withdraw deposits from banks in Greece and Bankia in Spain.

It's easy to feel powerless in the face of such powerful forces, but fundamentally the repeated euro crises are about two things: debt and confidence. Lots of individuals, small companies, banks and governments across Europe have a large amount of debt, and lenders -- depositors, investors and other banks -- aren't completely confident that all of them will be able to pay it back. It's critical to avoid a vicious spiral of declining confidence that will harm Europe's economic prospects and the livelihoods of its peoples.

What can bank eBusiness executives do about it? Remember that you control two of your bank's critical communication channels:  the website and email. Use them to reassure customers. How?

  • Help customers understand what the crisis is about. Banks aren't just about products. Your purpose is to help customers manage their money. Help your customers understand the causes of the crisis and the reality of the hard choices facing Europe. Nobody likes realizing that they are poorer than they thought they were. Without getting political, help customers understand the situation and what it means to them.
  • Spell out why your firm is safe. My bank emailed me on Thursday to remind me that it's covered by the British government's Financial Services Compenstation Scheme, covering up to £85,000. Put a similar message on your home page and onto the secure site, where online banking customers are most likely to see it.
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Discover Offers Best-In-Class Secure Site Features For Cardholders: Forrester’s 2012 US Credit Card Secure Website Rankings

Peter Wannemacher

Websites are the most widely used touchpoint for credit cardholders interacting with their providers. The quality of a credit card company's secure website impacts the relationship that firm has with its customers. To understand the state of card issuers' digital services, Forrester has just released our 2012 US Credit Card Secure Website Rankings. We found that:

  • Discover leads the pack with exceptional service features and valuable transactional functionality. With a score of 80 out of 100, Discover received the highest overall score among the six credit card issuers whose websites we evaluated. The firm earned a whopping 91 in our online servicing category, as well as an impressive 84 in our transactional content and functionality category.
  • eBusiness teams at card issuers have room to improve in cross-selling and usability. Although the websites we looked at revealed strong digital services among credit card issuers overall, our benchmark also uncovered opportunities for improvement, specifically in the areas of user experience design and secure website cross-selling. eBusiness teams need to enhance their websites’ navigation, task flow efficiency, and location cues while improving the contextual cross-selling & upselling on the secure site.

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Our View On What Matters In European Retail Banking eBusiness & Channel Strategy

Benjamin Ensor

The past five years have been awful for most European retail banks. The financial crisis, and the resulting recessions in most of Europe's economies, nearly destroyed some banks and crushed the profitability of many of the remainder. Worse than that, it was a problem that was partly or largely of (some) banks' own making. Banks are being forced to shrink their balance sheets, sell off non-core businesses and cut costs (i.e. fire employees) just to survive. And Europe's ongoing financial crises are far from over as banks' fortunes are closely entwined with those of their indebted governments.

There's one small silver lining among these dark clouds. Over the past 15 years, eBusiness has evolved from providing an electronic brochure to become a fundamental strategic function within retail banks. One of the effects of the financial crisis has been to force most European banks to focus on how to generate profits in their core retail banking operations by serving customers efficiently. Digital banking is a big part of the answer. So, despite the bleak economic outlook, most retail banking boards know that they must continue investing in digital channels. Digital strategy is an increasingly important component in overall strategy.

I'm still surprised when I find heads of eBusiness who remain marginalized within their firms, reporting into IT or marketing rather than a centralized distribution channels function alongside branches. The leading banks no longer make that mistake. That has greatly increased the power and influence of digital banking executives, but also their responsibility for the overall success of their businesses.

Here's our view of the top five priorities for eBusiness and channel strategy executives at European retail banks:

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Learning From Digital Innovation At Commonwealth Bank Of Australia

Benjamin Ensor

There are a number of firms that we watch closely at Forrester because they stand out for sustained innovation. Behind the technology giants like Google and Apple, there are a number of established firms that are using technology to adapt rapidly and successfully to changing customer behaviour and needs. One of them is Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Over the past four to five years CommBank has introduced a series of digital innovations to serve its customers better including:

  • Finest Online. In the course of its "Finest Online" project from 2007 to 2009, Commonwealth Bank of Australia redesigned its NetBank Internet banking service with the objectives of building an excellent customer experience and driving online sales. The bank implemented new content and functionality to support the customer journey and integrated new secure site sales processes with in-person channels and the bank's multichannel customer relationship management (CRM) system. The two-year, cross-organizational project boosted online sales, increased customer satisfaction, and improved the bank's image. (Forrester clients can read our case study.)
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Barclays Bank Raises Its Game In Digital Financial Innovation

Benjamin Ensor

At our Marketing & Strategy Forum last November, Sean Gilchrist, head of digital banking at Barclays Bank, talked passionately about the importance of customer experience to the work being done by his team at Barclays. It's good to see some of the results of that focus on customers in two innovations introduced by Barclays in the past few weeks:

  • Firstly, Barclays has started rolling out a new online banking interface. While I'm sure that not every customer will like the change, the point is that Barclays is taking a modular (or widget-like) approach to displaying content and functionality in anticipation of having to serve customers on a rapidly growing range of digital devices. We think that approach is going to become increasingly common as eBusiness teams adjust to the fragmentation brought by the Splinternet.
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