According to the latest annual study of online banking trends in
the US from research group comScore, the number of visitors to the
top 10 online banking sites has increased 25 percent to more than
51 million visitors over the three-year period 2006 to 2008.

Based on a survey of 4,846 US consumers,
comScore concludes the weak economic climate has altered the way
people interact with their finances – keeping a closer eye on their
transactions but making fewer transactions as personal budgets get
tighter.

The group also says that customers are looking
for just two key services from their banks: first, financial
incentives; and secondly, financial guidance and security.

During the downturn, a number of banks in the
US have pursued aggressive customer acquisition strategies by
offering an array of incentives including cash rewards, notes
comScore.

Asked about incentives, some 34 percent of its
respondents said they were likely to switch providers in return for
a $50 cash incentive, 21 percent were interested in a rate greater
than 2 percent for the life of the account, while 8 percent of
respondents preferred a high teaser rate of 4 percent or
greater.

When asked about reasons for opening new
current and savings accounts, 70 percent of respondents indicated
that free banking was the most important attribute. Availability of
branches and ATMs followed at 40 percent, while 20 percent of
respondents cited website functionality.

 

Account opening incentives

 

The current financial situation has also
brought a “paradigm shift” in the way US consumers are allocating
their funds and managing their finances. Nearly 50 percent of
respondents claimed to have less than 20 percent of their funds
allocated to savings and high-yield savings accounts, while 36
percent of the respondents reported having greater than 80 percent
of their funds allocated to their current account.

Although the high-yield savings market has
matured since the product was introduced nearly a decade ago, only
21 percent of respondents in the survey reported having an active
high-yield savings account.

The leading driver for opening a high-yield
savings account was simply a “higher rate,” (68 percent of
respondents). Ease of transferring funds followed as a primary
reason with 39 percent, followed by cash incentives at 35
percent.

Compared to previous years, there were
“substantial” declines in 2008 in both customer satisfaction and
overall engagement with online banking as both total visits and
total minutes to the top 10 banks declined by 10 percent, says
comScore.

It concluded that, while this could reflect
consumers’ increasing dissatisfaction with their primary [bank] website, the decline in engagement may “reflect the discomfort felt
by consumers having to confront their own less pleasant financial
circumstances”.

Market share leading US high-interest savings account