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Virtual Branch Myth #2, Part 2

Posted by David Peterson on Wed, Jun 12, 2013 @ 13:06 PM

In my previous blog entry, I detailed the myth that integrating online and mobile banking will hold back mobile banking.

As we continue the series in this blog post, I would like to address the issue of mobile being a separate channel.

Mobile is a Channel Myth: Mobile is the next evolution in online banking.

Mobile is cool. Mobile is hot. Mobile devices sales are rising as PC sales are falling. These type of stats are used as “evidence” that mobile is the next evolution of the online experience. When it comes to banking, the fact is that mobile is just another access point for consumers who want to access their financial institutions anytime, anywhere and on any device.

Newsflash: each access device is not a channel; your customer, acting beyond the branch, is the channel.

Think about how many types of mobile devices and operating systems exist today. You have the commercially viable iOS (Apple) and Android OS, plus minor systems in Blackberry (RIM) and Windows 8 (MS). There are multiple Apple devices and literally dozens of Android devices. Now suppose each of these required a separate interface to your core system. Each one would need to have its own user interface. The navigation for similar tasks would not be the same. All of this would generate confusion for your customer. Does that sound like evolution or taking your virtual branch back to the stone ages?

Customers want their financial institution to offer the same unified multi-device access they receive from the non-banking brands they trust with their shopping and browsing. Put another way, if decoupling mobile from online was a great idea, wouldn’t most all of the large online players be doing this?

On the contrary, Amazon and Apple go out of their way to integrate their mobile and online experiences across access devices. Facebook spends millions on ensuring that the user experience from online to handset to tablet is unified, integrated and consistent. Do you think that Facebook thinks that they should shun online and go mobile only? Of course not and neither should you!

Embracing a mobile strategy based on concerns over whether the days of online banking is over is a compromise that leads to dissatisfied customers and a weak Virtual Branch offering. To be successful, FIs need to focus on providing an integrated and unified customer experience that maximizes each access device for its unique qualities while ensuring that data, transactions, security protocol and user interface are consistent. This channel of one strategy is the central to retaining current and attracting new customers.

Stay tuned for more in my next blog post.

 

Tags: Virtual Branch, Online Banking, mobile banking, channel banking

Introducing the Elephant in the Room – The Challenge

Posted by Jay McLaughlin on Mon, May 20, 2013 @ 15:05 PM

Community banks and credit unions have protected accountholders for a long time, but today armored walls are not enough -- not with the popularity of the online channel.

While it is imperative that banks and credit unions offer a full line up of banking services including online, mobile and voice to keep up with the growing demand, financial institutions also need to constantly reassess the challenges, issues and potential threats those channels present.

Contributing to the problem is that community banks and credit unions no longer know their accountholders as wq2securityell as they once did. Consequently, few financial institutions have a good grasp of typical transactions for specific accountholders.

The issue is so important that it even garnered the increased attention of the federal government. The FFIEC on June 28, 2011 released updated guidance on how banks should guard against cyber-security threats. The original guidance offered by the FFIEC – a formal interagency comprised of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (FRB), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA), the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and the Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) –issued a set of guidelines back in 2005, titled Authentication in an Internet Banking Environment. They called on all financial institutions to improve their single-factor authentication processes – typically based on user name and passwords.

Since the guidelines were issued, numerous financial institutions added a second verification level for online transactions. However, in countless cases, the added measures have been largely superficial and barely reinforce authentication.

Despite the well-intentioned initial FFIEC mandate, fraud continues to grow exponentially while touching newer channels such as mobile banking that barely existed six or seven years ago. Since then, online risk and fraud issues no longer emanate from hackers creating chaos from their basements. Fraud is a big business and spawned by sophisticated organized crime factories aimed at stealing financial information. As a result of the more recent increases in online fraud within the banking industry, the FFIEC issued the new updated guidelines regarding online bank account security in an effort to further address the root cause of fraud.

There is a growing need for technology that intuitively knows accountholders normal transaction patterns, and then issues alerts when irregularities take place. The technology exists but deployment is often infrequent. Stay tuned to find out more about assessing security and how you can be prepared.

Tags: Q2security, online banking security, online security, Banking Security

Virtual Branch Myth #2, Part 1

Posted by David Peterson on Wed, May 08, 2013 @ 10:05 AM

There are many in financial services who believe that mobile banking is a channel of its own, distinctly separate from other online banking applications. They theorize that only when mobile is decoupled from all other online capabilities can mobile grow, expand and capitalize on its unique capabilities.

Those who argue for a mobile-only strategy usually believe in the following myths:

1) Online banking will restrict mobile from growing as it normally would.

2) Mobile is the next evolution in online banking and that traditional online access is archaic and antiquated.

3) Mobile and online channels are different and therefore deserve their own distinct applications and systems. 

To me these three myths are all part of one misconception: that the mobile channel can be successfully decoupled from other online services. To gain a better understanding of the issue at hand, these myths must be thoroughly explained and debunked. Due to the amount of information needed to discuss this topic, I will break this topic up into multiple blog entries.

mobile banking, online bankingMobile Is a Channel Myth #2, Part 1: Internet banking will hold mobile banking back.

In order for you to believe that online holds back mobile, you would have to assume that mobile will only take on all of the features that online offers.  Since so many financial institutions have online systems that are so far removed from the expectations of their customers, offering only the most rudimentary functionality, it is easy to see why they would be attracted to the bright shiny object that mobile represents compared to their antiquated online system. 

There is no question that PC sales are down while at the same time the sales of mobile handsets and tablets are off the charts. But without a synchronized mobile and Internet offering, consumers and FI support personnel alike must deal with a separate verification, authorization and issue resolution processes.

Rather than holding mobile back, Internet banking acts as an additional integrated resource for consumers.

Consider this example: suppose a consumer takes a photo of a check with a mobile device to make a deposit. Twenty minutes later, the same consumer is trying to verify if they have enough money to buy that flat screen TV they have found on sale – today only!. The mobile deposit will probably show up in the online system, but will the customer’s mobile available balance match up with the online balance? If the systems are separate, there is a good chance that they have separate interfaces to the core system that holds the balance information.  Separate interfaces often mean mismatched information.

Here’s another example, suppose a consumer creates a bill payment on their non-integrated mobile device. The bill payment goes through fine. When it’s time to pay that bill the next month, they find it on the mobile device and make the payment. The following month, when they need to pay the bill their mobile device is not available. So they use a friend’s computer to access their financial institution via online banking and look for the bill payment vendor. Only it’s not there because the FI has a mobile strategy that is not integrated into all of the access points that the customer can use. This same scenario plays out for issues such as support, security, authorization, dual control, and so forth.

Embracing a mobile strategy based on concerns over outdated online banking technology is a compromise that leads to future obsolescence and a poor consumer experience. Instead, to be successful, FIs need to focus on providing an integrated experience that maximizes each access device for its unique qualities while ensuring that data, transactions, security protocol and user interface are consistent. This channel of one strategy is central to retaining current and attracting new customers.

Check back soon for my next blog post - Mobile Is a Channel Myth #2, Part 2.  

Tags: Virtual Branch, Online Banking, mobile banking, channel banking

Introducing the Elephant in the Room - Online Banking Security

Posted by Jay McLaughlin on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 @ 09:04 AM

If your financial institution does not have risk and fraud concerns for the online banking channel then this blog series will not be of any assistance to you. Keep a look out the next few weeks for more information on security including the challenge, assessing security and being prepared. 

First off, if your financial institution’s reputation does not matter then I have some suggestions for you. To start, have your account holders create passwords that are easy to remember such as:

  • Children’s or pets names
  • Birthdays
  • Simple number sequences
  • Or have them attach sticky notes next to their computer with the password
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In regard to challenge questions, encourage they make personal information readily available on social networking sites and click on any unverified links. Maybe they can also misguidedly download Trojans with funny names like ZeuS (not the Greek god), Tatanga (not a dance), or Oddjob (not a James Bond nemesis). Just remember when it comes to online risk and fraud, when it happens, your account holders will likely look to your institution for answers.

You see your very own account holder — too trusting, too frenzied, and sometimes too careless — is now the weakest link in the online banking process. Did you know that for every fifth person you know, one is infected?  Well at least their computer is. The Anti Phishing Working Group estimates that 17 percent of U.S. desktops are infected with some type of malware or password stealer. Microsoft recently proclaimed, "One out of every 14 programs downloaded is actually malware." Talk about going viral!

The bottom line is that you cannot rely on anyone’s computer or online device being secure. For your financial institution, this means you could be a passive bystander, not wishing to panic your accountholders, or a proactive watch guard of their transactions with a few effective changes and the right partner.

Choosing the right options for online account security comes at a critical time. The number of households that use online banking grew to 72.5 million and those utilizing electronic bill pay grew to 36.4 million, according to a recent consumer survey. Usage is up because this channel is now the most preferred way for accountholders to interact and transact with a financial institution. At the same time, people are busier than ever and struggle to keep track of difficult-to-recall user IDs and passwords while protecting themselves at all times. Fraudsters realize this and take advantage of the growing popularity of the echannel to set their traps to commit fraud.

The archetypal Depression-era bank thief, John Dillinger was well known for his sophisticated social engineering schemes, which ranged from posing as a bank-alarm system salesman to pretending to film a “bank robbery scene” in order to stake out potential bank marks. For his efforts, Dillinger swiped several hundred thousand dollars from 1933-1934.

Compare that to the faceless ZeuS – called the 'most dangerous Trojan virus ever created,' according to some experts. ZeuS Trojans attack through “men-in-the-browser” agents that grab variables from a browser session, such as during online banking transactions that they use to steal information, or worse.

Financial institutions may not be held accountable for any financial losses today, but their reputational loss has no such limitations. Online banking is so crucial that once an institution’s trust is compromised, accountholders have no reason to stay. Consumers are used to 24/7 online service and they expect 24/7 protection (even from themselves). Simply put, community banks and credit unions could and should do much more to protect accountholders as well as their financial institution’s own standing.

Now that you know all of this, what should be your next step? Stay tuned for the next blog posts to find out! 

Tags: online banking security, online fraud, antiphishing, bank fraud, financial fraud

Virtual Branch Myth #1

Posted by David Peterson on Thu, Apr 18, 2013 @ 13:04 PM

As a follow up to my recent blog post, here’s the first in a series of Virtual Branch Myths to consider.

“Our FI employs a best of breed approach to technology; we buy individual products that meet specific customer/member needs”. Sounds good, right?

The problem with this siloed approach is that it leads to selecting individual products chasing a particular market segment or specific devices. Mobile is the obvious example; many FIs have selected a specific mobile vendor for a specific part of mobile functionality. This results in the FI having multiple apps for online banking, mobile remote deposit, mobile bill pay, mobile PtoP, and so on.

Moreover, each of these products have a different user interface, the flow of entering information, the navigation in the app, the information that is retrieved and displayed all will be different. It is possible, even likely, that they would see different available balance information displayed in different apps. This is because regardless of the app source, there still has to be an interface back to the core system. Multiple systems means managing multiple interfaces to the core and depending on how the company creates this interface and whether it is online/real-time or batch will affect the balance and other critical information that is retrieved and displayed on the mobile device.

With this in mind, the importance of a consistent user interface cannot be overlooked. When looking at “best of breed”, start by asking these questions:

  1. Do I need to create another host interface? 
  2. Will this present a different user interface for my customers/members? 
  3. Will the data, navigation and experience be simplified and intuitive if I offer this in addition to the other systems that I deploy?
describe the imageIf the answers are Yes, Yes, and No, then even though you may perceive that there is a particular feature/function that is desirable from a particular vendor, the long term negative aspect of non-integrated systems will greatly outweigh any short-term benefit. You should look for a solution that allows for one host interface to run myriad integrated applications that present a unified user experience. Make sure that your view of technology is a strategic one, not the shiny object du jour … stay tuned for more Virtual Branch myths!

Tags: Virtual Branch, Online Banking, Branch Banking, Customer Experience

With everyone talking about adopting virtual branches lately…

Posted by David Peterson on Tue, Apr 09, 2013 @ 14:04 PM

Think you have a true virtual branch?  Maybe not, read on …

If I defined a “branch” as being:

  • A place where customers could perform basic banking transactions

  • Staffed by trained professionals

  • Had all of the equipment and services needed

  • Had its own budget

  • Had a senior manager overseeing its success

Would your current online offering fit this definition of a virtual branch? 

I find that most financial institutions have a limited view of what the virtual branch is and what it can (or should) be.  As I have conversations with bank and credit union professionals about the virtual branch, I am amazed by comments that lead me to believe that there is a great deal of myths and misconceptions about what the virtual branch is and can be.  In this series of blog posts, my goal will be  to examine these myths and dispel them, using verifiable facts and data and adding my own color and opinions to each component of this series.  It is my hope that as you examine all of the evidence that you would not leave the discussion unaffected. 

You may decide to ignore the truths of what the virtual branch has become, but this  will not change the fact that this method of access  has (or soon will be) your largest branch, by both number of primary customers/members and financially.  The question is whether you will strategically address it as your largest branch or continue to view the virtual branch (I’ll refer to it as VB throughout the rest these posts) as just a tactical operational expense.

The types of myths I will address in this series will cover subjects like:

  • Our end users do not desire the VB as their primary channel

  • Devices such as smartphones and tablets are channels (Spoiler note: your customer is the channel!)

  • I can’t charge for any online banking or mobile activity

  • Only young people are interested in online banking

  • Online/Mobile banking is just an operational expense

  • I should abandon online and concentrate on a mobile only strategy

  • End users don’t care about a consistent user experience

  • My customers/members do not expect our institution to offer the same experience as Apple, Google and Facebook

  • My customers/members don’t use smartphones and tablets very much if at all

  • A compelling user experience will not engage the end user to do more with our institution online

  • We do not need to treat our online banking as we do a branch, it’s completely different

  • We have plenty of time to offer more advanced services in our community, we are not competing against larger regional FIs

While not comprehensive, this list will give you an idea of the subjects that this series will cover.  So stay tuned and setup a reminder to check this blog often so you can see the latest post.  And whether you agree or not, send me a reply. I am particularly interested in those that would challenge my assertions, .  Perhaps you will change my mind on an issue or I might wind up changing yours, either way, I welcome the conversation.

David Peterson serves Q2ebanking as Executive Vice President, Strategy & Innovation, and is Chairman of GACHA, a nonprofit payments association located in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tags: Virtual Branch, Online Banking, Branch Banking, Customer Experience

Hooked on Mobile

Posted by Mickey Goldwasser on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 @ 08:03 AM


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.

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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.

Tags: mobile banking, mobile, always working

Protect Yourself from "Phishing" Attacks & Social Engineering Scams

Posted by Jay McLaughlin on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 @ 08:01 AM

So what is phishing? 

Phishing is an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, account numbers, credit card details, and other personal information by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. Phishing is typically carried out using social engineering techniques such as email spoofing and often directs users to click a malicious link, or enter sensitive information at a fraudulent website, disguised as a legitimate or trusted source. Phishing e-mails may include a company’s logo or tagline along with a message of urgency regarding a problem with an account or a need to validate personal information.

How do you avoid phishing scams? 

Your bank or credit union should NEVER request personal financial information from you as a customer via e-mail or online forms. As a customer, if you ever receive any suspicious e-mail containing logos or references to your bank, contact the bank directly. Never respond to an unsolicited or suspicious e-mail or provide any information to an unknown source. 

  1. Be suspicious of any unsolicited email requesting personal financial information - even if it appears to be from an entity you trust. These requests may ask for usernames and passwords, PIN numbers, social security numbers, account numbers, or card verification values (CVV) from the back of your credit and debit cards. Never provide this information unless you are using a known secured website or calling directly over the telephone.
  2. Be aware of links embedded in suspicious e-mails. Consider bookmarking free sites such as www.pdfmyurl.com, which will PDF any URL in real-time and present it back to you so you know if the site is fraudulent or real. 
  3. Never overlook your computer security measures.  Install the latest anti-virus updates and anti-spyware software on your computer to prevent malicious websites from installing spyware. Visit www.onguardonline.gov or www.staysafeonline.org to learn more about available security software and other ways to help safeguard your computer.

Awareness is Key

Review your monthly credit card and bank statements.  Remember, time is of the essence.  Don’t wait for your statement to arrive in the mail or your inbox. Checking your statements online will enable you to easily identify errors or recognize unauthorized account activity.  In the case of a disparity or unauthorized transaction(s), notify your financial institution immediately by contacting its customer service department.

Take Prompt Action

If you feel you have been a victim of a "phishing" scam, take immediate steps to mitigate any damage to your personal information and your identity.
  1. Report the fraudulent activity to your financial institution.
  2. File a complaint online with the W3C.
  3. Close existing deposit and checking accounts and reopen them with new account numbers.
  4. Monitor and review your credit reports.  Report unauthorized activity to the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.
  5. Request a free copy of your credit reports.  To obtain a copy from each of the three major credit bureaus, visit www.annualcreditreport.com.  You may request your reports online, by phone, or through the mail.
  6. If required, you may request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit record requiring that you be contacted before credit is extended using your name and social security number.
  7. Report suspicious activity to the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline, by calling 1-800-269-0271 or online at OIG’s website http://oig.ssa.gov/.

Tags: online banking security, online security, phishing, scams, social engineering

A Quick Glance at 2012

Posted by Brooke Hoffpauir on Fri, Jan 11, 2013 @ 09:01 AM

This past year was a great one for Q2ebanking. All the wonderful employees, partners and clients that we work with made 2012 a rousing success. We truly value all of these relationships and want to thank you! With that, we wanted to share a few key events from the past year.

This was the first year for the Q2 webinar series, and it was a great success! We had 18 webinars with 25 webinar sessions offered, which more than 180 different financial institutions attended. During the coming year, we will offer even more webinar topics. For more information on webinars offered, email q2webinars@q2ebanking.com.

You may have also noticed our updated website. We were excited to roll out a new website that is continually updated with new products and services, events we will be attending in 2013, and more!

Throughout the year, we really enjoyed taking our message on the road all over the country to about 45 conferences and tradeshows including BAI Retail Delivery, CUNA GAC, ABA, ICBA, NACHA Payments and more. Look for us at conferences and tradeshows this year. You can find where we will be on our website here.  

In April we had our Q2ebanking Annual Client Conference, which saw record attendance including over 30 newly joined financial institutions. If you are a Q2ebanking client interested in attending the 2013 Q2ebanking Annual Client Conference, you can find more information here.

Not to brag, but we had another award-winning year. For the third year running, Inc. included Q2ebanking in its list of the top 500|5000 companies. In 2012 we were ranked number 790 in fastest-growing private companies in America. We also received a Top Workplaces award for the second year in a row — Austin American Statesman ranked Q2ebanking as the Number 2 Top Workplace among midsize companies in our hometown of Austin, Texas.Inc500 5000A final resized 600

If you haven’t had the chance to experience the culture of Q2ebanking, we’d like to share a couple of things about what makes us unique and a great company to work with. The Q2 Cares committee and the Green committee were a new addition this year. The Q2 Cares committee encourages Q2ebanking employees to get involved in the community, by helping with events such as our Annual Employee Charity Golf Tournament. Over the past 3 years the golf tournament has raised $16,500 in donations to different charities such as MDA Austin and Breast Cancer Resource Center of Texas.  

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The Green committee has played a key role in recycling at the office. No more feeling bad about printing that extra piece of paper! With recycling bins all over the building we are able to recycle paper, glass, plastic and even batteries.

To support our growth in the ebanking industry, in July we expanded into Atlanta, GA. Check out the blog post by Q2ebanking’s VP of People and Places to learn more about our expansion in Atlanta.

In October, we introduced a new product, Q2clarity. It’s a customizable dashboard that provides reports about all your ebanking channels. If you’re an executive, it’s the perfect solution to getting the data you want on your FI’s ebanking key performance indicators.

Last but not least, we started the Q2 Blog about mid-year. We hope that you have found it informational and useful. Please subscribe to get the latest updates! Also, make sure to connect with us through Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and even Google + for updates when new blogs are posted and more.

As you can tell, 2012 was a busy year for us. We are looking forward to what 2013 has in store.  

Tags: Conferences, Year in Review, 2012, Annual Client Conference, Q2clarity, ebanking

Branding Matters - The Top 3 Things to Help Strengthen Your FI's Brand

Posted by Thomas Fuller on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 @ 13:11 PM

In today's ever changing banking environment how does your institution standout and separate from the crowd. The answer is through branding.

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What is a brand and why does it matter to a financial institution? Most think a brand is the front facing name, term, tagline, design or symbol that creates a distinction amongst competitors. Although this is true, more importantly, a brand is the sum of the values, services, and morals of your company. When enough people share the same feelings about your company, it becomes your brand.

In the wake of the worst financial crisis this nation has faced, many banks and credit unions are finding that consumers have a bad outlook on the financial sector. It’s never been more important for a financial institution to reassure their clients that their bank or credit union is safe, secure, and trusted. Your brand plays an integral role in providing this assurance.

Anne Rivers of BrandAsset Consulting, which surveys 16,000 consumers quarterly, says commercial banks have some of the weakest brands in the financial industry, falling below credit card companies and investment banks in terms of reputation. In fact, it is estimated that the average financial services company has only about 7 percent of its total value in its brand, a weak ratio in comparison to other industries. Brand strength can be measured on aspects such as differentiation, how well-regarded the brand is, relevance to the consumer, and the consumers knowledge of the brand.

So what does this mean to you? In this day and age, success has become increasingly dependent on an institution's ability to cohesively communicate its brand, position, and its uniqueness. Gone are the days of stale coffee, long lines for tellers, and leather back chairs.

It's easy for the MEGA banks with unlimited resources to reach consumers with television campaigns and sporting event sponsorships, but how can a small community institution strengthen its brand on a limited budget? According to an article in the American Banker, there are three things an institution can do:

First, dedicate an internal team as your "brand gurus".

Provide them with training on your business and strategies, philosophy, and customer service policy. Instilling ownership of the brand concept will help to rally co-workers throughout the company. Ensure that this team meets regularly to monitor the health of your brand.

Second, stay consistent with your external message.

Branch marketing, signage, website design, and advertising should stay simple and tied together. A consistent display in these areas will create better awareness of your brand and your value as a trusted partner.

Third, have a mission for your institution.

Educate your employees on this vision and stick to it. Your employees are the face of your brand and help to deliver a solid image. No matter the size of your institution, the ability to influence your brand will attract and retain customers and strengthen valuable relationships.

In most cases a complete reinvention is not necessary, as many institutions have established business models, brands, customers, and delivery networks. One of the best ways to revisit your institution’s brand strength is to perform a Brand Assessment. This assessment will help determine the attitude of your institution to ensure that your brand and strategic growth goals are aligned and to make sure all of the products and services your institution offers are represented by your brand. Visit allaboutbranding.com and take their free assessment tool and comparison here

Tags: Financial branding, branding, online branding