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Banks Looking to Innovate, Make Banking Easier

Nov. 15, 2013
Banking, Banking News
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“Innovate or die” seems to be the rule in banking nowadays, and it’s all about how to attract you and your money.

In recent years, success has come down to which banks do the best innovating as they adapt  to new technology and add forward-thinking services. Rather than focusing on developing consumer banking products, like checking accounts or savings accounts, banks are pursuing accessibility. It’s not about where your money is; it’s about how you access and manage it.

All over the country, banks are looking at ways to improve engagement banking by meeting consumers where they are, rather than forcing consumers to come to them. Consumers want a personalized banking experience—one that’s based on their financial history and future expectations. They want to know what’s happening in their accounts at any given moment. They want automatic account alerts, digital payment services, bank news and budgeting tools on the go. And hey—rewards, coupons and other deals would be nice, too.

Accessibility, transparency and security are the new standards: Consumers want to access to their money through any and every avenue (especially their mobile devices), they want these services to be free and they want to be sure that their money is safe.

Banks Take Action

In September 2012, the American Bankers Association (ABA) released a paper called “Help Me Track My Money!” The paper served as a call to action for banks to launch their own personal finance tools for consumers. By offering such products, banks could reclaim market share from companies like Mint.com, which lets consumers monitor their spending and set budgets for all their bank accounts.

Providing online budgeting tools is one way banks are trying to engage consumers, but it’s just one part of a multi-pronged approach. Engagement banking depends on accessibility, transparency and security. There are a few banks that are taking initiative to offer consumers all three.

Upgrades and Innovations

Farmington Bank of Farmington, Connecticut, recently launched an upgraded free mobile banking app, now available for iPad, in addition to iPhone and Android devices. Previously available mobile features include the ability to check balances, transfer money, review transaction history, pay bills and find nearby branches and ATMs. Customers also have access to Person-to-Person Payments with Popmoney® through their mobile phone when they enroll in online banking and bill pay.

The new features are where you see accessibility, transparency and security really come into play. The new app lets you turn your debit card on or off as needed for protection with the new Debit Card On/Off Switch. You can also set security alerts for your accounts, transfers and bill payments, and use the Auto Login feature to view account balances and recent transactions before you log in. The iPad app even lets you leave notes for your account on the Scratchpad. Finally, you can keep up with bank happenings and receive notifications for events like its free Community Concert Series.

“Enhancing our mobile apps is just one of the ways that Farmington Bank is innovating to serve our customers when and where they want,” said Ilene Malina, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Farmington Bank. “Increasingly, customers of all ages are discovering and benefiting from the modern convenience and security features of our mobile apps.”

Centier Bank of Merillville, Indiana, also recently upgraded its free mobile banking app. Additions to the app include a Debit Card ON | OFF switch and Auto Login option, which offers quick access to your accounts. These upgrades complement previous features, like the ability to check balances, review transaction history, transfer money, and find nearby branches or ATMs. Centier’s extensive security keeps your money and personal information safe.

Cadence Bank, based in Birmingham, Alabama, released a suite of free online banking products last week, called Fluent by Cadence. The set includes the Cadence Mobile app, Cadence FlashDeposit and Cadence TotalMoney personal finance tool. Cadence Mobile lets you review transactions, check account balances, transfer money, and find nearby branches or ATMs. FlashDeposit lets you use your tablet or smartphone to deposit a check; and TotalMoney (available on mobile phone, tablet or desktop computer) is a comprehensive personal financial management tool. You can monitor all your accounts (it aggregates all your bank accounts, including those from other banks), track spending, set and manage budgets, and monitor your net worth, among many other options. The features are designed for the on-the-go user, with each tool easily accessed from the Fluent by Cadence app.

“It’s about convenience and control—giving our customers the tools to manage their money and conduct transactions anytime, anywhere,” Cadence Bank’s Debbie Innes, executive vice president of retail banking, said in a press release.

Camden National Bank, of Camden, Maine, has a Personal Financial Management Tool that comes free with its online banking service. The tool lets you monitor your net worth (compare what you owe to what you’re owed), track your spending, create and manage a budget, and receive notifications for important actions (including bill payments, low account balances or large transactions). The budgeting tool breaks down your spending by category and provides reports that tell you how successful you’ve budgeted over select periods. Camden National Bank’s online banking options also include free Quicken and QuickBooks export capabilities.

Putting The Consumer First

The hallmark of this era of banking is a variation on the old saying “the customer is always right.” This doesn’t mean blanket approval of every idea that consumers come up with, but it reflects a culture of listening to what they want. If banks want to succeed, they must learn to anticipate what you want before you even realize you want it.

Sean MacEntee / Flickr source