Online Banking (E-Banking) Strategies

Though E-banking offers vast opportunities, yet even less than one in three banks have an E-banking strategy in place. According to a study, less than 15 percent of banks with transactional websites will realize profits directly attributable to those sites. Hence, banks must recognize the seriousness of the challenge ahead and develop a strategy that will enable them to leverage the opportunities presented by the Internet.

No single E-banking strategy is right for every banking company. But whether they adopt an offensive or a defensive posture, they must constantly re-evaluate their strategy. In the fast-paced e-economy, banks have to keep up with the constantly evolving business models and technology innovations of the Internet space. Early e-business adopter like Wells Fargo not only entered the E-banking industry first but also showed flexibility to change as the market developed. Not many banks have been as e-business-savvy. But the pressure is now building for all banks to develop sound e-business strategies that will attract and retain increasingly discriminating customers.

The major problem with the banks, which have already invested huge amounts in their online initiatives, is that their online offerings remain unprofitable. Though banks have enrolled some existing customers in their online programs, they are not getting customers in large numbers. This has made banks wonder whether there is any value in the online channel. Just enrolling customers for online banking may not be sufficient until and unless they use the site actively. Banks must make efforts to increase their site usage by customers and effectively co-ordinate the online channel with branches and call centers. Then only they will be able to derive maximum value that includes cost reduction, cross-selling opportunities, and higher customer retention.

Customers have some rational reasons for staying offline. Some of these reasons include usability features of the site, concerns about security and frequent complaints that signing up is complicated and time-consuming. Banks can solve these problems by refocusing investment on improving the site’s basic functionality and user-friendliness, and avoiding advanced features that most customers neither understand nor value. Developing advanced features that appeal to a relatively small numbers of customers, creates far less value than strengthening core capabilities and getting customers to use them. Banks must make efforts to familiarize customers with their sites and show them how easy and efficient the online channel is to use.

Integrating the online channel with the rest of the bank is another important issue that banks must focus upon. This is important because nearly all the value of the online channel is realized offline _ in cross sales completed in other channels and in cost reductions. An actively used online channel should also serve as a medium to sell banking services for the branch staff, the call center, and the relationship manager. Integrated channels working together are far more effective than a group of channels working without any coordination.

To facilitate this integration, banks must formulate paths that people in various customer segments are likely to take among the channels. The interactions in each channel can then be worked around these paths. For example, a call center representative must work out which channel(s) the customer used before coming to her, and which channel(s) the customer is likely to visit next. Each channel must have entry and exit points that must welcome customers and then send to other channels. Hence, the overall goal of banks is to create a seamless multichannel experience.

On the other hand, those banks that are planning to build their online businesses will have to understand several strategic issues like do they have the right business model for E-banking? How should they price their E-banking products and services? Bankers planning to move into E-banking have to explore different options, make investments and have to develop a variety of partnerships. They have to put their time and efforts to identify the best opportunities. In the case of traditional banks, if they are too aggressive in using price incentives to build their e-business, they risk the profitability of their traditional business. However, if they do not offer sufficient price incentives for customers to bank online, their efforts to build a sound e- banking business may not fructify.

Banks have to be creative in rethinking organizational structures and management processes. Traditional banks that are conservative in nature may find it difficult to attract and retain online talent. Moreover, getting people in the traditional business to help build an e-enterprise would not be an easy task. To make all this happen, requires a major revision of incentive systems, planning and budgeting processes, and management roles. Banks can exploit the opportunities provided by the Internet if they demonstrate courage, use their imagination, and take decisive action.

While most of the banks have started focusing on E-banking activities, a new challenge in the form of mobile banking has emerged. M-Banking is both an additional opportunity for banks to offer their online services and an additional channel from which to access new customers and cross-sell to existing customers. Rapidly changing lifestyles of customers and their demand for more speed and convenience has subdued the role of branch banking to a certain extent. With the proliferation of new technologies, disintermediation of traditional channels is being witnessed. Banks can go beyond their traditional role as a channel for banking/financial services and can become providers of personalized information. They can successfully leverage m-banking to:

  • Provide personalized products and services to specific customers and thus increase customer loyalty.
  • Exploit additional sources of revenue from subscriptions, transactions and third-party referrals.

M-Banking gives banks the opportunity to significantly expand their customer relationships provided they position themselves effectively. To leverage these opportunities, they must form structured alliances with service affiliates, and acquire competitive advantage in collecting, processing and deploying customer information.

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