UK banks lag in online personal financial management provision
UK retail banks lag their international peers in helping their online customers make better financial decisions, according to research published this week.
The UK segment of a study by global research and forecasting company Forrester rated Barclays highest of the eight largest UK retail banks and building societies in an attempt to find out how well each helps customers achieve their goals. The others were Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds Bank, Nationwide Building Society, NatWest, Santander and the Co-operative Bank.
Using a set of a 53 criteria, Forrester created imaginary bank customer profiles, for example a woman who wants to create a budget for a holiday, set up a weekly balance alert and manage her bills and external accounts. It then worked out how easy it would be to achieve these goals at each of the banks. Features such as whether the website included a search engine, and whether the home page included key content and features, as well as how quickly the user can find a past transaction and many other factors, were all taken into account.
Barclays scored 66 out of 100, based on its success in account management, money movement, security and login and electronic statements. Barclays was the only bank in the UK to offer customers a digital vault. Lloyds Bank came second with 61 points, followed closely by Santander with 60.
Lloyds was commended as the only bank in the UK to offer “effective” money management tools, while Santander was identified for its strengths on cross-selling and transaction and balance alerts. Barclays offers money management, but only to its Premier customers and not to mainstream current account holders.
According to Forrester, the first step to help customers manage their money is to help them understand quickly and easily their current financial situation. Lloyds Bank gained a strong score in this area by offering customers a spending categorisation engine, along with a calendar view of finance showing incoming and outgoing funds across the month. Nationwide also provides a calendar and graphical view of cash flows, but without the spending categorisation engine.
None of the UK banks reviewed in the survey offer account aggregation, which is common service in the US. First Direct, an online-only subsidiary of HSBC, does offer aggregation of balances from accounts at other UK banks. Yorkshire Building Society launched account aggregation in May 2013 and lets customers aggregate external account data using a downloadable client-side password safe.
Nationwide was praised for the opportunity it allows customers to personalise many aspects of their home page, including the start page, preferred theme, greeting and account description. The Building Society came in a close second to Barclays on money movement, where both firms were highlighted for making bill payments consistent and easy to understand. However, the review noted that none of the UK banks prefill payment scenarios based on common past behaviour, nor do they give customers a pending transactions overlay, as Scotiabank in Canada does.
Overall, the survey found that UK banks did will on money movement, supporting transfers, payments and bill pay with ‘add payee’ options and electronic statements that can be printed and viewed going back at least 24 months.
However, the report also warned that “UK banks can learn from their peers in the US and Canada”. Even the best UK bank sites scored below the sites of Citibank, Wells Fargo and Bank of America in the US and Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal in Canada. The US banks were particularly noted for their money management features, while the Canadian banks did well on cross-selling. The report highlighted the importance of natural language keyword search, and better web to branch guidance.
“UK banks are not helping customers make better decisions,” said the report. “Leading banks in other countries, such as Citibank in the US and mBank in Poland, provide advice and recommendations within the secure website, building on the diagnosis of the customers’ situation to offer clear guidance on what to do. None of the UK’s banks offer this type of guidance, which we think will be crucial in helping banks deliver on the promise of digital money management.”