Wachovia Tops Online Bank Survey; Citibank, WaMu Show Gains

While the total number of customers being converted to online banking has slowed, individual banks scored some impressive increases in converting or attracting new customers to their electronic components, according to results of comScore's annual online banking study.

The U.S. online banking population grew 9.5% in 2006 to 44 million customers, compared to double-digit increases in 2005 (27%) and 2004 (47%). While aggregate growth has dropped into the single digits, several individual banks experienced substantial gains, comScore reports. Both Citibank and Washington Mutual increased the number of online banking customers by more than 20%. Even so, Bank of America dominates online banking with more than 16 million customers.

ComScore analysts attribute Citibank's growth to an aggressive "e-savings" campaign and Washington Mutual's gains to continued free checking and 5% statement savings accounts. comScore senior advisor Brian Jurutka says based on the way the numbers are trending as the online banking industry matures, incentives will become more creative: "HSBC has a six-percent introductory rate, which is just a great rate. I think that's an indicator of the types of financial incentive programs we'll be seeing more of."



One key element to increasing engagement among current online banking users is addressing customers' sense of security on the sites, Jurutka points out.

Among the top five banks, Wachovia customers were the most satisfied both in terms of their overall banking relationship and with the bank's Web site, maintaining the lead for the third year in a row. Seventy-five of Wachovia customers responded that they were highly satisfied with their banking relationship--up from 73% in 2005. Of these highly satisfied customers, 96% were also highly satisfied with the Wachovia site. Washington Mutual ranked second on both measures.

While mobile Internet use continues to rise, less than a quarter of those who currently bank online are interested in mobile bank account access. The top reason cited for not being interested in mobile banking was the need for a mobile Internet subscription. Of those interested in mobile banking, the most desired service was balance inquiries.

The 2007 comScore Online Banking Report, now in its seventh year, is based on interviews with a proprietary panel of more than two million online consumers. Additional information was provided by more than 1,400 U.S. online banking consumers surveyed from April 3-9 to better understand their banking relationships, attitudes and intentions.

The Top 10 online banks rated by comScore based on the number of liquid deposit customers are Bank of America, Citibank, SunTrust, National City, ING Direct, Wells Fargo, Washington Mutual, Wachovia and U.S. Bank.

Of these 10, those with the highest customer satisfaction are in this order: Wachovia, Washington Mutual, Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo. Customers with only one banking relationship were more satisfied than customers with deposit accounts at multiple banks. Customers who had both deposit and credit card accounts with a single bank were more satisfied than those with only one product.

The bottom line: Financial incentives work, and banks who hope to retain customers must be first rate in customer service.

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