Brett King: Who gets it right with Internet Banking?

Take a look at your retail or consumer banking website or homepage. I can 100% guarantee that regardless of who you are, and in what market you are in that I know exactly which part of the site is clicked on most. Contact us? Nope. Press Releases – definitely not. The biggest Ad banner on the homepage? Nope…

Figured it out. Well the headline gives it away. It is the login button. In developed economies click-thru rate from the bank homepage can be as high as 97% of traffic that visits the homepage, and in developing markets it still hovers around 70-75% generally.

The thing is that in most cases banks spend a considerable amount of money each year trying to entice new customers to apply online or to send in their details so someone in the mortgages team, call centre, preferred banking or private banking team can reach out to them. Acquisition must be a key metric of any direct channel team today. However, in most cases the visitors to your homepage are existing customers. Thus, 70-95% of daily traffic is being channelled immediately from the homepage to the secure internet banking website behind the login.

So let’s get this straight. Your bank marketing team has just spent US$1m upgrading your site and putting offers all over 3rd party properties to direct traffic to your website and trigger acquisitions, but still 95% of visitors are clicking through to Internet Banking. How much product are you selling behind the login? Well, if you are most banks – virtually zero. Why? Because most managers see Internet Banking as a transaction platform designed to lower the cost of operations by transferring low-margin or costly transactions to a direct channel with a lower cost than a branch or call centre.

While the logic is sound on cost savings and channel migration from a transactional point of view there are huge advantages in utilizing your Internet Banking portal for targeted cross-sell and up-sell to existing, valued customers. Those advantages include:

1. Better closure rates because of the ability to accurately target
2. Low KYC and Compliance workload for bank/customer because of the existing relationship
3. Much higher impressions than ‘public website’ homepage and 3rd party acquisition attempts
4. Lower cost of acquisition, and
5. Improvements in service perceptions

I know of only a few banks in the world that have targeted, focused customer cross-sell initiatives behind the login – certainly less than a dozen banks have figured this out! This shows a complete and utter lack of understanding of customer engagement through the online channel by bank marketing teams, and a core lack of offer management skill set based on customer behavioural analytics. If you know of anymore let me know…

The first bank that is on my Best Internet Banking sales effort list is HSBC. In 2006 in Hong Kong they invested heavily in a second-generation Personal Internet Banking portal that included advanced Sales Campaign Management capabilities. This was new, no one had even really thought of selling beyond banner ads within Internet Banking, and their clever use of the behind-the-login space to position specific offers for segments of customers was the first initiative I know of where someone connected the dots between homepage traffic and i-Bank potential.

HSBC Internet Banking Portal

HSBC integrates targeted sales messages into their Internet Banking experience

The One HSBC project, which commenced in 2008, is the next iteration in this story and is due to be largely complete by the end of this year according to early press. Not only will the affectionately named “OneH” give customers an integrated sales and service platform within their Internet banking space, but the customer experience will be consistent from one channel to the next through an enhanced single customer view. Branch staff, call centre staff, personal financial advisors and the customer’s own view through internet banking will be consistent. Customers who move from one country to another will also find a consistent Internet banking and service experience across the brand. With targeted cross-sell and up-sell messages at each point of your journey, regardless of which channel you come to.

Wells Fargo in the US takes an embedded hyperlink approach to offer management by serving up contextual cross-sell and up-sell offers next to your accounts in your account summary screen. So as you are looking at your outstanding credit card balance you might see a hyperlink for “Upgrade to Platinum” or “Increase Credit Limit” appearing contextually within the page.

Barclays uses a combination of the two with their “At a glance” feature helping customers find better ways of saving money, improving their utilization of Internet Banking and linking or bundling products – like mortgages and home insurance for example. Barclay’s also lists credit products like personal loans, credit cards, etc that you are already pre-approved for. So before you even have to ask, Barclay’s can tell you what they are likely to lend you based on your relationship and credit history. That’s progress…

And that’s about it.

All these banks the world over using Internet Banking and almost none of them are making any effort to effectively position targeted, personalized cross-sell and up-sell offers to existing customers. The overwhelmingly dominant visitors to your homepage are probably being ignored from a sales perspective because your marketers stop at the public website.

If you are in a bank have a look at why your marketing team isn’t crafting better offers for customers behind the login – it is a massive source of hidden revenue opportunities.


  1. For those “in the know”, this is not new. As this information gets disseminated to more levels in banks, Credit Unions, bank and credit union core providers and other third party vendors who support banks and their internet offerings, I expect solutions will proliferate.

    In fact, there are some out there already. Who are they? Here is a link to two companies who are trying – ://



  2. Nitin Gupta says:

    I think there is a huge opportunity here as users spend the maximum time on the site post login- most of the banking sites provide you ONLY transaction level activity once you have logged into the portal. Treating Internet banking as part of a multi channel approach and not treating it as an “alternative” or siloed channel will go a long way in establishing this.

  3. Bhaskar Vulapalli says:

    Really powerful point articulated in very simple terms. To define the problem more accurately, banks don’t know how to better leverage this channel. They don’t even seem to know ‘what to do’ with this fast-evolving channel.
    Compared to the wealth of interactions this powerful channel can create, most banks are not seeing the tip of the iceberg. The channel has the power of creating an Amazon/eBay equivalent in banking industry.

    Like in any other industry, the emerging community or peer-to-peer banking institutions are adopting this channel faster and being more innovative than the larger & more established banks. Take the examples of Kiva or MYC4. They’ve focused much more on leveraging online model (as their primary channel) and established clearly that personalization can be achieved without sacrificing scale.

    If the banks focus on the fundamentals – customer, customer & customer – they can generate much larger value from this channel AND provide a far better customer experience using internet banking.

    • bank2book says:

      Thanks for all your comments.

      I think the issue comes down to both core technology and marketing capability. Banks need to move on from a campaign/segment world to something more applicable in the multi-channel age. We need to be responding to behavioural shifts.

      Brett King

  4. Bill Roy says:

    What banks don’t need is slow loading pages due to offers presented once a user has signed into their online banking platform… who says that customers what to see offers once they have logged in? Who wants to see cluttered pages when one is trying to complete a banking function and that is your sole task?

    If you create a way to stand in line while the customer is trying to complete an internet banking task, you will find yourself loosing customers to banks that haven’t cluttered up their functional transaction pages.

    Maybe banks need to have sales people in the branches trying to up-sell customers while people are standing in line for the teller – that wouldn’t be a good thing you say, ah, maybe you are catching on after all.

    • bank2book says:


      Don’t agree with this. Maybe in the late 90s but with broadband speeds being what they are now this argument doesn’t stack up. Secondly, with good UI design these issues can be easily resolved.

      The trick is not to bombard people with irrelevant, broadcast style banner ads. The trick is to serve the needs. Some of this can be done with minimal impact to the user experience. For example, offer an increased credit card limit or an upgrade from a standard credit card to a Gold visa – this can be done with a simple hyperlink next to you credit card outstanding balance.


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