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Providing information across platforms

All industries are facing new challenges as consumers rely increasingly on digital channels for the majority of their interactions with brands (a trend we’ve covered in more detail in our white paper “Eight New Opportunities for the Content Age”), and the finance sector is no different. A Key Note report revealed that the number of personal bank accounts registered to be accessed via the internet increased by 23.4% between 2008 and 2012, with predictions of a further 17.8% increase between now and 2017 (compared to a predicted decline of 16.4% in telephone banking usage). This trend is supported by a survey from Maritz Research, which found that not only is online banking more highly penetrated in the UK, but is also more commonly accessed than other channels, such as in-branch and call centres, and can even be linked to increased customer loyalty.

Of course the financial industry, more than many, is strictly regulated regarding communications with customers, and institutions must ensure they remain compliant with all necessary standards no matter what platform they’re operating on. In this post I’ll look at some of these legal requirements, as well as ways in which banks in particular can balance delivering the information they’re legally obliged to provide with maintaining a positive user experience.

Disclaimer:

Please be aware that I am not a legal expert – this post is intended to get you thinking about the information and experience you are providing online, and should not be used in place of official documentation!

Legal requirements

When it comes to banking, there are regulations at every level, with different requirements according to the group, industry and geographic area you operate in, as well as internal standards and much, much more. The volume of resources and documents to deal with can be overwhelming; however, some of the clearest advice on supplying information to users comes from the Financial Services Authority’s (FSA’s) Banking Conduct of Business Sourcebook (BCOBS). While created for institutions operating in the UK, the FSA’s Sourcebook has a great deal of general best practice advice all banks should bear in mind (although of course this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check your own local regulations too).  

The BCOBS specifies a number of pieces of information that banks must make “easily, directly and permanently accessible”. These include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact information
  • Registration details

In addition to simply providing this information their “appropriate information rule” also specifies that:

“A firm must provide or make available to a banking customer appropriate information…:

(1) in good time;

(2) in an appropriate medium; and

(3) in easily understandable language and in a clear and comprehensible form;

so that the banking customer can make decisions on an informed basis.”

Additionally when the new version of the sourcebook came into effect in 2009 a number of key updates were noted, including:

“The new FSA rules will require [informative material about a bank’s products and services] to be available at the point when people really need it – when they are making the decision whether or not to become a customer.” (Source: FSA, emphasis mine)

This is supported by section 2.3 of the sourcebook, which offers more detail for institutions:

“In deciding whether, and how, to communicate information to a particular target audience, a firm should take into account the nature of the retail banking service, the banking customer’s likely or actual commitment, the likely information needs of a reasonable recipient, and the role of the communication or financial promotion in the sales process.”

What all this means is that the websites and online systems of financial institutions should be carefully crafted to not only include this information, but make it intuitive for users to find when and where they need it, and in a suitable format.

Beyond regulations

While these and other industry regulations go a long way to helping ensure an accessible, usable experience for banking customers, on their own they won’t necessarily meet all the requirements of your users. Despite increasing online usage, trust in banking institutions remains low, with only 46% of global consumers reporting that they trust institutions in the financial services industry (source: 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer).

While on-going economic issues are sure to go a long way to explaining this statistic, questions surrounding usability and security when dealing with banks online also contribute to bad feelings. An Avande survey revealed that just 30% of customers say dealing with their bank is easy and pleasurable, while a YouGov survey found that security was the biggest barrier to smartphone banking.

Balancing requirements

How, then, can banks ensure their online services comply with regulations while optimising for increased conversions and an improved user experience? To achieve this, in-depth requirements gathering activities are vital. By uncovering the needs of your business and real-world users, and crafting every element of your site (including the layout, navigation and content) around these, you can:

Help users find what they want

Guiding users to the information and services they require with minimal fuss is not only a critical aspect of a good user experience, but also helps ensure you’re responding to the FSA’s directive to make information easily accessible.

Increase relevance

Online channels offer many opportunities to personalise content, both through audience research that enables you to more accurately target your core users, and dynamic personalisation that tailors content on an individual level. This doesn’t just enable you to better connect with users; it also helps you meet the BCOBS requirement of delivering information based on people’s “likely informational needs”.

Promote security

It’s already been noted that security is a key concern for many online banking customers; an issue compounded by the media attention stories of breaches and misuse attract. This impacts consumer confidence, so as well as taking all necessary steps to prevent these issues you should also reassure the customer by clearly displaying security information across your site (including any web forms you may have).

Future-proof your strategy

The continued proliferation of devices adds complexity to digital strategies, and with the mobile banking market forecast to reach one billion users by 2017 (source: Juniper Research) it’s vital to consider not just current legal and user requirements, but your ability to remain compliant when reacting to new trends and technologies.

Conclusion

When done well, the experience financial institutions provide to users can engage, excite and delight; improving satisfaction and even increasing trust in your brand, while ensuring that all legal requirements are being met.

What are your feelings about banking websites – what are they getting right, and what could be done better? If you’re part of a financial institution, how do you manage this delicate balancing act? Let us know in the comments below, or get in touch with one of our expert user experience consultants to find out more about improving your digital products and services.

About the author

Emma Willis

Emma Willis

Marketing Executive

During her time at Box UK, Marketing Executive Emma Willis has supported the planning and execution of a diverse range of cross-channel campaigns. Writing compelling, informative copy designed to maximise engagement, Emma has developed an impressive portfolio of content covering a wide variety of digital marketing and technology-focused topics.

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