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Five Good Things Banks Are Doing

Someone made the comment that I would not receive any business from the five banks named yesterday with the biggest mistakes, so I thought I would rectify that by picking on five good things that banks are doing.

It’s harder to find, because it is less reported, but there are a number of banks that do really good on-the-ground work.  Here are five examples:

#5: Bank of America’s Technology Leadership

I often use the example of Bank of America when discussing innovation.  The reason is that they took leadership in internet banking a decade ago by committing to the technology early.   This is a case study that I’ve written up in detail, and the core of the case study shows that through analytics BoA realised that share of customer wallet increased massively the more the customer was in control.  That’s what internet and then mobile banking gave the customer and that’s why BoA committed early to roll out internet and mobile banking with security guarantees to assure customers that these technologies were safe and viable.  It’s also why BoA is the #1 US internet and mobile bank.

Active online banking users                        

  • 4.7 million, December 2002
  • 11 million, July 2004
  • 23 million, November 2007
  • 30 million, May 2011 (of 65 million users across top 10 US banks)

Active mobile banking users 

  • Mobile banking services were introduced in May 2007
  • 500,000 November 2007
  • 1 million, June 2008
  • 6 million, May 2011 (of 30 million users in the USA)

#4: Barclays Innovations

It’s true that banks are lambasted for being slow to change and adopt new ideas, but Barclays has proven to be an exception in recent times.  From extensive use of social media in their card operations to being the first UK bank to launch a P2P mobile payments service, Barclays has shifted the goalposts regularly in UK banking capabilities.  I blogged about this in depth in April, and it shows that banks that innovate do win more business.

#3: Citigroup’s Visions of the Future

Citigroup are regularly rolling out new technology innovations and trialling new ideas.  Their branch of the future concept opened in Japan last year was particularly noteworthy, as was their partnership with Google Wallet which could have been massive, if Google had opened the Wallet on the iPhone and not restricted it to one handset (the Nexus S 4G on Sprint).  The Google-Citi exclusivity has now gone but, nevertheless, Citi make a point that they have been on the innovator’s curve on a regular basis for over 200 years …

… and what this video shows is that without banking and access to trade and project finance, the world would see no progress.  That’s why Citi and other banks are needed to ensure that societies and economies move forward, not backward.

#2: First Direct’s Customer Focus

First Direct appear on this blog and others so often as the UK’s #1 consumer champion bank that it’s almost boring, but the reason is that they truly understand how to deal with remote banking.  Regularly voted the #1 bank by their customers, the reason that First Direct get this is that they began life as a bank without branches and now see themselves as a digital bank with a human approach.  That’s why they don’t script their call centre agents or do things by the book, and it’s why they win.  If you want to know more about the bank, it would do no harm to revisit my 2010 interview with Paul Say, the bank’s head of marketing.

#1: Standard Chartered’s Charitable Work

There are many banks involved in community and charitable work, but one makes a point of it and it is visible in all my dealings with them: Standard Chartered.  I first noticed their work when I bumped into the then CEO Mervyn Davies at an Awards ceremony in 2006. He was wearing those tacky wrist bands and I thought it would be something about “stop bullying”.  Instead it was about "Seeing is Believing", a charity that is helping to bring eyesight back to emerging market citizens who suffer from cataracts or similar eyesight issues.  Mervyn explained that it was a passionate cause for both him and the bank.  In fact, if you look at this charity, which aims to raise $100 million by 2020, it is actually a partnership between the bank and the International Agency for Prevention of Blindness (IAPB).  In other words, the charity would not exist without the bank’s support.   And it goes to the heart of the bank.  For example, Standard Chartered sponsor Liverpool Football Club.  The bank even replaced its sponsor logo in the Liverpool versus Chelsea match last season, to promote the charity’s work.


And it’s not just this work that places them high up in my list of banks doing good things.  For example, I bumped into another senior StanChart banker in Asia six months after meeting Mervyn Davies, Mike DeNoma.  Mike was championing a charitable cause to stop child pornography online.  It is clear from both encounters that the bank actively encourages charitable work as part of its culture and that’s why they get my number one award for doing good things.

So there you go.

Five banks doing good things.

Note, that four out of five of these are the same five banks as yesterday (First Direct are part of HSBC), so it shows that they can just as easily do good work as messing things up. 

Oh, and why did I miss out RBS?

Well, I was going to include RBS but:

  1. struggled to think of anything  amazing they’re doing right now as most of it is downsizing; and
  2. the government’s thinking about nationalising them anyway.

Either way, they’ve got no budget for consulting with Chris.

Meanwhile, there are many other banks doing amazing things out there, including many of the names that have had reputational hits over the past year.

In particular, if you want to see a few more amazing things banks are doing that are not so big, then go check out Fidor’s Social Work  and Triodos’s Sustainable Stance.


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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