Best Internet Banks 2012: Round 1


By Adam Rombel

In the first of a two-part series, Global Finance identifies the top online corporate and consumer banks by country and regionally by product and service category.

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As it has annually for 13 years, Global Finance is highlighting the banks from around the globe that are blazing a trail of leadership and success in the rapidly evolving online world. Round one of the World’s Best Internet Banks Awards focuses on the best online corporate and consumer banks by country and regionally by product and service category.

Winners were chosen among entries evaluated by a world-class panel of judges at Infosys. Global Finance editors were responsible for the final selection of first-round winners.

The Internet-banking leaders (in alphabetical order) include ActivoBank, Citi, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, OTP Bank, Scotiabank, Standard Chartered and Wells Fargo.

These banks and other winners are forging leadership in electronic payments, mobile banking, social media, attracting new clients in growing markets, strengthening existing customer relationships, cross-selling products and services, generating cost efficiencies and ensuring security.

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The top Internet banks are producing these business results while facing immense regulatory, risk management, market and technological pressures. With technology evolving at breakneck speed, new generations of clients expect new products and services faster than ever before with 24/7 availability and service. That’s not an easy task.

“Customers’ demand for better service coupled with ever-increasing technological innovations have compelled many banks to rethink their banking and marketing strategies. Competitive products and rates offered by banks are no longer the key differentiators in customer retention or in getting new customers enrolled,” says Balaji Yellavalli, VP & head of client services, US financial services and insurance, at Infosys Technologies. He notes that customers are increasingly making their banking choices based on the overall service experience and time to delivery. “Banks are taking cognizance of this fact and are now more focused on developing online, mobile and other direct channels to ensure better and faster delivery of service to customers,” says Yellavalli.

Key ways banks are separating themselves from competitors include online transactions like account opening and personal organizers for bill payments, as well as personalized home pages and self-service capabilities. The banks are also using analytics such as third-party tools that allow them to pilot new online functionality with clients and include their feedback in ongoing development, according to Yellavalli. Personal financial-management tools, websites integrated with social-media sites and shopping sites, and the latest mobile applications round out the offerings of leading banks. Here is a brief look at some of the winning banks and their Internet-banking solutions.

Citi, which has about 200 million customer accounts globally, took home numerous country and regional subcategory awards around the world. They included six of the nine regional subcategory awards and 18 country awards in the Best Corporate/Institutional Internet Banks category in Latin America. “Citi’s continued recognition in these prestigious awards, both at regional and country levels, distinguishes our sustained efforts for delivering the best solutions to our clients,” Fernando Iraola, Latin America and Mexico region head, Citi Transaction Services, said in a news release.

Standard Chartered, which won numerous country and subcategory awards in consumer banking in Asia and Middle East/Africa, has been able to achieve 100% straight-through processing for opening credit card, personal loan and deposit accounts in the online channel by allowing customers to complete application forms online and also submit various documents and proofs through the same medium, according to Infosys.

Standard Chartered also deploys “smart marketing,” delivering to clients highly targeted and customized messages that are driven by strong analytics dictated by customer preference and behavior, Yellavalli notes. “The platform displays needs-based solutions to a customer, once he logs on to his online banking account, and offers what’s relevant to him. This is part of the bank’s core online marketing strategy and helps in identifying consumers who share common needs or characteristics, and positions products or services to appeal to and reach these consumers,” he adds.

ActivoBank, winner of the Portugal country award and website design and social-media subcategories in Europe for consumer banking, is innovating through the use of tutorials to explain all its major products. The bank also offers immediate sign-up and service for bill payment and presentment, according to Infosys.

Wells Fargo, which has 21 million active online customers and 8.5 million active mobile customers, won the United States country award on both the corporate and consumer sides and several subcategory honors, including best in social media in consumer banking and best mobile banking on the corporate side. Secil Watson, executive vice president, head of Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Internet Solutions group, notes: “We see more of our users accessing their products and services through mobile devices.”

Check out the second round of the World’s Best Internet Banks Awards in December, when we unveil the global winners by product and service category, as well as overall winners.

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