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The future of Internet banking for business

At the start of 2011, IBM completed a benchmark of UK business and corporate banking Internet portals through a series of interviews with end-users ranging from corporate treasuries to small businesses. The results were surprising. While some good core functionality existed in key areas, many reported limited functionality and confusing interfaces which were generic and thus non-configurable. Furthermore, major emerging technology areas such as mobile, applets, basic alerts and use of collaborative working tools were largely absent. The overwhelming impression was of Internet banking undervalued as a market differentiator and not the focus for customer acquisition or revenue growth.

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When compared with the retail Internet banking market, it is apparent that business and corporate banking Internet portals lag well behind in many respects. The expectation of Internet technology is driven by firms like Apple, Facebook, and the multitude of new start-ups. These expectations quickly spread to the corporate world. As stated in a recent Finextra corporate banking survey, ‘Treasurers and cash managers know that the technology is available to provide the service they desire, and if it’s not delivered, they question the bank’s commitment to the client relationship’.

Clearly, many of the questions that were asked in retail banks 10 years ago are still being asked in corporate and business banks today:

  • How much more are corporate and business customers willing to do online?
  • Will banks make money from online services?
  • Are Internet services worth the investment?

The answers are ‘lots more’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’. Missing the digital boat will have a negative impact with increased customer attrition, higher acquisition, and servicing costs, reduced transactional revenues, and suboptimal cross-selling. Customer demand is rapidly developing. Now is the time for business and corporate banks to act. The latest research from Finextra1 supports this view:

  • 62 percent of corporate clients said they would consider switching to a different bank for better customer service;
  • 57 percent said they would be willing to pay higher fees for a sophisticated web portal that enabled them to manage their entire portfolio through the web.