What’s in YOUR credit score?

Capital One deserves five stars for launching, free of charge, the kind of digital tool you’d expect from a brand committed to serving cardholders’ best interests.

CapOne Credit Tracker Graphic

A new Credit Tracker tab on Cap One’s mobile app shows cardholders: their credit score; factors making up the score; calculators showing how increasing, paying down, or paying off balances can affect the score; and alerts.

Besides providing information for its own sake, the tool shows promise for helping people better manage their credit. Capital One reports that, during testing, customers with access to the tool improved their credit status.

Surveys and voting-with-wallets show that today’s consumers value transparency. The Credit Tracker provides that, along with useful tips. Capital One should create a commercial with Samuel L. Jackson promoting Credit Tracker, and they should air it

every damn day. I mean, every single day.

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Functional is so last-decade


Things have flipped. Not long ago the likes of Starbucks and McDonald’s enjoyed a competitive advantage by providing free onsite Wi-Fi. Today, that’s pretty much de rigueur. Providing onsite Wi-Fi is not so much a competitive advantage as not providing it is a competitive disadvantage.

Likewise, offering mobile banking, once the sign of a forward-thinking financial institution, no longer impresses. To do that, mobile banking must do more than function. It must connect.

We have made strides since the original hardware-delivered bank experience known as the ATM. Though you could name them, paint them, network them, and install more of them in more places than the competition, still, an ATM was pretty much an ATM. Today’s digital banking, however, needn’t be so clone-like. As yet, not too many banks seem to realize that. Unlike old ATM technology, today’s digital technology and devices allow for positive interactions, even personal ones, with a strong brand.

Here’s a quick look at how a few forward-thinking financial institutions are breaking out of the “Functional Only” box.

Tip: People will spend time on your site—when it’s fun. Walk into any public place and watch the number of people interacting with portable devices instead of with each other. While you’re at it, note that no one is making them do it. People willingly engage with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Minecraft, Flipboard, and more because, well, these virtual places have personality, and they’re fun. Some financial institutions have given their websites social and entertainment appeal, and found that clients return more often and linger longer. Need I point out that returning more often and lingering longer build loyalty and present a marketing opportunity?

Get ’em young. Ordinary financial institutions stew about attracting rising generations once they come into money of their own. Smart financial institutions start earlier, when those generations are still kids. They load their sites with educational pages, games, social tools, and more. By the time young people with no money morph into young adults with careers and money of their own, they have been already won over.

Personalize the impersonal. At first it seemed that the use of technology in banking would eliminate the personal touch; instead, it turns out that technology can convey it. A good interactive system connects clients with bank people via live chat, tweets, social media, and even, when desperate times call for it, telephone. A screen is no longer a barrier. It is a conduit.

Check register? What’s a check register? Even the staunchest paper defender must concede that checks are obsolescent. If the majority of people do not want to write checks, it follows that the majority do not want to write their transactions in a check register, either. But that doesn’t mean they want to give up oversight and control of their money. Hence the rise, indeed, the inevitability of online Personal Financial Management (PFM) tools.

I dare to you to show your laundry. It’s becoming increasingly fashionable for companies, financial institutions included, to post client reviews on their websites. But if readers suspect that you parade the praise while conveniently hiding the pans, you lose all credibility. At that point, posting reviews is no more effective than not posting reviews. That is why some brave banks post negative comments right along with positive ones. With the negative ones, they also post the bank’s response as to how it plans to make things right. This validates the rave reviews, which creates trust, and shows clients how you deal with problems, which, if you handle them properly, also creates trust. Don’t worry about the occasional irrational client who can’t be pleased. Your customers are on to them more than you think.

There are two problems with ideas like the above. First, they cost money. But then, it costs more not to make the investment, thereby losing clients to a competitor who does. Second, they require vision, which, let’s be honest, is often what “can’t afford it” really means. If someone anonymously printed this article and left it on your desk, you know who you are.

For details and examples of the above plus other ideas, I commend you to the The Financial Brand post, “12 Technology Trends Shaping Financial Marketing.”

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Tough luck, Ashton


What an honor! For the second year in a row, BankInnovation has included me on its list of “30 innovators to watch.” Now, if you will indulge me in a little brag … Last year I placed just ahead of Aston Kutcher. This year he didn’t make the list at all. Take that, Ashton!


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Check out my new article on FinancialBrand.com

It’s always flattering to be featured on FinancialBrand.com. This morning they published my new article, Avoiding Digital Parity. I suppose I could cut and paste it here, but why, when you can click here and read it on FinancialBrand.com? While you’re at it, explore the site. Lots of good, useful information is there. —Matt

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The overlooked benefit

Filthy lucre. Literally.

Stinking Cash

WHEN IT COMES TO selling online services, bank marketers typically focus on benefits such as speed, convenience, accessibility, and economy. These are valid, but another, largely overlooked benefit is available, just waiting for the right brave marketer to capitalize on it: hygiene.

In an article for NPR, Michaeleen Doucleff writes,

“… those greenbacks in your wallet are hiding far more than cocaine and the flu. They’re teeming with life.

“Each dollar bill carries about 3,000 types of bacteria on its surface, scientists have found. Most are harmless. But cash also has DNA from drug-resistant microbes. And your wad of dough may even have a smudge of anthrax and diphtheria.

“In other words, your wallet is a portable petri dish.”

Before you run out screaming “Beware of currency!” and treating everyone you meet to a dose of Purell, you need to know that Doucleff says anthrax and many other nasties usually show up on currency only in harmless, trace amounts.

Still, currency gets dirty fast, which is why there’s a good chance it transmits disease.

How does lucre become filthy in the first place? Here’s just one way. Research suggests that more than half of everyday, normal people do not wash after using a public restroom. Now, imagine them handling currency. And imagine someone else licking a finger in order to count it.

You don’t have to be a pathologist to understand how that can transmit disease. And you don’t have to be a germ phobe to find it gross. Especially when you imagine all the other ways currency can become tainted from ordinary, everyday handling.

So here’s a rock-solid benefit: when you convert tangible currency into digital currency, you needn’t worry about where those greenbacks—that is, those digits—have been. The challenge is to present that benefit in a positive, scientifically responsible, non-alarmist, non gross-out sort of way. Any takers?

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