G�mez Penetrates The Small Business Banking Mindset

Inaugural Scorecard, custom research yields insights into small business customers� banking patterns and desires -� and which banks do the best job of meeting these distinctive needs

October 22, 2002, Waltham, MA � G�mez Inc., the Internet Quality Measurement firm, today revealed findings from research into what small business owners want from Web banking and its inaugural SOHO/Micro Banker Scorecard, which examines how the largest banks in the U.S. are serving the particular needs of owners of those small businesses with under $1 million in revenues.

Bank of America took top honors in the Q4 2002 SOHO/Micro Internet Banker Scorecard, followed closely by Key, Fleet and Bank One. Bank Of America�s site was lauded for delivering digital check imaging to customers in almost all states in which the bank does business; for its clean small-business view of its products and services on its public site; and the consistent look and feel within its secure account management area that seamlessly covers all products, including credit cards.

Bank of America is one of only four out of 15 Scorecard banks that offer online check images. Online images of checks and electronic statements is a major hot button for both SOHO/Micro small businesses and larger small businesses, according to G�mez�s recently released report Growing and Improving Small Business Web Banking. When asked to choose the three features they want to see the most in a small business banking (SBB) Web offering out of fifteen features listed, more chose document imaging than chose any other feature.

Here�s how SOHO/Micro Scorecard banks perform against those features (in rank order) most desired by smaller small businesses:

  • Combined views of personal and business accounts. Fully 62% of those owning businesses with under $1 million in revenues and using Web small business banking have the same primary bank for both personal and business needs. The convenience of managing personal and business accounts together is therefore important to these customers. Banks are responding: Eleven out of the 15 SOHO/Micro Scorecard banks enable customers to view their personal and business accounts together.
  • Credit cards. Fully 38% of Micro/SOHO owners who bank online hold a credit card with the same bank. But only about half of Scorecard banks allow customers to pay off their credit cards with a transfer instead of a bill payment. More allow transfers to a loan, even though SOHO/Micro customers are much less likely to have a loan with their bank.
  • Online imaging of checks and statements. Despite overwhelming customer demand, only four of 15 Scorecard banks offer online check imaging. Of these four, Bank of America, Bank One and UBOC only started offering online check imaging this year, while Wachovia has offered check imaging for longer. Only Key and UBOC offer an online version of the monthly statement.
  • E-mail alerts. SOHO and Micro customers, along with larger small business customers and consumers, are interested in account-based discretionary e-mail alerts. But such services are in short supply from Scorecard banks. While a couple offer e-mail alerts around bill presentment and bill payment, only Bank One offers account-based e-mail alerts, and Bank One only started doing so recently. As banks seek to convert more small business owners to Web banking, G�mez�s customer research study, Growing and Improving Small Business Web Banking, finds those not banking online are particularly interested in support for paying taxes and paying off loans and lines of credit held with the bank. These activities, G�mez notes, lend themselves particularly well to online banking.

�Banks that have not done so already should join in the trend of presenting document images, including checks, statements and deposit slips, online,� noted Chris Musto, G�mez�s Vice President of Research, report author and lead Scorecard analyst. �Banks also should be mindful that those who do not now use Web SBB are expressing interest in a somewhat different set of priorities. Banks need to consider how they can build to the needs of these offline-banking customers but also better promote what they build.�

Growing and Improving Small Business Web Banking also found:

  • Micro Web SBB users are typically younger companies than their offline counterparts and they also more likely to be owned by women.
    Web SBB usage by larger small businesses tends not to relate as closely to an owner�s characteristics, making it more difficult for banks to target promising customers.
  • Customers who, in addition to holding a checking account, use the bank�s payroll, employee benefits and other specialty services or hold a line of credit, should find value in a suitable Web SBB offering. But these customers aren�t showing a particular tendency to use Web SBB today.
  • While Web SBB is associated with bigger overall relationships, banks have a spotty record of creating and marketing an effective Web SBB for many promising converts to Web SBB.
  • Businesses are more likely than consumers to use computers in managing their money for a number of reasons; yet businesses don�t stick with Web banking the way consumers do.

Growing and Improving Small Business Web Banking analyzes the attitudes and behaviors of 679 online small business owners. Small businesses were defined in terms of revenue (less than $10 million estimated for 2001 tax filing). The report splits its analysis into two categories — small businesses with less than $1 million in annual revenue and businesses with annual revenues of $1 million to $10 million.

For the SOHO/Micro Banker Scorecard, G�mez examined the 15 largest banks, as measured by U.S. commercial and industrial loans in Q2 2001, with Web small business banking offerings. (In comparison, the consumer-oriented Internet Banker Scorecard has a lower size requirement and a higher functionality threshold for inclusion). At banks maintaining two Web small business banking sites, G�mez examined the online offering most closely targeted at SOHO/Micro businesses.

About G�mez

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