By Chris Musto, Gomez, Inc.
Insurers interested in successful efforts to streamline and eliminate paper and manual intervention from processes should study the banking industry's progress on check imaging. Check imaging is on the riseand it's quite possibly the healthiest trend to hit online banking in years. Of the 30 banks covered in Gomez's Q1 2002 Internet Banker Scorecard, eight provided check imaging within the Web banking offering as of the February 19, 2002, Scorecard deadline. These banks included Allfirst, Commerce Bank (NJ), First Internet Bank of Indiana, First Tennessee, Hibernia, NetBank Southtrust and Wachovia (both at the reviewed FirstUnion.com offering and at Wachovia.com).
Since then, another five banks have launched online check imaging for retail customers, starting with Bank of America, which by the end of February 2002 began a state-by-state rollout that is still underway. In March 2002, Huntington re-launched its offering, introducing online check imaging to its customers. Since then, Bank One, Charter One and Union Bank of California have all launched check imaging. With the September release of the Q3 2002 Scorecard, the proportion of Scorecard banks offering check imaging has increased from nearly 27 to 43 percent.
Gomez research shows consumers are not merely interested in check imaging; they are eager to the point where they are willing to forgo many other features banks offer in order to access documents online.
In our recent report, Web Banking: Elevating Customer Usage and Business Results, we asked "online bankers" (consumers who bank at their bank's Web sites) to prioritize 10 current and potential features of their bank's offering beyond the basics of examining deposit balances and transferring funds. Online display of statement copies was the most popular feature, and display of cleared check images was third, after pay-anyone bill pay. Indeed, at Huntington, the 80,000 Web banking customers who log in at least once a month call up a total of 15,000 check images a day.
Several of the largest banks are following in the footsteps of those that have already launched check imaging. Chase and Suntrust's relationship with IBM and the industry-owned joint venture Viewpointe are a case in point. Further, banks such as Union Bank of California are going beyond check imaging to deposit imaging.
When it comes to statement images, there are a couple of approaches banks can take. One makes use of an HTML statement to deliver a review of the account, but with greater dynamism. For instance, Regions, which does not appear on the Scorecard, offers HTML versions of statements, with clickable data that allows customers to dig into the statement information. This approach, widely adopted in the credit card industry, provides customers with a rich Web experience. There are opportunities for insurance companies to learn from this experience, as well.
There are purposes, however, that call for faithful copies of the paper statement. Citibank, for example, provides PDFs of statements going back seven years, with the last several months available in real time and the rest available on a batch basis by request. First Tennessee, however, provides both HTML and PDF copies, offering customers the means to retrieve both the useful and necessary copies of their statements. First Tennessee shows that the value of the Web lies both in the dynamic nature of the interface and in the low-cost pervasive nature of Internet delivery. When designing for the Web, it's never a bad idea for insurance companies to remember all the reasons that inspired financial institutions to come online in the first place.
Chris Musto is vice president of research at Gomez, Inc., a Waltham, MA, Internet quality research firm. Please send any comments or feedback to [email protected].