One of Javelin’s goals is to identify when there’s a disconnect between what consumers want and what bankers think consumers want. That’s because bankers who misjudge their customers’ desires are at risk of investing scarce dollars on projects and services that won’t pay off as expected. A potential example came to light this week during a Javelin webinar for Financial Alerts Forecast 2013: Security + Personal Finance = ROI, a report in which I call for banks and credit unions to expand the content of alerts in order to initiate regular “conversations” that provide compelling information, insight, and advice as customers bank, shop, buy, borrow, save, and invest. To start a discussion about financial alerts that consumers value most highly, we asked the nearly 50 attendees who work for banks, credit card networks, technology vendors, regulators and other industry players to identify which of five alerts U.S. consumers rated the most valuable. About 40% of the attendees selected alerts that notify customers of unusual transactions based on their purchasing behavior, with an additional 31% picking alerts that would warn customers when they’re at risk of overdrawing an account. Only 6% picked the alert that actually ranked No. 1 with 65% of consumers: Notification of a change in account access information -- such as a password or address – that can indicate an attempt to take over an account.

On the face of it, a banker could logically conclude that notifying customers about changes to account access is less an “alert” than a “status update” that serves to confirm something the customer already knows. But my take is this alert is particularly important when it comes to reassuring consumers that their money is safe. If a change in account access was legit, consumers will view it positively as a confirmation and move on. But if it’s suspicious, they will jump into action – and greatly appreciate their bank’s help in preventing fraud.

Another thing to take away is that the No. 1 alert for all consumers isn’t necessarily the No. 1 for specific consumers a financial institution might target. If you’re keen to target Gen Y consumers or women, for example, there is an even bigger payoff from expanding the content of alerts from a focus on security to a focus on personal finance alerts. The “security + personal finance” approach also could play a pivotal role in winning over holdouts who have yet to try mobile banking. It all underscores the necessity of listening not just to the voice of the consumer – but to the voices of consumers – whom you want to target.


About Mark Schwanhausser

Mark strategizes how financial institutions can track and serve customers across the channels they use, and provide a consistent, integrated brand and user experience. Mark helps banks and credit unions profitably enable customers to monitor and manage their money more intelligently through technology such as online banking, mobile banking, personal financial management, financial alerts, and technologies on the horizon. 

Mark led the development of Javelin’s Digital Banking Maturity Path, a strategic framework for assessing a financial institution’s ability to deliver advice in digital channels, and the Financial Journey Model, which builds digital banking on a foundation of time-tested personal finance principles. He has also mapped out strategies to upgrade online banking, digital account opening, and financial alerts in a mobile-first era. 

Before joining Javelin, Mark was a personal finance reporter for the San Jose Mercury News. He covered money and emerging trends in financial services and payments technology.

Mark has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia and attended Antioch College.

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