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IBM Global Business Services

IBM Institute for Business Value

in public
Harnessing the power of
Web 2.0 to rebuild trust
in banking
IBM Institute for Business Value
IBM Global Business Services, through the IBM Institute for Business Value,
develops fact-based strategic insights for senior executives around critical public
and private sector issues. This executive brief is based on an in-depth study by
the Institute’s research team. It is part of an ongoing commitment by IBM Global
Business Services to provide analysis and viewpoints that help companies realize
business value. You may contact the authors or send an e-mail to
for more information.
Undressing in public
Harnessing the power of Web 2.0 to rebuild trust in banking
By Wendy Feller and Cormac Petit

Banks have historically been trusted, valued members of the

community, but globalization and new-age communications have
combined to put distance between institution and customer.
Rebuilding trust requires listening to customers and complete
transparency. In a time of global financial turmoil, banks intent
upon reconnecting with an increasingly diverse, fragmented and
suspicious customer base should ”bare all” and use the varied and
powerful tools of Web 2.0 at their disposal.
In years past, the bank was a central focus in Many people today are beginning to use Web
the community. Bank managers held positions 2.0 tools – social networking, blogging, wikis,
of privilege and authority based on trust, and mashups and the like – to build relationships
the strength of banks was founded upon the and help them with decisions about virtually
relationships they built with customers. every facet of their daily lives, from whom to
date, to what to buy, to, even, where to bank.
Today, however, globalization, and the speed of
information are rapidly transforming traditional As a result, banks today are likely to find
banking. The world is becoming smaller. But, many of their customers online. And they’re
in a period where margins have been steadily not content with just checking their account
decreasing – or vanishing – strong customer balances and paying their monthly accounts.
relationships and trust have become more They are soaking up information – researching,
important than ever. The transparent, open comparing and finding the best products, rates
dialogue available through Web 2.0, visible to and deals. They are collaborating, connecting,
all customers, is a method we believe banks and sharing opinions and experiences about
can use to help rebuild these relationships and banks and other suppliers – and, as they
engender trust. evaluate the advice they receive, about each

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other – with numerous others throughout decisions. To complete in this environment,
the world. They are blogging about their banks should become a part of their
experiences with banks, brokers and other customers’ online social networks and
financial institutions. Social networking site understand how to harness their power to
Facebook, for example, attracted nearly 124 create value.
million unique users in May of 2008, compared
to MySpace’s 114.6 million, and users spent an Based on discussions with more than 100
average of more than two hours per month bankers with responsibility for Internet banking
interacting. In fact, about 60 percent of the channels, as well as observations and study
world’s online population visit some form of of Internet banking sites and their function-
social network or blogging site. If you are ality, we believe social computing can have a
a banker, do you know what these online positive effect on the top line, driving increased
consumers are saying about you and your access to new customers, improved customer
institution? Are you even on their radar? service and greater levels of product and
service innovation. We believe, as well, that use
Web 2.0 allows customers to interact the way of an increasingly cost-effective and intercon-
they want to – by leveraging the social aspect nected Web 2.0 infrastructure can also result in
of the Internet to make connections and bottom-line improvement (see Figure 1).

Web 2.0 can help banks reduce costs and increase revenues.

Increasing revenue impact of Web 2.0 Reducing cost impact of Web 2.0
Acquiring new customers
Customer service/support
Product/service innovation
Marketing/advertising/public relations
Customer retention
Account management
Online sales
Service delivery
Logistics and distribution
In-person sales

40 30 20 10 0 0 10 20 30 40
Percent of respondents Percent of respondents
Source: Serious business, Web 2.0 goes corporate, Economist Intelligence Unit survey, January 2007. N=406.

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Undressing in public
Harnessing the power of Web 2.0 to rebuild trust in banking

Customers are now Beyond the basics and retirement space as well – in particular, to
About 16 percent of U.S. households used benefit from the estimated hundreds of billions
using Web 2.0 tools
an online personal finance feature at least of dollars in baby boomer assets expected
to simplify, speed and 4
once as early as 2006.  That percentage is to transfer annually from employer-sponsored
increase the value expected to climb to an estimated 33 percent retirement plans as they leave their jobs.
of personal financial by 2016, with nearly three-quarters of those Brokerage institutions are invading banks’
management. households using personal-finance tools turf by delivering cash management and
offered by their financial institution online.
investment vehicles combined with automated
Most banks have the table stakes of online payment and spend alerts, online bill payment,
presence in hand. Their customers can find automatic cash sweep of investment into
information, view and manage their accounts spend accounts and increasingly sophisti-
and pay bills online. Some have moved cated online wealth management tools.
beyond the typical, offering more convenience
Once, offering these services online may
and adding value through budgeting and cash
have seemed extraneous – service strategies
flow applications, providing customers a total
focused on the branch and face-to-face inter-
view of their accounts (even those with other
actions with customers; online banking was for
institutions) through a portal or enabling online
accessing account balances or simply finding
chat with customer service representatives.
the nearest branch. Wealth management was
While many banks aspire to deliver a full something to be discussed in an office, face-
spectrum personal finance management suite to-face with a trusted advisor.
online, only a few major banks have ventured
But now, Web 2.0 customers are becoming
full force into this space in the last few years.
a new breed. They have moved quickly from
For example, in 2006 Bank of America
being a source to drive low-cost deposits
debuted its MoneyCenter suite with a My
en masse to a savvy group of connoisseurs
Portfolio offering that includes basic personal
looking for ways to use technology to simplify,
finance functionality, including budgeting,
speed and increase the value of personal
categorizing and an array of preformatted
financial management. They are more involved
reports including: cash flow analysis, expense
and more self-directed. They research,
analysis, budget versus actual, credit card
shop and make financial decisions on their
utilization, get transaction reports and the
6 own more often than traditional customers.
ability to set budget goals.
They want more from a relationship, crave
Many other institutions are entering the connection and demand transparency. With
arena to deliver online investment and cash a constant flow of information to process,
management tools in the wealth management

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they require more proof to purchase. Recent Social “net worth”
research revealed that a staggering one in Social networks have always played a crucial
four Facebook users would consider leaving role in financial decision-making. Traditional
their bank to be able to obtain online banking banking and financial services were built
through Web 2.0 gadgets. on referral models. For online bankers, who
you know is still important. But the advent
To provide what online customers are looking
of Internet-enabled social networks and
for, banks must embrace the transparency
online banking has drastically changed the
to which their online users have become
banker to customer ratio. Instead of one to
accustomed. Online customers’ top concerns
several individuals, as has historically been
remain centered around data privacy and
8 the case, the ratio can now be one banker to
security. However, the ability to ask questions,
millions of customers. Two intersecting trends
inspect quality of products and research price
– consumers’ growing confidence in their
advantages also weighs in on consumers’
ability to manage their own financial affairs
minds. It is still about trust, value and
and a burgeoning user interest in “read-write”
convenience, but in the subjective world of
interactions through social networking venues
Web 2.0, those words have a radically different
– present new challenges and opportunities
for today’s banks (see Figure 2).

Customers are increasingly comfortable with “read-write” interaction through social networking venues.
Percentage of Internet users reading and Wikipedia – New articles per day
creating blogs
Percent Articles per day
50 14000
Read blogs
Create blogs 12000
30 8000

20 6000

Wikipedia now in 246 languages
0 0
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

Source: Left chart: PEW/Internet & American Life Project,, quarterly surveys of 2,000 to 13,000 users.
Right chart: Wikipedia, monthly data, new articles per day all languages. Data for English language not available from Octo-
ber 2006. Estimate October 2006 onwards based on average historical growth for English and actual data for all other languages.

4 IBM Global Business Services

Companies are using MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn have the message, the clear difference is the
proved the popularity, if not yet the profit- content – people online are baring all, love and
social networking to
ability, of connecting to an ever-widening hate, about themselves and the companies
build brands, enhance 9
social network online. These sites are the new they patronize. And those in their networks are
trust and communicate forums where opinions are formed, and they joining the conversation.
to a diversified and are growing at a breakneck rate. Facebook
Web 2.0 banking sites like Wesabe marry the
dispersed audience. is the fastest growing – with membership
doubling every six months. MySpace logs an benefits of social networking and convenient,
impressive 300,000 new members every day.
11 one-stop financial management to create
One in four Americans is on MySpace, and in added value and convenience for customers.
the United Kingdom, it’s as common to have a Wesabe is an online site that allows users
MySpace page as it is to own a dog.
12 to upload information from banks and credit
card accounts to monitor their spending and
Each site serves a different demographic. network with other people with the same
Whereas MySpace is largely a media site, financial goals. By adding and sharing tags
primarily aimed at youth, giving them the concerning their financial goals, customers
opportunity to relate to brands and bands, can get tips from other members on how to
as well as self-express, Facebook is more save money and spend more efficiently. Sites
of a “lifestyle” play, targeting a different like Wesabe that have a community focus are
demographic with different tools, such as proving to be highly responsive to individual
widgets, that let users personalize their pages needs. For example, within days of the start of
and experience. LinkedIn targets executive the current world credit crisis, Wesabe users
professionals and has become a formidable were sharing their “top five concrete things
professional networking site. Each company you can do to prepare for harder times.”
listed in the Fortune 500 is represented in
LinkedIn. In fact, 499 of them are represented Taking trust, value and convenience a step
by director-level and above employees. further, new Web 2.0 sites circumvent the
Harvard graduates who use the site average traditional bricks and mortar loan experience
58 connections each.
15 entirely. is a social lending site,
the self-named “eBay for loans.” Instead of
Companies across the globe are harnessing having to borrow at whatever rate is available
the power of these sites, and others like them, from mainstream institutions, users can assess
to strengthen their brands and build customer the risk of borrowing from individuals who
trust. There are group pages dedicated to visit the site and enter into loan agreements.
employees, or special interests or causes, Virgin Money, with the tag line of “lending from
pages for advisement and local pages for people you know,” acts as an intermediary,
customers. These contend with customer- formalizing loans made among friends and
created pages dedicated to the discussion of family, and even sets up direct draws from the
less positive customer experiences. Whatever borrower’s bank account to repay the loan.

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An interesting aspect of these sites is To become a part of the community, banks
the creation of communities among their must embrace the foundational purpose of
users (e.g. firefighters, school teachers, car the communities themselves and reach out.
renovation enthusiasts) and the impact the There are several steps banks can take to
type of community has on a borrower’s ability immediately to gain entrance into customers’
to get a loan. Some lenders actually choose online consciousness. No strategy would be
borrowers based on their interests, a radical complete without considering all channels.
departure from the way traditional banks dole This requires a greater transparency of
out capital. For instance, a lender may want to information, or to borrow a phrase from Web
support a renovator of classic cars based on 2.0, nakedness.
the fact of a shared hobby or interest.
Take a look in the mirror
These sites not only signal the advent of Banks should begin monitoring blogs and
new banking business models, but banks’ other chatter online. Customers often say
increasing need to understand what it takes things online that are less than flattering
to be the intermediary of choice in the online about services, products, treatment of
marketplace. Web 2.0 provides numerous employees or, even, social-political affiliations.
opportunities to attract customers. Whether Ignoring this fact will not serve banks, or their
they choose to play or not, banks are being customers, needs. No matter what information
rated and ranked, and no doubt ridiculed, is discovered, banks can benefit by using
in social networks online. Web 2.0 requires online commentary to improve brand image
banks to make a name for themselves among and counter unfounded negativity with facts.
these intermediaries that rate, rank, opine and This information can also be used to identify
amalgamate based on customer interests communities of targeted customers that can
and needs. To understand what customers be accessed easily.
want, play a part in shaping their opinions and,
ultimately, win and retain their business, banks
Show some skin
If they haven’t already, banks should develop
must “get in the game.” For many institutions,
their presence on the most popular social
however, doing so will require a wholesale
networks, such as Facebook, MySpace or
change in how and where they deal with
LinkedIn. Leveraging what they learn from
customers who join these forums – target
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Just as banks once strategized about where to concerns – banks can then create special
build the next branch, they now must identify interest groups that leverage such existing
the prime online real estate on which to hang social networks. Or, they may choose to
a virtual shingle. More and more, these are use a platform such as Ning, which enables
places other than their corporate domain. To companies to build a tailored social network
attract and retain customers, and win back from scratch, to begin networking with target
their roles as trusted advisors, banks must customers.
become not only ingrained in their customers’
communities, but also understand how to use
these interactions to create value.

6 IBM Global Business Services

Many institutions Though it may seem altogether too futuristic Last but not least, a well-conceived Web 2.0
to some, banks would also do well to develop strategy should consider how all channels will
are experimenting
their presence in online virtual worlds such need to evolve to provide the transparency,
with tools to deliver 21
as Second Life. Many banks already have ease and speed that customers will come
a seamless cross- a presence in this space. While it may be too to demand – and technology will enable – in
channel customer soon for many to consider offering financial the next few years. To make the most of the
experience. services in a virtual environment, it is an ideal opportunities next-generation developments
forum in which to monitor customer behavior will create, many banks will need to radically
and buying habits, as well as stay abreast of transform their views of the customer, the way
new online trends. they store and track customer data and the
speed at which they are able to analyze and
Where to bare all react to customer behavior.
Banks’ best customers may be their
employees. If they’re not, banks are missing Some institutions are already experimenting
out on a powerful Web 2.0 marketing with a number of tools and techniques to
tool: employee evangelism. Generation Y create a cross-channel customer experience.
employees, especially, are extremely adept Contrary to the traditional online model, which
at using Web 2.0 networking to connect has largely been a transactional extension of
personally and professionally, find and the bank, the new online model will leverage
analyze data, shop, find jobs and, even, start all available technologies to nurture the
companies. Why should a bank wait to read customer experience. Banks and online
an employee’s thoughts and ideas about what providers are using blogs, RSS feeds and
it could do better or a potential marketing podcasts for educational and promotional
innovation on an external social network when purposes. Some are moving toward full
it can encourage the same type of information financial dashboards for expenditure analysis
sharing internally? Adopting and embracing and wealth planning, as well as using alerts
internal collaboration tools eases communi- to proactively communicate banking product
cation, encourages innovation, and enables opportunities to the customer. And some
employees to learn, execute and raise the banks are using co-browsing, net meetings
quality bar faster. and chat applications to directly interact with
the customer online.
Institutions are using a variety of tools aimed
at exploiting social networking, grass-roots But banks will start to move even further,
innovation and empowering idea sharing thinking beyond channel and device to
across organizational silos and boundaries. envision an environment and culture defined
This trend began with knowledge networks and driven by the flexibility of the ”anywhere,
and is progressing to vehicles like innovation anytime” mobile experience, which reaches
jams, blogs, wikis and social networking. across customer segments, industries and
Some banks already adopt the “if you can’t geography. In the not-so-distant future, display
beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach: they have and touch technologies and wireless electricity
designed communities on Facebook for their are likely to enable network interfaces on
employees to get together and share common any surface, of any size, in any place. GPS,

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real-world aware networks and sensors akin new (38 percent) and influence others (23
to today’s RFID will provide connectivity that percent). Online users benefit from access
knows where customers are, enables mobile to social networks that expose them to
payments, and tracks buying behavior. information and opinions they can use to
Advanced analytics of transactions will help compare and contrast the virtues of numerous
companies better understand what customers capabilities – including personal financial
want. Biometrics and advanced encryption management. Banks must research their
capabilities will make transactions safer, and customers as much as consumers are now
consumer trust and adoption will follow. In researching their financial services provider.
this future, we can imagine a scenario where The operative words are listen, learn and
storefronts “know” customers and can beam a leverage.
tailored advertisement to them as they walk by.
Consumers, in turn, will be able to beam back It is very important that banks transcend
a payment and be on their way in seconds. beyond a world of one-way, “read only”
provider-to-consumer interaction. Sixty percent
Get skin in the game of large companies plan to invite customers
The question is not will Web 2.0 affect banks. to contribute content that explains, supports,
Banks are already being affected, whether promotes or enhances their products. Even
they choose to play or not. We recently more striking is that 47 percent of companies
searched blogs naming a major U.S. bank, for plan to treat customers as co-developers of
example, and returned over 1.5 million hits. The products.
questions are what types of information did
Web 2.0 is the next frontier of customer
those blogs contain and how can banks use
relationship management. Whether developing
that information to drive value?
a presence on a popular social network,
How should banks react? As the number tapping into the virtual world, launching a new
of social network participants and allure of social network, or some combination thereof,
collaborative models continue to accelerate demystify it for your company. Embrace the
and unfold, financial services providers will trend. It is a world of which you are already a
aggressively redefine their online experience. part. The invasion of new, innovative business
First and foremost, providers must understand models delivering on these promises means
why customers access social networks. no bank – large or small – should opt out. The
Research indicates the top drivers center on sooner you join the conversation, the sooner
the ability to meet people (78 percent), find you stand to benefit.
entertainment (47 percent), learn something

8 IBM Global Business Services

About the authors About IBM Global Business Services
Cormac Petit is a Chartered Accountant With business experts in more than 160
(South Africa) and Managing Consultant in countries, IBM Global Business Services
the IBM Global Business Services Strategy provides clients with deep business process
and Change practice. He has over 20 years and industry expertise across 17 industries,
of experience worldwide and across a wide using innovation to identify, create and deliver
range of industries, with primary expertise value faster. We draw on the full breadth of IBM
in the Finance Sector. In the IBM Institute for capabilities, standing behind our advice to
Business Value, Cormac is joint global Banking help clients implement solutions designed to
leader. He has published many research deliver business outcomes with far-reaching
studies and articles in a variety of journals, and impact and sustainable results.
speaks regularly at conferences. Cormac can
be reached at
Wendy Feller leads the Financial Services
Sector practice across the Financial Markets,
Banking and Insurance industries for the IBM
Institute for Business Value. She spearheads
the team’s strategy-oriented research,
exploring pressing issues facing today’s
financial services organizations. Ms. Feller has
over ten years of experience in the financial
services industry, having previously worked as
a strategy consultant advising many of today’s
leading organizations. She has authored
multiple studies and has been cited by a
broad range of media outlets. She is a frequent
speaker at conferences across the globe on
topics such as the future of financial markets,
as well as the globalization and specialization
of the industry. Wendy can be reached at

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References 8
“Annual Internet Survey by the Center for
Banerjea,Sunny, Kim Hedley, Cormac the Digital Future Finds Shifting Trends
Petit and John White. “The Paradox of Among Adults About the Benefits and
Banking 2015, Achieving more by doing Consequences of Children Going Online.”
less.” IBM Institute for Business Value. University of Southern California Center
November 22, 2005. for the Digital Future. 2008. http://www.
a1022912?cntxtId=a1000043 Report-Final-Release.pdf
“Facebook helps you connect and share LinkedIn.; MySpace.
with the people in your life.” http://www.; Facebook. http://; “ a place
for friends.”; 10
“Social Network Stats: Facebook, MySpace,
“Facebook now has more unique users than Reunion.” Web Strategy by Jeremiah.
MySpace.” Neoco Digital Marketing. July January 2008. http://www.web-strategist.
12, 2008. com/blog/2008/01/09/social-network-stats-
facebook-now-has-more-unique-users-than- facebook-myspace-reunion-jan-2008/
myspace/ 11
“Facebook now has more unique users than 12
MySpace.” Neoco Digital Marketing. July
12, 2008. Ibid.
facebook-now-has-more-unique-users-than- 14
“Ten Ways to Use LinkedIn.” How to Change
myspace/ the World – A practical blog for impractical
Bruene, Jim.“Personal Finance Features people. January 04, 2007. http://blog.guyka-
for Online Banking: Why ‘My Spending
Report’ trumps free bill pay.” Online Banking 15
Report. August 28, 2006; Bruene, Jim. 16
“Master your money.” Wesabe. http://www.
“Back Story: Wall Street Journal’s Article on
Online Financial Planning Tools from Banks.”
Netbanker. March 13, 2007.  “Five concrete things you can do to prepare
5 for hard times.” Wesabe. http://blog.wesabe.
“Bruene, Jim. “Bank of America is First Major can-do-to-prepare-for-harder-times/
U.S. Bank to Integrate Personal Finance into 18
“We can help you get a personal loan.”
Online Banking.” Netbanker. December 26,
bank-of-america-personal-financial-man- Virgin Money. “Changing the Face of Money.”
agement.html (Note: that in
7 other countries such as the United Kingdom,
“Customers Seek Secure Banking with
Australia and South Africa Virgin Money
Web 2.0 Tools.” Worklight. June 4, 2008.
operates more as a direct online bank.)

10 IBM Global Business Services

“Create Your Own Social Network for
Anything.” http.//
“Second Life. Your World. Your Imagination.
“New research reveals next wave of social
networking opportunities.” Competeinc.
October 11, 2006. http://www.competeinc.
“Serious Business: Web 2.0 goes corporate.”
Economist Intelligence Unit report. January

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