From 2009 to 2014, the number of online banking households in the U.S. will grow from 54 million to 66 million, and while the overall growth will decrease (from 2003 to 2005, the number online banking households grew by as much as 27% annually; by 2014, annual growth will slow to just 4%), Generation Y users (ages 18 to 29) will envelop a 40% slice of the entire online banking customer pie.
That data is from financial technology think firm Forrester Research titled "U.S. Online Banking Forecast, 2009 to 2014: Slower Growth Overall Magnifies Gen Y's Impact."
The new report concludes that a rapidly growing market of young consumers who grew up with the Internet and texting means expectations for leading-edge site features will be high, but it also means fewer expenses for financial institutions due to this group's partiality to online services.
"Opportunity will arrive in the form of dramatically lower costs to serve this generation, thanks to its preference for online bill pay, e-statements and quick and efficient online self-service," said report author Emmett Higdon. "Expect to see higher adoption of these services as other users appreciate the changes driven by this generation of Net-savvy users."
In meeting their goal of gaining as many active online banking users as possible, financial institutions have several wrinkles to iron out, including security.
While Forrester researchers found consumers are more than twice as likely to feel their financial information is safe online today than they did in 2003, consumers' tendencies to forget passwords has led to a conundrum. Financial institutions should require users to regularly change their passwords, but this routine would cause a customer support nightmare, the report states.
"Forgotten challenge questions and locked-out users drive up annual call center volume in an ironic twist for a channel created partly on the premise that it would reduce incoming call volumes," Higdon said. "While nearly all financial institutions allow users to change their online banking password, few require regular changing of passwords-a security best practice-due to the consumer support headaches it would cause."
With fewer and fewer new online banking users, stray security concerns and a new generation that's changed the online banking customer demographic altogether, how can credit unions gain the most from today's market? Forrester researchers say they must encourage new members and customers to actively use online banking tools.
"Simply enrolling users in online banking is not enough," Higdon said. "The more deeply engaged the customer is, the less likely he is to leave the bank and the more likely he is to carry higher balances and own more products."
To transform online customers from passive to hands-on, Forrester recommends financial institutions take a multichannel approach in reaching out-for example, by sending out welcome and account activation reminder e-mails to new enrollees. They also can take advantage of advertising space on their sites to promote the online account services available, such as tools for personal loans, savings accounts and student loans.
"Getting to best-in-class online banking penetration will require end-to-end, multichannel adoption campaigns that begin with the branch, include e-mail and mobile reminders and end with the user's adoption of recurring services like online bill payment, e-statements and automatic savings plans," Higdon said.
To quell lingering security worries, Forrester researchers say the best strategy is not to specifically tell consumers how their accounts are being protected and instead stress what happens if security is breached.
"What they do want to hear is this, 'You will receive 100% reimbursement in the event that account losses occur resulting from unauthorized activity," Higdon said.
And while the end goal is to gain active online customers and keep them for life, the report said that financial institutions must remember the importance of an early potential roadblock: the first login. Making sure customers log in-and reset their passwords from a temporary one assigned at the branch to one they can easily remember-is critical.
"Ensuring that the initial login to the online banking site is successful and that the user experience is good are critical steps toward helping users become active, profitable online customers," Higdon said.