comMents On comScores' conFusing Scores

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comScore released the results of its annual online banking study, which found a 10% increase in the online banking population in 2006 from the prior year. After reading the press release, I came away doubting some of the numbers. Specifically, I had trouble with:

  • The sizing. According to the study, the US online banking population grew to 44 million customers in 2006. Yet Forrester Research, which also tracks these numbers, projects that 46.4 million households banked online in 2006. These are wildly differing results — my money’s on the Forrester numbers.
  • The rankings. Based on the number of liquid deposit customers, comScore ranked SunTrust the #3 online bank, followed by NatCity at #4 — ahead of Wells Fargo and Wachovia. Going back to Forrester’s stats, 61% of the online households that do business at both Wells and Wachovia bank online, compared to 55% at SunTrust and 45% at NatCity. And according to American Banker, Wells and Wachovia have roughly $500 billion in assets, compared to $181b at SunTrust, and $141b at Nat City (implying that the customer base is much larger at Wells and Wachovia). I find it hard to believe this ranking.
  • The security perceptions. comScore said that online banking customers perceived an increase in the security of online banking sites and the Internet as a whole, due to increased Internet security and upgraded computer security software. But contrast that with the findings of the Ponemon Institute study (cited here a few days ago) which found that trust in data privacy was on the decline and that online security protocols were only ranked fourth as a factors increasing consumers’ trust perceptions.

Overall, I just don’t understand comScore’s use of the terms “online banking industry” and “online bank”. SunTrust isn’t an online bank. And the number of people who access their accounts online has nothing to do with the online banking “industry” — if there even is such a thing.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had an issue with comScore data. Last year they reported that BofA served 38% of all Americans who banked online. In other words, comScore claimed that between them, Chase, Citi, Wachovia, WaMu, Wells and the hundreds of other banks offering online banking only served 62% of online bankers. No way.

Turns out, I might not be alone in my skepticism. Apparently, the Internet Advertising Bureau has asked comScore to submit to a third-party audit of its measurement processes.

For an update on this, click here.

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