The Evolution Of Financial Services Web Sites

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Jim Bruene at NetBanker recently predicted that there would be 300 FIs blogging by the end of 2007, but that it was unlikely that the number would get much higher than the 100 or so currently blogging (including CU employee blogs, MySpace pages, and multiple blogs from a single firm like Wells Fargo).

My take: I won’t venture a guess on how many FIs will blog by year-end. But I do believe that there will come a day when it will be impossible to count them up. Because we won’t be able to distinguish an FI’s site from its blog.

This really hit home for me when Jim wrote, in a subsequent post, about Quicken Loans’ What’s The Diff blog. My first reaction was “hey, that it isn’t a blog…it’s a recruiting site disguised as a blog.”

On further consideration, however, I concluded that what Quicken Loans is doing is a glimpse into what a lot of FIs will do in the future — integrate blogging techniques with the content and transaction/interaction functionality of the core site itself.

In the future — much to the horror of today’s site managers — financial services sites will evolve away from the centralized control of IT or the online channel group, and into the hands of the product managers and customers.

On the mortgages page, for example, product managers will post entries with links to articles about where interest rates are going, and post tips and advice to help customers and prospects make smart decisions about their mortgage decisions. Customers and prospects will share their responses and support — or refute — that advice.

On Wells Fargo’s site, the student loan blog will be a part of the student loan section on the bank’s site — not a separate site with a unique URL.

On some sites, the blog content might be the central focus of a product’s page, and on others, blog content might be sidebar material. On some sites, blog content will replace the lifestage content that appears on many sites, letting customers themselves dictate the content, tone, and direction of what appears.

Why will FIs do this? Because they’ll learn that engaging customers and prospects in conversations is the best way to sell their products. The trust they’ll build by doing this will outweigh the competitor down the street offering a CD with one-quarter of a percent better rate. That won’t be enough to get consumers to move and switch.

And then, of course, when everyone is doing it, something else will have to come along to offer FIs a way to differentiate themselves, because blogging will not only be common — it won’t be distinguishable from the FI’s everyday marketing and service efforts.

Which means, Jim, that we won’t even be able to count how many FIs are blogging. But I’ll be happy to say that you were spot on with your prediction.

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