What defines a high-performing and reliable banking website? The same criteria that underpins a high-performing and reliable e-commerce site:

● Speed: A banking website must be quick and responsive to prevent user frustration from delays.
● Transaction efficiency: The site should provide an efficient experience for making payments, transferring funds and reviewing account summaries.
● Constant availability: The importance of maintaining continuous operations 24/7 cannot be overstated.

Recently, Catchpoint analyzed over 50 banking websites to identify the hallmarks of top-performing sites. The study focused on key metrics: DNS Time, Time to First Byte (TTFB), Document Completion, Webpage Response, Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), and overall site Availability.

Benchmarking Digital Excellence

The three sites that topped the list were Franklin Templeton, Bank of New York Mellon Corp and Thrivent Financial. The common denominator among these sites is that their numbers concerning availability and performance were well within industry standards, allowing users to have a fast-loading website and one that is genuinely available and reliable at all times. Each site took less than 2 seconds to load, with an aggregated availability of about 99.9%.

Top 10 Banks With the Lowest DNS Numbers:

Franklin Templeton 27
Regions Bank 29
E Trade Financial 32
Quicken Loans 48
Bank of New York Mellon Corp 51
First Data Corporation 66
Northern Trust 70
Wells Fargo Bank 73
Bank of America Home 78
Fidelity National Financial 84

Top 10 Banks With the Lowest TTFB Numbers:

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. 119
Ameriprise 213
CIBC 231
Thrivent Financial 246
Voya Financial 256
Franklin Templeton 267
Ally Bank 283
Capital One 284
Comerica Bank 284
Fifty Third Bank 302

Top 10 Banks With the Lowest Document Completion Times

Thrivent Financial 1090
Bank of America Home 1350
ING Bank (Voya) 1401
Fidelity National Financial 1515
Franklin Templeton 1691
Bank of New York Mellon Corp. 1856
Sallie Mae, Inc 1928
Putnam Investments 1956
State Street Corp. 2008
HSBC Bank 2114

Top 10 Banks With the Lowest Webpage Response Times

Fidelity National Financial 1666
HSBC Bank 2746
Thrivent Financial 2938
ING Bank (Voya) 3031
UBS 3050
Putnam Investments 3062
Brown Brothers Harriman 3344
Sovereign Bank 3398
Bank of America Home 3517
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. 3542

Top 10 Banks With the Highest Availability

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. 99.98
Santander Bank 99.97
Thrivent Financial 99.97
JPMorgan Chase & Co 99.96
PNC Financial Services Corp. 99.96
CIBC 99.95
Putnam Investments 99.94
BB&T Corp. 99.93
Fidelity National Financial 99.9
Franklin Templeton 99.9

The Urgent Need for a Customer-First Approach in Banking

Regrettably, many banks dismiss these metrics, overlooking their significance. The perception, at least from a customer’s point of view, is that the banking sector considers user experience to be secondary. Let’s face it: How often do you change your bank? Most consumers have not changed their bank since opening their first account. There’s a prevailing belief that customers will endure subpar services due to the inconvenience of switching banks and the hassle of transferring all their bill payments. Unfortunately, this has led to complacency; banking, and I’ll include health care, are very mature markets where change is slow.

It’s time for these industries to embrace the e-commerce approach to customer service by asking, “What e-commerce strategies can we adopt that will enhance our services?’

Lessons From the E-Commerce Evolution

In the early 2000s, the e-commerce world was beset by issues when Black Friday and Cyber Monday gained popularity. I can’t recall a single Black Friday or Cyber Monday that wasn’t affected by a significant outage at a major e-commerce company, Amazon included. Over the years, however, these companies have learned that downtime and a lack of resilience are bad for business. As a result, they’ve invested heavily in their load testing, performance teams, tool sets, and telemetry. E-commerce has much to teach the financial and health care industries, which also experience high seasonality and peak traffic periods. Events like 401(k) sign-ups, health care enrollments and tax days are notorious for bringing down systems.

The Rise of Digital-First Banking

In Europe, many successful banks are digital; they don’t operate physical branches. Their success is due to a singular focus on user experience, performance, speed, flexibility and a mobile-first approach. This is what has won over the current generation of young people who do not need to visit a teller.

I don’t need a safe deposit box or cash. I have no use for traditional banking services, so it’s great that digital native banks are thriving. Some have even been acquired by traditional banks eager to adopt their teams and mindset. In my experience, performance is synonymous with user experience. For instance, when I attempt a mobile check deposit with my bank, it often fails, forcing me to visit the branch, which is inconvenient.

Friends who use digital banks in France don’t face these issues; their systems work. The banking industry could also take cues from the financial sector. Consider Robinhood—a trading platform that revolutionized the traditional approach to buying and selling stocks with its efficient and user-friendly app.

It’s crucial for banks to recognize the importance of these advancements and to take action. Otherwise, they risk losing their competitive edge.

Reimagining Traditional Services in the Digital Era

In the U.S., some banks perform exceptionally well with only an online presence, with USAA as a prime example. Some companies, like Capital One, are innovating by transforming their banks into cafés. They provide WiFi, allowing customers to work and do more than just banking. This shift dramatically enhances the user experience.

Similarly, I believe the U.S. Postal Service could benefit from reinvention. In countries like France and the UK, postal services double as financial providers, which addresses the ‘last mile’ challenge. The digital era resolves this issue by eliminating the need for physical branches. Previously, a bank might boast about its extensive network of branches, claiming coverage across the country. But with online banking, all you need is an internet connection.

T-Mobile’s collaboration with Starlink is a case in point. They’re ensuring there won’t be any ‘dead spots’ for connectivity. If cellular service fails, a satellite connection can take its place. This innovation underscores the reduced necessity for physical locations in banking and other services.

The Promise of Open Banking and Regulatory Impact

It’ll be interesting to see how the rise of open banking levels the playing field. By enabling third-party applications to access and manage consumer banking and financial data, open banking could redefine both competition and the customer journey within the industry. This shift is expected to spur major banks into more direct competition with their smaller and emerging counterparts, which could lead to reduced costs, enhanced technology and improved customer service. Traditional banks will be challenged to innovate and invest in new technologies to adapt to this changing landscape.

Observing the effects of new regulations such as DORA on the banking sector will be noteworthy. Previous reforms in banking have concentrated on economic stability and market behavior, often neglecting the aspect of resilience. DORA aims to shift the focus, highlighting the importance of Internet resilience for financial institutions.

As digital banking reshapes customer expectations, the industry must prioritize user experience and innovate, or risk being left behind. The evolution towards more agile, customer-centric services is not just inevitable but essential for staying relevant in the fast-paced financial landscape of today and tomorrow.