50-year-old Bank of Oklahoma is a true online banking pioneer. Its first full-service Web site, offering wealth management services to individuals, launched in May 1998.
The Bank's goal was to use the Internet to expand beyond regional boundaries, and as well as to prevent large national Internet banks from poaching on its traditional turf. The site admirably succeeded. Since implementation, the Bank's market value has doubled to more than $18 billion and more than 2,400 clients now use its online wealth management services.
Encouraged, the management team began to look for more ways to grow by offering online services. Joe Rodanski, SVP Trust Operations Manager, says, "We felt like we'd saturated the wealth marketplace; but we wanted to grow. We wanted to compete with the big banks and mutual fund companies of the world."CAMPAIGN
Aside from serving wealthy individuals, the Bank's trust division also has a department that serves institutional accounts -- generally employee retirement plans. Jeff Sanders, VP & Trust Officer, noticed that a large percentage of these institutional customers were professional services firms, such as large law firms and medical practices.
And, it just so happens that doctors and lawyers are more likely to be interested in using online brokerage accounts to self-direct their retirement savings, than practically any other demographic. So, the Bank decided to offer a self-directed "manage your own retirement account" option to its institutional customers to extend to their employees.
However, most existing online trade execution systems for trust platforms were unwieldy, requiring seven or more back-end steps per trade. Also none of the systems allowed participants to give their personal brokers the ability to trade in their accounts. Convinced they needed better functionality to compete on the national market, the Bank convinced efinance technology firm Metavante to build a custom system, and Bank of New York to go in on it with them. Rodanski says, "We were the leaders and the pushers."
The system took six months to build. Next in fall 2000, Bank of Oklahoma's Web design team began working on a prototype for the Web site institutional customers would use to manage their individual accounts.
In keeping with the Bank's other successful sites, the home page (see link below) was deliberately designed to be as clean as possible. Rodanski says, "We configured it to be very user friendly." Sanders adds, "When a self-directed plan participant enters, their first impression should be 'This thing is simple!' We decided let's not try to throw all the information out on the initial home page."
Instead the home page simply asks, "What do you want to do?" and then provides a short list of seven options:
1. Access your account
2. Place a trade
3. Transfer funds
4. Request a loan
5. Change your investment election
6. Open an SDO account
7. Need help? Call (800)-876-9557 or click here to contact us.
Next the Bank conducted extensive focus groups for usability. Two institutional clients beta tested it, plus 400 Bank of Oklahoma trust division employees were also asked to try it out. Sanders says, "They were pretending to be end users at home at night, using different browsers and different sized monitors. We had them do every type of query and trade online and then submit a survey."
Satisfied, the Bank launched the new offering in January 2001, and used it as a key part of their sales pitch for new institutional accounts nationwide.
The new investment management platform was almost instantly successful. Rodanski says, "We had zero, and signed up several customers very quickly. It's pretty unusual. Of our 8,753 accounts, today about 4,000 are signed up to view or be interactive with their trust data online."
He adds, "When the dust settled, we won significant accounts in Baltimore, Chicago, San Francisco and New York City because we had this self-directed capability."
The number of client employees who actually take advantage of the self-directed option varies depending on the demographics. Sanders says, "As a general rule it's 5-10%, but we have a few law firms at 30%. And it continues to grow higher steadily."
The easy-to-use home page has really paid off. In fact the toll-free help line has received far fewer calls than anyone anticipated, although one older customer did call in to say, "Thank you for dumbing it down to my level."
Now the Bank is extending its use of the Internet to make these accounts even more profitable. Instead of flying reps around the country to lead informational meetings with employees at new accounts, they now often simply send an email with a PDF attachment containing answers to frequently asked questions. Clients' HR staffers are very happy to either forward this email to enrolled employees, or to post the information on their corporate intranet.
Rodanski is also excited about the Bank's potential cost-savings as they begin to implement electronic statements in place of printed statements for customers who request them later this year. Useful links related to this article:
Link to sample self-directed account home page: