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Hottest Web Sites Belong to ... Banks. What?; Standing Still Means Falling behind for Many, According to New Research.

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Ask anyone what the hottest thing online is, and most would say something like auctions or online shopping. You might be surprised to learn that it's banking.

Let's look at the numbers. Of all the major Internet activities tracked by the Pew Internet and American Life Project since its inaugural survey in March 2000, online banking has grown the fastest. Now 44 percent of internet users or one quarter of all adults now say they use online banking.* According to a recent Harris Interactive poll 35 percent of bills are now paid online.**

But banking? You must be kidding. Banking is boring, even a little scary if you're worried about things like identity theft, or you cringe at the thought of paying bills. The best sites are changing this by making their sites easy (even pleasant) to use and by answering common questions clearly and concisely.

Still, most bank sites have a long way to go, according to a handful of studies recently released by Change Sciences (www.changesciences.com), a research and consulting company that advises many of the leading banks.

--The longest online application process for a new account is about 4.5 times longer than the shortest.

--65 percent of applications for new accounts have well known usability problems.

--About 40 percent of bank web sites don't have welcoming home pages.

--75 percent of bank web sites don't make it clear what someone should do after he logs in to his online bank account for the first time.

It isn't for lack of trying. More than 80 percent of 30 leading bank sites changed significantly in just six months. 20 percent were completely overhauled, and only 18 percent were unchanged. "It's an astonishing rate of change," said Steve Ellis, a Change Sciences partner. "The best sites have acknowledged that staying ahead of the pack is an ongoing effort."

Current trends include allowing people to open accounts without setting foot in a branch and minimizing the exchange of paper for applicants and account holders.

The sites that make it easiest for people to find an account and apply are Washington Mutual (www.wamu.com), Citibank (www.citibank.com), and super-regional bank Fifth Third (www.53.com). The sites that make it easiest to log in, manage transactions and pay bills are Wachovia (www.wachovia.com), Bank of America (www.bankofamerica.com), and Wells Fargo (www.wellsfargo.com).

Other banks reviewed in the research include: AmSouth, Bank of New York, BB&T, Charles Schwab Bank, Chase, Citizens Bank, Comerica, Commerce Bancorp, Commerce Bancshares, Compass Bank, Countrywide, E*Trade Bank, First Horizon, Harris Bankcorp, HSBC, Hudson United, Huntington, IndyMac Bank, Key Bank, LaSalle Bank, M&T Bank, Marshall & Ilsley, National City, NetBank, North Fork, Ohio Savings, PNC Bank, Regions, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sovereign Bank, State Farm Bank, SunTrust, TD Banknorth, US Bank, World Savings, and Zions Bank.

For more information on Change Sciences banking site research visit: http://www.changesciences.com/cgi-bin/reports.html.

If you would like more information about this topic or would like to talk with Steve Ellis, please Call Marissa D'Amico at 888-864-1160 or email Marissa at marissa@changesciences.com.

*Get the Pew data: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/149/report_display.asp

**See: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/29/technology/29ecom.html
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jun 6, 2006
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