Aussies pilot online project for Rabobank

Rabobank is using its Australian online-banking arm, RaboDirect, to test a paperless application process that will give customers the ability to apply for and open an account online.

update Rabobank is using its Australian online-banking arm, RaboDirect, to test a paperless application process that will give customers the ability to apply for and open an account online.

"We're going to be moving to straight-through processing later this month. Similar to what ING Direct are doing, it will be a paperless account opening process," RaboDirect general manager Greg McAweeney told ZDNet Australia.

Greg McAweeney

RaboDirect general manager Greg McAweeney (Credit: Greg McAweeney/Rabobank Australia)

Currently, customers looking to open an account with RaboDirect need to fill in an online form, print it and mail it, with supporting identity documents attached.

"Customers won't need to send forms into us and we'll be doing the [identification] checks online [using an authentication database provided by FCS Online] so they'll be able to open an account, a term deposit and fund their accounts online, which is a nice step forward."

Peter Graves, account manager for Different Experience Design, worked with RaboDirect to develop the online account application form. His company specialises in user-centric design, which saw designers working with customers directly to understand their thought process when applying for finance products online.

"It's a way to avoid the risk of being too technically or business driven [during a project] and moves the focus of a project back to a users experience," said Graves.

The team working on the paperless pilot is stationed in Sydney. The online account-opening form is being developed in a Tridion content management system over five months.

RaboDirect is "the pilot for the online account-opening system" across the Rabobank network of companies around the world, added McAweeney.

McAweeney told ZDNet Australia that expanding the paperless application process into other countries depended entirely on local anti-money laundering laws, and how those countries would go about correctly verifying the identity of applicants.

"I think the regulations are changing in New Zealand next year which enables us to do straight-through [application] processing there," he said.

"You might expect the account opening process to be difficult legally speaking ... but it's gone pretty smoothly."

McAweeney also flagged an upcoming redesign of RaboDirect's public website, which is being completed in tandem with the online application process.

"We're in the midst of redesigning our entire public website at the moment. We've engaged a company called Different and we have been working with them for the last few months."

The RaboDirect website has received criticism recently, with a recent Compuware Gomez benchmark on banking website response times placing RaboPlus dead last.

RaboDirect has questioned the results, saying that a recent re-branding of the RaboPlus affected the availability figures presented in the survey. However, the bank said that the revamp had little to no impact on customers as the re-brand was completed in the middle of the night.

Gomez originally published a response time of 16.54 seconds. Rabobank itself used the Gomez public response time tool, returning a response time of 4.79 seconds through an Australian node. ZDNet Australia tested the website at the time of writing, recording a response time of 3.892 seconds.

Gomez test results

The Gomez online tool tested the RaboDirect website at the time of publication, recording a response time of 3.892 seconds.(Screenshot by Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

McAweeney also made a distinction between responsiveness of a website and "perceived" responsiveness, saying that Compuware stopped the clock on its timer when all objects had finished loading into the browser. "Perceived responsiveness is more influential," he said, with users often being able to access content they want before every page object has loaded.

In addition, McAweeney took issue with the browser that Compuware Gomez used to achieve the response times demonstrated in the benchmarks — IE7.

McAweeney described IE7 as old technology that few Rabobank customers were using, instead opting for faster options like IE8 or Firefox 3.8.

"Some of the issues with using this old technology is that IE7 only uses two threads, or in other words, two parallel pipes to load content into your browser. Newer browsers use eight threads which radically reduces your response time," he said.

"Gomez confirmed that they only tested on IE7, although this was never mentioned in any press releases," he said.

"I have no issues with benchmarking studies when they are transparent and objective. I feel some more disclosure from Compuware Gomez at the launch of their survey would have provided more context and insight."

RaboDirect intends to roll-out the new public website in the next few months, according to McAweeney.

Update at 5:29pm, 1 July 2010: we had said that the website revamp was for Rabobank Australia, it was for RaboDirect. ZDNet Australia tested using the Gomez online tool and received a response time of 3.892 seconds.