'Electronic kitchen table' a hit for bank

Case study: First Direct grabs eyeballs with aggregation service

Case study: First Direct grabs eyeballs with aggregation service

First Direct has integrated its account aggregation service with its customer relationship management systems to help it better target offers to its customers.

Last year the 'branchless' bank launched its account aggregation offering, which allows users - who do not have to be its customers - to bring many of their bank accounts together.

This allows them to cut down on the hassle of having to remember multiple passwords and allows them to see all of their assets and liabilities in one place.

The bank's customers tend to be extremely IT-literate professionals, explained Jonathan Etheridge, First Direct's head of e-futures - which means they are more open to trying new services.

"One of the things we noticed was that our customers tend to have more financial products than was typical," he added.

"Most banks tend to go into denial and pretend that their customers aren't [dealing with multiple banks]. We didn't do that. We tried to think how we could turn that to our advantage," he added.

Lots of financial products from different banks means lots of hassle remembering passwords and tracking down figures on different websites.

By bringing all the data together in one place the account aggregation service - called internet banking plus - aims to do away with that hassle. "It's an automatic version of what you do - it's like an autopilot," he said.

People will often sit down with all their paper financial statements to try and make sense of their financial position, and Etheridge said the software tries to replicate that: "It's the electronic version of the kitchen table," he said.

In November last year the bank added the ability to aggregate other types of account - such as online shopping, auctions, email and air miles.

One benefit for First Direct is that it gives the bank a tighter relationship with their customers - and has increased the frequency of contact it has with account holders. It now has 50,000 users for the service out of its 1.2 million customers.

First Direct is using software from eWise for the digital safe, and one reason for this is that it has to be regularly upgraded when banks change their websites - something First Direct doesn't want to do itself.

"If a bank redesigns the site, the agent has to be updated as well. That's quite an overhead and as a bank we aren't geared up to testing other bank's websites," Etheridge said.

Recently the bank has upgraded the system again so it connects with First Direct's CRM systems. If customers allow it, the bank can use information from the accounts it aggregates to provide targeted offers to customers.

"From the customer's point of view we want to offer a service and the flip-side is we get data about customer behaviour. We already have a sophisticated CRM system and now we are adding to that with [this] external data," he added.