Banks test online waters

16 July 2012

ZURICH: Credit Suisse, Commonwealth Bank and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney are among the financial services firms seeking to engage customers on the web, where regulation and security concerns are key issues.

Alongside monitoring buzz, Credit Suisse is leveraging social media to build its brand, connect with potential talent and as a distribution channel for client content. Further possibilities still exist, however.

"While many people have relationships with social media sites now, they don't have online relationships with their banks, particularly in the private banking sphere," said Mike O'Sullivan, of Credit Suisse Private Banking. "That's an opportunity for the banking industry."

Nick Bertolotti, a research analyst at Credit Suisse, added that the fact Facebook boasts 900m members and Twitter has 200m showed this medium was "exploding", and finance brands must not miss out.

He also stated that 82% of web users worldwide, or one seventh of the planet's population, utilise these sites, while 39% of Americans communicate more online than face-to-face. "It's time to sit up and listen," he said.

David Slight, senior director of business strategy consulting at Microsoft, warned pushing "too many adverts" was a mistake.

"The 'social' in social media means it's about customers," he said. "Any interaction or relationship with a customer is going to be affected by the messages in these channels. It is very important for customers to be able to talk to their banks."

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney recently announced that its 17,000 financial advisers could post messages on Twitter and LinkedIn after conducting a year-long trial with 600 members of this group.

"It's a new thing for the industry and it's a new thing for our company," said Lauren Boyman, director of digital strategy at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. "It just takes time to get this done and make sure that we are supervising it in a way that's up to the standards of the firm."

The Commonwealth Bank is at an altogether different stage, having formed a tie-up with Facebook to develop an app that would allow customers to transfer payments to third parties and each other via the social network.

"There are certain things, whether it's financial services or banking, where I don't necessarily want my friends to know exactly what I'm doing, right?" David Robinson, Facebook's director, global marketing solutions, said last month.

"I want to be able to go in and have an experience with my advisor or my bank and have that be a one-on-one experience."

Data sourced from Credit Suisse, Financial Times, CNN; additional content by Warc staff