NEW YORK: American Express, Bank of America and Chase are the financial services brands making the most effective use of digital media, according to a study.

Specialist think-tank L2 assessed the performance of 27 major retail banks and credit card providers in the new media space.

In producing its index score, L2 gave an equal weighting to the quality of each firm's website, digital marketing output, social media activity and mobile capabilities.

American Express topped the charts on 167 points, and was praised for initiatives such as the Daily Wish marketplace, running "flash sales" solely available to the organisation's cardholders.

Moreover, Amex's Facebook page lets users vote for, volunteer with and donate to good causes, and its YouTube channel hosts a variety of branded entertainment, receiving around 7.5m hits thus far.

The company has also partnered with Foursquare to offer location-based deals at retail stores and restaurants.

Bank of America claimed second on 153 points, not least thanks to a redesigned website mixing video, polls and sharing tools with informative and educational content and demos.

Looking forward, BoA intends to roll out SMS notifications when customers go into their debit overdraft, building on a rapidly-expanding range of wireless competencies.

Bank of America's credit card arm, which has trialled mobile payments for the iPhone and BlackBerry, took third on 134 points, although this made it a "gifted" digital player rather than a "genius".

The latter ranking, denoted by registering 140 points, resulted from making this channel a "point of competitive differentiation."

Chase's credit cards occupied fourth, securing 129 points, beating rival Capital One, generating 123 points, the same total as Citibank.

At present, 68% of brands are using Twitter, and two-thirds of this group now offer real-time customer service via the Web 2.0 platform.

More specifically, 80% of the banks and card providers utilising the microblogging property have a dedicated account focusing on this area, and 70% supply the names and/or photos of staff members replying.

In all, 59% of the enterprises analysed had an official presence on YouTube, exactly matching the figure achieved by Facebook.

Only 28% of the sample had established a Facebook brand page, logging an average of 92,000 "likes", measured against 553,000 for luxury lines and 374,000 for beauty goods.

Another 28% had accounts linked to sponsorship, standing at 14% discussing individual products and cause-related efforts, and falling to 8% for both "brand personality" and recruitment pages.

Elsewhere, 82% of the panel currently boast smartphone apps, 74% possess mobile websites and 73% send SMS alerts.

Text banking delivered 41% on this metric, while just 14% of firms have already created iPad applications.

"Innovation in digital and mobile is the new battlefield where market share will be won or lost," said Scott Galloway, founder of L2.

"The primary levers in the financial services industry over the past 20 years have been massive broadcast media spend and a land grab for retail bank real estate.

"However, a focus on cost-cutting driven by the financial crisis, coupled with an increasingly digital consumer, is reshaping the landscape."

Overall, 48% of financial operators fell in the "genius" or "gifted" categories, ahead of the 39% posted by automakers, the 37% recorded by beauty brands and 36% ratings in the luxury sector, L2 revealed.

Further areas for progress exist, as 70% of financial sites do not offer social sharing facilities. This total reaches 56% for product comparisons, 52% regarding cross-selling, and 48% for live chat.

Data sourced from L2; additional content by Warc staff