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12 Online Banking Features That Are Essential for Business Success

12 Online Banking Features That Are Essential for Business Success

After working with many institutions over the years, we’re convinced that there are a minimum of 12 online banking features that are essential for business success. One of the most important systems your institution invests in is your Online Banking Platform (OLB) – yet many of our clients have purchased OLB systems that are missing several features and are not able to offer them as services.

The Online Banking Platform is the primary delivery mechanism through which business customers access your treasury management services. It is the foundation of your business-focused digital banking strategy. Your Online Banking Platform, at a minimum, must be available 24 hours per day and offer complete access via web and mobile interfaces. Today, we’re focusing on the web-based online banking capabilities and their integration with treasury management services.

Let’s Evaluate your Current Business Offerings:

  1. Does your Online Banking Platform integrate well with your core system?
    1. Rate your institution from 1-5 with a 1 having no integration and a 5 with a completely human “hands off” integration.
  2. Does your Online Banking Platform integrate well with each of the TM services you offer your business customers?
    1. Rate your institution from 1-5 with a 1 having no integration to backend TM services and a 5 with a completely human “hands off” integration.
  3. Do you have a separate OLB Platform for consumers and businesses?
    1. Rate your institution from a 1-5 with a 1 having one platform for both and a 5 for two separate platforms customized for each customer type.

If you scored less than a 5 on our evaluation, read on, we’ve got some great advice for you. If you scored a 12-15, either you are one of our clients or you have a very robust OLB/TM system.

Let’s discuss the 12 Online Banking Features That Are Essential for Business Success:

Let’s start with the minimum expectations of your Online Banking Platform for business customers:

  • The system allows multiple users with multiple security levels under a single business entity.
  • The system allows multiple businesses under one umbrella (i.e., holding company and subsidiaries).
  • The system offers multifactor authentication (MFA) options (hard token, soft token, or biometric).
    • Side note: We no longer consider text messaging safe for business OLB system access. It is still too easy to SIM swap a mobile phone.

Your business customers should be able to conduct all or most of their banking business on this platform.

Basic Banking Functions

  1. Initiate internal transfers. Businesses need to make transfers between their main operating account and other accounts such as payroll and savings accounts. Initiating internal transfers is a must. Certain business owners who have their personal accounts with you may need to transfer funds between personal and business accounts. These businesses are typically solopreneurs or Single Member LLC entities. Your OLB system should allow this function and it typically occurs via the consumer platform.
  2. Initiate stop payments. Businesses with high check writing activity may need, from time to time, to place stop payment on a check. Your OLB platform should allow them to initiate the stop payment with all the appropriate information and submit it online. Often we see clients with a completely manual process behind the scenes as if the customer showed up at a branch. Instead, the system should be able to automatically place the stop payment and process the charge.
  3. View current and previous day transaction information. The ability to download previous day information has been available from the early days of online banking. Businesses should be able to download their bank information to their accounting software anytime. The next step will be to download real time transactions (items that post that day).
  4. Electronic Bank Statements. Businesses expect the ability to download their monthly bank statement via PDF format for at least the last 18 months. Many institutions offer longer availability, but most businesses usually need 18-24 months’ worth of data.
  5. View check images. Along with statements, businesses need to view images of checks that cleared, or items deposited. It is especially important to be able to view checks deposited via remote or mobile deposit capture. Again, the expectation is a minimum of 18 months availability.
  6. Originate payments via BillPay. Small businesses enjoy the capability of issuing payments via the BillPay service which is typically free. As their volume of payments increases, you can offer other ways of paying their bills like ACH origination (see below).

Many of the above basic banking functions may be for smaller businesses with low transaction volume. We typically see these types of customers enrolled on the consumer (retail) OLB platform. Your large customers may also as for these functions, so be sure your business OLB system can do them also.

Treasury Management Services

  1. Initiate domestic and international wire transfers. As your business customers grow or as you acquire larger commercial customers, they will need Treasury Management services. They will need the capability to initiate domestic wires and international wires. It is important to offer this service with multifactor authentication and the ability to set up multiple authority levels. The more robust OLB platforms allow the business customer to do self-administration where they assign the authority levels to their users.
  2. Account Reconciliation service. The ability to download daily account transactions also allows the business customer’s accounting software to reconcile to the bank daily. Account Reconciliation is one of the oldest TM services; however, not all OLB platforms offer it.
  3. View PDF Account Analysis Statements. Your TM customers will expect to receive their monthly Account Analysis statement via the OLB platform. This capability is a big challenge for certain core systems that do not produce the Account Analysis statements digitally. They look like a “raw statement” and is not presentable to the customers without major manual work. Some institutions even have to print them to statement paper first and then digitize them because the core is antiquated.
  4. Originate ACH payments. One of the top-selling TM services you must offer to your business customers is ACH Origination. For businesses that pay lots of bills via check, the ability to pay bills via ACH saves them time and money. Your TM business customers should be able to upload their ACH batches via your OLB platform.
  5. Access Check and ACH Positive Pay. Your business customers should be able to upload their Check or ACH batches via your OLB platform. This is another important TM service that typically is not integrated (or not well) with the core. Therefore, operations staff must do a lot of manual workarounds to make it work correctly. All done behind the scenes so customers “feel” like the system is working as intended. This process can be costly and inefficient for the institution.
  6. Connect to Remote Deposit Capture. Finally, your RDC customers should be able to connect to their RDC service through the OLB platform. Again, it takes integration between the core system, the RDC provider (if other than the core provider), and the OLB platform.

It is important to continually offer convenience and safety to your business customers when using your OLB platform. I hope this list of 12 online banking features that are essential for business success will serve as a foundation to improve upon.

Looking for assistance with refining your Treasury Management department? As always, we’re here to help.


6 Reasons to Stop Outsourcing Your Website to Your Core System Vendor

Outsourcing Your Website to Your Core System Vendor

We’ve worked with many Community Banks and Credit Unions over the years and have noticed that many outsource website hosting to a core system provider. While it may seem like an easy decision to make (if they can run our core, they can run our website), unfortunately it is probably the wrong decision. A well-managed and search optimized website is critical; so let’s dive into 6 reasons to stop outsourcing your website to your core system vendor.


Reason #1: Lack of Expertise in Website Management

Core system vendors specialize in offering banking and financial systems, not in web development. Their expertise lies in providing core banking solutions like transaction processing, account management, and other back-end services. Website development and management require a different set of skills and knowledge, which are usually not the primary focus of these vendors.

Impact on Website Quality and Functionality:

  • Design and User Experience: Core system vendors often use templated approaches to website design, which may not align with the branding and user experience needs of your organization.
  • Technical Limitations: Without specialized knowledge in web development, websites created by these vendors may lack advanced features and functionalities. This includes limitations in responsive design, which is crucial for mobile users, and the integration of modern web technologies for enhanced user experience.
  • SEO and Online Visibility: Core system vendors may not be up to date with the latest SEO strategies. Websites lacking in SEO optimization fail to rank well on search engines, leading to reduced online visibility and missed opportunities to attract potential customers.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: As your institution grows, its website needs to scale and adapt. Core system vendors may not provide the necessary flexibility for scaling, updating, or adding new features, leading to a website that quickly becomes outdated.

While core system vendors are essential for their primary services, their lack of specialization in website development can lead to websites that don’t meet the evolving needs of modern banking customers. A dedicated web development team, on the other hand, can ensure a website that is not only visually appealing and functional but also optimized for SEO, security, and scalability.


Reason #2. Poor SEO Performance Due to Platform Limitations

According to SEMRush “Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a set of processes aimed at improving a website’s visibility in search engines, like Google, with the goal of getting more organic traffic. SEO is about fulfilling users’ search needs by creating relevant, high-quality content and providing the best possible user experience.” In a nutshell, your institution’s website is competing with larger competitor’s websites, so at a minimum, you need to be competitive at SEO.

Core system vendors typically use one-size-fits-all platforms, which often include only basic, generic SEO features. These platforms may not offer the advanced SEO tools and customization options needed for effective search engine optimization.

These platforms often come with inflexible content management systems (CMS) that limit the ability to optimize individual pages for SEO. This includes constraints in modifying meta tags, creating SEO-friendly URLs, and structuring content for better search engine indexing.

SEO algorithms, especially those of major search engines like Google, are constantly evolving. Platforms that are not regularly updated to reflect these changes can quickly fall behind, making your website less competitive in search rankings.

With the increasing importance of mobile-first indexing, a platform’s inability to efficiently support mobile optimization can severely hamper your website’s SEO performance.

Consequences of Poor SEO:

  • Reduced Online Visibility: One of the most direct consequences of poor SEO is reduced online visibility. If a website does not appear in the top ten of search results, it is unlikely to be visited by potential customers. This is especially crucial for local searches, where large and small institutions often compete.
  • Lower Website Traffic: Poor SEO directly correlates to lower organic traffic. If potential customers can’t find your website through search engines, you miss out on a significant source of traffic and, consequently, potential business.
  • Diminished Credibility and Trust: High search engine rankings are often associated with credibility. A lower ranking can inadvertently lead to a perception of lower credibility among potential customers.
  • Impact on Marketing Efforts: SEO is a critical component of digital marketing. Poor SEO performance can undermine your other marketing efforts, such as online advertising and social media marketing, making these campaigns less effective and more costly.
  • Challenges in Competing with Larger Institutions: For smaller community banks and credit unions, effective SEO is a way to level the playing field with larger institutions. Without strong SEO, these smaller entities may find it increasingly difficult to compete in an already competitive market.

A platform that is specifically designed for search engine optimization, regularly updated, and flexible in content management is key to enhancing online visibility and staying competitive in the digital age.


Reason #3. Limited Site Structure Flexibility

A flexible and well-structured website is not just a cosmetic preference but a fundamental need for effective SEO and user satisfaction.

Many core system vendors offer website solutions based on rigid templates and predefined layouts. This restricts your ability to customize the site structure according to specific SEO strategies or user experience needs. For instance, you might want to highlight certain services or products in a particular way, but the templates prevent this.

Effective site structure involves a clear hierarchy and intuitive navigation, which are essential for both SEO and user experience. Vendor-provided solutions may not allow for the creation of a logical hierarchy or easy-to-navigate menus, making it difficult for users and search engines to find relevant content.

Impact on SEO and User Experience:

  • SEO Challenges Due to Poor Structure: Search engines rely on a clear site structure to understand and index content. A rigid, poorly organized website can lead to poor indexing by search engines, which negatively affects search rankings. For example, if important pages are buried deep within the site and are not easily accessible, they might not be indexed effectively.
  • Difficulty in Implementing Advanced SEO Strategies: Advanced SEO strategies often require a flexible site structure. This includes the ability to create landing pages for specific campaigns, optimize category pages, and structure content for featured snippets. Limited flexibility hampers these efforts.
  • User Experience Compromises: A website that is hard to navigate leads to a frustrating user experience. Potential customers and members might find it difficult to locate the information they need, such as loan rates, branch locations, or account options.
  • Mobile Responsiveness Issues: With the increasing use of mobile devices, a flexible site structure that adapts to different screen sizes is crucial. A rigid site structure may not work well on mobile devices, impacting both user experience and mobile SEO.
  • Local SEO Impact: Local SEO is critical for community banks and credit unions. A lack of site structure flexibility can affect the optimization of local pages, such as branch location pages, impacting local search visibility.

Be sure to seek website solutions that offer the flexibility to tailor your site structure to meet specific SEO goals and provide an optimal user experience.


Reason #4. Restricted Control Over Images

Visual content plays a crucial role in user engagement and SEO, having full control over images is essential.

Core system vendors often provide websites with limited options for customizing and optimizing images. This can include restrictions on image sizes, formats, and the ability to add alternative text (alt text), which are critical elements for SEO.

Many vendors offer a limited library of generic images. These often lack the specificity and relevance that your institution might need to represent its brand, services, and community effectively.

Impact on SEO and Visual Appeal:

  • SEO Disadvantages Due to Non-Optimized Images: Search engines use image-related information, like file names and alt text, to understand and rank content. Limited control over these aspects can result in images that do not contribute to or even hinder the site’s SEO performance.
  • Slower Page Load Times: Without the ability to optimize images (such as compressing file sizes), your site can suffer from slower loading times. Slow load times are a negative ranking factor for SEO and can lead to higher bounce rates as users become impatient.
  • Reduced Engagement and Brand Representation: Images are a powerful tool for engaging users and conveying your brand’s message. Restricted control over images can lead to a website that looks generic and fails to resonate with your target audience.
  • Mobile Responsiveness Issues: In the era of mobile-first indexing, images need to be optimized for different device screens. Limited control over this aspect can lead to poor user experience on mobile devices, further affecting SEO and engagement.

Examples of Visual and SEO Challenges:

  • Promotional Campaigns: Limited ability to customize images can make promotional campaigns less effective. For example, a special offer on auto loans might not have the visual impact needed to attract users due to generic or poorly optimized images.
  • Community Engagement: Your marketing team often relies on images to connect with your local community. Restrictions on image control can prevent you effectively showcasing community involvement, local staff, or custom financial products.

Seek website solutions that offer the flexibility to fully manage and optimize images, ensuring that your website not only ranks well in search engines but also resonates strongly with your audience.


Reason #5. Lack of On-Site Blog Options

The absence of having an on-site blog (a blog directly integrated into the website itself) can hinder your ability to maximize its potential.

Blogs are a powerful tool for SEO because they allow for the regular addition of fresh, relevant content to your website. Search engines favor websites that are frequently updated with quality content. Blogs provide an opportunity to incorporate keywords, increase page count, and keep the site dynamic, all of which are favored by search engine algorithms.

An on-site blog enables your institution to establish itself as an authority in the community banking sector. By providing valuable insights, advice, and news, you can build trust with your audience. This trust not only helps in retaining existing customers but also in attracting new ones.

Blogs create opportunities for user engagement. They can be used to answer common customer queries, train business customers on Treasury Management services, provide financial tips, and share community news, which keeps users coming back to the site. Engaged users are more likely to explore other parts of the site, potentially leading to increased business.

Blog content can be shared across social media platforms, increasing your online presence, and driving traffic back to the website. It also serves as content for email newsletters, social media, and other marketing campaigns.

The Drawback of Vendor Solutions:

  • Limited Blogging Capabilities: Many core system vendors do not offer integrated blogging platforms in their website solutions. This lack limits your institution’s ability to easily publish and manage blog content, thus missing out on the significant benefits blogs offer.
  • Missed SEO Opportunities: Without an on-site blog, you miss out on a key strategy for improving your search engine rankings. The continuous stream of fresh, keyword-rich content that blogs provide is a cornerstone of effective SEO.
  • Restricted Content Marketing: In an era where content marketing is king, lacking a blog can put your institution at a competitive disadvantage. You lose a valuable channel to engage with your audience, share insights, and promote services.

Real-World Impact:

  • Case Studies and Success Stories: For instance, a community bank that shares regular blog posts about local financial success stories or economic trends can attract and engage a local audience more effectively than a static website.
  • Educational Content: Offering educational blog content about financial planning, investment strategies, or even basic banking tips can significantly enhance your value proposition to your customers.

An on-site blog is not just an add-on but a critical component of a modern, effective online presence. The inability to include this feature due to the limitations of core system vendor offerings can be a significant missed opportunity in terms of SEO, customer engagement, and overall online marketing strategy.

Reason #6. Slow Reaction to Content Changes and Additional Costs

Core system vendors often have longer turnaround times for content updates. This delay can be due to their larger client base, internal processes, or lack of prioritization of web services.

In the fast-paced digital world, timely content is crucial. Delays in updating important information can lead to outdated or irrelevant content being displayed on the website. For instance, if you are slow to update information about a new loan product or interest rate changes, you can miss out on potential business and damage customer trust.

Slow content updates can also impede the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. If a campaign is launched but the website content is not updated promptly to reflect this, the campaign’s impact is diminished.

Additional Costs for Changes:

  • Charges for Updates: Many core system vendors charge additional fees for content updates and changes. This fee structure can quickly increase the overall cost of maintaining the website.
  • Cost of Inflexibility: The inability to make quick and cost-effective updates can lead to missed opportunities. For example, if you cannot promptly advertise a special rate due to the cost or time involved in updating the website, you lose out on potential customers who go to competitors with more up-to-date information.
  • Budget Constraints and Planning Issues: Smaller institutions may find these additional costs and the unpredictability of these expenses challenging. Budget constraints might force you to limit the frequency of updates, further affecting the website’s effectiveness.

Real-World Consequences:

  • Case Example – Promotional Delays: Consider a scenario where you plan a promotional offer for a holiday season. A delay in updating the website due to slow vendor response or the high cost of making the update could result in the promotion getting less exposure and thus, lower customer participation.
  • Impact on Customer Experience: Regular customers who visit your website might find outdated or inconsistent information, which can lead to frustration and a decrease in customer satisfaction.

Slow reaction to content changes and the additional costs associated with updates can be significant hindrances. consider these factors when choosing a website management solution, as they directly affect the efficiency, effectiveness, and overall cost of your online presence.

Having a dynamic, responsive, and efficiently managed website is no longer just an option, but a necessity. By considering our 6 reasons to stop outsourcing your website to your core system vendor and look for providers who specialize in website development and SEO, you can greatly enhance your online presence, ensuring that your website attracts and engages your target audience.

Thanks for Reading!

Website SEO effectiveness and where the site is hosted is something that inevitably shows up in Strategic Planning sessions with our clients. While we aren’t experts in the field, we know several reputable vendors who are:

90 Degree Media LLC: Jamison and his staff keep things humming for the Malzahn Strategic website. They have run our site since inception and do a great job at both hands-on management or hands-off management (depending on your needs).

Astoundz: This Houston, TX based SEO and Digital Marketing Agency provides expert help in making your website SEO responsive and are experts in the field. We’ve done a lot of work with them. Tell them we sent you!

If you are more in the “Learn It then Do It” camp, Findability might be for you. They empower business owners, entrepreneurs, and marketing teams to dominate online with easy, non-technical SEO or what they call “Findability” training. We’ve attended their training and it works. Attend their online course or a workshop and get up to speed quickly.

Looking for ideas to expand your Treasury Management reach to new business customers? Look into the TMClarity Framework, our comprehensive and transformative training and Treasury Management business management system that leads to greater sales success, higher margins, and increased customer retention in a competitive marketplace.

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Books by Marcia Malzahn