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Adapting Online Banking to Changing Customer Behavior in the Covid-19 Pandemic

Mobile First?
The move towards transitioning digital banking services to mobile apps has been a significant trend in recent years. Unsurprisingly, mobile banking has become one of the key conditions for retail banks catering to a user base that expects quick access and self-servicing of their financial needs on the go.

The emergence of mobile-only neo-banks in the market further accelerated this shift, leading traditional financial institutions to focus much of their development efforts to introduce new and innovative features on apps, which could have also lessened the priority of adding new functionality or even updating the interfaces for desktop or online banking.

With the pandemic however, focus on the larger screen may also need to be considered. An Alcon/Ipsos poll saw that the majority of Americans surveyed admitting that they spent more time on their smart/mobile phones (59%) as well as in front of a computer screen (55%) since the pandemic began (Source: Alcon/Ipsos). Moreover, global monitor screen growth in 2020 saw consumers driving the demand, increasing 15.9% in Q3 2020 compared to the same quarter in the previous year (Source: IDC). With stay-at-home orders, lockdowns and working from home, consumers are less mobile, with an estimated reduction of 62.4 million fewer commuting hours per workday for Americans (source: Voxeu)

Adapting to changing behaviour
As with other consumer habits which have had to change, digital alternatives to in-person banking have become the new reality. As a result, customer segments who preferred branch usage and face to face interaction have been forced to adapt how they bank, with financial institutions having to adjust to new segments of digital users, including the less tech-savvy and those unfamiliar with resolving issues through a smartphone.

Moreover, while mobile banking seems the obvious choice for customers on the move, most of us are now spending most of our time at home. Spending time in a home office means a wider range of devices are now easily available. Many customers can now opt for the convenience of the larger screen to access their online banking.

Finally, there are arguably different use cases for mobile banking vs desktop banking. While mobile banking is a simple way to perform recurring quick actions such as viewing balances or making transfers, desktop banking could be beneficial for more complex queries or product applications.

Looking behind the login of more than 100 US national banks, regional banks, neo-banks and credit unions on the FBX Digital Banking Hub, the development of desktop online banking platforms is picking up momentum. Even some neo-banks like Revolut have recently abandoned their mobile-only approach to add an online web app to give users desktop account access.

Three online banking trends
From the latest Retail Checking Desktop Servicing Report, FBX analysts identified three key desktop banking trends as a result of financial institutions adjusting to customer needs and managing the reduction of in-person channels:

1. More accessible Help and Support
Just looking at a small sample of 22 institutions consisting of 10 national banks, 4 regionals, 5 credit unions and 3 neo-banks, FBX analysts have observed trends pointing to institutions making key improvements to support customers as a result of the pandemic.

  • 18 of providers in the sample now offer an online community or knowledge base section on their web application, compared to 14 during the same period last year.
  • 5 providers have added a new accessibility section to their site in 2020.
  • 1 provider in the sample offered a chatbot in 2019 and in 2020, this has increased to 5. Additionally, the number of providers offering live chat has increased from 9 to 11.


Expanding online help through FAQs, chat functions and help articles, banks and credit unions are starting to explore new ways to assist non-digital native customer segments through methods such as co-browsing and video demos of common banking tasks. Wells Fargo, for example, recently added a range of interactive demos walking users through tasks such as changing password, enabling push notifications, and making a payment.

Desktop Servicing Wells Fargo 

Wells Fargo’s interactive demos – image obtained from the Digital Banking Hub


Desktop Servicing TD Bank

TD Bank’s Accessibility page – image obtained from the Digital Banking Hub


2. Self-service for more journeys
Our digital banking research has shown:

  • Almost three quarters of the providers in the sample offer the ability to either block a card temporarily or order a new card through the desktop platform in 2020, compared to half in 2019.
  • 15 institutions now let users report a card lost, stolen, or damaged online, compared to 11 in 2019.


The move towards making essential journeys available entirely through digital channels has been underway for years. However, beyond the largest US national banks, card replacements and PIN management has continued to be dealt with offline. Although offering the ability to reset your PIN online is still rare in the coverage set, at year end 2020, more and more banks and credit unions have expanded their card management capabilities, ensuring both an immediate response to action and maintained security.

Desktop Servicing Simple Visa

Simple introduced a new card block and PIN change feature on their desktop application in 2020 – image obtained from the Digital Banking Hub


3. Focus on engagement features
Our digital banking research has shown:

  • The number of providers now offering some form of user customization of their desktop site has increased from 6 to 10 in 2020.
  • 9 show an analysis of spending totals by category, up from 5 in 2019.
  • 10 now let users create and edit a budget, compared to 6 in the previous year.


Beyond help resources, the biggest change has been the increased focus on personal financial management and customization. With a now primarily digital business model, banks and credit unions are increasingly attempting to move away from a purely transactional experience to one enabling greater customer engagement. While developments in this area have been frequent in mobile applications, a bigger focus on engaging with users around their financial profile has been revived on the desktop channel. In order to deliver personalized experiences on par with branch servicing, providers must increasingly look to utilize and translate the vast amount of data they have access to into meaningful insights and actionable recommendations.

Desktop Servicing Bank of America

Bank of America’s budget view – image obtained from the Digital Banking Hub


Desktop Servicing Huntington

Huntington’s Savings Goals – image obtained from the Digital Banking Hub

Staying ahead of the digital banking curve
Digital trends and capabilities continue to evolve rapidly to adapt to new customer behaviours and constraints. In the pandemic, the banks and credit unions that have managed to not only keep up but to take advantage of accelerating trends will be the real winners in the new digital landscape. Informa’s Digital Banking Hub tracks innovation by offering insight into the digital journeys behind the point of login, enabling financial institutions to stay ahead of key market trends, drive customer engagement, and enhance digital capabilities.

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