RBC marks 10 years of online banking and three million users

Now that thousands of Canadians have given their money to RBC over the Internet, the bank is prepared to give a little of it back to them.

As part of its year-long celebration to mark 10 years of online banking, RBC Royal Bank said it would spend 2007 drawing names of clients who pay their bills over its Web site once a month and awarding them $500.

RBC says it serves more than three million users, having passed the one million mark in 2000. Its transactional site was launched on Dec. 16, 1996 and has introduced a range of features around types of purchases, virtual hosts and cheque imaging.

Computing Canada recently spoke with James McGuire, RBC’s vice-president of online strategy and client experience, to get some insight into what made its portal successful.

Computing Canada: How have online banking expectations changed over the last 10 years.

James MacGuire: If I went back in time, the one thing about the Internet generally is that it really empowered users to self-serve more than any other channel, and it really provided them information that they wouldn’t be able to experience in other ways. So when I think about technology has changed over the past 10 years, it’s incredible – even when I think back to the early 1990s when I was looking to buy a new PC at the time and I was talking to my tech expert, who assured me that the 386 20 meg being offered as a special was more than I would ever need. That woudn’t run anything today. I think the way the technology has changed has allowed users to get a much richer experience and as that happens, we’ve obviously leveraged that capability to give them everything that they want.

CC: RBC last year introduced its Online Guarantee. How did you determine what level of guarantee you would be comfortable providing, given the range of security issues?

JM: I think the genesis of that was really not that we had any doubt around the security of our network or online banking or online services generally. What it was speaking to was reservations from around 30 per cent of the general population who still felt less than safe in banking online. We were trying to appeal to that portion of the population, and because we do believe that online banking is very safe, we’re obviously prepared to back that up and commit to that.

CC: So what are you really committed to?

JM: Basically any unauthorized transactions that are generated through a client’s account, we will cover that. Absolutely, 100 per cent, no loss to the client whatsoever.

CC: What about when people are fooled by phishing schemes?

JM: I think there are definitely some things we ask our users to do, but that not withstanding, if a client is defrauded or there is an unauthorized transaction that goes through their account from smething that was generated online, we will cover that regardless of the circumstances.

CC: How much are you using permission-based e-mail?

JM: One thing I think we do better than anyone else out there is a Secure Communications Centre which clients just absolutely love and have adopted very very strongly. We get millions of clients using our message centre on a monthly basis, and that’s where we can communicate effectively and safely with them and they can do he same thing with us. It could be operational messages, it could be special offers or opportunities that are specific to their needs that we could put through that same area. There is a fair bit we do in that area.

CC: As online banking volumes grow, how do you go about forecasting what your IT infrastructure needs are going to be to keep up?

JM: We have about 10 years of experience now so it is becoming a bit easier for us . . . We meet with our IT colleagues relatively regularly around what our strategies are and how that will impact capacity requirements. We have a really good, tight team here and I think we manage that pretty effectively. That’s never been an issue that we’ve had. 

CC: How has the growth in online banking effected your CRM strategy?

JM: What it’s ultimately going to lead to is a really good, customized, personalized experience for our clients . . . it’s everything for as simple as being able to custom tailor an offer for a client. That will continue to as far as really leveraging what we know about our clients and really giving them an experience that is almost a one-to-one experience. We’ll take into consideration all the elements of their financial circumstances, all of the interest or anything else we know about them and provide all of the right messages in the right places and the right time.

CC: How do you know when a certain offer may not be best served online or would be better at the branch or in person?

JM: We actually have a team that works on cross-channel integration. We go through an exercise and look at the various service offerings that we have, and we look at the various ways we can service them. We have things we would consider primary online (offerings) – the selling, servicing, merchandising — kind of the whole contiuum is really online. Examples of that would be in our insurance and credit card business. Those are definitely areas where everything from selling to fulfillment is effectively done online. In other areas, we ensure that we are educating and informing our clients – 75 per cent of clients do their research on any purchase they make online prior to going anywhere else. It’s a case of making sure we have tools, calculators, anything that they need to fully educate themselves and be able to hand them off to the most appropriate channel, whether that be one of our Royal Direct telephone representatives or one of our financial advisors in one of our branches.

CC: Are you exploring Web 2.0 technologies at all?

JM: Oh, absolutely. Web 2.0 is one of those things where people are saying it’s an overused term. It applies to a certain set of technologies that put us in an excellent position to better interact with our clients and how clients interact with us. There isn’t something about Web 2.0 that’s ever going to stop. Technology is going to continue to change every single day. When I think about some examples that are becoming more prevalent now, the use of a virtual host, that’s something that that we’ve used in a couple of different ways. We’ve used that in our innovation competition. We’ve used it as a demo for our online bill payments. We used an interactive video session for a conversation of a student loan package that we had. That really resonated with that specific group of clients. We could have used the virtual host for something like that, but we ended up using live people to make that interaction a little more personal and friendly for those clients.

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