Joseph Riley – Much more efficient

Banks want long-term relationships with customers because it often results in higher profits. Providing services the customer wants is key to that relationship.

But while customers want innovation, the failure of fly-by-night dot-coms has shown they also want their bank to have a solid history.

Boston-based Eastern Bank was among the first to offer online banking in 1996. Since then, Internet banking has become the norm and Eastern recently has branched out into other Web-based services.

Two weeks ago, Eastern launched the Resource Center for small business customers on its Web site. The offering is powered through a partnership with Burlington-based

From the Eastern Web site, clients will be able to get Web design help for their own companies, seek technical advice and explore articles on small business. Clients may even enlist Eastern’s expertise to host receipt of MasterCard and Visa transactions.

“We think more and more, the Internet is providing banks with an opportunity to expand the traditional way we’ve provided services and partnering with our customers,” said Eastern Senior Vice President of E-commerce and Corporate Sales Joseph Riley.

“We’ve got a lot of customers who have probably thought for a year that it would be good to get on the Internet,” said Riley, but rarely do small business owners have the financial and technical resources at their disposal to establish a successful Web presence.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Robert B. Segal, portfolio manager with J. William Mantz Investment Advisors in Gloucester. Especially, he added, if that service is perceived as value-added by the customer: “I think it could be a win/win and it helps Eastern get more customers.”

But banks need to be “leery” of providing customers with non-bank services which, if they go bad, will leave them with resentment toward Eastern, said Segal. Some corporations have decided not to provide those extra services as a way of protecting themselves.

The Resource Center is the latest in a new round of offerings by Eastern that focuses on e-commerce, said Riley. Additionally, the bank has decided to focus this year on both consumers and business clients, he said.

A Better Solution
“The concept that we would provide some kind of small business Web-based portal was one that went back probably 15 months ago, but some of the things we were experiencing [with a different company] didn’t sound much like a partnership,” said Riley. One problem was the company’s insistence that once the client clicked on an Eastern-based icon, they would be taken to a totally new site with a different brand. “That was something that they were very inflexible about.”

On the current offering, clients receive “seamless” service, meaning they don’t have to reenter any account information when they are taken to a new window. Eastern retains the branding of the site and a small “Powered by Bizland” icon is placed low on the site.

“Eastern is one of our first [clients] in the banking sector for us to provide what we call the private label solution,” said Steve Sydness, chief executive officer of Bizland. Without the “seamless” experience, customers may use the site less frequently, said Sydness.

“You have to reenter your username and password and go in and do that application and come back to Eastern, reenter a user name and password to get back in there, which is … not a very elegant experience for the customer. To a small businessperson, time is one of their most valuable assets. If we can save them time and make their business lives easier, we have delivered a better solution,” said Sydness.

Eastern purposely launched the site without much fanfare, said Riley, because the bank wants time to get customer reaction and fine-tune the offerings to what clients really want, he said.

“That’s the way you need to look at any service you provide. If you’re not talking to your customers and not refining the services you offer your customers, what are you doing?” said Riley.

The infrastructure involved in this kind of offering is huge, said Riley. Taking advantage of a partnership with a company that has already gone through the experimentation and costs related to troubleshooting is a great advantage to banks like Eastern, which may not have undertaken such a project by itself, said Riley.

“It’s a much more efficient way of doing business,” he said.

Eastern, Team Up To Offer New Resource Center

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 3 min