Bank Board Letter — January 2016
Matt Cunard

In a financial institution, assets and liabilities are constantly tracked and assessed. This is true for small, one-office community banks to larger, multi-branch community banks. Deposits, loans, investments, securities and other data are scrutinized to the smallest detail. But when was the last time you paid this much attention to your website?

Yes, your website. You know, that thing that appears when you type in the web address or after you click through a search result. It requires as much scrutiny and upkeep as your annual financial statements. Why? Because your website is not a commodity; it is either an asset or a liability.

Every time your website performs poorly for a user, it is a liability. It’s a reduction in their trust and feeling about your institution. On the flip side, every great user interaction acts as an asset, adding value to how much they trust your bank.

Read on to learn how significant parts of a financial institution’s website can build up or erode a customer’s or potential customer’s trust. Based on how these features appear on your website, they are either an asset or liability, which helps answer the big question: Is your website an asset or a liability?


Think about this: If you know a convenience store has been robbed multiple times, would you fill up with gas there? Probably not, because you do not feel safe. The same is true with your website. The safer your customer feels and the more secure your site, the more they trust you with their business.

Liability: No SSL certificate (protects information that is submitted through forms), no security badge from a third party in place.

Asset: SSL certificate applied to the whole website and a third-party security certificate displayed (such as VGM Forbin’s VGuard product).

Example: Timberwood Bank, Tomah, Wis.,


Despite the rise in mobile devices and mobile banking apps, most customers still come to your bank’s website on their desktop to login to online banking. In the bank websites we have developed, 70-80 percent of users come to the home page with the intent of logging in to their online account.

Liability: Your online banking login is not readily apparent and available, or takes multiple clicks to get to.

Asset: Login is easy to find and is consistent in its placement across the website.

Example: Central Bank, Spirit Lake, Iowa,


This information and the pages it resides on are the next most sought-after nuggets on your bank’s website. Put simply: People want to know where you are, when you’re open and how conveniently they can get cash.

Liability: It takes a website visitor numerous clicks to find this information.

Asset: This information is readily available or can be viewed within one click of landing on your website.

Example: Heartland Bank, Gowrie, Iowa,


Whether you live in an urban, suburban or rural area, one maxim rings true: More people are accessing the Internet through mobile devices. Desktops and laptops are still a popular option, but tablets and smartphones are being used to access websites with increasing regularity.

Liability: Going to your website on a smartphone means you have to pinch and zoom to navigate.

Asset: Your website looks and functions properly on most devices, from desktops to smartphones.

Example: The Bank of Blue Valley, Overland Park, Kan.,


Online banking is no longer a novelty but an expectation. The same can be said for mobile banking. And all of these products are essentially the same with a few variations. So how do you stand out?

Liability: Simply listing out products in a “we offer” format (“We offer Mobile Banking, Bill Pay”).

Asset: Focusing on benefits over features. In simpler terms, how does product X help your customer or make his or her life easier?

Example: Putnam Bank, Putnam, Conn.,


Everyone has their own preferences in regard to interacting with your bank. For example, if they need a loan, they may not feel comfortable applying in person, but rather through an online form. Others may only want face-to-face interaction.

Liability: Only offering one way to apply for loans, open deposit accounts, etc.

Asset: Offering multiple ways to complete actions Ð submit a secure online form, fillable PDF, printable PDF to be filled out and faxed or brought by and so on.

Example: Raccoon Valley Bank, Perry, Iowa,


Again, how a customer or prospective customer feels about your institution is vital to building a relationship to them. Since humans process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, having the right imagery within your website can make a huge difference in a visitor’s perception of your bank.

Liability: No photos or images, very small or pixelated images, obviously posed stock images.

Asset: High-quality photos that are the right size and resolution, original photos of your offices, staff or community.

Example: Fairfax State Savings Bank, Fairfax, Iowa,

How would you grade your website? Are you deep in the red, breaking even or in the black? Is your website out of date, missing information or designed to meet your needs instead of those of your customers? If so, you have a liability on your hands.

But it can be remedied. You just have to approach it like you would any other asset you own: be meticulous about what you want from it, set a plan and ask for help from professionals to ensure it is done correctly.

A modern, user-friendly website promotes trust and a positive perception about your bank. In an increasingly online world, those are two assets that are more valuable to have than ever.

Matt Cunard is senior digital marketer for VGM Forbin.For more information, visit