Ally’s Banner Year

by on Oct 21, 2015

In September, Ally announced it reached one million customers. To commemorate the occasion, they unfurled a campaign that included a social media blitz, announcements and videos thanking customers. Moreover, 2,300 lucky customers received gift cards to reflect the 2,300 days it took the firm to hit the one million mark. The firm also has created Online Bank Day, to celebrate online banks on the second Monday of October every year— this year’s holiday falls on October 12. The firm has leveraged its higher checking and savings account rates heavily in marketing to appeal to customers, and it’s working. Can the small direct bank eventually pivot to the front of account holders’ wallets?

It’s fitting this year coincides with Ally’s milestone, as the firm has had a busy 2015 – in January, they launched a fully redesigned site, just missing our Monitor Awards season. The new site is a remarkable improvement over the previous iteration, with better optimization of the screen space and comprehensive but simplified navigation. Ally was also the first to do away with the two-step process of image and security phrases. Their Straight Talk Blog and social media posts are intriguing, with financial advice and engaging infographics that encourage users to stay on top of their finances.

Still, customers’ ability to view and customize account activity lags a bit behind other sites, since account holders cannot sort account activity. Other industry standards the firm lacks include aggregator tools to collect information across accounts, a way to customize or tag transactions, text and push notifications, and the ability to set specific alerts for transactions by type, to name a few.

Ally’s mobile banking app launched a voice-enabled feature, Ally Assist, to facilitate use and direct customer requests within the app. This addition to the app provides a valuable resource for users to quickly access functions, and uncover aggregate transaction information on basic and more detailed levels. For example, a more complex request generated from typing “interest” generates a series of phrases and questions to further contextualize the user’s request. Customers can set up and view transfers, bill payments, deposits, and account summary and transaction details.

It’s laudable that Ally has taken great strides to enhance the customer experience, and they’re growing in a positive direction. An announcement about balance tiers for its non-checking accounts to take effect in November portend a potential for customers to rush to put more money into accounts. The online savings account just increased a percentage point (as it usually does around this time of year), and perhaps the balance tiers will introduce even higher rates for account holders with higher balances.

Ultimately, the looming question will be what Ally will do to stay competitive. The firm is still among the only in our coverage group (along with Santander) that does not yet offer Apple Pay, or any of the newer Android or Samsung Pay services. Or, given their recent progress, perhaps they can innovate in their own fashion to become a leader in its own right and enhance the online banking experience.