Refining your Customer Portal Strategy

Why a Minimum Viable Product Isn't the Answer

Kyle Huntzberry, Co-Founder • February 22nd, 2023
4 min read


Every Fintech company and consulting firm is telling you that if you don’t have a Customer Portal, then you’re falling behind. While we agree with the sentiment, the execution often leaves much to be desired. Most of the institutions we talk to have a “Customer Portal”, but rarely have a clear vision for how it achieves a better customer experience. This is because many Financial Institutions have rushed the implementation of a Portal to stay relevant or are using a skeleton version of the one that was stood up during PPP.

Creating a Minimum Lovable Product

When Financial Institutions struggle to see the value of their Portal, it’s typically because the UI is unattractive, the user experience is disjointed, and there’s limited functionality. Most institutions haven’t even been able to integrate Online Applications into their Portal (only 17% of banks allow Small Businesses to fully apply for deposits online) and are primarily using it for document transfer. While the document transfer process might be more efficient for internal employees (key word being might), it’s rarely a better experience for customers than sending over an email. That’s not to say document transfer doesn’t have a place, but is it really a Customer Portal if all you can do is upload documents and view FAQs? When we talk to our clients, we ask them some questions to get a better sense of how mature their Portal is:

  • Is the document transfer experience better than email for your customers?
  • Is your Online Banking integrated? (Remember, your customers think of the Online Banking platform as their “Portal” and dislike managing multiple logins)
  • Can your customers apply for deposits or loans? Or have visibility into where their applications are in the process?
  • Is E-Signature integrated?
  • Can your customers ask questions through a chatbot or live agent?
  • Can your customers submit cases?
  • Can your customers schedule a meeting with their Relationship Manager or other team members?

It might be okay to go live with a Minimum Viable Product for your internal users, but you take a large risk of making an unfavorable impression with your customers when you go live with an MVP for a Customer Portal. We believe institutions should strive to create a “Minimum Lovable Product” (as coined by Aha! Founder Brian de Haaff) for their customers. This doesn’t mean that every feature imaginable needs to be implemented on Day 1, but it does mean that FIs need to implement features that are well-designed, easy to use, and valuable to their customers.

Centering a Portal Strategy Around Your Customer

A successful Customer Portal may look very different from institution to institution because it depends on how well it serves an FI’s target customer. Depending on an FI’s customer base or how they source deals, there could be different instances of a Portal that supports brokers, accountants, lawyers, real estate companies, C&I customers, and more. Your customers could be individuals with small businesses that don’t mind logging into a Portal, or they could be high net-worth individuals that would never log in. Your customers could be companies that purchase a lot of equipment and want to easily submit their loan request and upload a spreadsheet of all the equipment. Your customers could be sophisticated CFOs that prefer to do everything online.

The point is a Customer Portal strategy must start with a well-defined customer base across lines of business and work to solve their most pressing pain points. Without it, banks and credit unions risk falling out of favor with customers that increasingly expect personalized, easy digital experiences.

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