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Why Good Web Design Is The First Step In Saving Black-Owned Banks

By Daniel Griggs, the founder of ATX The Brand, a tech agency focused on solving problems, building businesses and strengthening communities.

The banking industry has made a comeback since the financial crisis of 2008, partly due to digital transformation and mobile banking initiatives. In 2018, fintech funding hit nearly $33 billion, up 82% from 2017, and a record $2 trillion was deposited into U.S. banks since the start of the pandemic.

While major financial institutions have been able to recoup their losses, many smaller banks and credit unions continue to suffer, and Black-owned banks may have been hit hardest of all. Since 2008, half of the nation’s Black-owned financial institutions have closed, leaving only 21 across the entire country as of 2021. Total assets held by Black-owned financial institutions have also declined by 25% since 2008.

Black-owned banks were established in 1865 after Congress chartered the Freedman’s Savings Bank for former slaves. Yet these crucial institutions are in danger of dying out if they do not implement sustainable digital strategies and offer the technology and tools that today’s modern consumer has come to expect. According to one survey conducted by Chase, 54% of adults said “they use digital banking tools more now, due to the pandemic, than they did last year.” It’s not surprising that the same study found that “99% of Gen Z and 98% of millennials use a mobile banking app.” That means that, in order to stay relevant, capture younger markets and grow their membership, Black-owned banks need a digital transformation—a topic I’ve covered in detail.

This might be a lengthy and complex process for some Black banks, but it’s vital that they present themselves as modern and evolving with current and future times. The first step in this process is to make sure they have a website that’s impressive and aesthetically pleasing to today’s consumers.

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As the CEO of a web design, web development and digital marketing agency, I have learned that presentation is everything. In my experience, when someone lands on your website, the very first thing they will do, before even looking for information, is to judge whether the site seems credible and worth the investment of their time. If a banking website doesn’t feel both modern and secure, it is going to turn a visitor away before they even consider becoming a member at that bank.

In working with a major Texas credit union recently, my team discovered that there were several core elements to helping financial institutions reinvent themselves digitally and grow their membership through technology. These include:

• Page Load Time: According to Google, as page load time goes from one second to five seconds, the bounce rate (or probability of someone exiting your website) increases by 90%. Considering this, it’s vital for a banking website or mobile app to load as quickly as possible.

• Login Process: Lengthy registration or login processes can deter some individuals from utilizing an online banking platform or mobile app. In a survey from 2018, the biggest complaint across mobile banking users was that the process took too long or they could not remember their password. The next biggest complaint was that the authentication process took too long.

• Content Strategy: It is vitally important that website visitors find the information they are looking for quickly and easily. A user-based content strategy should be top of mind for banks looking to convert website visitors into bank members. This includes branding, site navigation, home page content, forms, pop-ups and any other pieces of content on the website.

• Layout And Design: In my experience, many people will judge a company’s credibility based mostly on design. An attractive, modern website not only improves a bank’s reputation and curb appeal, but it lets members and prospective members know what to expect when they are interacting with that financial institution. It is essentially the new “front door” to any bank or credit union.

Our country still has a long way to go in ensuring that all Americans have access to the financial opportunities they need and deserve. About 70% of Black Americans still don’t have a bank branch in their neighborhoods, and the lifespan of a dollar in Black communities is six hours, as opposed to weeks in other communities. If Black banks are going to survive, they will need to grow their membership through digital transformation, and focusing on user-friendly web design is the first step.

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