Opening More New Accounts Online

Mike Osborn  |  Managing Director

October 2, 2017

Enhancing First Niagara’s Online Account Opening Experience

Why This Case Study Is Relevant

It shows how enhancing the customer experience can significantly improve the bottom line.


First Niagara Bank’s online account opening completion rate was abysmally low – well below industry standards. The bank identified online account opening as one of the most impactful ways to increase the volume of new deposit accounts and asked Catalyst to help.


Proprietary consumer research conducted by Catalyst indicated that most consumers prefer to open a bank account online because it is more convenient than going to the branch, and they could ask bankers questions via online chat and phone. Many research participants had opened an account online before and were pleasantly surprised to learn that it was quick and easy.

First Niagara’s online account opening process was anything but quick and easy. Usability studies conducted by Catalyst revealed what was causing the confusion and frustration that led to high abandonment:

  • The process was long and the steps necessary to complete the online application were not clearly outlined. Prospective customers didn’t know where they were in the process
  • Applicants were hesitant to answer some of the personal questions on the application. They didn’t understand why the bank needed to know their annual income and employment status and were concerned that the bank might discriminate based on their responses


Catalyst redesigned the entire online account opening experience to make it simpler and straightforward. We also included information about how long the process would take and which documents would be needed.

Specific enhancements included:

  • Creation of flexible and customizable account options
  • Reduction in the number of steps required to open an account by combining logical next steps
  • Additional explanatory content to help ease concerns about the questions being asked
  • Customer support at each step of the process


With each subsequent improvement, the online application completion rate improved, quadrupling in the first year.

The impact to the bottom line speaks for itself. The increased completion of online applications resulted in $1.1 million in additional profit in the first year.

Mike Osborn |  Managing Director
Mike founded Catalyst with Jeff Cleary in 1990. He served on the Direct Marketing Association’s Agency Council Strategic Advisory Committee and has been an ECHO Award judge. He has served on the boards of the Advertising Council of Rochester, Compeer and Mary Cariola Children’s Center.

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