Coventry Building Society moves forward
with Bank Wizard for Bill Payments

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Established in 1884, Coventry Building Society ("the Coventry") is one of the top five building societies in the UK.

With assets of almost £9 billion, over 1 thousand employees and close to 1 million customers, the Coventry is proud to maintain its independent building society status. The Coventry operates three main channels of service to its customers; a network of forty-nine branches covers the heart of England from Oxford to Sheffield, offering personal counter service; its telephone banking service encompasses the whole of the UK; and the latest channel, the website,, continues to expand, reflecting ongoing developments in the Coventry's products and services.

Online payments

"The Coventry has two main objectives for its online services" explains Richard Friend, Online Services Implementation Manager at the Coventry, "First, to make online banking a simple and attractive experience for the user; and second, to ensure that the online payment process is as error-proof and secure as possible.

"Coventry customers have had the facility to pay bills online using internet banking for the past two years, although the emphasis on preventing errors meant that access was particularly limited: The CallSave Money Manager product allowed online payments, but setting up the first payment for each account required prior telephone contact to validate the payment details. In addition, the NetSave Instant product allowed electronic payments to be made, but only to a very limited number of accounts."

Online bill payment issues

In order for an online bill payment to be successful, there are three key fields that must be inputted accurately; the name of the biller, the biller's bank account details and the customer's individual reference number. Research within the online banking industry has shown that the entry of these key fields by users is prone to error:

  • Biller's name - This is not always obvious from the bill. Many billers conduct their business under a completely different name to the brand by which the payer would recognise them
  • Biller's bank details - These are not always clearly displayed on the bill and in some cases the account will not support Direct Credit
  • Customer reference numbers - These are known by many different names - account number, bill number, customer reference number amongst others. In addition the number can be printed anywhere on the bill, and will not always be in the format required by the biller

In order to achieve its online banking objectives, the Coventry sought a solution to overcome its validation issues and improve the usability of its online bill payments facility.

Existing Bank Wizard user

As an existing user of Bank Wizard from Experian, the Coventry was familiar with the rigorous validation it provides for bank details; Bank Wizard is utilised by the Coventry to validate all bank details entered into its systems. The fact that Bank Wizard for Bill Payments offered the same level of detail and accuracy in validating billers' details led the Coventry to consider whether the product could address the issues that restricted its electronic payments.

The solution

After careful evaluation The Coventry selected Bank Wizard for Bill Payments to address the validation requirements of its online bill payments facility. Bank Wizard for Bill Payments comprises a comprehensive and accurate database of the key information needed to make successful payments to more than 1800 billers across the UK including card operators, telecommunications companies, utilities and local authorities.

Experian also has a dedicated Data team who proactively and regularly check the information held on the database for each of the registered billers.

The Bank Wizard for Bill Payments database is updated on a weekly basis using Experian's online update facility. This ensures that the most up-to-date information is in use.

The key checks that Bank Wizard for Bill Payments applies to each transaction are:

  • Ensuring the name of the biller (payee) is correctly entered - a structured drop-down list allows the user to find the biller's correct name quickly and reliably
  • Ensuring that the correct bank details are entered for the payee - these are completed automatically by the system once the payee is selected
  • Ensuring that customer reference numbers are identified correctly - finding these numbers from a bill can be confusing, but Bank Wizard for Bill Payments provides helpful hints for each biller to assist users with locating the correct number and providing it in the correct format

The results

After extensive user trials, the first phase of implementation was within the team of 90 at the telephone call centre. Following a successful trial period, the branch network of 500 staff began using the system. Finally, the new interface was made available to an estimated 50,000 online users at the end of September 2004.

Deploying Bank Wizard for Bill Payments has allowed the Coventry to improve the online channel for three of its products - CallSave, NetSave, and the Altogether Better offset mortgage. Each of these products now offers:

  • Viewing summaries of all personal Coventry accounts
  • Viewing statements for each of the savings account
  • Money transfer between savings accounts
  • Management of regular payments such as standing orders or Direct Debits

In addition, the regular payments list can be changed as required, and new payments set up. For repeat one-off transactions, a list of billers can be created to speed up payments by Direct Credit.
Bank Wizard for Bill Payments is not only useful for customers raising transactions through the website, as Richard Friend goes on to explain:

"Bank Wizard for Bill Payments is at the heart of our drive to offer all services across all channels. In the past we used different user interfaces for our three channels - branches, telephone, and online services. We have now developed a single user interface for all our payment entry systems, both for staff and for customers. Both groups initiate electronic payments, and the design criteria for a user interface is the same. For end users the criteria are speed of use, ease of use, and prevention of errors. And those are exactly the same criteria we apply to systems for our staff, albeit for slightly different reasons. For staff, speed of use means shorter queues, either in the branch or on the phones, and ease of use means a shorter training time. Accuracy of input by all users means fewer errors and much lower administration costs for us in rectifying mistakes."

The future

Richard Friend is delighted with the way Bank Wizard for Bill Payments has moved the Coventry's online services forward and foresees further developments in the Coventry's offerings with Bank Wizard for Bill Payments. "Bank Wizard for Bill Payments has enabled us to move forward confidently in the development of new online services, meaning we can address our market more competitively. It also enables us to continue to expand beyond our geographic boundaries to the whole of the UK. Effective online services are enormously important to our commercial vision, and Bank Wizard for Bill Payments is an essential foundation on which to build these services."

Richard Friend
Online Services Implementation Manager
Coventry Building Society


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