Bank of America has launched a website to lure more corporate card customers
- Bank of America Merrill Lynch launched a digital business client portal to engage its commercial card clients.
- The bank's moves are emblematic of a bigger trend toward business client experience taking clues from retail banking.
The business customer experience in banking is taking cues from the retail journey, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch is taking notice. This week, the bank launched a website for business card customers -- companies that use Bank of America corporate credit and debit cards. It's called Card Assistant, which is a web portal to help commercial card administrators get information about industry news, product updates and training videos. It's a move that evolves how business customers interact with their banks as they seek to engage them in new ways. "The biggest thing when it comes to commercial or prepaid cards is that your clients need to make effort to drive adoption," said Hubert J.P. Jolly, global head of financing and channels for Global Transaction Services. According to a WalletHub survey based on a Nilson Report data, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is a top commercial credit and debit card issuer. For commercial credit cards, the bank holds the No. 2 spot in market share based on purchase volume at 11 percent, behind JPMorgan Chase. It also holds the No. 2 spot in market share based on purchase volume for commercial debit cards at almost 18 percent, behind Wells Fargo. Despite processing $56 billion in commercial card volume last year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees the site as a means to help card administrators in companies increase adoption rates among employees. Jolly cited an example where a company offers a bank-branded travel card, but it's not mandated by the employer. Employees may use personal cards instead of the bank-branded corporate cards in these cases, so administrators can use the portal to learn how to bring more employees on board. For businesses using the corporate cards, they have the added advantage of access to the bank's data on corporate card use, a tool to monitor card users' compliance with company expense rules. Jolly said the bank will continue to invest in the technology over time and is considering integrating artificial intelligence and chatbots in the future. Bank of America's Card Assistant portal is part of a series of moves the bank is making to upgrade the business client experience. Last month, it launched CashPro Assistant, a tool that uses uses artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to help commercial and corporate clients review and analyze their banking information. These actions are part of a bigger trend where business banking is following along the path of the retail customer's experience. "The corporate customer experience has definitely lagged, but we're seeing banks now beginning to pay attention to it and devote resources to improve it," said Dan Latimore, svp of Celent's banking group. "Banks are beginning to offer corporate customers many of the same types of value-added services they have been offering to their mass affluent customers -- commercial is following retail." Bank of America isn't alone in upping the game for business clients, with Capital One's launch of a natural-language search capability within its corporate treasury portal earlier this year. The banks' added efforts to reach business client segments stems from two developments happening in the industry, Latimore added: Many of the services they offer are commoditized, and business customers are demanding the kind of omnichannel experience that's being developed in retail banking. Fintech startups are also influencing the way banks think of business-to-business client experiences. "There's been an endless number of fintech companies trying to solve for a better payment experience to win over customers," said Mike Landau, payments research lead at PwC. "They haven't been really successful on the customer acquisition piece, but what you have seen is a change in the context of how businesses compete for consumers -- card issuers and banks are really thinking about the end user experience outside of the transaction, including in the commerical space."