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‘Challengers are only interested in direct deposit now’: ClickSwitch’s Cale Johnston on becoming a customer’s primary bank

  • Banks are getting more aggressive about onboarding new customers.
  • ClickSwitch helps customers of challenger and traditional banks to switch over their direct deposits to their new accounts.
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‘Challengers are only interested in direct deposit now’: ClickSwitch’s Cale Johnston on becoming a customer’s primary bank

As challenger banks battle over getting new customers, the discussion has shifted from the big headline numbers to the quality of those new customers. More specifically, digital banks — but really, all banks — are being judged on whether these new account openings turn into customers, whether these new users turn to the bank as their primary financial institution.

ClickSwitch helps some of the biggest challenger banks and many traditional banks convert more account openings into new customers. Its technology helps new users easily switch over their direct deposits and bill pay to their new banking relationship. 

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The following excerpts were edited for clarity.

Competition over digital banking customers is maturing. The industry has shifted some of its focus off of massive acquisition numbers in favor of onboarding those new signups. Challenger banks are investing in getting a new user to consider her new digital account as her primary account.

“As customers can easily open checking accounts, banks are kind of forced with this dilemma as to how they recognize a primary account holder,” said Cale Johnston, founder and CEO of ClickSwitch.

One of the ways to judge engagement with a bank account is whether a customer has direct deposit set up. ClickSwitch helps traditional and digital banks to identify which of their account holders are primary account holders, not just stagnant checking accounts.

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The company integrates with banks to interact with users directly after they register for a new account. ClickSwitch uses data aggregation to show a new accountholder where he has direct deposit of his paycheck setup. After a quick approval process, the fintech firm begins moving the direct deposit over to the new account through integrations with payroll processors. ClickSwitch does something similar for important bills, like Netflix, set to autopay.

ClickSwitch works with over 500 financial institutions, including four of the top six challenger banks. It also works with traditional brick and mortar banks. With these types of integrations, Johnston has found it’s critical to train and incentivize bank staff to encourage customers to use ClickSwitch.

“If we’re driving messaging and positioning with frontline staff, sometimes we offer a compensation model,” he said. “So, after their first 30 switches, we’ll send them $100 gift card for their efforts just to get driven-in that this is your new process.”

Customers using ClickSwitch typically can port over their direct deposit and important bills within a few minutes. Without ClickSwitch, it could take as long as 30 to 60 days, according to Johnston.

Financial institutions like to see the payback on investments in tools like ClickSwitch and Johnston and his team create ROI models for new prospects. The firm can tell if a direct deposit and three recurring payments are set to hit a new account, the end user is 10 times more likely to get an auto loan with their financial institution or 25 times more likely to use their credit card or debit card with that financial institution.

“it’s not just about direct deposit — it’s about the downstream effect, as well,” said Johnston. “Creating the ROI metrics for our financial institutions has been critical in getting us in the front door of our 500 clients and signing 10 to 15 new net financial institutions a month right now.”

Sales cycles for ClickSwitch are related to how large their prospects are. Smaller financial institutions can make decisions within 30 to 60 days, while larger banks can take as long as 12 to 18 months. The company also targets fintech firms that will use ClickSwitch as part of their initial product launch.

In terms of pricing, ClickSwitch charges its clients when their customers successfully switch over a direct deposit or bills. Fees can run from $8 for a challenger bank when a user interacts with an automated agent to switch over a direct deposit to $20 for a client that has a customer switch over a more complicated direct deposit and 10 auto-pays.

With this influence over consumers’ direct deposits, ClickSwitch is thinking about adding a consumer app to its current B2B2C model. This would enable an individual to use her zip code to find a new bank and within a couple of clicks, open a new account and transfer over existing direct deposits.

The company recently hired a new CTO from JPMorgan Chase who will work on building a direct to consumer app.

“Our vision is to drive consumers to banks that are actually leveraging our technology,” said Johnston.

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