Bank of America has a new source of small business data.
The next iteration of the bank’s Business Advantage 360, a cash flow/cash management app launched in February, will provide clients with insights from data gathered through outside aggregators, such as QuickBooks, Sharon Miller, Managing Director, Head of Small Business at BofA, told Bank Innovation. Right now, Business Advantage 360 relies only on Bank of America data to generate cash-flow insights ranging on specific accounts, as well as for the market.
Miller said the new version is being developed in-house, although she could not provide a timeline for its release.
Another feature that Miller is eager to put into place is a seamless connection between the Business Advantage app and the consumer mobile banking app, letting customers switch between the two apps without having to repeat authentication, “similar to what we have in place with Merrill Lynch,” Miller said.
Starting last October, BofA clients can move seamlessly between Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Merrill Edge, and Private Bank without having to re-authenticate. Miller hopes to add the small business app to that list.
Creating that connection for the small business app could also help solve the problem of converting BofA retail consumers that own small businesses into BofA small business clients.
“About 11.4 million of our retail consumers own small businesses,” Miller said. “Out of that, only 3.4 million bank with us on the small business side. Figuring out how to translate [retail] consumers to small business clients is one of our biggest challenges.”
This is, in large part, because there is “a lack of awareness among our retail customers that we offer services like small business banking and products like Business Advantage 360 or industry specialists to help owners of small businesses at more than 2,000 of our financial centers across the country,” she said.
The solution, Miller said, is to create awareness, but in a way that doesn’t come across as a marketing gimmick. “Most of our clients want a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ relationship,” she explained. So, instead, Miller and her team are publishing reports, hosting specialized panel discussions and even focus groups for their customers as ways of creating awareness.
On Tuesday, BofA published the “Spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report,” which, among other findings, states that 67% of entrepreneurs plan to expand their business and 59% believe their revenue will increase this year. Meanwhile, 12% plan to apply for a loan this year.
These findings are, no doubt, good news for Miller and her team, who are focused on increasing customers.
“We want to create a full customer experience,” Miller said. “We have small business specialists in many of financial centers, and we will be adding more, but we are also focused on digital transformation — giving our clients the ability to self-service on mobile or online, so they can choose how they want to interact with us.”
In its most recent earnings call, earlier this month, Bank of America disclosed that it would increase investment in digital initiatives and new technology by 10%. This investment includes technology for small business.
Miller reports to Dean Athanasia, President of Consumer and Small Business at BofA. She is currently working on digital transformational initiatives with David Tyrie, Head of Advanced Solutions and Digital Banking, and Rob Pascal, Small Business Strategy and Planning Executive at BofA.
In the first quarter of 2019, BofA reported 66 million in total consumer and small business clients. BofA does not specify the number of small business customers that use its online or mobile offerings.