|The biggest servicer of residential loans placed higher than other blue chip companies in a new business Web site analysis where Bank of America also fared well. But the poorly ranked sites of other mortgage-related companies dragged the financial services sector down as a whole.
Forrester Research analyzed 16 Web sites of companies in financial services, logistics, software and professional services and scored Wells Fargo best.
Wells Fargo, which made mortgage loans totaling $366 billion in 2005, finished atop a heap of corporate America that included IBM, Microsoft, UPS, Federal Express and the U.S. Postal Service.
"Our top-scoring site was Wells Fargo Bank, which earned a grade of 30 and only failed on criterion," Forrester said in the report.
Wells, which reported its servicing portfolio reached $1.345 trillion at the end of the third quarter, is the biggest residential servicer in the country.
Other lenders analyzed were Bank of America ($87 billion in 2005 residential loan originations), JP Morgan Chase ($182 billion) and Citigroup ($132 billion).
"Although Wells Fargo has the highest scoring individual site, the financial services category as a whole was dragged down by the low scores for CitiBank's and Chase's sites," Forrester said. "Ultimately, banks finished at the bottom of our ranking.
"Widespread problems in areas like consistency of interactive elements, presenting privacy and security policies in context and contextual help plagued this industry's sites," the market research company said.
The Customer Respect Group noted in its own recent study that mortgage lenders still lagged behind other industries in building trust online for prospective customers. The practices employed pertaining to the reuse, sharing and protection of personal data, was the lowest scoring area for financial firms.
The "most striking finding" was financial companies lag well behind overall industries in building trust -- the most worrying statistic being that 75 percent of them share personal data with affiliates, business partners or third parties, compared to 48 percent for cross-industries, CRG said.
Forrester analyzed the Web sites businesses use when dealing with Wells and the other companies in the study. Four categories were analyzed -- value, navigation, presentation and trust.
A business-to-business Web site is important to lenders because they cater to thousands of smaller businesses, including mortgage originators, brokers and others in the mortgage industry.
Forrester said Wells "provides 'value added' information critical to small and midsize businesses like information on the basics of business taxes and how to best use small business accounting software packages such as Quickbooks and Microsoft Money."
Wells said in a statement that it was "pleased" with the recognition because the company's aim is "to provide useful, easy-to-use services that also boost small businesses' productivity."
"We want to provide small business owners with credible resources, education and guidance, as well as best-of-breed products and services," Richard Weeks, senior vice president of Business Internet Services at Wells Fargo, said in the statement. "In the ever changing business world, we continue to respond to our customers needs by working with them directly to keep abreast of their business challenges and requirements."
Forrester was critical of the other mortgage lenders in the study. It said that online credit card applications posted by Bank of America and Chase "failed to offer links to privacy and security policies where users could easily see them when required to volunteer personal data."
CitiBank, meanwhile, "buried" information about small business lines of credit on its Web site.
But Bank of America was applauded for reaching out to customers.
"Bank of America makes is clear on its home page that small businesses are one of its major customer segments and indicates that the user can get all of the information they need to establish a business relationship with Bank of America through the site," Forrester said.