Bank comparison sites are getting a revamp, with help from celebrities and new services

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Banking and lending comparison sites like Credit Karma and LendingTree took a hit early in the pandemic as lenders tightened underwriting and sometimes pulled out of those markets.

“At the start of COVID, the problem was that we had no idea what was going on or what the world was going to look like in two weeks. It was scary for lenders,” said Rich Franks, head of the Lightbox technology platform for Credit Karma. “We have seen setbacks everywhere.”

These online marketplaces have rebranded or adapted their strategy during the pandemic to maintain partnerships with financial institutions and meet new customer needs. Banks and lenders are closely linked to these websites. Some pay to appear prominently in top product roundups or pay a fee once a customer requests a product. At the same time, these sites compete with banks.

“Consumers, especially younger consumers, are increasingly turning to companies like Credit Karma and NerdWallet to help them manage and understand their credit scores and for general financial education,” said Ron Shevlin. , director of research at Cornerstone Advisors. “The most important thing, from a bank’s perspective, is that consumers are turning to these sites for content and education instead of their primary banks.”

LendingTree, in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a site that is repositioning itself. When Shiv Singh was named chief marketing officer of LendingTree in January 2022, the company had been without a CMO for two years.

In July, LendingTree launched a campaign featuring “Saturday Night Live” alum Molly Shannon, including of them advertising, which was the biggest media buy in the company’s history. He also announced an overhaul of the online customer experience.

“We have reintroduced ourselves to our consumers where not only will we help you shop around and compare the best loans, insurance and credit cards, but we will also guide and support you much more than in the past,” Singh said in an interview.

This meant becoming a more holistic source of financial information rather than just matching consumers with loans. LendingTree launched a monthly financial education newsletter called The Vine and redesigned its homepage to make general information more visible and navigable. For example, if someone clicks “buy a home” along the options ribbon at the top of the homepage, they can choose to compare rates immediately or “learn more.” If they choose “compare rates”, LendingTree walks them through the process. For example, if the user is prompted for a location, note LendingTree, The city does not have to be exact. Close is good enough. Start typing to choose a city. When the user needs to enter the price of the property, LendingTree says, For now, an estimate will work.

“At each step there are clues to help you answer the questions and why you are doing this,” Singh said.

The company has also created a feature called Insurance Checkup where owners can call a number and compare their rates and policies with what’s available.

The overarching premise is “we help our consumers win financially,” Singh said. “It’s part of our new positioning.”

These changes were designed over the past six months, Singh said, and “more designed for a post-pandemic world.”

credit karma, of Oakland, Calif., relied more heavily on its Lightbox platform to accelerate business after lenders reduced or suspended offerings in the market early in the pandemic. Lightbox is a technology platform that allows financial institutions to use anonymized data from Credit Karma’s 110 million members to target those most likely to be approved rather than making their offers available to all users.

Working more closely with its partner financial institutions to design products for their customers “is a muscle we were forced to build in mid-2020,” Franks said.

One of the changes Credit Karma made in Lightbox was to allow financial institutions to test the viability of rates and terms through Credit Karma. – something the company had always been reluctant to do.

“We were aware that we didn’t want worse outcomes for our members,” Franks said. Credit Karma has built safeguards to prevent this. For example, it does not allow lenders to offer offers that test whether a Credit Karma would be willing to pay more for a product compared to what they could pay on another channel.

The company revamped its personal loan marketplace around Q3 2020, allowing users to dictate the personal loan terms they want and adjust settings to get real-time updated offers. It’s also starting to roll out Guarantee Karma, where if a customer isn’t approved for a so-called guaranteed offer they find filtering for this feature in their search, Credit Karma will deposit money into their accounts. Franks says the situations where this could happen are rare, but possible. For example, a lender could extract new data showing that a customer made multiple inquiries in a short time and decline the loan application.

NerdWallet, which is based in San Francisco, has not undergone any crucial transformation, but has adapted its messaging to meet consumer needs as they evolve during the pandemic.

For example, the financial product comparison site launched a “Money Questions” campaign in January 2020 to encourage customers to turn to NerdWallet for clarification on their personal finance questions.

“When the pandemic hit, questions like, ‘What’s the best credit card for travelling?’ were no longer relevant,” said Alison McGlone, director of brand marketing at NerdWallet. “Questions like, ‘How can I invest?’ became ‘Should I invest?’ “

In the first five months of 2022, NerdWallet ran a campaign called Compare Your Way that captured people’s desire to travel again or buy a house bigger than the one their family had outgrown at the height of the pandemic.

“It was probably our last campaign that talked about consumer sentiment coming out of the pandemic,” McGlone said, noting that the new campaign focuses on inertia when making financial decisions. “We’ve heard from consumers that there’s more of a desire to take back control and think about ways to take the next step forward.”

McGlone says the mission has remained consistent throughout the pandemic. “Our job is to bring out the things you need to know,” she said. “It was about doubling down and being nimble as consumer questions changed.”

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