With record demand for Series I bonds, an inflation-protected and nearly risk-free asset, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has unveiled a front-end makeover for TreasuryDirect, the online platform investors use to buy assets.
While the Treasury still plans future system upgrades, Tuesday’s revamp focuses on website navigation, more concise information and the broader user experience, including a mobile-friendly design.
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“Improving the front-end informational pages on TreasuryDirect.gov enhances the user experience by helping customers more easily find the information they’re looking for and improving the website’s information quality, appearance and usability,” a Treasury spokesperson said.
With task-based navigation, the new website aims to more easily guide investors through transactions, like buying or selling bonds.
There’s also streamlined content, aiming to deliver quick answers to the most pressing questions. While there’s an improved help center, investors may now find more details via product pages.
I bonds surge in demand since last November
These updates come amid unprecedented demand for I bonds and new TreasuryDirect accounts.
Since the annual I bond rate jumped to 7.12% last November, there has been more than $27 billion in I bond sales, compared to $364 million in 2020, according to the Treasury.
Adjusting every six months, I bonds currently pay a 9.62% annual return through October, the highest rate since the assets were introduced in 1998.
While it’s too early to predict November’s rate change, investors can roughly estimate the new rate when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the September consumer price index data.
Treasury plans to ‘modernize’ customer experience
As some investors wrestle with the 20-year-old platform, many have also struggled to get quick answers via TreasuryDirect’s customer service team.
In response, the Treasury said it has “more than doubled call center resources and made other technical enhancements,” resulting in wait times falling by 50%.
The average hold time for phone support is currently around one hour, compared to 90 seconds prior to the surge in I bond interest, according to a person familiar with the wait times.
“We continue working to further reduce wait times and make additional improvements as best we can with the resources we have available,” a Treasury spokesperson said.
For example, TreasuryDirect customers will soon have the ability to update banking details online rather than by mailing a form, they said.