Customer Experience: The Freedom to Experiment

NYMBUS.pngSurety Bank faces the same geographic limits to growth that other small community banks do. The $137 million bank operates four branches in Daytona Beach, Pierson, Lake Mary and DeLand, Florida, its headquarters. These are, at most, no more than 45 miles from one another.

But CEO Ryan James believes the bank can fuel deposit growth nationwide through the launch of a digital brand, booyah!, which targets college students and young graduates with fee-free deposit accounts. The bank’s relationship with its core is enabling him to make this bet.

Surety converted from a legacy core provider to the Nymbus SmartCore in 2018. It launched booyah! a year later using Nymbus SmartLaunch, a bank-in-a-box product designed to help banks quickly and inexpensively stand up a digital branch under an existing charter.

Nymbus SmartLaunch received the award for the Best Solution for Customer Experience at Bank Director’s 2020 Best of FinXTech Awards in May. Backbase, a digital banking provider, and Pinkaloo, a white-labeled charitable giving platform, were also finalists in the category. (Read more about how Pinkaloo worked with a Massachusetts community bank here.)

Bigger banks have reported mixed results from their efforts to establish digital brands. Wyomissing, Pennsylvania-based Customers Bancorp was one of the first to do so when it established its BankMobile division in 2015, targeting millennials. The $12 billion bank partnered with T-Mobile US three years later to offer accounts to the cell phone carrier’s 86 million customers. Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase & Co. closed its digital bank, Finn, last year.

Growth costs money. Opening a freestanding branch can cost anywhere from $500,000 to $4.5 million, according to a 2019 Bancography survey. And unlike bigger banks, small institutions face significant obstacles in opening a separate digital brand to differentiate themselves nationwide — they don’t have capital to spend on experiments.

But if a small bank can establish a new digital brand at a reasonable cost, the experiment becomes more feasible.

“Why can’t you start a digital bank cheap?” says James. Surety’s legacy customers and booyah!’s new customers share the same user experience — SmartLaunch offers online applications for deposit and loan accounts, along with remote deposit capture, payment options, bill pay and debit card management. Bank customers can also set custom alerts and take advantage of personal financial management tools. Creating booyah! was really just a matter of adding a new logo and color scheme.

“It’s the same thing [we] already have,” he says. “Why does it have to be hundreds of millions of dollars in investments?”

That was the story from his old core provider, he says. But Nymbus didn’t leverage hefty fees to make booyah! a reality. What’s more, Surety isn’t locked into its experiment.

“What I love about them is you test, you pivot, and you do what makes sense” for your bank, James says. “You don’t have to give away years of your profits to try something new.”

Whether or not booyah! is a success, Nymbus provides Surety with the flexibility to quickly and easily spin up other brands that focus on specific customer segments, or shutter anything that doesn’t work, like Chase did with Finn.

If its digital brand works, Surety has a lot to gain. With the industry squeezed for profits in a prolonged low-rate environment, cheaply expanding its footprint to draw more deposits could help the bank maintain its high level of profitability in an increasingly challenging environment. The bank maintains a high return on equity (15.11% as of Dec. 31, 2019), return on assets (1.68%) and net interest margin (4.05%), according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

In a world populated with countless First National Banks, Farmers Banks and the like, booyah! certainly doesn’t sound like a typical bank. So, why booyah? Curious, I asked James. “Why not?” he replies. 

The name, frankly, isn’t the point.

Ultimately, Chase didn’t need Finn; it was already a nationwide bank with an established, well-recognized brand and millions of customers using its mobile app. But for Surety Bank, booyah! represents the potential to gain deposits outside its Florida footprint — without putting the bank’s bottom line at risk.

The 10 Most Successful Financial Advertisers Right Now


advertising-11-23-18.pngFinancial institutions have long struggled to stand out in the marketplace and build their brand.

This is because they offer very similar products and services to consumers. But a clear strategy and well-defined corporate culture—and a story told with an effective advertising campaign—can help prospective clients understand what makes a bank special.

We’ve put together a list of banks that do that well.

To identify successful advertisers in the banking space, Bank Director focused on two key metrics: number of impressions—how many times a company’s ads were viewed on TV—and the average estimated cost per impression for each brand. This second metric is weighted to account for peak vs. non-peak advertising times. Together, the two metrics reward a balance between brand reach and an effective use of ad dollars.

Each metric was ranked, and the final score represents an average of the two ranks. In cases where the average of the two was a tie, the bank with the most impressions earned the higher score.

Credit unions and lenders that compete directly with banks are included, along with retail and commercial banks.

Bellevue, Washington-based iSpot.tv, an analytics firm that uses smart televisions to track ad activity, provided the data. The measurement was based on national ad activity from Jan. 1 through Sept. 10, 2018.

The ranking doesn’t account for the creativity of each bank’s advertising, but a compelling, creative ad with clear messaging can be effective in achieving the bank’s strategic goals.

Fifth Third Bancorp was savvy with its ad dollars, at $0.12 per 1,000 impressions, and placed second in the ranking. Its ad campaigns during the time period generated 442 million impressions.

The most buzz for the regional bank came from is its “Fee Sharks” ad, part of the “Banking a Fifth Third Better” branding campaign.

“The overall goal of [the Fifth Third Better] campaign is to build the Fifth Third Bank brand,” says Matt Jauchius, the bank’s chief marketing officer. “We believe that a stronger brand leads to growth and profitability for the bank overall.”

The campaign has been effective, resulting in a 21-percent increase in brand consideration over a roughly one-year period. Brand consideration is a metric Fifth Third and other companies use to measure the likelihood customers would consider the brand the next time they’re looking for a particular product or service. In banking, that tends to be whether a customer would consider the institution for their primary banking relationship—usually a checking account.

“Effective advertising needs to be rooted in a truth about the brand itself,” says Robert Lambrechts, the chief creative officer at Pereira & O’Dell. The San Francisco-based advertising agency worked with Fifth Third on the brand campaign.

“Find the thing that is true about your brand,” he advises. “[Be] honest with yourselves about who you are [and] what you want to do.”

The Fifth Third team found ties between its core value to go above and beyond and the bank’s unique name: Fifth Third employees give more than 100 percent—166.7 percent, to be precise—to help their customers.

Ads like the fee shark are quirky, memorable ways to highlight products, services and features—like fee-free ATMs. All the ads in the branding campaign feature a plucky young woman clad in a blue suit, with a Fifth Third pin and distinctive glasses, who serves as a brand ambassador and a proxy for the bank’s employees. She communicates the brand promise: that the bank works hard to meet the customer’s needs.

Fifth Third uses internal and third-party data to better understand what prospective customers want, how to motivate them, and when and where to place the ad effort—whether that’s on TV or radio, in print, on a billboard or on social media.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. topped the ranking, generating more than 5 billion impressions and spending a little more than an estimated $7 per 1,000 impressions—the fifth most cost-effective of the financial institutions examined in the ranking. The bank has run a number of TV spots in 2018. The ad with the most impressions—“Michaela’s Way,” featuring ballerina Michaela DePrince—promotes Chase QuickPay, which includes the real-time payments solution Zelle.

Donna Veira, chief marketing officer for Chase’s consumer banking and wealth management divisions, told AdAge: “We looked at all of the day-to-day, practical ways in which our customers are using QuickPay and brought those to life.”

Other spots show how easily tennis star Serena Williams uses the bank’s cash-free ATMs, or promote the bank’s business solutions and investment advice.

Most Successful Financial Advertisers

      # of Impressions Estimated cost per 1,000 impressions
  1 JPMorgan Chase & Co. 5,371,208,561 $7.36
  2 Fifth Third Bancorp 441,698,444 $0.12
  3 Citigroup 3,862,125,267 $13.44
  4 PNC Financial Services Group 1,400,939,671 $12.64
  5 Capital One Financial Corp. 545,702,921 $12.56
  6 Regions Financial Corp. 210,530,040 $12.29
  7 PenFed Federal Credit Union 144,093,408 $1.77
  8 Purepoint Financial
(division of MUFG Union Bank, N.A.)
46,254,915 $1.11
  9 SoFi 1,477,462,492 $15.60
  10 Ally Bank 1,495,976,740 $16.20

Data source: iSpot.tv