On the Docket of the Biggest Week in Banking

Think back to your days as a student. Who was the teacher that most inspired you? Was it because they challenged your assumptions while also building your confidence?

In a sense, the 1,312 men and women joining me at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix for this year’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference are in for a similar experience, albeit one grounded in practical business strategies as opposed to esoteric academic ideas.

Some of the biggest names in the business, from the most prestigious institutions, will join us over three days to share their thoughts and strategies on a diverse variety of topics — from lending trends to deposit gathering to the competitive environment. They will talk about regulation, technology and building franchise value. And our panelists will explore not just what’s going on now, but what’s likely to come next in the banking industry.

Mergers and acquisitions will take center stage as well. The banking industry has been consolidating for four decades. The number of commercial banks peaked in 1984, at 14,507. It has fallen every year since then, even as the trend toward consolidation continues. To this end, the volume of bank M&A in 2019 increased 5% compared to 2018. 

The merger of equals between BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks, to form Truist Financial Corp., was the biggest and most-discussed deal in a decade. But other deals are worth noting too, including marquee combinations within the financial technology space.

In July, Fidelity National Information Services, or FIS, completed its $35 billion acquisition of Worldpay, a massive payment processor. “Scale matters in our rapidly changing industry,” said FIS Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Gary Norcross at the time. Fittingly, Norcross will share the stage with Fifth Third Bancorp Chairman and CEO Greg Carmichael on Day 1 of Acquire or Be Acquired. More recently, Visa announced that it will pay $5 billion to acquire Plaid, which develops application programming interfaces that make it easier for customers and institutions to connect and share data.

Looking back on 2019, the operating environment proved challenging for banks. They’re still basking in the glow of the recent tax breaks, yet they’re fighting against the headwinds of stubbornly low interest rates, elevated compliance costs and stiff competition in the lending markets. Accordingly, I anticipate an increase in M&A activity given these factors, along with stock prices remaining strong and the biggest banks continuing to use their scale to increase efficiency and bolster their product sets.

Beyond these topics, here are three additional issues that I intend to discuss on the first day of the conference:

1. How Saturated Are Banking Services?
This past year, Apple, Google and Facebook announced their entry into financial services. Concomitantly, fintechs like Acorns, Betterment and Dave plan to or have already launched checking accounts, while gig-economy stalwarts Uber Technologies and Lyft added banking features to their service offerings. Given this growing saturation in banking services, we will talk about how regional and local banks are working to boost deposits, build brands and better utilize data.

2. Who Are the Gatekeepers of Customer Relationships?
Looking beyond the news of Alphabet’s Google’s checking account or Apple’s now-ubiquitous credit card, we see a reframing of banking by mainstream technology titans. This is a key trend that should concern bank executives —namely, technology companies becoming the gatekeepers for access to basic banking services over time.

3. Why a Clear Digital Strategy Is an Absolute Must
Customer acquisition and retention through digital channels in a world full of mobile apps is the future of financial services. In the U.S., there are over 10,000 banks and credit unions competing against each other, along with hundreds of well-funded start-ups, for customer loyalty. Clearly, having a defined digital strategy is a must.

For those joining us at the Arizona Biltmore, you’re in for an invaluable experience. It’s a chance to network with your peers and hear from the leaders of  innovative and elite institutions.

Can’t make it? We intend to share updates from the conference via BankDirector.com and over social media platforms, including Twitter and LinkedIn, where we’ll be using the hashtag #AOBA20.

Getting a Return on Relationship Profitability


profitability-7-8-19.pngHow profitable are your bank’s commercial relationships?

That may seem like a strange question, given that banks are in the relationship business. But relationship profitability is a complex issue that many banks struggle to master. A bank’s ability to accurately measure the profitability of its relationships may determine whether it’s a market leader or a stagnant institution just trying to survive. In my experience, the market leaders use the right profitability metrics, measure it at the right time and distribute that information to the right people.

Should Your Bank Use ROE or ROA? Yes.
Many banks use return on assets, or ROA, to measure their portfolio’s overall profitability. It’s a great way to compare a bank’s performance relative to others, but it can disguise credit issues hidden within the portfolio. To address that concern, the best-performing banks combine an ROA review with a more precise discussion on return on equity, or ROE. While ROA gives executives a view from above, ROE helps banks understand the value, and risk, associated with each deal.

ROA and ROE both begin with the same numerator: net income. But the denominator for ROA is the average balance; ROE considers the equity, or capital that is employed by the loan.

If your bank applies an average equity position to every booked loan, then this approach may not be for you. But banks that strive to apply a true risk-based approach that allocates more capital for riskier deals and less capital for stronger credits should consider how they could use this approach to help them calculate relationship profitability.

Take a $500,000 interest-only loan that will generate $5,000 of net income. The ROA on this deal will be 1 percent [$5,000 of net income divided by the $500,000 average balance]. The interest-only repayment helps simplify the outstanding balance discussion and replicates the same principles in amortizing deals.

You can assume there is a personal guarantee that can be added. It’s not enough to change the risk rating of the deal, but that additional coverage is always desirable. The addition of the guarantee does not reduce the outstanding balance, so the ROA calculation remains unchanged. The math says there is no value that comes from adding the additional protection.

That changes when a bank uses ROE.

Let’s say a bank initially allocated $50,000 of capital to support this deal, generating a 10 percent ROE [$5,000 of net income divided by the $50,000 capital].

The new guarantee changes the potential loss given default. A $1,000 reduction in the capital required to support this deal, because of the guarantee, increases ROE 20 basis points, to 10.20 percent [$5,000 of net income divided by the $49,000 of capital]. The additional guarantee reduced risk and improved returns on equity.

The ROA calculation is unchanged by a reduction in risk; ROE paints a more accurate picture of the deal’s profitability.

The Case for Strategic Value
Assume your bank won that deal and three years have now passed. When calculating that relationship’s profitability, knowing what you’ve earned to-date has a purpose; however, your competitors care only about what that deal looks like today and if they can win away that customer and all those future payments.

That’s why the best-performing banks consider what’s in front of them to lose, not what has been earned up to this point. This is called the relationship’s “strategic value.” It’s the value your competition understands.

When assessing a relationship’s strategic value, banks may identify vulnerable deals that they preemptively reprice on terms that are more favorable to the customer. That sounds heretical, but if your bank’s not making that offer, rest assured your competitors will.

The Right Information, to the Right People, at the Right Time
Once your bank has decided how it will measure profitability, you then need to consider who should get that information—and when. Banks often have good discussions about pricing tactics during exception request reviews, but by then the terms of the deal are usually set. It can be difficult to go back to ask for more.

The best-positioned banks use technology systems that can provide easily digestible profitability data to their relationship managers in a timely fashion. Relationship managers receive these insights as they negotiate the terms of the deal, not after they’ve asked for an exception.

Arming relationship managers with a clear understanding of both the loan and relationship profitability allows them to better price, and win, a deal that provides genuine value for the bank.

Then you can start answering other questions, like “What’s the secret to your bank’s success?”

Redefining the Meaning of a Customer Relationship


relationship-3-12-18.pngFor most people, brick and mortar branches have become remnants of prior generations of banking. In the digital age of mobile deposits and non-financial, non-regulated companies like PayPal there is little incentive to walk into a local branch—particularly for millennials. This presents an anomaly in the community banking model. Community banks are built upon relationships, so how can the banks survive in an era so acutely inclined towards, and defined by, technology seemingly designed to eliminate “traditional” relationships?

The solution is to redefine the term “traditional” relationship. While customers may not want to walk into a branch to deposit a check, they still want information and advice. Just because a millennial does not want to deposit a check in person does not mean that he or she will not need to sit with a representative for guidance when applying for their first home loan. Using customer segmentation and understanding where there are opportunities to build relationships provides an opportunity to overcome the imminent threat of technology.

If information and advice are the keys to building relationships, it becomes imperative that bank employees are fully trained and knowledgeable. It is crucial that community banks spend time hiring the right people for the right position and then train and promote from within. Employees must fully understand, represent and communicate a brand. That brand must be clearly defined by executive management and communicated down the chain of command. It is incumbent upon the leaders of the organization to first set an example and then ask their employees to follow suit. Some of the most successful community bank CEOs can recognize their customers by name when they walk into a branch. These are not the biggest clients of the bank, but they are probably the most loyal because of the quality of the relationship.

The focus needs to switch from products and transactions towards specific relationships with specific customer segments. Customer-centric banking strategies will improve the chances of survival for community banks. Those that are not able to adapt will be eclipsed by the recent revival of de novos or will be acquired by institutions that are embracing this customer-centric approach. A customer-centric approach is critical to drive value whether pursuing organic growth or M&A. For banks evaluating an acquisition, there are additional considerations that need to be addressed prior to entering into a transaction, in order to safeguard the customer relationships that the bank has built and ensure that the deal enhances the bank’s brand and business model, while also building value.

If you are one of the survivors and are engaged in an acquisition, what does all of this mean for you?

  1. FinPro Capital Advisors Inc. advocates having strict M&A principals and parameters when evaluating the metrics of a deal, which will vary from bank to bank. This concept extends to culture and branding as well. A good deal on paper does not necessarily translate to a successful resultant entity. If a transaction will dilute your franchise, disrupt your culture or business model, or in any way undermine the brand and customer base you have built, do not pursue it.
  2. Signing a definitive agreement is not the same thing as closing a transaction. Integration begins as soon as the ink dries on the contract. Planning should have occurred well in advance. Management needs to focus on employee, customer and investor reception of the deal, along with regulatory approvals and strategic planning. A poorly executed integration can provide an inauspicious start culturally and can increase merger costs substantially.
  3. Retain the best talent from each institution and take the time to ensure that the employees are in the right position. Roles are not set in stone and an acquisition provides the perfect opportunity to re-position the bank’s staffing structure. This includes implementing management succession and talent management plans for the new entity. Develop an organizational structure for the future, not just for today.
  4. Communicate effectively throughout the entire process. Be transparent and be honest. Bolster relationships and foster enthusiasm in the new entity from day one. Corporate culture is one of the most difficult attributes to quantify but it is palpable and can either energize every person in the company or rapidly become toxic and disruptive.

For all banks, the brand and culture that you build will directly impact your customer base and define the banking relationships you create. To build meaningful relationships with your customers, banks must first build meaningful relationships within the organization. In so doing, banks will be able to redefine their model by focusing on relationships instead of transactions, customers instead of products, and eliminate isolated divisions to create integrated organizations. The traditional banking model may be dead but banks with strong leadership and corporate culture will recognize the new paradigm and enact change to evolve accordingly.

Innovation Spotlight: Citizens Bank of Edmond


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Castilla-Jill.pngJill Castilla, President, CEO and Vice Chairman
Citizens Bank of Edmond is a $252 million asset community bank with a rich history spanning 116 years. In 2009, the bank transformed its operations by making critical investments in technology instead of branches. At the helm of this resurgence is Jill Castilla, president, CEO and vice chairman, and also a fourth generation leader and banker at Citizens Bank of Edmond. Castilla is known as an active user of social media, turning critics into brand advocates by staying transparent about changes at the bank and consistently engaging the community for its feedback.

What technology does Citizens Bank of Edmond utilize that youwouldn’t expect at a small community bank?
We strive to be at the forefront of technology to ensure that the bank is relevant today and is positioned to be relevant 116 years from now. We’ve embraced the concept of remote banking: our retail team uses secure Wi-Fi to connect remotely to TellerCapture (a system that enables the imaging and posting of checks at the teller window) and our cash recycler. In 2013, we developed an interactive teller at our ATMs, making us the first bank in Oklahoma to deploy this technology.

One of the biggest changes under your leadership was reducingthe number of branches in the community to just one core branch. As you were conceptualizing this renovation, what technological improvements were a priority?What type of research did you undertake?
We knew we wanted to make Citizens Bank comfortable, approachable and accessible with all of our staff located on the first floor. We also invested in technology infrastructure to handle mobile workstations and utilize a range of products including highly advanced touchscreen kiosks. The bank has collaborative workspaces that allow our team to work easily together in groups or for the community to gather informally. We provide public Wi-Fi for our customers and secure Wi-Fi for our team. Inspiration for our newly renovated lobby sprung from visits to numerous progressive banks across the country as well as hospitality industries, such as hotels and restaurants.

One-third of your bank is owned by the employees. How does that ownership help drive the innovation strategy?
It’s the entrepreneurial spirit. Our team knows that to remain independent for another 116 years we have to stay relevant to our customers and team members. Rewards for employment at Citizens Bank reach far beyond a paycheck—it’s building a legacy that’s accomplished through having premier products, services and customer relationships. It’s about standing the test of time, and improving and maintaining a high level of efficiency in everything we do. Ownership increases peer accountability, and the way we have collaborative work stations allows for the sharpening of the saw. Ideas don’t result from a bureaucratic process, but from teams collaborating to be the best for our customers, shareholders and community.

Reflections on Fintech at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired Conference


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I spent the first part of last week in Phoenix at the Bank Director Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) conference and as always I came away feeling like I knew more about industry conditions and expectations than I did when I got on the plane. If you are a bank executive, you should probably be there every year and may want to consider taking your team on a rotating basis every year. If you serve the industry in some way, you must be there as well. If you are, like me, a serious bank stock investor, you need to be there at least once every few years to stay on top of how bankers feel about their industry and how they plan to grow their banks.

The mood this year was much more upbeat than last year. All the concerns about low interest rates, regulatory costs and other potential headwinds have been blown away by a blast of post-election enthusiasm. Bankers were almost giddy in anticipation of higher rates, a stronger economy and possible regulatory relief. Everyone I talked with during my three-day stay was upbeat and enthusiastic about the future of banking.

There has also been a tremendous change in bankers’ view of fintech of late. Fintech companies have often been viewed as the enemy of smaller banks, and I have talked with many community bankers who are legitimately concerned about their ability to keep up with the new high-tech world. One older gentleman told me at Bank Director’s Growing the Bank conference last May in Dallas that if this was where the industry was going, he would just retire as there was no way he could compete with the upstart fintech companies.

Over the course of the last year, however, a different reality has begun to set in. Fintech companies have discovered that the regulators and bankers were not ready to concede their traditional turf and consumers still like to conduct business within the highly regulated, insured-deposit world of traditional banking. Banks have begun to realize that instead of relying on their traditional practices, much of what fintech companies are doing could make them more efficient and enable them to offer services that attract new customers and make those relationships stickier.

It has become apparent to many of the bankers I chatted with that fintech is not a revolution but an extension of changes that has been going on for years. Drive through bank branches and ATMs were also thought to be revolutionary developments when they were introduced, and today they are considered standard must-have items for any bank branch. Mobile banking is just another step along the evolutionary scale. More customers today interact with their mobile devices than through traditional means like branch visits, phone calls and ATM transactions. That’s not going to change, and bankers are adjusting.

Chris Nichols of CenterState Bank spoke in a breakout session about using fintech to improve the bottom line. He pointed out that if you used the traditional banking approach based on in-branch transactions it cost about $390 per customer per year to service your clients. Using the same cash required to build a branch and spending it to improve the bank’s mobile offering could bring the annual cost per customer down to just $20 a year. Processing a customer deposit costs the average bank about $2 if done in a branch and just $0.20 if done via a mobile phone. Nichols also suggested that acquiring a C&I loan customer could be as high as $14,200 when done via traditional banking methods, but the expense drops to just $3,060 if the transaction is done on a mobile platform.

The proper use of fintech, according to Nichols’ presentation, should also allow banks to lower their efficiency ratio and increase their returns on assets and equity. That is the kind of news that gets bank CEOs and boards excited about expanding the use of technology even if they still carry flip phones and use AOL for home internet.

While you can expect to see partnerships between bankers and fintech companies expanding in the future, bankers will use the technology that reduces costs or creates more revenue streams. They will offer the mobile payment and deposit services customers demand today. The litmus test for technology is, “Does it make or save me money or dramatically improve my customer relationship?” If the answer to these questions is no, then banks will pass on even the most exciting and innovative fintech ideas. They are bankers, after all, not tech gurus.

Getting Big Value out of Big Data


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If my bank calls me, I brace for bad news. It shouldn’t be that way.

Banks are considered leaders in data analytics-most have been at it a long time, have a lot of data and know a lot about their customers. But some banks aren’t actually doing a great job of translating data analytics into better customer service and smarter relationship development, or even taking advantage of opportunities to monetize data.

My bank has more data about me-salary, mortgage, purchases, FICO score, family birthdays, how much I spend and save, where I vacation, live and work-than any other single entity, and certainly enough to make some great proactive suggestions. But I never get that call offering special services for my kid who’s going off to college.

A great banking relationship should be about delighting the customer. More and more, that means using analytics to anticipate customer needs, flag (and fix) patterns that precede complaints, and deliver experiences that exceed customer expectations. Banks should consider watching and learning from my social, location and digital interactions: As the wheels of my plane touch down in Hawaii, a coupon for my favorite local restaurant should pop up in my mobile wallet app. Many customers now expect this level of anticipation of their interests–enabled by data analytics-and if you can’t deliver it, loyalty may not keep them with you. Banks that up the ante on data analytics will be able to attract and keep customers. Banks that don’t step up likely won’t be able to compete with innovators and retailers that consistently deliver personalization.

Many banks are also missing a huge opportunity to monetize data. No one likes receiving unsolicited offers that miss the mark, but when information is targeted and presented appropriately, it can be something customers actually appreciate knowing about. Banks have the opportunity to deliver a privacy-compliant data feed to retailers, to enable targeted marketing and higher customer satisfaction.

The great news is that analytics technology is good and getting better. Advances in distributed data architecture, in-memory processing, machine learning, visualization, natural language processing and cognitive analytics can help banks gain and deliver personalized, granular insights.

Cognitive computing-training computers with machine learning and process automation techniques to enhance human decision making-can analyze massive datasets in a variety of data types, including numbers, text, images and speech. Tasks traditionally performed only by humans can now be accomplished with less direct involvement, such as evaluating credit risks, fraud detection, loan application processing, collateral lien search or making real-time recommendations. For example, the CFPB, OCC, Fed, and FRBNY have required larger institutions to data mine complaints to check for any high-risk incidents that were not escalated properly. Using advanced machine learning techniques, including speech and text analytics, banks can now search for regulatory terms and consumer protection requirements to identify regulatory risks and look for patterns in complaint escalation. Cognitive solutions can also help customers develop sound financial habits through their bank’s mobile app. Clinc’s Finie is a voice-enabled digital assistant that can check spending against budgets and habits, transfer money between accounts and retrieve historical statements.

Advanced analytics also enable more engaging customer experiences that reflect each customer’s profile, habits and situation in that moment, so when a client reviews investing forums for impacts of geopolitical events, a wealth manager can deliver a personalized scenario risk analysis from the investment office. The message could also include an option to request a meeting with a financial advisor. For banks, it’s time to make the crucial shift from insight into action, using cross-channel analytics to drive new messaging and behavioral analytics to deliver targeted offers and in-bank personalization. Luckily, the technology is there to help you take it to the next level.

To harness the full potential of data and analytics at scale, banks will likely have to invest in sustained programs that are truly embedded in business processes and culture-industrialized analytics that are woven into the DNA of the organization. It requires a serious commitment to the vision of insight-driven customer service, business strategy and risk management, as well as a serious investment in talent, data management, analytics and infrastructure for repeatable results and scale. Executing well has the potential to achieve remarkable gains in customer satisfaction, cross selling, complaint reduction and efficiency, all key levers for becoming a more efficient, nimble and profitable bank.

On Your Mark….Loans Approved!


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Scene 1: Adam approaches a reputed bank in his city to get a quick loan to expand his restaurant. A month later, he is still waiting for a green light.

Adam tries his luck with a marketplace lender, and his application is cleared in minutes. The money is wired to his account in no time at all.

Scene 2: Stacy approaches her bank to get a loan to expand her digital marketing firm. She needs cash quickly. Although she is currently a customer of the bank, her loan application review process takes time.

She instead applies for a loan online with an alternative lender. Her application is processed and approved, and the money is wired to her account in the shortest possible time.

Here’s a wakeup call for the banking industry: Customer loyalty, which banks have relied on for so long, is now decidedly elusive.

Banks are getting hit by a triple whammy. First, increased regulations have made loan processing more complex, resulting in higher costs and reduced margins to originate loans. Second, banks’ legacy systems and manual processes lead to delays in loan processing and constrain banks from meeting the expectations of today’s connected consumers. Finally, digital disruption by alternative and marketplace lenders is putting pressure on banks, as customers now have other choices.

Coping with Increased Regulations
Regulatory oversight is increasing, be it recent guidance from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency on prudent risk management for commercial real estate lending, or the upcoming current expected credit loss (CECL) model from the Financial Accounting Standards Board. How can banks cope with this new normal? By automating the loan origination process, banks can ensure that they are fully compliant, and at the same time improve their efficiency in originating the loan by cutting down on paper-intensive and manual steps. Banks should consider investing in loan origination software that not only meets current regulations but is also agile and flexible to incorporate future regulatory changes.

Improving the Origination Process
Legacy systems go by that name for a reason. They are built on old technology. These systems are expensive to maintain and hard to modify. Commercial loans contribute significantly to a bank’s business. Yet, due to outdated legacy technology, the loan origination process is largely manual, requiring duplicate data entry at multiple steps. To solve this, banks should consider investing in loan origination software that seamlessly integrates multiple disparate systems, such as document generation, spreading and credit bureaus. By doing this, banks can significantly cut down the time it takes to originate a loan, and meet the expectations of their customers.

Commercial loan origination software can help a bank streamline its commercial lending business. Here’s how:

  • The software seamlessly integrates with legacy and external systems.
  • It serves as a single application window to cater to multiple business lines, such as CRE loans, commercial & industrial loans, small business loans and leases.
  • It automates the commercial lending lifecycle from origination to disbursement to servicing, making processes paperless in an automated workflow environment with minimal manual intervention.
  • Loan requests are captured from multiple channels.
  • Credit scoring and underwriting of loans is efficient, due to seamless integration with third-party credit bureaus.
  • Automating and centralizing business rules allows quicker lending decisions.
  • Effective tracking and analysis of the loan process means the bank can better comply with regulations.

Imagine loan officers spending significantly less time reviewing loans. The end result is a more efficient process for the bank and, more importantly, happy customers.

What to Do About the 65% of Checking Customers Making You Money


In a previous article, I wrote about the challenge of how to handle unprofitable customers, headlined “What to Do About the 35% of Checking Customers Costing You Money.” The logical follow-up question is what to do with the remaining 65 percent.

Below is the composition of a typical financial institution’s checking portfolio, based on the relationship dollars (both deposits and loans) each of these segments represent, and the revenue generated by household by segment.strategycorps-chart-5-11.png

Super: household produces annual revenue over $5,000. Mass Market: produces $350 to $5,000 in revenue. Small: produces $250 to $350 in revenue. Low: produces less than $250 in revenue. Figures are based on the average bank in StrategyCorps’ proprietary database of more than 4 million accounts.

It is commonly thought that the 80/20 rule applies to relationship dollars and revenue for checking customers, where 80 percent of each is generated by 20 percent of customers. However, if you were to add up the Super and Mass columns for the relationship dollars and revenue segments, the “rule” is closer to 98/2 and 97/3, respectively.

Although they make up just over 10 percent of customers, Super households generate the highest percentage of both, 63 percent of relationship dollars and 57 percent of checking revenue for a typical financial institution. Mass households represent the largest relationship segment at 55 percent of customers, but generate less than their pro-rata share of relationship dollars and revenue.

Clearly these two segments, especially the Super segment, are what other financial institutions are looking to steal away with all kinds of marketing messages and incentives, and even some very targeted, prospective individual sales efforts.

A deeper dive into the profile of each segment reinforces why these customers are so sought after by competitors.

Segments Super > $5,000 Mass $350-$5,000
Distribution 10% 55%
Per Account Averages Averages
Relationship Statistics    
DDA Balances $28,079 $5,746
Relationship Deposits $63,361 $6,323
Relationship Loans $68,250 $4,542
Total Relationships $159,890 $16,611
Revenue Statistics    
Total DDA Income (NII + Fees + NSF) $1,349 $448
Relationship Deposit NII $2,367 $231
Relationship Loan NII $2,654 $171
Total Revenue $6,370 $850
Account Statistics    
Have More Than One DDA 73.2% 52.8%
Have a Debit Card 46.2% 65.1%
Have Online Banking 26.0% 29.6%
Have eStatement 16.0% 17.5%
Debit Card Trans (month) 8.4 15.7
Have a Relationship Deposit 74.3% 52.8%
Have a Relationship Loan 56.3% 25.4%
Have Both a Deposit and Loan 44.4% 15.8%
Average Age of Account 5.4 3.8
Average Age of Account Holder 57.0 51.2

The challenge: What should your financial institution do to retain these Super and Mass relationship segments that make up 65 percent of customers and yet are responsible for nearly 100 percent of relationship dollars and revenue?

A common response from bankers when asked this question is their stated belief that people in these Super and Mass segments are long-term customers who are already well-known. However, the data in the next to last row of the chart shows that the average age of the accounts in these two segments is only about five and a half and nearly four years, respectively, so they really aren’t long-term customers on average.

Another popular view is that these customers are already being taken care of. When asked to clarify, the response is typically something general about customer service. Rarely is the response that these customers are being provided with the best products and top level service at the financial institution, or that investments are being made in these customers that are above and beyond what is invested in overall retention efforts. And in too many cases, many community financial institutions don’t have the information organized to even identify which customers are in what segment.

It’s understandable that with today’s tight interest rate margins, compressing fee income and rising operating costs, it’s difficult to make a business case for above average investment in customer retention. However, with an overcrowded competitive marketplace and the commoditization that’s occurring from digitizing retail banking, taking for granted that Super segment customers won’t move is riskier than making the incremental financial investment to do something extra to retain them.

The math on this is straightforward—losing one average Super segment household that generates revenue of nearly $6,400 would require investing in the acquisition of 7.5 average Mass segment households, 29 Small segment households or 88 Low segment households.

The biggest banks know this and are, on a relative basis, out-investing community financial institutions through better mobile and online products, more attractive acquisition incentives and aggressive pricing campaigns in the Super and Mass segments.

While it may feel nearly impossible to invest more in existing Super customers, the cost of not doing so will be much more.

For consumer checking financial performance on all the relationship segments (Super, Mass, Small and Low), a more detailed executive report is available if you’d like more information.

A New Challenge for CMOs: How to Spend All That Money


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According to the consulting firm Gartner, by 2017 chief marketing officers will spend more on technology than their chief information officer counterparts. That money will be spent on customer relationship management (CRM) systems, digital marketing, database marketing, marketing automation, customer analytics, mobile marketing and e-commerce. That seismic shift has led to a Cambrian explosion in marketing technology companies from 150 in 2011 to 3,800 in 2016.

This puts the bank CMO in a tricky spot given a two to three year purchase and integration cycle. How does the CMO know if the technology he or she adopts today won’t be facing extinction three years from now? Moreover, the stakes are high with billions of dollars in venture capital money being invested into disaggregating the banking business—making the need to leverage technologies to preserve and deepen bank customer relationships an almost existential requirement.

What’s a CMO to do? Let’s start by asking the right questions:

  1. What’s the biggest problem I need to solve right now—revenue growth, retention, engagement?
  2. How will I know that I’ve solved it?
  3. Am I likely to solve it by using internal resources given the organization’s past history? And can I do it in the market time allotted?
  4. Do I have time to wait for other banks to solve the problem so I can copy their solution?
  5. How do I select a solution, given the thousands of companies operating in the space?

Here’s my take on the answers:

First, the biggest problem in banking is customer retention; once solved — you get a bank like Wells Fargo, the world’s largest bank by market capitalization. You’ll know if you’ve solved it when your level of customer churn drops to the low single digits.

Second, it’s difficult to bring innovative solutions to life from inside the bank, which means it’s going to be slow going–if it ever happens. The fintech start-ups and their respective investors are placing big bets that innovation won’t come from within so it’s a fair bet that it won’t.

Third, waiting for someone else to solve the problem historically has been a good, low-risk strategy, but it’s incompatible with the rate at which money is being poured into fintech, which aims to disaggregate banking. Banks don’t want to be like taxi companies waiting around to see if another taxi company solves the Uber problem.

And lastly, selecting solutions among thousands of companies begs for some criteria, so here’s my list:

“Plan to kiss a lot of frogs.” Ah, the virtues of lightweight integration. It’ll be difficult to test a bunch of solutions that each take several years and a lot of resources to implement. Look for solutions that can be tested with minimal integration effort and cost. You’ll likely have a long list of candidates to get through. If you think a particular solution will work, you can go ahead and spend the money to do a full integration.

“Don’t try to sweet talk your soon to be ex-customer.” In short, plan to measure customer satisfaction if you aren’t already doing so before you try to test or implement marketing technology solutions. Customer retention is dependent upon delighted customers, the attractiveness of alternatives and the cost of switching. In the bank space, switching costs and happy customers drive retention because the products themselves are difficult to differentiate. Delighted customers can be measured using Bain’s Net Promoter scores, while switching costs can be measured by the number of products and services per customer. These two metrics–NPS and products per customer–enable both problem and success definition. Moreover, you can’t deepen relationships with customers who don’t like the bank no matter how cool the marketing technology may be.

“Get Engaged!” Place a premium on solutions that customers really engage with– and that’s not going to be a better-targeted banner ad. Much more engaging solutions are available today, so find and test them.

“Channel Surf!” All solutions must operate in a coordinated manner across multiple digital channels including: mobile apps, online banking and SMS, and also off the bank’s digital property like Facebook, Twitter and any other website where customers go, for that matter. And solutions must produce actionable feedback out of the channels.

“High IQ!” Machine learning is no longer optional–it’s required because humans just can’t process the amount of data produced through the digital channels in any relevant time frame. Machines have to perform that function in a systematic and additive fashion.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for CMOs but they also have both an unprecedented budget and variety of weapons to choose from to win the war–so choose wisely.

What to Do About the 35% of Checking Customers Costing You Money


Consumer checking, while the simple hub product for most retail deposit and loan relationships, produces some not so simple challenges related to financial performance.

Here’s the composition of a typical financial institution’s checking portfolio, based on the revenue generated by a household relationship. “Super” customers generate the highest percentage of a typical bank’s revenues although they make up only about 10 percent of its customers. Super customers also make up the highest percentage of overall relationship dollars, meaning they have more combined deposit and loan balances with the bank.strategycorps-chart-5-11.png

Super: household produces annual revenue over $5,000. Mass Market: produces $350 to $5,000 in revenue. Small: produces $250 to $350 in revenue. Low: produces less than $250 in revenue. Figures are based on the average bank in StrategyCorps’ proprietary database of more than 4 million accounts.

The challenge: What to do with the Small and Low relationships that make up 35 percent of customers yet represent only 1.6 percent of all relationship dollars and 2.9 percent of revenue?

A deeper dive into the profile of these segments is enlightening.

Segments Small $250-$350 Low <$250
Distribution 9% 26%
Per Account Averages Averages
Relationship Statistics    
DDA Balances $1,561 $682
Relationship Deposits $444 $117
Relationship Loans $161 $32
Total Relationships $2,166 $831
Revenue Statistics    
Total DDA Income (NII + Fees + NSF) $160 $62
Relationship Deposit NII $16 $4
Relationship Loan NII $6 $1
Total Revenue $182 $67
Account Statistics    
Have More Than One DDA 28.9% 14.5%
Have a Debit Card 71.4% 57.1%
Have Online Banking 27.3% 22.0%
Have eStatement 17.1% 13.9%
Debit Card Trans (month) 13.3 5.0
Have a Relationship Deposit 31.5% 17.9%
Have a Relationship Loan 7.1% 2.7%
Have Both a Deposit and Loan 2.5% 0.7%
Average Age of Account 3.1 3.4
Average Age of Account Holder 48.9 48.8

Obvious is the lack of revenue generation from these segments given average demand deposit account (DDA) balances and relationship deposit and loan balances on an absolute dollar basis and a comparative basis to the Mass and Super segments.

Less obvious is that the other revenue-generating (debit cards) or cost-saving activities (online banking, e-statements) of the average customer in the Small and Low segments is not materially different from the Mass and Super relationship segments. For some products, like a debit card, the percentage of customers in the Small and Low segments who have one is higher than Mass and Super segments.

The natural response from bankers when confronted with this information is, “let’s cross-sell these Small and Low relationships into more financial productivity.” This is well-intentioned, but elusive and arguably impractical.

First, for many consumers in these relationship segments, your FI isn’t their primary FI, so they are most likely Mass or Super segment customers at another institution. Second, if you are the primary FI, these segments simply don’t have financial resources or the need for additional financial products beyond what they already have today. At their best, these are effectively single service, low balance and low or no fee customers. Therefore, traditional cross-selling efforts either compete unsuccessfully with the primary FI’s cross-selling efforts or don’t matter because there aren’t available financial resources to be placed in other products.

How then does your FI competitively and financially engage with these Small and Low relationship segments to improve their financial contribution by increasing the DDA balances, relationship balances or generating more fee income? The answer is to relevantly offer them a product that impacts how they bank with your institution.

More specifically in today’s marketplace, this relevant offering is accomplished by being a bigger part of your customers’ mobile and online lifestyle. Consumers of all types are in a relationship with their smart phone, tablets and computers. A FI’s checking product has to be a bigger part of that relationship. It can’t just be another online or mobile banking product they can get at pretty much any FI. For the unprofitable customers who have a primary FI somewhere else, the mobile and online offerings have to be engaging and rewarding enough to move deposit balances to your bank or buy more products from your bank to generate more revenue.

For those unprofitable customers who simply don’t have the financial resources to aggregate deposits or be cross-sold, the mobile and online banking solutions have to include value worthy enough to willingly pay for. Why? Because generating recurring, customer-friendly fee income based on non-traditional benefits or functionality is the only way you’re going to make them more profitable. Top retailers like Costco, AAA, Amazon and Spotify understand this retailing principle, which is transferable to FIs if they will design and build their checking products like a retailer would instead of a banker.

For consumer checking financial performance on both the Small and Low relationship segments as well as the Super and Mass ones, a more detailed executive report is available if you’d like more information.