What Banks Can Learn From Retailers to Grow Loans

If success leaves clues, retail has dropped plenty of golden nuggets to help the banking industry refine its credit application process and increase customer loyalty.

While banks have come a long way with online and mobile features, credit and loan application procedures are still stuck in the early 2000s. Often, the process is unnecessarily bogged down by false pre-approvals and lengthy forms; bank processes drive how customer obtain loans, instead of by their individual preferences.

Savvy lenders have already adopted alternatives that curate an express, white-glove approval process that incorporates customer loyalty. It’s more of a catalog of options available any time the consumer wants or needs something. Companies like Amazon.com and Delta Air Lines don’t work to predict consumer’s every desire; instead, they empower the customer to shop whenever and wherever, and proactively offer them options to pay or finance based on their data. Consumers join loyalty programs, earn points and build profiles with companies; they can then apply for credit online, over the phone, in store — wherever it makes the most sense for them. If they provide the correct information, they typically find out whether they are approved for credit in 60 seconds or less — usually no heavy paperwork to complete, just verbal confirmations and an e-signature. Retailers have given consumers a sense of ease and confidence that endears them to a brand and inspires loyalty.

Banks, on the other hand, seem convinced that customers are monolithic and must be instructed in how to shop for loans. But they have much more consumer data and more lending expertise than retailers; they could go even further than retailers when it comes to extending loan offers and services to customers in a variety of formats.

For instance, a bank should never have to deny a customer’s loan application. Instead, they should have enough data to empower the consumer with personalized access to loans across multiple product lines, which can go further than a pre-approved offer. These guaranteed offers can eliminate the application process and wait time. It gives the consumer insight into their personal buying power, and instant access to loans where and when they need them. The process doesn’t require a lengthy applications or branch visit, and removes the fear of rejection.

What Keeps Banks from Offering Customers a Faster Process?
It’s not a completely failed strategy that banks throw multiple offers at a consumer to see which one sticks. Some consumers will open the direct mail piece, complete the forms online and receive approval for the credit line or loan they have been offered. That’s considered a successful conversion.

Other consumers won’t be so lucky. The quickest way to upset a consumer who needs a line of credit or loan for personal reasons is to send them an offer that they were never qualified to receive. It’s cruel, unjust, wastes the consumer’s time and jeopardizes any loyalty the consumer has for your bank. Your bank already has readily available data to ensure that consumers receive qualified loans — there’s no reason to disappoint a customer or prospect.

Additionally, consumers increasingly reward personalization, and the sense that an institution understands them. A survey from Infogroup found that 44% of consumers are willing to switch to brands that better-personalize marketing communications. And a recent survey from NCR finds that 86% of people would prefer their bank have greater access to their personal data, compared to big tech companies like Amazon.com and Alphabet’s Google. This is up 8%, from 78%, in a similar study in 2018.

Personalizing messages and offers is something retail brands do well; consumers are open to and increasingly expect this from their banks. This is a bank’s best strategy to stay ahead of retailers’ loan products: showing customers how well you know them and deepening those relationships with fast, guaranteed offers.

The U.S. economy is expected to expand more rapidly later this year, through 2023, according to the Federal Reserve. This is a far cry from the doom and gloom projected late last year. Banks looking to capitalize on the growth will have to adopt a more on-demand strategy from their retail brethren. The loyalty from customers will be sweet.

Meeting the Needs of the New Financial Consumer: A Snapshot of Six Customer Segments


FD-WhitePaper1.jpgConsumers have a lot of options when choosing a bank or credit union. To be successful in today’s highly competitive environment, financial institutions must creatively and innovatively meet their customers’ needs and expectations. However, consumers are not a homogenous group—and attitudes, behaviors and expectations related to desired products, communication tools and service vary dramatically.

Even more challenging for financial institutions, consumers are rapidly evolving in their use of technology. As consumers increasingly use technology in their day-to-day lives, many expect the convenience of high-tech tools from their banks and other financial institutions. At the same time, a persistently weak economy, the widespread erosion of savings and investments, and the lending crisis have fundamentally altered many consumers’ mindsets. Especially among baby boomers—the backbone of financial industry growth over the last 25 years—confidence in financial institutions and a willingness to engage in carefree spending appear to be things of the past.

So, how can financial institutions best meet the needs of a diverse and evolving consumer base? To find out, First Data and Market Strategies International jointly conducted an online survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers. The “New Consumer and Financial Behavior” study looked at consumers’ attitudes, behaviors, desires and technology adoption. The results revealed six distinct consumer segments, providing financial institutions with valuable insights into opportunities and challenges associated with different types of customers.

By understanding the needs and expectations of different consumers, financial institutions can:

  • Determine which types of consumers are most valuable.
  • Target products, technology and tools at specific customer groups.
  • Improve customer retention through targeted customer loyalty programs.
  • Better service customers by meeting their needs and expectations for products, services, communication and technology.

This white paper is the first in a series of four based on results of the “New Consumer and Financial Behavior” study.

About the Study
The “New Consumer and Financial Behavior” study was conducted jointly by First Data and Market Strategies International, a market research consultancy. During March 2011, 2,000 banked consumers (who have at least one account at a financial institution) completed an online survey of their attitudes, behaviors and expectations pertaining to their primary financial institution, as well as their adoption of related technology. All respondents were individual or household financial decision-makers recruited from the uSamp opt-in online panel of U.S. adults. For purposes of analysis, respondents were grouped into six consumer segments using a sophisticated and robust segmentation approach that combines demographics, attitudes, behaviors and values to create comprehensive, instructive consumer profiles. A full description of the research methodology is included on p. 13.