American Banker today had an article detailing the recent trend of low cost deposit growth experienced by the major banks in the fourth quarter of 2009. According to KBW Inc.'s Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, the top 40 banks experienced a deposit growth rate of 8% in the quarter, with only a couple large banks intentionally allowing higher-cost deposits inherited during acquisitions to run off during the year.
Even though interest rates remain extremely low, consumers were still saving at a rate of 4.7% as a percentage of disposable income in November, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis primarily due to uncertainties in the marketplace and due to the view of banks being the safe harbor for funds accumulated during a time of reduced spending.
While bank revenues will not return to high levels until consumers begin to borrow again, productive deposit gathering should help banks lessen the impact of the Obama administration's proposed "financial crisis responsibility fee," which would subtract government-insured deposits from the covered liabilities on which the 15 basis-point tax would be based.
There is an opportunity and risk associated with this deposit growth however. For banks that have well developed onboarding and cross-sell programs in place, this deposit growth and the resultant increase in new accounts provides a tremendous foundation for developing long term relationships with an enhanced ROI. In addition, with households continually evaluating where to place their funds, firms with aggressive aquisition programs will benefit the most.
Conversely, those organizations who become complacent during this time of deposit growth could risk seeing the deposit growth over the past 15 months evaporate, moving either to other banking organizations or eventually to the equity markets as the economy grows stronger. I am recommending that my clients continue to focus on deposit acquisition programs and reach out to those new households they have recently acquired or households who have expanded their relationship and further secure the relationship through insight gathering, engagement programs and improved retention processes.
Eventually, it is expected that consumers will become more confident and will seek additional investment and savings options. When this occurs, it will be those organizations with the best customer experience and strongest relationships that will lose the least.