Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ten Bank Marketer Resolutions for 2011

It is the dawning of a new year in banking with many of the same challenges that we saw in 2010. Our industry continues to be viewed in a less than positive light from both the consumer and small business marketplace. 

The need for new customer growth and share of wallet expansion underpins the need for new sources of non-interest fee income at a time when regulations are dramatically reducing many traditional sources of revenue. In addition, the expansion of transaction and communication channels are changing the ways we interact with customers. 

These challenges are combined with an historically low interest rate environment and a credit environment where there is a massive amount of money to lend at a time when borrowing is more difficult and less desirable for many.

According to a national survey, the majority of personal resolutions in 2011 will revolve around saving money, losing weight, changing a bad habit and being closer to loved ones. Achieving any of these goals will take commitment, focus and changes in behavior. The same can be said for the resolutions I have developed from traveling the country over the past few months and being involved in a number of banks' annual planning efforts.

Here are areas where bank marketers believe they should focus in 2011:

1. Replace Lost Fee Income
Nothing has impacted banking over the past 12-18 months or will impact banking in 2011 more than the loss of fee income caused by the combination of the Card Act, Reg. E, and the upcoming changes from the Durbin Amendment. Almost all other resolutions for the upcoming year are built to address this need. The role of bank marketers in achieving fee income replacement goals will include checking product restructuring and new fee-based product development, increasing card transactions, improving customer engagement and better resource allocation for results.

2. Improve the Customer Experience
Another overarching resolution similar to the personal resolution of being closer to loved ones, bank marketers need to view all of their initiatives using the lens of understanding customer's needs, looking out for customers and rewarding their relationship. In an environment of heightened scrutiny of how we are treating customers, it will be more important than ever to market to consumers and small businesses on a more personalized basis from the day they open their first account and to build a reward structure that reinforces our commitment to relationship retention and growth.

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3. Focus on Incremental New Customer Growth
A new balance between quantity and quality of new accounts needs to be struck. With the elimination of Free Checking occurring at most banks I visit, new acquisition models need to be developed that take into account the new checking account continuum. Instead of generating as many accounts as possible, banks will be focusing on the potential value of relationships including the likelihood of engagement and retention. A premium will be paid for those households that will immediately contribute to the bottom line.

4. Gather Email Addresses
When presenting at the BAI Retail Delivery Conference this Fall, it amazed me that there were more banks that collected cell phone numbers than collected email addresses at the new account desk. I suppose this phenomenon may be caused by the combination of more households using a cell phone as opposed to a land line for home communication and the relative ease of having a bank's IT team build another phone field into the new account process as opposed to an email field. But with other communication channel cost increasing and the improved results achieved when email is combined with more traditional channels, the importance of collecting (and using) email addresses has never been more important. Some banks are even considering stand alone marketing initiatives to address this need in 2011.

5. Reduce Customer Attrition
At a time when the cost of acquiring a new customer exceeds $200 and the annual income potential from a new relationship is at least as high, banks can ill afford to accept first year attrition rates of 30-40%. Multichannel onboarding programs that encourage alternative channel use, enhanced services (such as online bill pay, automatic savings, privacy products, etc.) and increased transactions need to be leveraged to stop the massive outflow of accounts that occur early in the customer's lifecycle. Improved tracking of relationship diminishment and win-back programs will also be used to achieve this resolution.

6. Expand Share of Wallet Through Lifestage Marketing
To compensate for the increased difficulty of generating high value relationships, there needs to be a much greater focus on organic growth, including behavior based cross-selling and lifestage marketing. While the movement from product centricity to being customer-centric has been discussed for decades, the removal of product silos is no longer an option for those banks who are seeking optimal resource allocation. More banks than ever are investing in improved models and strategies for relationship growth which will improve both engagement levels and retention in the long term. New service introductions such as privacy protection and enhanced personal financial management (PFM) tools will further allow for relationship deepening in 2011.

7. Don't Confuse Channel Economy with Channel Efficiency
No communication channel is 'free'. While email may seem like a far less costly channel to use for reaching customers, the lack of clear targeting and message development may prove costly as customers opt-out of future communications or simply ignore email messages. In my experience within the banking industry, email has not proven to be as good of a replacement for channels like direct mail as it has been a good supplement for improved results. In 2011, banks will develop much better processes for measuring the incremental impact of alternative channel communication and will continue to expand communication channels to include mobile, ATMs, social media, etc.

8. Leverage Social Media Personally and Professionally
Social media channels definitely can be beneficial or a distraction. Not many of us have time for reading about someone else's dinner plans or personal political opinions on Twitter, yet Twitter can be a great source of timely financial industry or marketing insight and competitive research delivered in a very compact format to the desktop for consumption at a time and place desired. Banks have also realized that social channels need to be used differently in financial services than with retail or other industry verticals. As opposed to trying to find 'friends' of our brands, social media has been used most effectively for customer service (Twitter) and for the promotion of broad based public relations initiatives (Chase's very popular Community Giving Campaign). The coming year will be a year of expanded testing of these new channels for the banking industry. Unlike the past, however, investment in these channels will need to generate a tangible ROI.

9. Deliver On The Mobile Banking Promise
The opportunity to be a 'first mover' in the mobile banking marketplace is quickly closing as more and more financial organizations are introducing products that work on multiple platforms. Bank of America has found that their market leading mobile banking customer base has significantly less attrition than a customer without a mobile banking application. USAA has continued to push the envelope on ways to use the mobile phone for financial convenience including remote deposit capture, receiving auto insurance quotes, requesting proof of insurance cards, etc. While building a concrete business case for mobile banking may be challenging, the marketplace will eventually demand this channel for P2P payments, geolocational applications and even low cost banking alternatives. Next year will also see the first wave of iPad and Android tablet applications that go beyond minor adjustments to current phone applications and leverage the enhanced capabilities of the popular tablet hardware.

10. Reconfigure The Branch Bank Model
The most challenging resolution for 2011 may be the testing and development of new branch banking models in light of the shift in channel use by the consumer. As branches are increasingly used primarily for account openings and small business servicing, the physical and operational configuration of branch networks will need to be evaluated. But what will be the best model for the future? While Citibank introduced a refined branch model late last year similar to an Apple Store, Huntington Bank went in an opposite direction by expanding their branch network and increasing hours and days of operation. With such a significant investment in real estate and human resources to support branch operations, each bank will be testing a variety of options in the next few years with multiple configurations most likely winning based on specific market dynamics.
I am sure there are several more important resolutions that can be added to my list, but there are already more than many of us can handle. This will definitely challenge the ability to focus and to achieve meaningful results especially in an environment of continuous change. Similar to personal resolutions, however, we all need to start as soon as possible and focus our attention on those resolutions that have the greatest impact and opportunity for success.

Let me hear where you will be focusing your efforts in 2011.


  1. Nice thoughtful post Jim. A common theme I see in many of your thoughts is using digital media to connect with customers. After a holiday shopping season dominated by electronic devices, it's easy to see that we are living in a digital world. Financial and retail industry players are definitely making moves to find their audiences within this space.

  2. What I have seen is that while digital communications can enhance the response rate of programs promoted, bankers must be careful not to see digital channels as a 'low cost' replacement for direct mail, phone or face to face communication. A future post is going to discuss the risk of moving too much communication to digital channels. The overflowing postal mail box has definitely been replaced by the overwhelming email inbox. Too much junk . . . too little targeting.

  3. Jim, I agree with you that these are undoubtedly what you are hearing from bankers. But, I am equally certain that these strategies will produce far less success than expected until these bankers understand the need to reverse points 1 and 2. IMHO, the lingering crisis of confidence and trust epitomized in the TV commercials for Ally Bank makes it incumbent upon bankers -- particularly those in local institutions -- to demonstrate that they value depositors as people first, and fee-generators second.

  4. Completely I divide your point of view. Really, in present conditions for banks more important increase in a share of commission incomes, accent at fastening of long partner relations with private clients and certainly transition to more advanced platforms rendering qualitative service and possibilities to the clients. But all this time, I think that the boom will be, but not earlier than 3 quarters 2011.

  5. Jim--I totally agree that digital communications are simply another set of channels that can be leveraged...and they should be leveraged in a multi-channel way to support one another. Just because you collect an email in the branch (and you should, don't get me wrong!) doesn't mean that the customer wants his bank to communicate through email. In today's world the customer is in charge of the communications channel--the bank needs to adapt to those preferences.

  6. George - Absolutely!! First, banks need to demonstrate that they are interested in their depositors. Then they need to find out all the ways they can communicate with those depositors. Then they need to use the appropriate channel for different types of communications. For instance, the mobile channel should be used for time-sensitive communications about topics in the best interest of depositors -- NOT to sell products.