Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Revenue Replacement in a New Regulatory Environment

In my travels over the past 18-24 months, a single unifying theme seems to be of primary importance for all of the banks I visit . . . the need to find new sources of revenue to help offset the impact of environmental, competitive and regulatory changes that have occurred in our industry. With the potential of the Durbin Interchange Amendment hanging over our heads, lost overdraft fees from Reg E in our rear view mirror, the ability to pay interest on business deposits and the implications of the Card Act just 18 months ago, bank earnings are being squeezed from all directions.

According to Novantas, the regulatory changes alone have slashed retail banking revenues by more than $50 billion per year compared to pre-crisis levels. To make this number even more staggering, Novantas estimates that the equivalent cost savings needed to offset these lost revenues would entail closing 50,000 branches or would require a 1500% increase in maintenance fees. Neither of these options are feasible.

As banks look forward, while it will definitely be important to control costs across the organization, the immediate challenge will be to focus on ways to generate revenues that are significant and sustainable over time. To do so, banks should analyze opportunities across the entire customer lifecycle including product innovation, repricing, new engagement and cross-sell strategies, channel migration, improved marketing and enhanced measurement of results.

Here are the top ten revenue replacement strategies I believe banks should focus on in today's environment. Some are rather rudimentary, while others may entail a paradigm shift within the organization in order to be implemented. Still others may not be consistent with your bank's brand or position in the marketplace. These strategies were the foundation of a presentation done at the 2011 Louisiana Bankers Association Annual Convention in New Orleans.
  • Move Beyond Free Checking: With the implementation of Reg E and the potential impact of the Durbin Amendment, virtually every bank in the country is reviewing their checking product offerings to determine how they can positively impact earnings without negatively impacting their customer franchise. Much of this customer portfolio and product review is long overdue. The reliance on a 'free' lead product where penalty fees from the lowest balance accounts fund the majority of the portfolio is not sustainable. While some banks are building a much more robust segmentation strategy, where the relationship value will be more in line with the cost to the customer, other institutions are looking to a menu based approach, where components of the account (debit card, rewards program, ATM transactions, security services) are priced independently. Integral with this repricing strategy is the need for effective communication of changes and the opportunity to place customers in the best product set for their lifestage and transaction behavior. I cover this in a previous blog post entitled, Minimizing the Impact of Unintended Consequences.
  • Focus on Quality Customer Growth: With the cost of new customer acquisition increasing and the quality of many new customers no longer meeting expectations, many banks are focusing their efforts on quality as opposed to quantity of customer acquired. Models are being developed that are based on incremental lift, potential for engagement, balance growth (using tools such as IXI wealth indicators) and likelihood for cross-sell and retention. In addition, many banks are fine-tuning their acquisition strategies to focus on branch trade area, neighborhood level direct communication as well as time tested programs like new mover acquisition. Many of these acquisition programs are at the carrier route level, taking advantage of postal economies. Finally, some organizations have had tremendous success leveraging their web sites, search engines and even social media to drive quality new account growth.
  • Improve Customer Engagement: According to a study from Aite Group entitled, Measuring Customer Engagement: Making the Metric Matter, customers who have a higher level of engagement (more money movement, more transactions, online bill pay, direct deposit, more inquiries) are more likely to open another account with their bank in the next 12-24 months (27% vs. 5% for low engagement households), are more likely to recommend their bank to a friend (41% vs. 23%), and have a much more positive view of their financial institution. In addition, a more engaged household is significantly more profitable as shown by numerous research studies and covered in my blog post, A Business Case for Onboarding, where I illustrate the many financial benefits to a robust, multi-channel customer communication process in the first 90 days of the relationship.

Onboarding touchpoint roadmap example

  • Restructure Rewards Program: In the past, the majority of rewards programs were funded primarily with interchange income. With the potential for this revenue stream to be negatively impacted by the Durbin Amendment, the structure and underlying strategy for bank rewards programs need to be evaluated. Options that banks are considering include the complete removal of a rewards component from some or all classes of accounts, an adjustment in the value of the reward program currency and even the potential for an annual fee associated with the program. Another strategy is to move the funding of the rewards program from the bank to the retailer with a merchant-based rewards program partnership. Leading providers in this space include Cardlytics, BillShrink, Segmint and Bling Nation as well as home grown options that connect the merchant to the customer. The benefits of a merchant-funded reward program are many, with the primary advantage being the offering of much more targeted rewards to a finite audience of the bank based on online transactions. For more insight into merchant-based rewards, visit my blog post on the subject. 
  • Expand Share of Wallet Initiatives: In the BAI Banking Strategies article written by Sherief Meleis from Novantas entitled, Relationship Expansion: Sharpening the Focus, he points out that a bank would only need to increase the amount of business done by each customer by 15% in order to offset the $50 billion revenue shortfall facing our industry. While definitely not a slam dunk by any means, the concept of expanding share of wallet with current customers is far less daunting than trying to increase fees to compensate for the impact of legislation over the past 24 months. According to Novantas, approximately one quarter of deposits ($900 billion) as well as one half of loans ($4 trillion) and half of investments ($3.7 trillion) remain unconsolidated with primary financial institutions. Their research also indicates that as much as two thirds of these relationships are held by customers who are attitudinally willing to consolidate. The key for banks implementing this strategy will be to avoid boiling the ocean or overwhelming the customer with blanket communications. Instead, it is imperative to reach the right customer, at the right time, with the right message using the channel they prefer. A good discussion of some easy to implement cross-sell strategies is available on my blog post from April 15, 2011.
  • Shift Debit/Credit/Prepaid Emphasis: While the Durbin Amendment may change the financial benefits of the debit card, it definitely doesn't change the importance of debit as an engagement and payment device. Some banks may be impacting the equilibrium of this payment device by adding annual fees, transaction fees and spending thresholds to the product. It is yet to be seen if these charges will stick or if they have a negative impact on the customer experience. Alternatively, banks can continue to encourage usage of the debit card while expanding their marketing efforts to include the potentially more profitable credit and prepaid debit cards. Serving alternative ends of the demographic spectrum, the appeal of credit cards is usually for people that want to leverage the grace period to their advantage. The appeal of the prepaid debit card is for people that want the convenience of a debit/ATM card without the fees of a checking account. The growth of the prepaid debit market has been significant in both the lower and mid demographic segments as people get frustrated with banking fees or have been closed out of the traditional banking system.
  • Optimize Communication Channels: As the number of marketing messages received by each consumer has skyrocketed exponentially over the past decade, the control of consumption of these messages has definitely shifted from the marketer to the consumer. As economic growth has slowed and budget constraints at banks have impacted the amount of funding we have for marketing initiatives, there is a need to leverage less expensive, but potentially more expansive channels such as email, social media and even formal word of mouth strategies. Instead of replacing traditional media with electronic channels, however, banks need to manage a blend of channels that will yield the best results. For most initiatives, it is not an either/or proposition, but a media mix that needs to be optimized for each customer segment and marketing objective. This is definitely an area where a test and learn mindset is needed and where improved analytics are needed to determine channel attribution.
  • Deliver on the Mobile Banking Promise: According to recent comScore research, 29.8 million Americans accessed financial services accounts (bank, credit card, or brokerage) via their mobile device in Q4 2010, an increase of 54 percent from Q4 2009. The report also found that preference for online access and security concerns topped the list of reasons why consumers have not yet used mobile banking. With such a skyrocketing growth and with the vast majority of banks now offering mobile banking, strategies need to be set forth that will ensure that mobile banking customers become engaged with their mobile banking provider as opposed to using the channel as a utility similar to an ATM. Studies show that mobile banking can effectively reduce costs related to call center usage and increase retention if the channel is enhanced with Personal Financial Management (PFM) applications and if the channel becomes more interactive and intuitive (a delivery device for rewards). The development of mobile banking strategies also need to include strategies for iPad applications that expand the mobile banking horizon far beyond what can be done on a smart phone.
  • Reconfigure the Branch Model: As the use of electronic channels continues to increase, the functionality of the traditional bricks and mortar branch changes as well. Over the past several months, several innovative branch models have been tested including the Citi version of an Apple store as covered on The Financial Brand website. Going a different direction, but still focusing on the branch, Huntington Bank has recently purchased the rights to dozens of supermarket branches, extended hours to include evenings and Sundays and is in the midst of a $70 million branch refresh in which it will make over all of its 608 branches with new digital signage and e-merchandising. A third strategy is to significantly downsize the retail space, recognizing that the opening of accounts, responding to inquiries and handling transactions can be done using a much smaller footprint. The 'right' answer is not clear yet, and may reflect the bank's brand promise more than being strictly a cost or revenue decision. (Discussion on making the ATM channel more productive can be found on my November post)
  • Increase Focus on Metrics That Matter: As opposed to being a cost center, marketing is increasingly being looked upon to generate revenue and to be able to show the impact of their programs. Measurements such as marketing ROI, incremental revenue lift, lifetime value and internal rate of return are all metrics that matter to the CEO and CFO and need to be built into all revenue strategies. In addition, where the sales cycle is longer, marketing is now expected to develop Demand Generation programs as opposed to simply lead generation initiatives, nurturing leads much farther in the sales funnel with an eye towards the final sale. I covered the new sales funnel in my blog post on February 26.
I am sure I have missed revenue opportunities that banks are pursuing to replace revenue lost due to recent changes in the marketplace. Can you share some of your ideas on my blog for others to react to?

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