Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bank of America Should Become a Credit Union

I have decided that the best course of action for Bank of America may be to become a credit union. Despite the regulatory hurdles and government scrutiny that the bank would need to deal with, it may be an easier course of action than trying to catch a break with our industry's trade press, the general media and definitely those using social media to respond to every move the bank makes.

For instance, American Banker published a story last week from Ed Roberts entitled, Bank Transfer Day Spurs Big Membership Growth at CUs. The story cited that the credit union industry had near record growth in the second half of 2011 . . . 'after the ill-fated September announcement by Bank of America of monthly debit fees prompted Bank Transfer Day'. This growth of 850,000 members in the final six months of the year contributed to an annual growth for the credit union industry of almost 1.3 million new accounts, reported the NCUA.

According to my calculations, a growth of 850,000 new members for the second half of 2011 represents an average of fewer than one incremental new account per credit union (not per branch) a day. The statistics are roughly the same when you look at the annual growth rate as well. Assuming that the number of new members represented incremental growth, the 1.3 million new members reflect only a 1.4% growth over 2010 according to the 2010 Government Census. 

How does this become newsworthy? In almost all U.S. major newspapers, a version of this article ran including a reference to both Bank Transfer Day and Bank of America. The Los Angeles Times ran a headline, Banks' Fees Pay Off - For Credit Unions while Forbes ran an even more sensationalized headline, Credit Unions Membership Soars as Customers Spurn Big Banks. Does any other industry get as much press for close to flat line growth? Shouldn't this be more realistically considered business as usual? 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Banks Need to Collect More Insights to Communicate Effectively

By Bob Williams, Director of Marketing Technologies at Harland Clarke and author of the blog, The Merchant Stand.
A friend and colleague Jim Marous shared an article from American Banker on Googe+ entitled Banks Underuse Mobile for Communication. The article discusses challenges that financial institutions have with communicating with their customers through mobile devices. While mobile device applications and mobile optimized sites are becoming more common, and expected by account holders, financial institutions are not using the mobile channel for proactive communication. Kael Kelly, senior director at Varolii is quoted in the article “Banks don’t have the data that they need. A lot of the phone number data doesn’t easily distinguish between a mobile number and a land-line.”
So the idea that banks don’t know what data they have made me think about some other data that Jim Marous shared about financial institutions and customer data. Like this tweet about banks not having email addresses for their account holders.
The challenge I see is missing or unintelligible customer profile data. That problem expands beyond the boundary of the financial services industry. It’s really a common need for any type of business. Another challenge is the misuse (or lack of use) of the data that an organization has. Another conversation with Jim last week revealed that he noticed his bank mention that online banking was 'down' using Twitter. While admirable that they used a more modern social media tool for this notification, there probably aren't many people following Twitter the way Jim does. Making matters worse, they didn't use either his email address (which is tied to his online banking account) or SMS (the bank has his cell phone) to make this notification. In other words, the bank had the tools, but didn't use what was at their disposal.