Actionable Insights From APT's Financial Services Practice

Who Wants More Fees?

June 8th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Who Wants More Fees?)

It turns out the answer may not be “no one.”

Banks are still struggling to replace fee revenue, and customers have reacted negatively to new fees on existing products.  Just look at what happened when Bank of America tried adding a $5 debit card fee. 

The only major product that has increased fees has been checking accounts, and most banks now charge $7-$10 per month or more.  However, many customers are exempt from these fees because they have a direct deposit set up or they maintain a certain minimum balance.  Banks continue to raise requirements for free checking.  According to the Huffington Post, SunTrust recently raised the minimum required balance from $500 to $1,500. But a large percentage of customers still qualify for free checking, and checking account fees alone will not be enough to plug the revenue gap.

So if banks cannot add fees to existing products and cannot raise enough revenue from checking account fees, then what will they do?  (more…)

APT CEO Anthony Bruce Discusses Facebook on Bloomberg TV

May 17th, 2012 | Posted by Jatin Atre in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on APT CEO Anthony Bruce Discusses Facebook on Bloomberg TV)

In a recent interview on Bloomberg TV’s “Taking Stock with Pimm Fox,” APT CEO Anthony Bruce comments on how consumer-facing companies can measure the return on Facebook advertising dollars.

Succeeding with Service Fee Innovation

May 9th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Succeeding with Service Fee Innovation)

A recent article in Banking Strategies highlighted that the biggest challenge with fee revenue may be changing consumer preferences rather than increased regulation.   “The decrease in service fees started three years prior to any relevant regulatory mandate,” so the main driver of reduced revenue may that consumers have simply become less willing to pay for traditional products and services.

Banking Strategies argues the banks need to determine what services customers want and how much they will actually pay for those services.  The article calls for “an integrated study that brings together information on consumers’ preference, price sensitivity and the competitive landscape.”

It is expensive to invest in new products or services, and this type of research can help prioritize investments.  However, consumer studies are not sufficient by themselves. (more…)

Breaking Down New Strategies to Improve ROI

April 6th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Breaking Down New Strategies to Improve ROI)

This month, Banking Strategies released an editorial discussing some new challenges as banks focus more on multi-channel delivery. The strategy suggested is to create a profitable, scalable, and flexible multi-channel delivery strategy that caters to a new customer. This new customer requires a seamless experience across channels and is much more fee sensitive than we’ve seen in the past.

Adjusting the current delivery strategy is operationally difficult. Some channels need to be modified and others need to be introduced into the mix. Ideally to mitigate the risk involved in these major changes, banks should consider approaching these shifts as a set of small steps. As we’ve seen recently with Bank of America back-tracking on debit card fees, pulling a few small levers can cause dramatic disruptions. Banks should understand the customer response to each of these steps, so that the overall delivery strategy is built off only the small changes and additions that truly drive value.

As banks begin to use this approach, they will need to accurately determine what works, what doesn’t, and what will work if fine tuned. The robust way to do this is by piloting some of these new ideas in a small subset of branches. Trying out these strategies in a subset of the branch network, enables leaders to correctly understand the impact of these ideas, without making costly missteps in network-wide rollouts. Carefully isolating ideas that truly generate incremental profits is essential for many banks to survive today’s turbulent environment.

Try a New Model for Branch Remodeling, APT Featured in American Banker

April 4th, 2012 | Posted by Jatin Atre in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Try a New Model for Branch Remodeling, APT Featured in American Banker)

A byline written by APT VP Will Weidman was recently featured in American Banker. Will explains that many banks are not currently employing three easy strategies to realize significant returns on remodel investmentClick here to read more.

BofA Takes it Slow and Tests New Fees

March 9th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on BofA Takes it Slow and Tests New Fees)

Last week, the Wall Street Journal shared that Bank of America is considering changes to its checking account fees.  The fees being considered are steep and range from $9 to $25 a month, though customers could avoid fees through actions like maintaining a minimum balance or adding a mortgage.

In this latest step, Bank of America announced that it will pilot these programs in Arizona, Georgia, and Massachusetts.   In recent years, many banks have quickly rolled out new programs that ended up not working and hurting performance.  For example, Bank of America tried introducing $5 monthly debit card fees but experienced significant backlash and had to roll the fees back. 

We are glad to see BofA testing before a broad rollout this time around.  This approach will significantly reduce losses from programs that do not work.  However, there is more opportunity to understand how to market these types of initiatives. (more…)

Overdraft Limits: Learn from Credit Cards

March 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Overdraft Limits: Learn from Credit Cards)

Banking Strategies featured an article recently describing how banks need to move away from fixed overdraft limits and develop a more nuanced approach.  Many are still using the same overdraft limit for all customers.  As a result, the limit is too high for some customers making them more likely to default while the limit is too low to properly serve other customers.

Smart credit card providers have become adept at finding the right limit for each type of customer.   They test different limits with thousands of prospective customers and compare against random control offers.  By measuring the impact of different limits and segmenting the result by criteria like credit scores, they can determine the right limit for each type of customer to maximize revenue and minimize default.

Finding the right overdraft limit is a tougher problem.  Banks do not have the luxury of sending offers to tens of thousands of random prospects, and there is risk of losing customers by not getting the limit right.  Banks also have a wealth of information about each customer, and it is challenging to know what is important in setting overdraft limits.  Is prior balance fluctuation the most important indicator or do factors like tenure or demographics matter more?

To find the optimal dynamic overdraft strategy, banks need to find a way to try different approaches with a limited number of customers.  It will be important to both measure the impact of each strategy and to also identify which factors matter most in setting the overdraft limit for a customer.  With overdraft revenue squeezed by regulation, banks need to be innovative and rigorous in their approach to maximize revenue and minimize default.

B of A Takes On Groupon

February 8th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on B of A Takes On Groupon)

The Washington Post recently wrote an article featuring a partnership between Bank of America and tech firm Cardlytics that brings forward a game changing idea. The new program will use past debit and credit card transaction data to offer B of A customers targeted discounts at relevant retailers.  We have highlighted in the past that B of A needed to improve its approach to debit cards; this is a great innovation and a big step in the right direction.

Most retailers have a loyalty program or something similar to strengthen and grow the relationship with existing customers.  Many offer cut-rate promotions made available to the general public, with the “deal of the day” being a recent extreme example.  With these promotions, retailers offer huge discounts to anyone who signs up, yet a large portion of redeemers are consumers that will take advantage of the offer and never shop again.

By leveraging past purchasing information, B of A is providing something much more compelling.  For example, an offer could be targeted just to consumers currently shopping with a competitor.   By targeting those with a willingness to spend in the category, this is more powerful for merchants and will presumably make the offers more relevant for consumers.

There are several important factors to make this a success.  (more…)

Testing New Ideas to Compete with Wal-Mart

January 17th, 2012 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on Testing New Ideas to Compete with Wal-Mart)

Wal-Mart has made big waves with its pre-paid debit card.  With over 4,000 locations that have a huge amount of traffic, any effort by Wal-Mart to offer financial products is instantly a serious threat to banks.  The $3 monthly fee for their debit card is highly competitive at a time when checking account fees have been rapidly increasing.  As a result, Wal-Mart has been stealing clients from traditional banks.

A recent American Banker article highlights how some credit unions have started to “embrace this trend by modifying their ATMs to sell fee-free stored-value cards.”  More banks should test these types of strategies to adapt to the rapidly evolving environment and compete against new threats like Wal-Mart.

This particular strategy may not be the silver bullet to win back or retain customers. (more…)

ATM Network Expansion

December 20th, 2011 | Posted by Will Weidman in Uncategorized - (Comments Off on ATM Network Expansion)

JP Morgan Chase recently announced it will add 800 new ATMs in California and four other Western states. Many other banks have also been making investments to expand the ATM network. Investing in ATM expansion is a good idea in our current economic environment if done right and has two main potential benefits.

First, it could reduce the need for customers to transact in the branch. The branch is by far the most expensive channel of service, so this could help banks reduce costs. But to actually realize these cost savings, banks need to understand the impact to the branch on metrics like the total number of teller transactions and transactions by time of day. This could allow banks to reduce teller staffing or cut back on hours while still meeting customer needs. Without understanding the impact on the existing network, banks will simply be adding in more cost.

Second, having a more convenient network could bring in new customers or help retain existing customers. Major ATM network expansion should be accompanied by marketing campaigns to make current and potential customers aware of the bank’s investment. Ideally, banks would experiment with different marketing approaches (e.g. radio, local marketing, or social media) to find what is most effective.

Banks should also measure the impact on new account generation and retention for branches near the new ATMs and identify whether there are particular cases where the new ATMs are most effective to inform future investments. Do they have more of an impact when placed close to the branch or further away? Do demographics or competitive factors influence the effectiveness of the ATMs?

Investing in ATMs can be a smart idea as banks try to find the right service model and make the most of less expensive channels. However, just adding ATMs is not enough by itself and can simply be one more additional cost. To make ATM expansion successful, banks need to market the new ATMs, locate them in the right places, and identify opportunities for offsetting cost reductions in the branch.