A Picture Worth 1,000 Words

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Bill Greene / The Boston Globe

Before posting my regular column to About That Ratio, a Big congratulations to the Boston RedSox.  As a lifelong fan, this team personifies the “Team > Me” concept.  Beating the St. Louis Cardinals in six games… wow, what a feat.  Doing it in front of the Fenway faithful.  Priceless.

Bank Blogs and the Boston RedSox

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Hm, I wonder which will trend higher this evening… bank blogs or the Boston RedSox.  I guess we’re about to find out.

A few weeks ago, The Financial Brand penned a piece called “Top 20 Best Blogs for Financial Marketers.” As they explained: “(we follow) approximately 100 active blogs in the banking space. But in the last six years, more than that have died. That’s right, there are more dead blogs in the bank and credit union marketing world than live ones (108, to be exact). That’s why The Financial Brand thinks it is important to recognize the best of those that are still going.”

I’m just getting through their list of twenty as I prepare for game four of my favorite team’s playoff game.  Quite a few good ones cited by in this list; please allow me share the top nine — in honor of the greatest RedSox of all time, the splendid splinter, Ted Williams.  (*To be clear, 100% credit to the Financial Brand for the summaries on each of the following.)

1. Snarketing 2.0

Primary Author(s): Ron Shevlin, Senior Analyst with Aité Group

Ron has been blogging for a long time now, and his content is consistently some of the most original, insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking material in the financial industry. Ron frequently discusses issues related to data, research and analytics (particularly in the banking space), and even when he does talk about non-financial issues he almost always puts it into a context that bank and credit union marketers will appreciate.

2. ACTON Financial Marketing Insights

Primary Author(s): Steve Topper, Joe Swatek

This blog is about as practical and tactical as a financial marketer will ever find. Steve regularly critiques ads, offers and direct mail pieces from both banks and credit unions, while Joe offers more general advice. It’s a near daily dose of clinical analysis, never off-topic, rarely (if ever) self-promotional, and maintains a constant focus on helping financial marketers sharpen their design and copywriting skills.

3. Bank Marketing Strategy

Primary Author(s): Jim Marous, SVP, Corporate Development at New Control

Of all the banking blogs out there, Jim’s is most similar to The Financial Brand. Jim regularly discusses the design of retail banking products/services, pricing, marketing and the customer experience. Jim’s posts will also frequently gravitate towards new/emerging technologies and channel integration, with a slant towards mobile. Some financial marketers will struggle putting the insights in some of these posts to use, but they will always find the material interesting and engaging.

4. Visible Banking

Primary Author(s): Christophe Langlois

If the subject of social media in the financial industry interests you, then this is the best one out there. There are few people who can match Christophe’s intellect, experience and passion for social channels in finance. He’s also extremely gracious and polite, even when he offers criticism — you can tell he’s a pleasant and affable Frenchman. Christophe’s blog posts are frequently built around case studies. He could be looking at the Twitter activity of a major European insurer one day, then the Facebook page from a U.S. bank the next. You never know exactly what he’ll be covering next, but you can always count on reading a fair analysis of social initiatives from financial institutions only.

5. The Gallup Blog

Primary Author(s): Assorted

This is a special blog Gallup has set up specifically for the financial industry. While they don’t publish as frequently as other blogs, they quality of content and caliber of writing are both top-notch. Their focus tends to skew towards the strategic side, but usually their articles will have relevancy to financial marketers at all levels — from CMOs down to Marketing Managers. And they support all their perspectives, opinions and recommendations with data, as you’d expect from a research firm as prestigious as Gallup.

6. The Raddon Report

Primary Author(s): Louie Lambrou, Pat Bator, et al

The research team at Raddon Financial Group has been pumping out posts that both bank and credit unions marketers would find relevant for at least 4-5 years now. Nearly every post they publish (except for the password-protected ones) offer something a financial marketing executive will find useful. You’ll always find data and charts in articles like “The Top Five Reasons Consumers Close a Checking Account,” ” How Consumers Currently Use Home Equity Lines of Credit” and “Demand for New and Used Auto Loans.” What kind of marketing exec in the retail banking space isn’t interested in that kind of information?

7. Datamonitor Financial

Primary Author(s): Assorted

This is another strong blog from a research firm concentrating on the financial industry. And if there’s one thing bank and credit union marketers can’t get enough of, it’s insight supported by data. Datamonitor’s analysts pay close attention to the major shifts shaping financial services today. There posts are almost always the same length (around 250 words), but they manage to pack a gem or two into their compact format. Some readers might not relate to all the topics, nor find the international coverage particularly useful, but it’s still a blog many financial marketers should consider adding to their reading list.

8. Netbanker

Primary Author(s): Jim Bruene

Long before Jim Bruene founded the Finovate series of conferences, he was publishing fantastic reviews about new developments in the fintech world, skewing heavily towards online — and now mobile — innovations. In fact, he’s been blogging since 1996 — seventeeeeeen years, just about as old as the internet itself. In “blog years,” that would make Netbanker like 150 years old. Financial marketers might not find relevancy in everything Jim publishes, but the truth is: When a guy’s been doing what he’s doing as long as Jim has, you should listen to what he has to say. Everything is moving to digital channels, and financial marketers that want to stay abreast of the latest developments will want to read Netbanker.

9. Financial Services Club Blog

Primary Author(s): Chris Skinner

Chris Skinner is what you could call a “financial philosopher.” He doesn’t write blog posts so much as he publishes essays and treatises. He will frequently wax about some fairly heady subjects like what banking might look like 100 years from now. As engrossing as these discussions can be, it isn’t the kind of stuff many lower-level marketing managers will likely find very applicable in their day jobs. It’s really suited best for CMOs, COOs, CEOs and bank directors.

#WinToday

Standing Out on a Friday

Fenway Park's red seatComing off of last week’s Growth Conference, I found myself planning for next year’s program. As we recognized Customers Bank, State Bank & Trust and Cole Taylor Bank for “winning” our annual Growth rankings, I spent some extra time looking at other banks that performed exceptionally well this past year. So today’s Friday-follow inspired post shares a few thoughts and conversations I’ve had about three very successful banks.

(1) While easy to frame the dynamics of our industry in terms of asset size, competing for business today is more of a “smart vs. not-so-smart” story than a “big vs. small.” During one of my favorite sessions last week — David AND Goliath — Peter Benoist, the president and CEO of St. Louis-based Enterprise Financial Services Corp, reminded his peers that as more banks put their liquidity to work, fierce competition puts pressures on rates and elevates risk. My biggest takeaway from his presentation: we all talk about scale and net interest margins… but it’s clear that you need growth today regardless of who you are. It is growth for the sake of existence.

(2) During the afore mentioned presentation, the participants all agreed that you cannot compete with BofA on price. Consequently, the ability to introduce new products (e.g. increasing deposit platforms) is key for many banks today. So from diversification to differentiation, let me turn my attention to San Francisco-based First Republic. Their story is a fascinating one. While not with us in New Orleans, I heard a lot about them yesterday while I was in NYC visiting with KBW. Subsequently, our editor wrote me with some background: Jim Herbert founded the bank in 1985, sold it to Merrill in 2007 for 360% of book, took it private through a management-led buyout in July 2010 after Merrill was acquired by Bank of America, then took it public again in December through an IPO. First Republic is a great bank: it finished 3rd out of 80+ in the $5-$50 billion category in Bank Director magazine’s 2012 performance rankings. But not only is it solely focused on organic growth, it’s also focused solely on private banking.

(3) Finally, as we move our attention from growth to risk in advance of our annual Bank Audit Committee conference, I started to think about the challenges facing banks of all sizes. Admittedly, I started with Fifth Third as their Vice Chairman & CEO will be joining us in Chicago as our keynote speaker. Yes, I am very interested to hear his perspectives on the future of banking. Quite a few small bank deals have recently been announced, and I have to believe many sales came together thanks to escalating compliance costs and seemingly endless regulation. For larger institutions like Fifth Third, it will be interesting to see what transpires over the next few years and where he thinks the market is moving for banks of all sizes. If you’re interested, take a look at our plans for this year’s event.

Aloha Friday!

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About today’s picture:

I’m a die-hard Boston RedSox fan, and for anyone whose been early to, or stayed late at, Fenway Park, you’ve probably seen one red seat in the right field bleachers (Section 42, Row 37, Seat 21). Did you know it signifies the longest home run ever hit at Fenway, one struck by the great Ted Williams on June 9, 1946? While a nice chance for me to share my love for the RedSox, I thought the visual made a lot of sense when writing about standing out from the crowd… -AD