Early Takeaways from Bank Director’s Growing the Bank Conference

With continuous pressure on bankers to grow earnings, developing clear strategies, repeatable practices and incorporating exceptional user-experience technologies has to be high on almost every executives to-do list.

How do you bank?

By taking a pause before answering this question, you will appreciate how, regardless of age, we all expect greater pricing transparency, ease of use and always-on access to personal information as part of an integrated banking experience.  The challenge for most bankers?  What many consider state-of-the-art today — in terms of features and services — quickly becomes part of the norm that will be expected and insisted upon in the coming years.

At this morning’s Growing the Bank Conference, I jotted down a few thoughts that builds on this “how do you bank” query.

  • When it comes to the classic build or buy technology decision, partnerships are now de rigueur — with 87% of our 240+ person audience indicating they see technology as presenting opportunities to banks (and not threats).
  • Historically, banks organize themselves along a line of products; however, many have suggested re-orienting operations around customer needs and expectations.
  • To retain deposits, banks should ramp up their customer relationship programs, increase cross-selling efforts and invest in product lines that attract stable deposits.

While we haven’t gotten deep into the payments space (yet), I do encourage bank executives to think about the dramatic growth in that area of banking  — which continues to transform how efficiently banks connect with their customers.  Likewise, I wasn’t kidding when I suggested attendees spend some time reading the OCC’s “Supporting Responsible Innovation” white paper.

Finally, a “did-you-know” that I meant to share from the stage during my conversation with Brian Read, Executive Vice President, Retail Banking, Umpqua Holdings Corp. and Umpqua Bank.  According to the Federal Reserve, 85% of mobile banking users — a bank’s “most advanced” clients — still use branches from time to time. So as he shared with us, there really is a place for a physical presence in banking today.

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*FWIW, we’re in Dallas at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Las Colinas in Dallas, Texas where the annual Byron Nelson golf tournament wrapped up yesterday evening.  The picture above is of Jordan Spieth — the former number one player in the Official World Golf Ranking and two-time major winner — a gift to some of my team who were intent on getting a photo of him.  As a former student of St. Marks, I will not hold it against him that he went to Jesuit, a rival high school.

What’s Happening at Acquire or Be Acquired

Throughout the first day of Bank Director’s 22nd annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference, I found quite a few presentations focused on the emergence of mid-sized regional banks that are growing through the consolidation of smaller banks.  Clearly, mergers & acquisitions provide an avenue for some banks to drive improved operating leverage, earnings, efficiency and scale.  At the same time, the pressures prompting larger banks to innovate — sluggish loan demand, depressed revenue, higher compliance costs — are the same ones forcing smaller banks to pursue a sale.

By Al Dominick, President & CEO, Bank Director

For those unfamiliar with “AOBA,” this annual event explores issues like the one mentioned above.  Since the conference kicked off at 8 AM on a Sunday, this morning’s post shares three short video recaps from my time at the Arizona Biltmore followed by links to recent posts specific to this conference.

In addition to these videos, below are links to four of my posts specific to the event:

If these types of conversations interest you, take a look at what we’re sharing on BankDirector.com.  Additionally, I invite you to follow me on Twitter via @AlDominick, the host company, @BankDirector, and search & follow #AOBA16 to see what is being shared with (and by) the 930 men & women in attendance.

Size & Scale: The King and Queen of Bank M&A?

Earlier this week, I shared my perspectives on bank M&A with the Wall Street Journal.  What follows builds off the piece that ran in Tuesday’s print edition, highlighting key findings from Bank Director’s annual Bank M&A Survey.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

At a time when J.P. Morgan is getting smaller, the pressure is on for smaller banks to get bigger.  As KPMG recently shared with BankDirector.com, there was a 25% increase in bank deals in the U.S. in 2014, compared to 2013, and there is a good possibility that the number of deals in 2015 will exceed that of 2014.  One reason for this: a larger institution can spread costs (such as investments and regulatory burdens) across a larger customer and revenue base.

Not surprisingly, 67% of executives and board members responding to Bank Director’s 2016 Bank M&A Survey say they see a need to gain more scale if they are going to be able to survive in a highly competitive industry going forward.  As our director of research, Emily McCormick, shared, “many of these respondents (62%) also see a more favorable climate for bank deals, hinting at a more active market for 2016 as banks seek size and scale through strategies that combine organic growth with the acquisitions of smaller banks.”

While the majority of bank executives and boards surveyed feel a need to grow, respondents don’t agree on the size banks need to be in order to compete today.  A slim majority, 32%, identified $1 billion in assets as the right size… interesting, but not surprising, when you consider that 89% of commercial banks and savings institutions are under $1 billion in assets, according to the FDIC (*personally, I’m of the opinion that $5Bn is the new $1Bn, but that’s a topic for another day).  On to the key findings from this year’s research:

  • Two-thirds report their bank intends to participate in some sort of acquisition over the next 12 months, whether it’s a healthy bank (51%), a branch (20%), a nondepository line of business (14%), a loan portfolio (6%) and/or a financial technology firm (a scant 2%).
  • Respondents indicate that credit culture, at 32%, and retaining key talent that aligns with the buyer’s culture, at 31%, are the most difficult aspects of the post-merger integration process.
  • More institutions are using social media channels to communicate with customers after the close of the deal. 55% of respondents who purchased a bank in 2014 or 2015 used social media, compared to 42% of 2011-2013 deals and just 14% of 2008-2010 deals (*FWIW, Facebook, at 26%, is the most popular channel for respondents).
  • Fifty-six percent of respondents have walked away from a deal in the past three years.  Of the respondents who indicate they declined to buy, 60% cite deal price while 46% blame the credit quality of the target institution.
  • Why do banks sell? Of the executives and board members associated with banks sold from 2012 to 2015, 55% say they sold because shareholders wanted to cash out.  Despite concerns that regulatory costs are causing banks to sell, just 27% cite this burden as a primary motivator.

The full survey results are now available online at BankDirector.com, and will be featured in the 1st quarter, 2016 issue of Bank Director magazine.  In addition, for those executives interested in connecting with many of the key decision makers driving the deals mentioned above, our annual Acquire or Be Acquired Conference will be held at the Arizona Biltmore from January 31 through February 2.

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Our 2016 Bank M&A Survey, sponsored by Crowe Horwath LLP, examines current attitudes and challenges regarding bank M&A, and what drives banks to buy and sell. The survey was completed in September 2015 by 260 chief executive officers, independent directors and senior executives of U.S. banks, and former executives and directors of banks that have been acquired from 2012-2015.

A Complete Guide to Bank Director’s Audit & Risk Committees Conference

Whether it is a complex product, new service or emerging line of business, this year’s Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference examines the many issues and opportunities being faced in boardrooms at financial institutions of all sizes across the country.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

While much has been written about how and where banks might grow, with new opportunities come new challenges.  With our industry undergoing significant change, boards must be highly informed in order to proactively oversee the management of security risks, compliance challenges and reputational issues.  At this year’s Bank Audit & Risk Committees Conference, we focus in on key accounting, risk and regulatory issues that challenge bankers and board members alike.  Today’s column tees up this year’s program, one that opens on Wednesday at the JW Marriott in Chicago, IL.

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Wednesday, June 10

Before the curtains officially come up, we offer a series of pre-conference programs; most notably, a series of peer exchanges exclusive to a bank’s audit and risk committee chairs.  Modeled upon our annual Bank Chairman/CEO Peer Exchange, small groups of directors meet in closed door, off-the-record peer exchanges for candid discussions about various hot topics.  In addition, we have added a cyber security workshop that allows attendees to play out various scenarios that involve a hack, breach or attack.  Finally, we offer a primer for newer audit and risk committee members and chairs that provides a framework for both roles and responsibilities.

Thursday, June 11

According to several bankers I have recently talked to, this has become a must-attend event for audit committee members, audit committee chairs, CEOs, CFOs, presidents, corporate secretaries, internal auditors, chief risk managers and other senior executives who works closely with the audit and/or risk committee.  This year, we cover pertinent issues such as enterprise risk management, fraud, relations with internal and external auditors, audit committee oversight and regulatory changes for banks.  It is this ability to focus in on critical concerns and complex scenarios to a very specific group of officers and directors that sets us apart from others.  At a time when audit and risk committee members are being asked to take on more responsibilities and perform at higher levels than ever before, the presentations made on day one are laser-focused on key financial, risk management and regulatory issues.

Friday, June 12

A significant imperative for members of a bank’s board today?  Fully integrate risk management, compliance and ethics “that fit” into a particular bank’s culture.  On day two, we look at how this might be done while addressing many other challenges.  Indeed, some of the key risks facing banks today (that regulators expect boards and senior managers to address) include:

  • Strategic risk as banks adapt business models to respond to the current economic and competitive landscapes;
  • Management succession and retention of key staff;
  • Loosening loan underwriting standards;
  • Expansion into new products and services;
  • Exposure to interest rate risk;
  • Oversight of third party service providers;
  • Increased volume and sophistication of cyber threats;
  • BSA/AML risk from higher-risk services and customer relationships; and
  • Maintaining effective compliance management systems.

The presenters at this event are some of the leading experts in accounting, legal, consulting and regulatory areas, as well as experienced bank officers and directors.  From Sullivan & Cromwell to KPMG, Arnold & Porter to Crowe, Latham & Watkins to FIS, we are pleased to bring some of the industry’s foremost advisors together in Chicago.

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To follow the conversation via Twitter, check out #BDAUDIT15, @bankdirector and @aldominick.

Bank Mergers and Acquisitions

“The reality is organic growth is tough,’’ said Chris Myers, the president and CEO of the $7.2-billion Citizens Business Bank in Ontario, California, who spoke at our Acquire or Be Acquired conference in January.  His bank is one of those in the “sweet spot” for higher valuations and higher profitability, but even he feels the pressure to grow. “A lot of banks are stretching to try to grow [loans] and do things they wouldn’t have done in the past,’’ he said, commenting on the competition for good loans. “ We are going to need to do some acquisitions.”

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

The classic build vs. buy decision confronts executives in every industry.  For bank CEOs and board members today, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) remain attractive inasmuch as successful transactions improve operating leverage, earnings, efficiency and scale.  While I recently wrote that the best acquisition a bank can make is of a new customer, today’s post looks at what’s happening with bank M&A by sharing a few of my monthly columns that live on BankDirector.com:

  • Why Big Banks Aren’t Merging — with global companies announcing huge acquisitions, I look at where the banking industry is today.
  • Stressed Into Selling — after the largest U.S.-based banks passed the Federal Reserve’s stress tests, I write about modeling various economic conditions that might help a bank’s board to anticipate potential challenges and opportunities.
  • Don’t Sell The Bank —  figuring out when a bank should be a buyer—or a seller—had been on my mind since the Royal Bank of Canada announced a deal for “Hollywood’s bank,” City National, and this piece explored why now is not the time to sell.
  • Why Book Value Isn’t the Only Way to Measure a Bank — as the market improves and more acquisitions are announced, why I expect to see more attention to earnings and price to earnings as a way to value banks.
  • Deciding Whether to Sell or Go Public — while the decision to sell a company weighs heavily on every CEO, there comes a point where a deal makes too much financial and cultural sense to ignore.

In addition to these five columns, I invite you to read this month’s column, “Mind These Gaps,” which posts today on BankDirector.com.  It focuses on various pitfalls that have upended deals that, on paper, looked promising (e.g. due diligence and regulatory minefields, the loss of key talent/integration problems and bad timing/market conditions).  With perspectives from some of the country’s leading investment bankers and attorneys, it is one I’m pleased to share.  Don’t worry, unlike other sites, there is no registration — or payment — required.

How the Math Works for Non-Financial Service Companies

As you probably deduced from the picture above, I’m in Chicago for Bank Director’s annual Chairman & CEO Peer Exchange.  While the conversations between peers took place behind closed doors, we teed things up with various presentations.  An early one — focused on FinTech — inspired today’s post and this specific question: as a bank executive, what do you get when you add these three variables:

Stricter capital requirements (which reduces a bank’s ability to lend) + Increased scrutiny around “high-risk” lending (decreasing the amount of bank financing available) + Increases in consumer product pricing (say goodbye to price-sensitive customers)

The unfortunate answer?

Opportunity; albeit, for non-bank financial services companies to underprice banks and take significant business from traditional players.  Nowhere is this more clear then in the lending space. Through alternative financial service providers, borrowers are able to access credit at lower borrowing costs. So who are banks competing with right now? Here is but a short list:

  • FastPay, who provides specialized credit lines to digital businesses as an advance on receivables.
  • Kabbage, a company primarily engaged in providing short-term working capital and merchant cash advance.
  • OnDeck, in business to provide inventory financing, medium-term business loans.
  • Realty Mogul, a peer-to-peer real estate marketplace for accredited investors to invest in pre-vetted investment properties.
  • BetterFinance, which provides short-term loans for consumers to pay monthly bills and purchase smartphones.
  • Lenddo, an online platform that utilizes a borrower’s social network to determine credit-worthiness.
  • Lendup, a short-term online lender that seeks to help consumers establish credit and avoid the cycle of debt.
  • Prosper, an online marketplace for borrowers to create and list loans, with retail and institutional investors funding the loans.
  • SoFi, an online network helping recent graduates refinance student loans through alumni network.

As unregulated competition heats up, bank CEOs and Chairmen continue to seek ways to not just stay relevant but to stand out.  Unfortunately, the math isn’t always in their favor, especially when alternative lenders enjoy operating costs far below banks and are not subject to the same reserve requirements as an institution.  As we were reminded, consumers and small businesses don’t really care where they borrow money from, as as long as they can borrow the money they want.

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Thanks to Halle Benett, Managing Director, Head of Diversified Financials Investment Banking, Keefe, Bruyette & Woods, A Stifel Company for inspiring this post. He joined us yesterday morning at the Four Seasons Chicago and laid out the fundamental shifts in banking that have opened the door for these new competitors.  I thought the math he shared with the audience was elegant both in its simplicity — and profound in its potential results.  Let me know what you think with a comment below or message via Twitter (@aldominick).

From Acquire or Be Acquired: A Video Recap of Today’s L. William Seidman CEO Panel

Former FDIC Chairman and Bank Director’s Publisher, the late Bill Seidman, was a huge advocate of a strong and healthy community bank system.  We honor his memory and this sentiment with a CEO panel each year.  My thanks to David Brooks, Chairman & CEO of the Independent Bank Group, Mark Grescovich, President & CEO of the Banner Corporation, Edward Garding, President & CEO of First Interstate BancSystem and Daryl Byrd, President & CEO of IBERIABANK, for sharing their thoughts on a variety of growth-related issues earlier today.

Valuing the Bank

San Francisco, CA

Today’s post is something of a “public service announcement.”  As we approach the dog days of summer, a sneak peek at an exclusive event for bank CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen, Presidents and members of the board taking place at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco this October.

 

To learn more about the program, visit BankDirector.com or click here to register.

FI Tip Sheet: First Quarter Favorites

As I come off of a great week in Chicago and Bank Director’s annual Chairman/CEO Peer Exchange, today’s post takes a look back at the first three months of the year.  Yes, certain discussions during this time focused on tepid loan growth, higher capital requirements and expense pressures & higher regulatory costs hitting banks today.  Nonetheless, many more conversations focused on growth, innovation and “what’s working.”  So, to wrap up this week, three points from the past ninety days that inspired me.

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Some of Banking’s Best

To kick off the year, I put together a two-part series on some of the top CEOs in our industry.  Inspired by my coach and an article entitled the “Best CEOs of 2013” that ran on Yahoo Finance, I reached out to a number of colleagues that work for professional services firms to ask their thoughts on the top CEOs at financial institutions — along with why they hold them in such regard.  Part one shared various thoughts on some of the best CEOs in the business today — broken down into three categories: the “biggest banks” with $50Bn+ in assets, those with more than $5Bn but less than $50Bn and finally, those in the $1Bn to $5Bn size range.  Part two built on that piece, highlighting three exceptional CEOs that lead publicly traded banks before shifting to the thoughts and opinions of two very talented colleagues.

Eat or Be Eaten

As the President of Bank Director, I’m lucky to lead one of the industry’s biggest (and dare I say best?) M&A conferences: Acquire or Be Acquired.  Let me first offer up big time props to my many talented colleagues for everything they did to make this year’s the biggest and best yet!  One of the cool new things I did at the Arizona Biltmore this year?  Film a 90 second or less video each evening that summarized the day’s salient points.  As much as I shared big takeaways in written form on this site (e.g. what if I told you that by December 31, 2018, we’d witness a 25% decline in the number of institutions between $500mm and $1Bn), I’m proud of these two videos from the desert that relayed what caught my eyes and attention on two of the three conference days.

 

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The Innovator’s Dilemma

In my role, I find myself talking with Chairmen and CEOs about their strategic plans.  This year, quite a few shared their thoughts for leveraging financial technology to strengthen and/or differentiate their bank.  In a piece I shared at the end of February, I cited Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.”  His book inspired that Friday’s FI Tip Sheet title – and first point.  If you’re not familiar with his work, the Harvard professor writes about two types of technologies: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining technologies are those that improve product performance. As he sees it, these are technologies that most large companies are familiar with; technologies that involve improving a product that has an established role in the market.

Most large companies are adept at turning sustaining technology challenges into achievements.  However, large companies have problems dealing with disruptive technologies — an observation that, in my view, does not bode well for many traditionally established banks.  While risk is inherent to banks of all sizes, taking chances on emerging technologies continues to challenge many officers and directors… a theme I anticipate covering in greater detail over the next 90 days.

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Whether this is your first time or 78th time reading About That Ratio, let me say thank you for doing so.  It is a real treat to share, each Friday, three short stories about what I’m hearing, learning and talking about as I travel around the country.  Being that I meet with so many interesting people — be it a bank’s CEO,  board members or executives at professional services firms and product companies — I find it tremendously rewarding to share anecdotes and insights that might interest others.  As always, Aloha Friday!

FI Tip Sheet: The Top Women in Banking?

Clearly, there aren’t many female CEOs of major corporations.  According to Spencer Stuart, an executive search firm, the number of women serving as the CEO of an S&P 500 company increased to 22 in 2013. Nonetheless, this represents a mere 4.5% of the companies that comprise the index.  I share this statistic as a preface to this morning’s post, one that asks for your help and feedback on “the best” female CEOs in banking today.

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Background

Last month, inspired by a piece that ran on Yahoo Finance (“the Best CEOs of 2013“), I reached out to a number of colleagues that work for professional services firms to ask their thoughts on the top CEOs at financial institutions — along with why they hold them in such regard.  I subsequently shared their thoughts (along with mine) on some of the best CEOs in the business today — broken down into three categories: the “biggest banks” with $50Bn+ in assets, those with more than $5Bn but less than $50Bn and finally, those in the $1Bn to $5Bn size range.

A request for help

While the CEOs I wrote about certainly deserved the recognition, noticeably absent on each list: women.  Yes, I realize the vast majority of CEOs in banking today are male; however, I am keen to identify those female executives at financial institutions that are truly the best in banking.  So here’s the deal.  I’d like your thoughts on the top female CEOs — regardless of their financial institution’s size — and a sentence or two that provides color and context as to why you think so. This can be shared publicly with a comment below or tweet to me at @aldominick. It can be shared directly via email adominick@bankdirector.com or with a message thru LinkedIn.

What will come of this

Next week, I’ll post a piece on the top female CEOs on this site. FWIW, I am happy to attribute comments to an individual or keep things anonymous.

Thanks, and Aloha Friday!

FI Tip Sheet: A Look Ahead

Taking a run on this beach inspired me to draft a calendar for upcoming About That Ratio posts.  Yes, the quiet beauty of this sunrise in Tulum, Mexico sparked an unexpected rush of ideas for sharing observations and insight on this site.  Rather than keep those plans quiet, today’s piece provides some context for the coming months activity.  As I did last year, I do intend to post a “tip sheet” every Friday morning by 8 AM ET.  In addition, I will continue to share my thoughts from the various conferences I attend and participate in (regardless of day or time).  That said, I’m open to suggestions about when and how often to present my take on trends and topics impacting financial institutions.  Feel free to leave a comment below or DM me on twitter (@aldominick).IMG_4167 (1) While on vacation, I read “Cracking the Code: The Winning Ryder Cup Strategy” by Paul Azinger and Dr Ron Braund.  In it, the two write that “great challenges open the door for even greater innovation.”  While writing a column is, at times, a labor of love, I am eager to build upon my efforts in 2013.  I went back through my posts and found my favorite ones reflected on anecdotes picked up while meeting business and banking leaders from all parts of the country.  For this reason, I anticipate many of my 2014 pieces being shaped by what I see, hear and learn while out on the road.  Fortunately, I am slated to be in Nashville, New York City, Phoenix, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago before the weather warms up… and calling D.C. home affords me numerous opportunities to pass along thoughts from inside the beltway.

(2) I write this blog for bankers first, and executives that support banks second.  While I’m fortunate to meet with officers and/or directors from financial institutions, I deliberately write for a broader audience.  Essentially, anyone that works with or for a financial institution that cares about “the tone at the top.”  For this reason, I will continue to share trends, topics and themes from a number of conferences this year.  For example, Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired conference at the Arizona Biltmore this month and May’s Growth Conference at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.  Being that these particular events bring together CEOs, CFOs, Chairmen, board members and key officers from across the country, I doubt I will be at a loss for ideas or inspiration.  Its not just our company’s events I’ll check in from.  There are a number of programs held throughout the year that provide insight and inspiration to bank executives that I’ll share too.

(3) To keep things fresh and ground in fact, I will share research summaries from various organizations.  To get out from the numbers and into the clouds, I am inviting guest authors to write a piece(s) on what they are seeing and thinking about.  In addition, I’ll begin reaching out to bank CEOs to ask for their thoughts on various topics like cyber security risk while inviting executives from various professional services firms for their take on matters that range from financial services technologies to valuing a bank to compensation matters.  A lot of ground to cover, a lot of fun to be had.  Yes, I’m quite excited for this year’s About That Ratio!

Aloha Friday!!

Its Aloha Friday

Cherry blossoms in DC
An example of organic growth in Chevy Chase D.C.

Earlier this week, as part of Bank Director’s annual Bank Chairman/CEO Peer Exchange, I was lucky enough to spend time with key leaders from 40+ community banks averaging nearly $900M in asset size. As I reflect on various growth-focused conversations I had with CEOs of NASDAQ-listed banks, I think I’ve found a common thread. Each person runs an institution profitable enough to make acquisitions — all while maintaining adequate capital ratios.  The interesting part (for me at least) concerns the strategies these executives set to build their brand and tactics put in place to “organically” grow their franchise.  As our industry continues to rally back from the past few years of pessimism, it really is fun to hear success stories.  So what follows are three thoughts from this week that builds on my time at the Four Seasons in Chicago.

  • While M&A offers immediate growth to the acquirer, I’m hearing that “stocking the bank for talent” is a real long-term challenge. While a bank’s CEO and Chairman must work even more closely to drive bottom line performance while enhancing shareholder value, I left Chicago convinced this team must more aggressively identify — and groom — the next generation of bank leadership. Without the big banks providing management training like they once did (an unintended pipeline of talent for community banks), its time to get creative. For example, while most at our event appreciate the need to get mobile, few community banks have the senior strategist on hand to do so right now. While that opens the door to outside advisors to support an institution, it does present longer term dangers as customers expect access to their banks sans branch or ATM use.
  • Keeping on the tech-to-grow theme, I read an interesting “big data,” bank-specific piece by McKinsey on my way home to D.C.  Personally, I’ve been interested in the various tools and tactics banks employ to analyze their massive amounts of data to detect/prevent fraud, devise customer loyalty plans and proactively approach consumers. This overview, complete with video, touch on these points and show how some are using big data and analytics to sharpen risk assessment and drive revenue.

Aloha Friday to all, especially my niece and sister-in-law on their birthdays.