Banking Millennials

The Millennial generation comprises 80MM people, the largest in U.S. history.  Born between the years of 1980 and 2000, millennials range in age from 15 to 35 years and are just beginning to gain their foothold in the economy.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

Do we really want to bank millennials? If I borrowed a crystal ball from one of the soothsayers out at Jackson Square in New Orleans’ French Quarter, I imagine this would be the question on most everyone’s mind that joined me at our annual Bank Board Growth & Innovation conference.  With many community banks making their money through C&I lending, the immediate concern (at least at the board’s level) is how do I grow right now?  While many conversations trended towards the opportunities to engage this demographic by leveraging emerging technologies with a bank’s sales and marketing efforts, I was not surprised to hear a concern about the investment costs of bringing new technologies into a bank.  The rationale, as I understood it, is by the time a bank gets a return from its investment, it may be too late.  I’m not saying this is my way of thinking, but I do think it reflects apprehensions by key officers and directors when the conversations comes to these future business owners, inheritors of wealth and digitally demanding individuals.  As shared in a presentation by Ingo Money, in the next five years, the Millennial generation will have the largest income in U.S. history, and any company that can monetize Millennial spending or data may seek to bank them.  Still, regional and community bankers wrestle with the type of client they might be — both now and in the future.

Key Takeaway

To kick things off, we invited Dave DeFazio from StrategyCorps to “look beyond the basics” in terms of mobile banking.  As he shared, over 75% of people in the U.S. own a smartphone in the year — and most everyone has some sort of addiction to their device.  With all of the big banks offering the “big five” today (mobile banking, mobile bill pay, mobile deposits, ATM/Branch locators and P2P payments), bankers should think beyond basic banking transactions to develop a mobile presence that is a “can’t live without” app.  Some of his tips: provide easy authentication, pre-login balances, voice recognition, budgeting tools and coupon and shopping tools.

Trending Topics

Anecdotally, the issues I took note of were, in no particular order:

  • The four biggest banks in the U.S. are among the 10 least loved brands by Millennials.
  • Millennials want banking services designed for their needs that are instant, simple, fair and transparent… which is why new providers are beginning to emerge.
  • For those not familiar with Moven, GoBank and Simple… take a look at what each has to offer.
  • The cultural divide between banks and FinTech companies is getting smaller for bigger banks, but remains high for regional and community banks.  Nonetheless, these banks are in a better position to collaborate and seriously consider new tools and products as the decision making cycle is considerably shorter then at large institutions.

Picked Up Pieces

While today was “just” a half day, some of the more salient points I made note of:

  • Per Jennifer Burke, a partner at Crowe, “proactively identifying, mitigating, and in some cases, capitalizing on these risks provides a distinct advantage to banks.”
  • In terms of building value, the ability for a bank to grow is as important as a bank’s profitability.
  • It was refreshing to be at a banking conference where talk about regulation was at a minimum; in fact, it seemed that the regulatory environment presents more of a distraction than it poses a threat to bank’s looking to grow.
  • The corollary to this point: competition from non-banks is higher then ever before.

To see what’s being written and said as we wrap up our time in New Orleans, I invite you to follow @bankdirector, @aldominick + #BDGrow15.

Three Observations from the Bank Board Growth & Innovation Conference

Select news and notes from the first day of Bank Director’s annual growth conference at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans.

By Al Dominick // @aldominick

I mentioned this from the stage earlier today… every January, Bank Director hosts a huge event in Arizona focused on bank mergers and acquisitions.  Known as “AOBA,” our Acquire or Be Acquired conference has grown significantly over the years (this year, we welcomed some 800 to the desert).  After the banking M&A market tumbled to a 20-year low in 2009 of just 109 transactions, it has gradually recovered from the effects of the crisis. In fact, there were 288 bank and thrift deals last year, which was a considerable improvement on volume of 224 deals in 2013.  As our editorial team has noted, the buying and selling of banks has been the industry’s great game for the last couple of decades, but it’s a game that not all banks can — or want to — play.  Indeed, many bank CEOs have a preference to grow organically, and its to these growth efforts that we base today and tomorrow’s program.

Key Takeaway

To kick things off, we invited Fred Cannon, Executive Vice President & Director of Research at KBW, to share his thoughts on what constitutes franchise value. While he opened with a straight-forward equation to quantify franchise value over time — (ROE – Cost of Equity) × Market Premium — what really stuck with me during his presentation is the fact that a logo does not create franchise value, a brand does.  As he made clear, it is contextual (e.g. by industry’s served, technologies leveraged and clients maintained) and requires focus (e.g. you can’t be all things to all people).  Most notably, small and focused institutions trump small and complex ones.

Trending Topics

Anecdotally, the issues I took note of where, in no particular order:

  • Banks must be selective when integrating new technology into their systems.
  • The ability to analyze data proves fundamental to one’s ability to innovate.
  • When it comes to “data-driven decisions,” the proverbial life cycle can be thought of as (1) capture (2) store (3) analyze (4) act.
  • You don’t need a big deposit franchise to be a strong performing bank (for example, take a look at County Bancorp in Wisconsin)
  • We’ve heard this before, but size does matter… and as the size of bank’s balance sheet progresses to $10 billion, publicly traded banks generate stronger profitability and capture healthier valuations.

Picked Up Pieces

A really full day here in New Orleans, LA — with quite a few spirited discussions/debates.  Here are some of the more salient points I made note of throughout the day:

  • Selling services to large, highly regulated organization is a real challenge to many tech companies.
  • Shadow banking? Maybe its time I start calling them “Challenger banks.”
  • CB Insight’s has a blog called “unbundling the bank” — to understand the FinTech ecosystem, take a look at how they depict how “traditional banks are under attack from a number of emerging specialist startups.”
  • A few sidebar conversations about Wells Fargo’s incubator program, which the San Francisco bank began last August… interest in how the program involves direct investment in a select group of startups and six months of mentoring for their leaders.

To see what’s being written and said here in New Orleans, I invite you to follow @bankdirector, @aldominick + #BDGrow15.

For Banks, the Sky IS Falling

The first in a five part series on emerging threats to banks from non-financial companies.

For bank executives and board members, competition takes many forms.  Not only are banks burdened with regulation, capital requirements and stress testing, they now have the added pressure of competition from non-financial institutions.  In case you haven’t been paying attention, companies such as Paypal, as well as traditional consumer brands such as Walmart, are aggressively chipping away at banks’ customer base and threatening many financial institutions’ core businesses.  So today’s piece tees up my next four columns by acknowledging the changes taking place within — and immediately outside — our $14 trillion industry.

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The race is on…

A few months ago, at Bank Director’s annual Growth Conference in New Orleans, I polled an audience of CEOs, Chairmen and board members and found the vast majority (a whopping 91%) have real concerns about non-banks entering financial services.  These bankers aren’t alone in their concerns about competition from unregulated entities.  Just days after polling this audience, Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, warned an audience of investors that he sees Google and Facebook specifically as potential competition for the banking giant.  As he notes, both offer services, such as P2P, that could chip away at income sources for banks.

…and its not pride coming up the backstretch

As Emily McCormick wrote, Facebook is already a licensed money transmitter, enabling the social media giant to process payments to application developers for virtual products. Likewise, the retail behemoth Wal-Mart launched Bluebird in partnership with American Express late in 2012 so users can direct deposit their paychecks, make bill payments, withdraw cash from ATMs and write checks.  This makes the results of a recent TD Bank survey about millennials banking online and on their mobile devices more frequently than in a branch so relevant.  Specifically, 90% of survey respondents said they use online or mobile tools for their everyday banking activities, such as checking balances or paying bills, and 57% said they are using mobile banking more frequently than they were last year.

Along the lines of “what is the industry losing”: eventually you’re going to have a generation that has learned how to live without a bank.  That’s a very sky-is-falling, long-term consequence of not adapting.  But there’s also an opportunity for retail banks to do more than simply allow the same types of services digitally that were once only available in-person.  Banks could actually expand what banking means to consumers by offering online services that go beyond their legacy business model.

What I am hearing

Of course, non-banks can, conceptually, expand what banking means to consumers by offering online services that go beyond legacy business models too.  However, the sheer complexity of entering this market is one reason why we have yet to see a startup that truly rebuilds the banking industry brick by brick.  At least, that is the perspective shared by Max Levchin, founder and CEO of online payments startup Affirm, a company with the goal of bringing simplicity, transparency, and fair pricing to consumer credit.  As the co-founder and former CTO of PayPal, Levchin is one of the pioneers within the payments industry.   In a recent piece in Wired magazine (The Next Big Thing You Missed: Startup’s Plan to Remake Banks and Replace Credit Cards Just Might Work), he notes

I don’t know if I want to own a bank. But I do want to lend money in a transparent way, and I want to create an institution people love… I want to be the community bank equivalent for the 21st century, where people say: ‘I trust my banker. He’s a good guy who’s looking out for me.’

Coopetition anyone?

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To comment on this piece, click on the grey circle with the white plus sign on the bottom right.  Next up, a look at PayPal, a the e-commerce business that is “eating the banking industry’s lunch.”

The Three Ds of Banking

Just as the cherry blossoms provide a welcome personal respite from winter’s cold embrace, so too have stories of creativity and growth diverted my professional attention away from compliance issues and regulatory updates.  As I travel across the country, I’m continually impressed by the close attention being paid by leaders at financial institutions to non-traditional sources of revenue — particularly fee-based income.  Today’s tip sheet reflects these recent travels and commensurate “lessons learned” with three words, a big three if you will, that tie-in to growing one’s business.

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Diversify

In order for banks to thrive in what, in many regions, remains a crowded marketplace, diversified growth is key.  I’ve heard from a few community bank CEOs that given the nature of the economic recovery and uncertainty over interest rates, quality growth requires a balance between real estate and operating company borrowers and between fixed and floating rate loans.  Without such balance, earnings and shareholder value are at increased risk.

Differentiate

The general public still does not distinguish enough between Wall Street banks and Main Street community banks.  Nonetheless, more and more bankers are making this distinction, thereby helping customers (and potential customers) to understand how important community banks are to the economy and the local region.  It strikes me such efforts will not only educate, but also encourage, more and more people to support community banks with their business.

Deliver

As the workplace becomes more mobile, so must the tools to deliver the financial services to business owners and individuals.  Clearly, the “new generation of consumers” does everything on their mobile phone.  If a bank doesn’t have a mobile app — and a quality mobile offering — I have to believe the bank does not even register to this up and coming audience.  In fact, as more Gen X and Gen Y’rs become a more sizable force in terms of total GDP, I’ve heard that one’s mobile banking solutions will be directly proportional to the amount of clients a bank is able to attract and retain.

Aloha Friday!

FI Tip Sheet: Strong Board, Strong Bank

As the banking industry continues to regain its health, efficiency and productivity are key elements in positioning a bank to grow.  Still, the reality remains there is an overcapacity in the US banking industry and the consolidation trend that brought the number of bank charters from over 14,000 to under 7,000 over the last 25 years will continue.  So let me sum in up in word letters: OTSS… only the strong survive.  Today’s post builds on this idea and offers a few takeaways from day one of the Bank Board Training Forum.

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Don’t Cry For Me

Yes, a more demanding regulatory and business environment has placed a substantial burden on bank directors and their boards. However, nearly every conversation/presentation focused on what’s possible — and not what’s broken.  Here are a few characteristics of successful “growth” banks:

  • They have a history of executing accretive transactions that are supported in the market both post-announcement and in terms of performance over time.
  • They tend to under promise and over deliver

While mergers and acquisitions is the principal growth strategy for many of these institutions, don’t sleep on building organically.  Indeed, many of the banks in attendance look at M&A as a complement to their growth plans.

An appetite for technology
We welcomed 117 bank officers and directors to the Hermitage in Nashville yesterday (and I’ll be getting up on stage in a few minutes to do so again this morning).  We went old school and put pen + paper in front of these men and women and asked a few true/false technology-specific questions.  47% have responded so far and here’s what I’m finding:

  • T/F: Our executive team has two people with strong technology understanding/experience…  43 responded true and only 12, false.
  • T/F: I would describe my bank as innovative… 40 responded true and 15 false
  • T/F: Mobile banking is an important part of our strategy… 46 responded true and 8, false

Growing Through Innovation
I heard one bank is consolidating some 200 different software packages, while another introduced concierge banking.  Interestingly, 11 bankers wrote on the survey above that the most innovative “thing” they are doing right now involves mobile banking.

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I’ll try to post more later today, as several of the afternoon conversations tied growth into risk and audit concerns, two topics I’ve covered earlier this week.  Aloha Friday!