The Bankwatch

Tracking the consumer evolution of financial services

All banks have the same strategy | what happened to the Starbucks strategy?

It was refreshing to read this piece, and takes us exactly where innovation in financial services ought to be going – the new (old) grand ideas.

Starbucks should start banking | FT

What if Starbucks opened an online-only retail bank offering competitive deposit rates and a modest range of loans and mortgages? It could do that by partnering with a finance company such as ING, which has the appropriate banking licences.

All it would need to do is install ATM machines in its outlets, which would involve investing some money but would allow it to get more out of its existing branches.

National supermarkets in the UK, such as Sainsbury and Tesco, have opened retail banks and placed ATM machines in their branches, but there is no national grocery chain in the US with a comparable reach. Even Wal-Mart lacks outlets on most urban high streets.

I recall the brainstorming sessions in the 90’s at the bank, where the discussion about competition arose not from other banks but from:

  • Starbucks levering their distribution and cards as a bank
  • ebay or Amazon offerring a credit card
  • internet only banks – ING was on the horizon – mbanx and Wingspan already out there
  • whether to join the S1 online banking commoditised platform
  • offer an All in One account that pulled together lending and deposits into one account
  • how to deal with the role of aggregation- offer it, join it, or ignore it
  • bill presentment – same idea – offer, join or ignore
  • shift in business model from generalist to:
    • product (manufacturer) – offer loans and deposts through others channels
    • distribution (channel) – sell products & services of others – Open Finance (Forrester)
    • segmentation (customer type)  – focus on a niche market, although most interpreted as the generalist, all things to all market which is where most banks ended

Relevance to Bankwatch:

The problem today is that Banks are on strategy defined 6 – 8 years ago to bricks and clicks, focussed on customer retention and wallet growth.  Customer Relationship Management (CRM) became the strategy de jour.  Who would claim that has worked?  Seibel disappeared inside Oracle for a reason.

Banks are all on the same strategy, focussed on mortgage as the entree, and upsell with other services later.

There is nothing out there that aims at shifting the balance of share of market in a substantial way.  This is not about acquisition or mergers – we have done that, and “too big too fail” is too fixated in everyone’s radar now, or until capitalisation is fixed, in any event.

No, this is about business model shifts … shifts that would have a target of:

  • double digit percentage shift in share of payments,
  • extraction of share of deposits and payments from an existing industry (the Starbucks example),
  • exponential elimination of costs relative to competition
  • focus on what your are good at and eliminate the stuff you are not good at

Business models –

Mr Bank Chairman …  what is your business model, and how is it different than the competition?

Supplementary question –

Who is your competition?  Do you lost sleep over Citibank and Wells, or Tempo and Wesabe?  Does your answer worry you?

PS …  as I finish this post the most telling thing is something I have become acutely aware of.  The blog categories I set up 5 years ago no longer apply, until I do a retrospective post such as this.  Either those were really bad ideas, or ideas yet to come.

3 Responses

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  1. I wish the banks would sort themselves out. They don’t seem to realise the pain that they have inflicted on everyday people as well as the world economy. Rgds Vince

    Vince Stevenson

    May 6, 2009 at 05:28

  2. @Vince – you are quite right of course. There is a fine balance being maintained between the governments’ and the banks’ of each country. If they move too fast they will precipitate panic … if they move too slow or appear to be doing nothing they will precipitate panic.

    I tend to the Roubini/ Ferguson approach of rip the band-aid off and lets see what’s going on. My own view is that the current approach is too slanted towards the do less approach – I still sense a snowball or avalanche of new potential problems in credit that may exceed the stress test calculations.


    May 7, 2009 at 08:58

  3. Vince – I think you have it backwards.

    During the current economic downturn, it has been banks who have shouldered the burden [and much of the pain] of bringing capital into the U.S. financial system. This was necessary to cover the capital drain on banks’ balance sheets created by consumers who failed to make good on their promises to pay their mortgage payments. There would have been no banking “crisis”, and a much softer economic downturn, had all consumers paid their mortgage payments as promised. In cases where the added capital came from TARP funds, the recipient banks are required to repay those funds to the U.S. Treasury, plus interest at a rate that we calculate to be as high as 9.3%. [This sounds like a pretty good investment for the U.S. Treasury.] For other banks, additional capital has been raised through alternative sources, which must ultimately be repaid to those sources. So, banks have stepped-up to solve the crisis caused in large part by the consumer. [Oh, … and don’t let anyone fool you with the idea that it was the banks who convinced consumers to purchase that larger home or buy a new car or spend money on that special vacation … it was the realtors, car companies, advertising agencies, and the neighbor down the street who played that role …] Much of the pain and burden of the current economic downturn has been and will be shouldered by banks … and banks will be paying the price for that capital for many years to come. Furthermore, the loss of capital in the banking system will impact the entire U.S. economy for many years.

    J Senske

    May 7, 2009 at 18:48

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