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What banks can learn from Silicon Valley

What banks can learn from Silicon Valley

Five success factors which explain why Europe’s most digitalised banks outperform their peers 

By Bertrand Lavayssiere, Managing Partner at International Financial Management Consultancy, Zeb

Bertrand Lavayssiere

Bertrand Lavayssiere

 More than a decade after the global financial crash, most of Europe’s banks are profitable. It is therefore tempting to assume that the region’s banking sector has almost fully recovered from the 2007-08 meltdown, but this is to miss a crucial point. Overall, Europe’s top 50 banks earnings are insufficient to cover their cost of capital, meaning that their core banking services might lead to long-term stagnation and decline.

There is, however, a promising escape route from this grim fate for banks with sufficient foresight, as revealed in zeb’s latest annual European Banking Study. Digitalisation—the hottest topic across the whole industry—could be the “silver bullet” that delivers long-term profits. Research by zeb reveals that banks which are digitalisation pioneers outperform less digitalised peers across all significant banking and capital market KPIs.

Further analysis shows that these pioneers have absorbed the example set by Big Tech giants such as Google and Amazon and focused on five key success factors that are equally applicable to the banking industry: a consistent customer focus, a simple, flexible product portfolio, an innovation-led operating model, an expandable infrastructure and omnipresence in their customers’ daily lives.

Look at the earnings profile of many European banks and one can see immediately why it is no longer an option to rely on traditional, pre-digital solutions to restore long-term profitability. Based on data compiled by zeb, average post-tax return on equity (RoE) among Europe’s top 50 banks reached 7.2% in 2018, 0.6 percentage points higher than in 2017. On paper, the region’s leading banks look like they are moving closer to delivering the returns expected by investors, with a current cost of equity of around 8.0%. However, appearances are deceptive.

When we drilled deeper into these numbers, we found that the incremental increase in the top 50’s RoE over the last five years was solely due to non-operational factors: principally, reduced loan loss provisions, lower litigation costs and lower taxes. In stark terms, Europe’s largest banks are making less money from their core banking services than five years ago.

How, then, can Europe’s leading banks boost their earnings in a stagnant market with a host of new competitors, from digital start-ups and personal finance portals to online brokerages? In this difficult market, we believe banks have four strategic options. They can consolidate and gain economies of scale through M&A; specialise by focusing on certain products, customers and sales channels; break up the value chain by outsourcing and concentrating on core banking products and services; or go “beyond banking” by building or joining ecosystems. For all four options, digitalisation is the key enabler.

The next question is how far Europe’s top 50 banks have pursued digitalisation and it is not easy to answerthis in the absence of external benchmarks. In our study, we measured the degree of digitalisation across all banks using a proprietary zeb algorithm which determined how often these financial institutions referred to digitalisation in their annual reports, not an exact measure but something which revealed very stark results.This enabled us to cluster banks into three groups: 13 digitalisation “pioneers”, which emphasised digitalisation very early and continue to stress it strongly; 14 digitalisation “challengers”, which took longer to start communicating on the subject and still do not emphasise it greatly; and lastly, 23 banks that we classified as digitalisation “followers”. Of course, the bias is the potential discrepancy between the intensity of the communication and the reality on the ground.

Meanwhile, the difference between the performances of these three groups in recent years is striking. On average, digitalisation pioneers outperformed challengers and followers according to every significant banking KPI: for example, pioneers registered an average post-tax RoE of 8.7% between 2013 and 2018, compared with 6.0% for challengers and just 2.1% for followers. In the same period, pioneers increased their average operating profit by 5.1%, while the average returns of challengers and followers shrank by 10.1% and 9.6 % respectively. Digital pioneers were also clearly ahead of the other two groups when comparing efficiency ratios and especially the cost-income ratio. Given this performance gap, it is hardly surprising that digital pioneers generally performed better on capital markets than challengers and followers. Indeed, pioneers were the only group that achieved a price-to-book ratio of more than 1.0x(while BigTechs are largely above 10).

It is not enough, however, for banks simply to entrench digitalisation across all operations for profits to follow. Digitalisation will only work for banks which understand its implications for their businesses. In this regard, there is no better role model for Europe’s profit-starved banks than US technology giants like Google, Amazon and Apple, the original digitalisation pioneers. To complete our study, we looked in depth at these tech giants’ business models and identified the five key success factors, based on digitalisation, which banks need to adopt.

Arguably the most important lesson for banks to learn from the tech giants is that digitalisation is not an end in itself. A banking app on a smart phone is not automatically a profit generator any more than the latest back office banking software. Instead, banks need to see digitalisation as a means to achieving sharper, value-adding customer focus and engagement, combined with efficient, scalable delivery of offerings.

Our research indicates that even Europe’s digitalisation pioneer banks have yet to absorb this lesson fully. For instance, pioneers have to become faster and more dynamic in expanding their offering and in using customer data to tailor products and services to individual needs, without increased complexity. Meanwhile, followers and challengers are in a catch-up race where they must still address such basic issues as developing authentically customer-centric businesses and automating back office systems.

The hopeful conclusion from our studytherefore comes with a cautionary note. Digitalisation can indeed be the “silver bullet” that enables Europe’s banks to return to stable profits. As with any bullet, though, one must aim accurately and pull the trigger at the right time, because banks need to apply digitalisation in line with their own digital maturity. Above all, they must make sure not to mistake the means for the end.

Banking

It’s all relative: Older generations feel helping out the family financially is more important since the Covid-19 outbreak

It’s all relative: Older generations feel helping out the family financially is more important since the Covid-19 outbreak 36

Before Covid, 23% of people prioritised helping younger generations out financially, that increased to a third as a result of the pandemic

A recent survey* conducted by Hodge has revealed that the Covid pandemic has led to more people wanting to help younger family members financially.

A third (31%)** of those questioned said that since the Covid outbreak giving a financial gift to children or grandchildren is more important to them, compared to 23% who said it was a priority before the pandemic.

The traditional “Bank of Mum and Dad” is still very much open for financial help, with parents being responsible for 72% of the gifts, but the study also revealed that financial gifts can come from all corners of the family – including children (14%) and siblings (14%).

The survey also found that a third of people have received a financial gift from family, with those aged between 25-34 as the most likely to receive

The most popular reason for gifting money to family is for special occasions such as a quarter of gifts were given for weddings and birthdays but 11% of people have received money to help with big purchases such as cars and houses. In addition, 19% of people have received help with day to day finances, with around 14% of those receiving a gift have done so to pay off debt.

Emma Graham, Business Development Director at Hodge, said of the research: “Our study showed that, as a nation, we all want to help our family out when it comes to money. And whilst we all think of the Bank of Mum and Dad or Gran and Grandad as a traditional source, we were surprised to see that 14% of brothers and sisters are also helping out.”

The findings come from a recent intergenerational study conducted by Hodge, who interviewed over 3000 people about their attitudes towards finances and their aspirations for the future. The full research findings can be found at https://hodgebank.co.uk/2020/05/19/money-its-all-relative/.

As part of the study, people were also asked about paying back the gift, with 40% of beneficiaries expecting to pay their parents back, but this dropped to 28% if the gift came from grandparents.

From the gift donor’s perspective, 26% expect the gift to be paid back, however just 15% of grandparents expected the money back.

Hodge has produced a set of guides on how families can navigate the tricky subject of giving financial gifts within a family, as well as the considerations and steps that be families should think about taking before a gift is given, such as is it a loan or a gift and thinking about contingencies if the family member’s circumstances change. The guides can be found here: https://hodgebank.co.uk/news/

Emma continued: “It’s clear that families feel strongly about offering financial support to each other if they are able and this has increased since the Covid pandemic. Before Covid, 23% of people prioritised helping their families out financially in the next five years. Since the Covid-19 outbreak that has increased to a third of people saying helping a family member financially had become more important.

“So, it is clear that the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent predicted economic downturn, has led to more families looking to share wealth to help younger children or grandchildren during this difficult time. Many people may look to Later Life mortgages, where many products have reduced their rates and have flexible lending criteria, to help out a loved during these difficult times.”

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Banking

New report identifies the factors which will determine SMEs’ chances of a successful COVID recovery

New report identifies the factors which will determine SMEs’ chances of a successful COVID recovery 37

·         Analysis of the performance of over 1,000 UK small and medium-sized businesses by Allica Bank provides roadmap for SMEs 

·         Regular training, an openness to innovation, and a clear vision all contribute heavily to an SMEs’ chances of success  

·         Allica Bank has launched a programme of free workshops to expand on the findings and support business owners 

Business bank, Allica Bank has combined data and insight from over 1,000 UK SMEs with a multiple regression analysis to determine what factors most closely aligned with an SMEs’ chances of success and separated the highest-performing businesses from their peers. These ‘rules for success’ have been compiled from the research data to support British businesses as they look to chart a course to post-Covid recovery.  

The full report identifies six behaviours for small and medium businesses to follow, to maximise their chances of a successful COVID recovery. The six top-line rules emphasised by the data were: 

Rule 1: SMEs should regularly train staff 

Of the top-performing businesses analysed, 47% provided training for employees at least on a quarterly basis, compared to just 32% of other businesses. Regular employee training was linked closely to success by the model.  

Despite this, many small businesses have neglected training and nearly half (46%) of the small businesses analysed only provide training for employees about once a year or less often. This included 15% that never provide employer-funded training. This discrepancy could represent a significant opportunity for small businesses to unlock the potential of their employees and thrive in the post-Covid economy. 

Rule 2: SMEs need to focus on innovation and technology 

Looking again to the best performing businesses, 76% were found to either continually (39%) or often (37%) be considering new opportunities for technology in their business. This is compared to only 51% for businesses considered to be outside of the top ranks, out of which only 27% admitted to continually looking for new technology opportunities. 

Rule 3: Small business must have a formal, long-term vision  

Nearly two thirds (66%) of the most successful businesses in the survey had a formal, long-term vision, compared to just 50% of businesses outside the top 100. Looking to the businesses that scored the lowest on the SME Performance index, only 37% claimed to have a formal, long-term vision. 

Rule 4: SMEs should broaden their customer reach and find new markets 

Of the top-performing businesses, 65% of these have overseas customers compared to just 40% of the worst performing businesses. Among the best performing SMEs, over a third (34%) identified international expansion as one of the top three drivers for their success. 

Rule 5: SMEs need to develop reinvestment plans 

22% of the best performing SMEs reinvested some of their profits into the business in the past three years with an average 9% of profits being redeployed. Tellingly, this is nearly double what other businesses admit to reinvesting in their business (5%). 

Rule 6: SMEs should engage with local business organisations and networks  

Of the top 100 SMEs, 30% had obtained external credit to expand over the past three years (compared to 24% of other businesses). Meanwhile, only 16% of all other SMEs had engaged with local enterprise partnerships or growth hubs in the past three years (compared to 23% of the top 100 SMEs). 

Chris Weller, Chief Commercial Officer, Allica Bank, said: 

“All small businesses are different, as are all small business owners, but one trait they share is an innovative resilience. Whilst the coming months and years will undoubtedly continue to present extreme challenges, there is no doubt that small and medium sized businesses across the UK will rise to meet them head on.  

“To give them the best chance to succeed, though, they need to be equipped with the right tools. There is certainly no silver bullet or panacea for every small business, but as this study has found, there are a number of common factors found in the most successful businesses that allow small enterprises to thrive and that they can consider individually for their business.  

“This research has identified common ‘rules for success’ that speak to every aspect of running a business, not just the financials. Once we saw these results, we wanted to use them to help small businesses begin to re-build and prosper, by outlining common factors and then examining how best they can be practically applied to businesses in all sectors of the economy.  

“Small business owners and their employees have been hit hard by the crisis, but they have the drive and resourcefulness to breathe new life into the economy and bring energy to post-Covid Britain. Our commitment at Allica Bank is to give them the support they need to do so, every step of the way.”

The full report contains a wealth of additional data and insight into each of these topics. As part of its mission to empower small businesses, Allica Bank is making the findings freely available and running a series of free online workshops with relevant partner organisations for businesses to attend.

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Banking

New research finds that financial wellbeing should be at the heart of banks digital experiences as the UK enters recession

New research finds that financial wellbeing should be at the heart of banks digital experiences as the UK enters recession 38

MullenLowe Profero have today launched a new report focusing on two communities who will be hardest hit by the recession: 18-25 year olds and small businesses. These communities need financial wellbeing support at the core of an increasingly digital relationship. MullenLowe Profero partnered with Censuswide to survey 1,004 18-25-year-olds and 504 small businesses.

Concern around financial shocks is harming individual’s wellbeing

The survey finds the ability to absorb financial shocks being the critical worry affecting wellbeing and 40% of 18-25-year-olds are sometimes afraid to look at their bank account.

They are seeking financial education to relieve worries

With over two-thirds of respondents demanding financial education in order to find peace of mind and 40% of 18-25-year-olds state that thinking about their money has a negative impact on their wellbeing the report highlights the audience are open to more active support from banks. 60% of the audience feel banks should help them have the capacity to absorb a financial shock.

When our bank is in our pocket reminding us of our anxieties, is there now a duty of care to support our wellbeing?

The survey finds that the digital experience is now the number one reason for choosing a bank for 18-25 year olds.

With this shift in digital preference, people are expecting banks to play a bigger role in wellbeing. 58% of those worried about their money want banks to help them take control.

More than half of 18-25 year olds agree that a bank’s role is now to:

  • provide education on money management
  • help them keep on top of financial goals
  • help them save enough money to cope with the ups and downs of life

People are feeling closer to local communities, but there is a gap in how brands should engage communities in a digital world

Half of 18-25 year olds agree that in the last few months the importance of their local community to them has increased. 40% agree they’ve engaged more with their local community in recent months. There’s a tension between how to engage a community as 60% agree they prefer a bank with better digital tools over a bank that offers more local branches. However, 60% feel banks need a branch presence to support local communities.

The importance of Global Wellbeing rises

Over half of 18-25 year olds agree that the events of the last few months have made them seek out brands that do better for the world. The research findings show that what they want most is to be recognised for their positive behaviours. 56% of the audience highlighted that they would find rewards and benefits for purchasing ethically and sustainably most useful.

Banks digital experience today lack empathy

In this time of reset, the survey found a third of customers and small businesses are considering changing banks in the next year as a result of the impact of the pandemic. The report concludes that brands that will win will champion financial wellbeing in the digital experience through empathy and emotional intelligence.

For the full report, get in touch with MullenLowe Profero at [email protected]

Howard Pull, Head of Digital Transformation Strategy at MullenLowe Profero, said: “Our findings are a wake up call for digital innovation in banking relationships.  With digital experience being the number one choice for selecting a bank, there’s a huge opportunity for banks to support individual wellbeing at scale by understanding and responding to our goals and anxieties to build better money habits.”

Methodology

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 1,004 18-25-year-old current account holders and 504 small businesses with business bank accounts and annual revenues up to £2m between 23.06.2020 and 29.06.2020. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

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