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This article, by Peak Performance Consulting Group senior consultant Guenther Hartfeil, was originally published in BAI Banking Strategies on November 10, 2014


Even simple segmentation approaches can yield substantial results if implemented with disciplined execution.


We live in an age of “big data” but sometimes this amounts to data overload. What we really need is more usable data that can translate into better customer service, improved sales, and greater profitability. One very effective way to organize data is to group customers or prospects into segments.


The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is a simple way of describing the dynamic that people tend to group together with those of like interests and similar behaviors. Segmentation is just a way to find people (or businesses) with common behaviors so that marketers and salespeople can then approach each segment in an appropriate manner. These different approaches may show up in product design, media used, pricing or distribution design.


Bankers can gain tremendous benefits from even simple segmentation schemes that can help answer questions such as: How much time should be spent with a customer or prospect? How should the customer or prospect be contacted? And, when contacted, what should be communicated?

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This article was originally published in BAI Banking Strategies on September 22, 2014


Community banks face unique issues but they can improve revenue and efficiency when they target growth segments and embrace new technology.  


Financial institutions of all sizes are facing challenges to their retail branch system. Technological innovation, starting with the introduction of ATMs, then internet banking, and most recently mobile banking, has rMap and Pinesulted in declining branch usage. Consumers and businesses don’t need to go to the bank as frequently as they did in the past now that routine monetary and service transactions can be easily handled on a personal computer or smartphone.


While these broad trends impact all financial institutions, community banks, which tend to be the primary provider of banking services in non-metropolitan markets, face special challenges.


For one, their communities are, for the most part, not growing. Since the 1930s, young adults have fled small towns for better job opportunities in larger metropolitan areas. Over 50% of rural counties lost population between 1980 and 2010, with a typical decline of 14.8%. The impact was greatest in the Midwest, where 86% of all rural counties lost population. The eroding size of rural and small town markets, combined with changes in branch usage, makes it harder to raise deposits and attract loans.


One side effect of this phenomenon is that community banks in small markets often face less pressure to change their branch systems than their metropolitan brethren. As younger adults leave, the customer base of these banks ages, encouraging managers to assume that remaining more branch-centric continues to be an appropriate strategy. Executives also face less competitive pressure to embrace new technology, since many of the largest banks are pulling back from small markets. Bank of America, for example, has refocused on larger growth markets and sold or closed branches in smaller communities. As one community bank CEO told me, “I don’t have Chase or Wells or BofA in my market promoting their new technology; I just have other small banks like me.”


Unsustainable Expenses

But here’s the rub: maintaining an expensive branch network in the face of decreasing branch usage – even if the decline in transactions may be slightly slower in small markets – combined with low or negative population growth is an unsustainable economic formula in the long term. PCSB (Page County State Bank) in Clarinda, Iowa, is one institution that recognized the problem; managers saw that they would have to
improve branch efficiency or else ultimately be forced to exit the small markets that had been their heritage. Communities with a small population, and therefore low branch traffic, cannot generate enough revenue to support traditional, fully staffed, bank branches.

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We are very pleased that Guenther Hartfeil, formerly with BB&T and SNL Financial, has joined Peak Performance Consulting Group. He brings tremendous expertise to Peak’s clients as they grapple with more effective ways to improve revenue and efficiency.


Guenther has had leadership roles in utilizing business analytics and information management to drive improved business results. “Big Data is the catchword of the day, but it is really about making data better, more useful and helpful for decision making. And sometimes that means smaller and more effective data,” according to Guenther.


Most recently, Guenther was responsible for the householding and customer profitability calculations for the SNL Banker application, which was created primarily to serve community banks. Prior to that he was EVP, Client Insight and Innovation at BB&T, where he led the Branch Strategy, Contact Strategy, Market Research, Marketing Database and Innovation functions enterprise-wide. While there, he developed an innovative means to categorize BB&T’s 1,800 branches to help assure proper staffing and goal setting based on client and market opportunities and competition. This process identified an additional opportunity for $250 MM in annual revenue. Guenther also developed improved sales systems, “smart” sales reporting, customer profitability models as well as customer segmentation and retention programs.


David Kerstein, President of Peak Performance, said, “Peak’s goal is to help banks and credit unions craft and execute successful retail and community banking strategies. Guenther’s experience spans both large banks and community banks, and he knows how to deliver bottom line results for our clients.”


Guenther is located in Charlotte, NC and can be reached at ghartfeil@ppcgroup.com



I was reading the obituary of Paul Amos, who founded American Family Life Assurance Company with his brothers. You know the company – it’s the one with the talking duck who repeats the abbreviated name “Aflac.”


Here’s what struck me in the NY Times obituary:


While most insurers sold policies by knocking on doors, Paul had the company emphasize cluster selling and worksite marketing. Instead of making presentations to individuals, the company’s sales representatives often went to companies to make sales pitches to groups of employees. Today, most of Aflac’s United States policies are bought through payroll deductions.


Sounds like Bank at Work, or perhaps Insurance at Work. Aflac built a $121 billion company on this strategy.


We’ve been saying for a long time that Bank at Work can be a highly effective and efficient acquisition channel by reaching prospective customers at their workplace. And it’s a natural fit for banks that have commercial relationships with employers, or credit unions based on their historical SEG (Select Employer Group) heritage.


But before you charge headlong into this program, read our articles and presentations: Ten Myths about Workplace Banking, Keys to a Successful Workplace Banking Program, and Banking on Bank at Work.


And to know more, reach out to Paul Corrigan who is one of the leading experts on Workplace Banking. He managed the very successful programs at Citibank and RBS Citizens, and has consulted with credit unions, community banks, and national banks in the United States, Canada, and around the world. His expertise with Workplace Banking initiatives covers the full range from strategy to execution and includes considerable experience in program implementation and channel management. Paul can be reached at paul.corrigan@ppcgroup.com




Peak Performance Director Rick Carey will reprise his popular Retail Banking course at the 64th Annual Graduate School of Banking session July 13-25, 2014 on the beautiful campus of the University of Colorado Boulder.


In addition to clients in the United States, Ric has recently been working as the senior advisor to Ningbo Donghai Bank in Ningbo China where he is introducing a new Community Bank model. He also is on the faculty of the International Academy of Retail Banking where his teaching assignments include programs in Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa and Abu Dhabi, UAE.


Ric specializes in Consumer and Small Business Segmentation, Branch Design/Technology, Sales and Marketing programs as well as Service Quality initiatives. You can contact him at ric.carey@ppcgroup.com.


This article was originally published in The Financial Brand on March 6, 2014 and was co-authored by David Kerstein, President of Peak Performance Consulting Group, and Nancy Radermecher, President of JohnRyan


Here’s how to make use of sophisticated branch data analysis in the creation of targeted marketing messages, and why this is important in adapting the branch for the future.


The Branch Transformation Imperative

Consumers are changing the way they bank. Research by the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank and others indicates check-writing activity has been declining at a rate of 5-7% annually, creating less demand for branch monetary transactions. Meanwhile, routine transactions that had been branch-centric are being disintermediated by the Internet, mobile and call centers.


According to a report by FMSI, branches process roughly half the transactions they did 20 years ago, with branch transaction volumes declining by 45.3% since 1992. This figure is likely to be considerably higher for banks that have aggressively implemented alternative channel delivery strategies.


Although consumers are using branches less, they still place a high value on bank branch convenience. Local branch presence is a primary reason consumers choose a bank, while customers consider easy access to branches and ATMs one of the features they value most.


Financial institutions face a basic conundrum: consumers want branches, but declining usage is reducing sales opportunities and revenue growth. As routine servicing and monetary transactions continue to migrate out of the retail branch, the fundamental nature of bank branches must undergo a dramatic transformation.


Branches will still be the primary vehicle for customer acquisition and consultative sales, but they must adapt to focus less on teller transactions and more on more complex advisory services. Successful financial institutions will implement more robust front line tools to enable staff to deliver better customer service, stronger profitable cross-sell, and achieve greater share of wallet.


The bottom line is that, with fewer teller transactions, branches must become more efficient as sales centers. This can be achieved through greater micro-market targeting of marketing messages in order to maximize the sales opportunity from limited branch traffic and to optimize trade area sales penetration.


Improve Revenue With Targeted Strategies

Up to now, many financial institutions have employed a one-size-fits-all strategy. Branches are often similar in size and style with limited differentiation. More importantly, marketing strategies are frequently implemented uniformly across the network with limited variation of messaging based on unique branch or trade area characteristics.


Usually, messaging is two-dimensional (for example, Spanish language signage in selected locations). But “best practice” institutions are improving revenue by tailoring messaging in a more efficient and impactful ways.


Moving forward, financial institutions need to adopt a more sophisticated “Rubik’s Cube” approach where messages are specific to the trade area market opportunity. This should form part of a comprehensive system that uses both market and internal data to create a sales and marketing protocols.

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