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Not too long ago, banks were asking whether they really should invest in Internet banking. Now many are raising the same questions about consumer remote deposit. As my daughter would say, “I don’t get it!”


Our youngest daughter grew up in Vietnam and joined our family when she was 8 years old. She learned English quickly, but understanding idioms and some of our illogical customs remained challenging.


A few months after she joined us, we took her to summer camp along with the rest of her siblings. “It will be fun,” we told her.


She looked around.


“No air conditioning? No TV?”


“I have to share a room with 12 other girls, sleep on an upper bunk, and eat in the dining hall with 100 other people?”


“You have to pay for this?”


“I don’t get it!”


Here’s what I don’t get the reluctance of many banks to adopt consumer remote deposit capture (scanning checks or taking photos on their smartphone and transmitting them to the bank).


A few weeks ago I listened to a presentation by USAA, Chase, and others, about their Consumer RDC strategy.


USAA explained how 35% of deposits now come through remote capture. They explained how they could specifically attribute a 10% increase in total deposit growth to this channel, and how they had plans to continue to grow consumer Remote Deposit to 65% of total. Both USAA and Chase explained how fraud was lower than expected and articulated some of their fraud control techniques. They talked about how the duplicate check problem was really not a problem.


There were lots of questions – mostly about risk.


So I was thinking:


“Consumers become their own proof operators and send checks directly to you, fully imaged.”


“Fraud is lower than regular check deposits.”


“Consumers like this channel, and move their relationship to banks that offer it.”


“But you are still worried, and are holding back because you prefer to have customers take their checks to high cost branches with expensive tellers.”


“I don’t get it!”


It seems that everyone under 30, and most people under 40, know that this is South By Southwest week in Austin. Or SXSW, or simply “South By” for those in the know. 15,000 people from all over the world pay from $700 to $1,300 to attend the various “tracks” of the festival. For us who live here, it seems that the official conference registrants only reflect a small percentage of those who converge on Austin this week to meet up and mash up.

The fastest growing section of SXSW is the Interactive Festival. This is where Twitter first got widely noticed and where Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was a recent keynoter. It seems that every influential blogger, developer and internet media mogul is here.

I was fascinated to see that one of the first sessions was titled “Banks: Innovate or Die!” The premise was that banks are simply too big and moribund to innovate, and that new financial players can give better service and steal customers away with creative new products. This was not just a wake-up call to the financial services industry, but a call to action to all the developers in the room that the payment industry is a wonderful opportunity for entrepreneurial growth.

Last week I was at the BAI Payments Connect conference. While there were some interesting new ideas, I’d have to say that much of the discussion in the DDA Under Siege track was around the “disastrous” impact of the new interchange fees and how this is bad for banks, and bad for consumers. As one speaker put it, “a lot of opining and whining”.

The folks attending South By can’t understand why financial institutions, which are facing disruptive change and frustrated consumers, are digging in their heels and not innovating. They are asking fundamentally different questions. Instead of “how can we protect our payment revenue”, they are asking why we even need a traditional payment system. Think about PayPal a few years ago, which asked why we couldn’t just email or text money instead of having to write checks.

Too many banks are saying that if the proposed new interchange restrictions go into effect, they’ll have to raise fees and it will force many people out of the banking system.

I don’t buy this logic.

First, the assumption that banks will have to raise fees assumes that income declines but the expense base and business model remains the same. That doesn’t make sense. It’s like a small retailer, faced with Wal-Mart moving into their community, explaining that they have to actually increase pricing because their revenue is declining due to low cost competition.

Second, some consumers may be forced out of the banking system but I don’t think they care. With all the innovative new solutions, there are plenty of ways for them to be served at even lower cost than offered by banks today. If PayPal, Facebook and Google offer payment solutions, why should I care if banks don’t want me?

There is so much innovation in the consumer and B2B space today that it is confusing. What should we invest in? Which technologies will dominate? We don’t have to be on the bleeding edge, but we can’t stand still and hope that the model that worked in the past will continue to serve us well in a very different future.

“Innovate or Die” is a real imperative!


Every year SNL financial publishes a survey of in-store banking trends, and they are kind enough to seek our opinion — and give us credit for a few quotes!

At most banks, in-store (supermarket) banking has not fulfilled its’ promise of “one-third the income with one-fifth the expense”. But there is a way to crack the code.

Think about the potential for small specialty branches, similar to in-store, that would allow you to pinpoint special markets. Apply these concepts to create low cost distribution at high value targets such as office campuses, hospitals, employer headquarters, densely packed urban neighborhoods, and other similar venues.

Think about the facilities design and staffing. These are not just a standard branch shrunk smaller — it needs an entirely different operating model.


Everyone is worried about DDA and payment revenue, but some banks have a clear roadmap for success.

If your inbox looks like mine, every day I get a new round of confusing emails:

  • “Free checking is dead, really dead”
  • “Free checking is still very viable – at least for community banks”
  • “Debit rewards? Not sustainable in the new environment”
  • “Debit rewards? You still need it, just have to revamp your program”
  • “Durbin will be the death of us – it’s the last nail in the coffin”
  • “Durbin will revised and it won’t be so bad”
  • “All of this means that customers are being driven out of the banking system, leaving us with fewer opportunities”

It’s enough to make your head spin!

But I am very encouraged.

In a few weeks I’m chairing a panel discussion at the BAI’s Payments Connect Conference – it’s called “Bankers Respond to the Industry Challenges”. As I’ve spent time talking with the panelists and discussing the solutions they are implementing, I am tremendously encouraged that there is a clear path forward for revenue improvement.

Three very different banks have agreed to participate on this panel: Comerica, Fifth Third, and BBVA Compass. Each has different target markets and different marketing strategies. Each is big enough to have explored and analyzed a wide range of issues and opportunities. Each is specific in their recommendations.

I hope you can join us. If so, please stop by and say hello. I’m expecting thoughtful but lively interaction.


I was struck by a recent quote from the Chief Credit Officer of $210 million Pleasanton, CA-based Valley Community Bank: “The general consensus for a community bank now is you have to be over $1 billion in total assets going forward. That’s going to be the minimum you need to survive because of the amount of regulations that are coming down. Banks under that size just can’t generate enough profits due to the new overhead.”

If this were true, we’re really in for a decade of consolidation since 91% of the roughly 7,700 federally-insured financial institutions have less than $1 billion in assets! But hyperbole aside, the statement does reflect the frustration many bankers feel in dealing with the new environment.

I’m optimistic that community banks that are forward thinking can not only succeed, but thrive, in the “new normal” if they heed the market’s current wake-up call. In order to succeed, community banks need to recognize that the environment has permanently changed and conducting business as they did in the past is not a formula for success.

I talk about the issues — and potential solutions — in an article just published in BAI Banking Strategies.


“We’re primarily a Commercial Bank that also does some Retail. Why do we need a retail strategy?”

Here’s why:

  • It’s a big revenue opportunity. Think of it as The Law-of-Large Numbers – you may be primarily focused on commercial accounts but 80% of your customers are Retail. If you have only 10,000 customers but can increase revenue by a modest $2 per month, that’s $240K incremental earnings per year.
  • There’s a big opportunity to reduce expenses. The typical bank has 60-70% of its expense base tied up in distribution and servicing. Think you don’t have opportunities there? Time and again we’ve seen found 15-20% improvement in productivity. You just need a few selected “wins” to really impact the bottom line.
  • You can use Retail to leverage your Commercial strategy. Most banks fail at this. The branches do their thing, and Commercial Lenders/Relationship Managers do theirs. But you can significantly improve your effectiveness by developing and implementing a coordinated strategy where Retail’s daily activities pro-actively support and further your Commercial strategy.

Big revenue opportunity. Big expense opportunity. Big opportunity to use Retail to pro-actively support your Commercial strategy.

Contact us – we’ll show you how to quickly and efficiently identify and capture the opportunities that make sense for your institution.


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