BLOG: The Eagles Nest


Social media has become a marketing and distribution building block  and is critical to competitive success. Unfortunately recent revelations regarding the misuse of private data has brought an uneasiness with some networks, especially Facebook. Data from millions of private, personal accounts has been used by spurious sources, never contemplated by the individuals, to compromise privacy and to question membership with Facebook. Many of our financial institutions are using Facebook and they are going to reassess their roles with social media ,and to increase security around customers' and the institutions' data.

Proactive information has to be distributed to the public and customer base on where you stand and what you are doing relative to Facebook. What are your strategies, corrective measures and guarantees? Saying or doing nothing will send the wrong signal.

Pat Palmer | Wednesday, March 28, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Another article all over the media yesterday states that "big banks are providing insufficient protection for people" relating to previous criticisms of pushy sales staff trying to sell unwanted or unneeded products and services. My problem is the lack of public relations by banks discussing what they are doing to again legitimize their sales cultures as customer -centric. The Ottawa inquiry yielded what? Are complaints still pouring in or is there an issue carry over simply because some organizations have their heads in the sand and media like to bash banks.

Every financial institution has to engage customers and prospects to understand how the bank/credit union can improve peoples' financial well being. This process starts with customer need identification and flexible empathy scripts. In other words try to offer solutions to personal financial problems/inadequacies in a manner that generates engagement. This is quite different than a product-centric culture where sales silos compete by pushing their products at everyone.

Once a sales culture is off the tracks, it is time to do an internal audit and external research on customer preferences to set the criteria for re-designing and re-orienting the proper atmosphere and experiences. Staff and customers need to be kept informed throughout the process. Proactive, positive publicity plus sales and service education on a continuous are the priorities as well as ensuring the solicitation of feedback, both positive and negative, from all people inside and outside  the organization

Pat Palmer | Thursday, March 22, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

As a veteran financial services practitioner I watch with serious concern the debt levels of individuals and governments.

In particular I will also raise the credit card red flag especially within this period of rising rates. Sure I have a couple credit cards and they are paid off monthly so I am perhaps not the best kind of customer for credit card companies because I avoid their horrendous rates on outstanding balances. Yes those rates are perhaps necessitated due to losses and frauds. But, why aren't consumers and their financial service suppliers doing more to minimize their high borrowing costs and even excessive debt? There are options available to decrease the high cost credit card balances by using other borrowing products where debt is better managed by suppliers and users. FI's should take the opportunity to keep educating their customers  proactively at every touch point. The promotion blasts, mostly unsolicited, by credit cards companies sure give the impression that they are not concerned about customers/prospects, just numbers in their portfolios. 

What really upsets are the role models that consumers see in their political environments- governments living on debt and deficits as if there is no day of reckoning and just passing on the responsibility to future generations who have to pay higher taxes to cover endless interest increases. Governments get themselves on a treadmill to disaster by continually overspending to "buy" political favour/votes.

Budgets that spend on the back of more debt have to stop so people realize it is a bad example and they don't do the same.

Pat Palmer | Wednesday, March 14, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

All retailing's success factors have changed and are evolving with technology, consumer preferences, costs of doing business and leadership through customer-centric innovation. The traditional large stores with excess footprints in every type of business are finding that they don't generate the bottom-lines like they once did, even in financial services. Presently the industry leaders in assets still can hide some inefficiencies such as multi-tier management and an abundance of under performing stores/branches in terms of new revenue generation. At the same time the number of commodity niche competitors online and in store fronts are continuing to evolve eroding certain product market shares or relationships. The latter is the long term critical catalyst to manage. Consumers are more cost conscious and as a consequence will be attracted by better deals such as free chequing and e-transfers or a 1.89% mortgage with no added fees. You and I both know that larger institutions "smooth-out" revenues over many products or use a so called relationship pricing model which basically blends rates and fees. 

There are a number of commodity players in financial services expanding their product reach in every area of business from investment fees to chequing accounts. These players will expand through commodity collaborations which will have omnichannel coverage but stay away from expensive operations, management structures and non-profitable strategies. So how to you think the Amazon, Wayfair, Google, platform competitors will make out in financial services? Or better still commodity competitors' philosophies similar to Dollarama, Giant Tiger, etc in financial service store fronts. Personally I believe that you can and should have commodity collaborations under white branded umbrella's in your distribution strategy. Smaller margins are possible and profitable.

Today's shoppers permeate all segments and overtime their preferences change so a successful business model will be based on multiple businesses that will engage consumers as they prefer!

Pat Palmer | Monday, March 12, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Over the last year we have all watched the new elected leader of the USA with distrust! In a global economy when one of the players says. and means, "It is my way or the highway"  the atmosphere becomes negative. The NAFTA negotiations are NOT going well after 25 years of mutual benefits and collaboration. The whole spectrum of that agreement if it is unwound in any key ways will surely erode Canadian business and individual jobs. Now there is an executive order for extremely damaging tariffs on core Canadian exports to the USA.which will be devastating to our economy and futures. Risks on financing directly involved and dependent industries plus employees therein have become precarious. Anyone who thinks that tariff wars are easy to win is on the wrong planet.

The holistic economic consequences of the USA trade war rattling in all its actions and attitudes will set us back significantly. Sure, we have to revise our strategic and contingency plans but also we have to start strongly lobbying our political leaders not to stick their heads in the sand or dance with the devil any longer. As an industry and country we must develop and expand improved economic partners that we can depend on today and for the future. Our customer and staff depend on our leadership to be proactive to benefit all peoples and the planet.

Pat Palmer | Sunday, March 04, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Like you I continue to see multiple articles on various delivery/engagement channels with most focused on how to make each channel option better for the provider. Unfortunately, these articles are channel-centric and in many cases miss the key channel catalyst- the customers! For 20 years WESI has and will continue to emphasize that omnichannel success starts with critical customer/prospect research applied on a segmented focus and supplemented with a channel preference-profitability matrix.

Start with defining what customers you want the engage and have a professional develop and administer the appropriated research template. Ensure you clearly define channels, motivators and priorities today and over the next three years. While the research is being undertaken externally, internally assess the costs and profitability of each distinctive channel and their key features. Calculate where you have capacity/expandability and how costs trend with increased and decreased volumes. Also do some contingency calculations if you had to significantly shrink or add capabilities. Finally, prepare favourable preliminary out and co-sourcing options. These are the channel components that have to be assessed through an integrated discipline.

The goal is to know exactly what channel preferences currently exist and where you have to migrate to over the next few years. Avoid isolated channel silo analytics and ownership preferences. Channels options are fluid and competition will disintermediate you where they find a customer preference/profitability weakness. Your customer engagement is dependent on success with customer channel preference research applications.

Pat Palmer | Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

Our sequence of priorities for optimum performance starts with people- customer and staff. Unfortunately today many organizations focus on their performance processes through clinical stages and incentives.

Among financial institutions this past December, it was "pay-up" month in the performance cycles and you would think that with the year's profit returns staff would be ecstatic and re-motivated. Looking a little deeper you will uncover sentiments that show cracks in the priorities ranging from employees focused on what gives them the most financial gains to those who would prefer to escape the never-ending treadmill to profits.Their cultures are no longer driven by people first!

Customer satisfaction and loyalty drives performance as concluded by many studies from academics and researchers over the years. Even in an omnichannel environment dominated with online options customers want to feel that their service is reason that drives financial suppliers' businesses or they will commoditize past relationships through disintermediation and aggregation options which we find in abundance when researching customer preferences. 

Recent negative media stories which show impersonal behaviours and clinical responses by banks sure reinforce non-personal priorities. Also when we talk to staff there is the distinct impression that top management is not driving customer first cultures any longer.

Staff also need to feel that they are part of the people first priority wherever they work in the customer chain from sales and service through to operations and enabling/background departments. Leaders have to walk the customer talk in what they do and how they do it. At every direct and indirect contact point staff have to have a customer focus externally and internally. If this is lost then dis-satisfaction is the result which affects relationships and hence profits.

Another catalyst is how green the organization is perceived by both customers and staff- is the planet important or is it profits and shareholder value at any cost.

Let's remember that technology does not exempt an organization from the cultural imperatives of people and profits but represents or mirrors the environment in which we do business. If you only want to be a commodity, online player you still have to demonstrate the empathy which engages people.

Pat Palmer | Wednesday, February 07, 2018 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

As we enter 2018, there are many technology trends that will continue to dominate developments in the financial services such as Artificial Intelligence but we believe that virtual mobile only banking is a game breaker for many organizations large and small plus will attract more non-traditional competitors especially those with extensive retail platform capabilities. A few decades back branch location preferences and profitability were the critical distribution decision makers but rapid technological improvements have sure changed those dynamics and shaped new consumer preferences.

Today mobile only capabilities open a vast set of new market possibilities and collaborations. Small credit unions can now realize dreams of expanded membership bases in communities where they don't have physical presences plus they can build totally online banking subsidiaries that are only constrained by their licences, which can be changed, and regulatory requirements. No longer do FI's have to invest in expensive brick and mortar facilities. Also the right mix of collaborations can open up junior platform models that can bring totally new experiences and engagements to those who are not attracted to big operators' images and profits. On the other hand, the who;e world of virtual, mobile retailing will increase the attraction variables for innovators in multiple industries who will cannibalize financial services to great depths.

Virtual mobile banking opens endless opportunities! Will this year be your definitive expansion in this area?

Pat Palmer | Saturday, December 30, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

How well are your customers engaged with your organization so that you have multiple opportunities to offer/create meaningful customer experiences? Historically we depended on the branch staff, next we added other distribution channels such as advertising media including direct mail, ATM's, contact centres. online banking, mobile representatives and, most importantly, full mobile banking apps, payments, etc in your omnichannel landscape. Customers are mutli-channel users today, although certain ones are critical customer engagement pivots especially with integrated digital solutions which can be customized/personalized to one customer at a time. Consumers are engaged more than ever and they control when, where and how those events take place or which ones they activate. How engagement effective are your channel choices or are they primarily reactive? How about your competitors- traditional, digital and platform? Customers are actually being engaged for financial services by non-bank/credit union digital disintermediators!

My favourite is Amazon, a platform digital retailer cannibalizing just about every retail sector including financial services. Amazon, once you have made a search or contact initiates their continuous engagement offers through any Internet/mobile device. In this high shopping time between Thanksgiving and Christmas it is amazing how many intra-day prompts/offers you receive in your e-mails. as pop-ups and side bars or other applications- as we say in sports, it is a full bench press! You always get the sense that Amazon has something new to offer in products, services or prices. So are we financial services spectators or participants in this digital transformation? Perhaps it is time to do some customer engagement/experience research and verify where you stand as a lead, complimentary or supplementary partner with your relationships? Digital dynamics are revolutionizing business and customer preferences and your research should be continuous and be tracking trends through daily data analytics.

Pat Palmer | Thursday, November 30, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink

For a number of years we have written about, and consulted with various clients, on building integrated distribution businesses through collaborations, partnerships and various cooperative retailing arrangements. Some large FI's have expanded their value propositions with fintechs and adding new businesses to their retail offerings and even smaller organizations such as Credit Union Atlantic have developed hundreds of reciprocal relationships in their trading area. Still we see too many financial organizations not expanding their customer experiences or engagement catalysts.

There have been multiple manufacturers like General Motors,Harley Davidson, etc that made entrances into the retail financial products marketplace plus large retailers such as Loblaw and Walmart. These are the traditional intruders now but they represent minor competitive threats compared to the monster, integrated distributors and networks, some of which have entered financial services and others, we believe, won't be far behind- Amazon, Facebook, Wayfair, Google, Linkedin, and international platforms which are bound to enter the digital,retail financial services space in many countries.

The Internet distributors have silenced the skeptics from a few years ago and this black Friday/Christmas season will again stimulate more growth for them versus those dependent on bricks and mortar investments and passive digital responses.

Digital, competitive disintermediation is a major retailing reality which deserves priority attention, energy and action- it is a case of profitable survival!

Pat Palmer | Wednesday, November 15, 2017 | Trackbacks (0) | Permalink


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