As we enter 2022, it is worthwhile to look back on the key trends in the U.S. payments space during the past quarter, as many of these trends should continue this year.
Key credit card metrics continued to improve.
According to the FDIC, credit card outstandings rose 1.2% y/y (to $806 billion) in 3Q21, the first y/y growth rate since the first quarter of 2020.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported that the credit card application rate rose throughout 2021, reaching 26.5% in October 2021 (a significant change when compared to the series low of 15.7% in October 2020)
Purchase volume rose at a 20%+ rate for most leading issuers in 3Q21
Charge-off rates remained at or near at historic lows.
Leading issuers launched new credit cards to fill gaps in their product portfolios and upgraded existing cards in key categories.
Wells Fargo launched a low-rate card called Reflect, featuring an 18-month 0% introductory rate that will rise to 21 months for cardholders who make payments on time.
U.S. Bank launched secured card versions of two existing unsecured credit cards; Altitude Go and Cash+.
Climate change-focused challenger bank Aspiration introduced the Aspiration Zero Card.
The Buy Now/Pay Later (BNPL) market continued to grow and evolve, with traditional payments players (e.g., Capital One, Mastercard) announcing plans to introduce BNPL options. Existing BNPL players reciprocated by launching card and pay-in-full options (e.g., Klarna announced plans to introduce a debit card and Affirm announced a pay-in-full option).
Gen Z and Millennials have emerged as key targets for both established and emerging payments firms.
American Express reported that spending by Gen Z and Millennials rose 38% between 2Q19 and 2Q21, while Baby Boomer spending declined over the same period. And perhaps more significantly, Gen Z and Millennials accounted for 75% of new Platinum cardmembers.
TransUnion reported Gen Z and Millennials accounted for 47% of total credit card originations in 2Q21, up from 39% in 2Q19.
However, it appears that traditional banks have not yet adapted their underwriting processes to capture this segment. A survey by Alliance Data found that 27% of Gen Zers claim to have been turned down when applying for their first credit card, a rate two times the level of any other generation.
The strong growth in digital payments (which accelerated during the pandemic) continued in 4Q21:
eMarketer predicts that U.S. e-commerce sales will pass $1 trillion in 2022.
Leading person-to-person payments provider Zelle processed $127 billion of payments in 3Q21, up 53% y/y.
We expect that most of these payments trends will continue in 2022 as consumer behaviors and preferences continue to be reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, and established and emerging payments providers adapt their solutions, offers and messaging to these market dynamics.
As consumers turn to digital banking channels for everyday banking – and for an increasing range of more complex banking interactions – the battle between digital challengers looking to enter and grab a share of the market and traditional banks seeking to optimize customer retention and engagement has intensified. With this in mind, the following are five key trends that emerged in the digital banking space during the 3rd quarter:
Existing digital challengers are expanding their product portfolios and raising funding for further growth.
Established digital banks are continuing to report strong customer growth. They are looking to enhance existing customer relationships by introducing new products.
Digital banks who raised funding in 3Q21 included Revolut and Varo (raised $510 million, valuing the company at $2.5 billion).
New digital challengers are emerging. With relatively low barriers to entry, new digital banks continue to emerge, with many targeting specific market niches, such as the recent launch of Nerve, a challenger bank for musicians.
Traditional banks are investing to build strong digital engagement. Banks have responded to the challenge posed by digital challengers by directing increased resources to develop features and tools that enhance the digital experience. To show progress on this, many banks are now publishing metrics not only on (digital/mobile) usage, but also on growing digital engagement:
Bank of America reported Zelle P2P payment users rose 24% y/y to 15.1 million in 3Q21 and Zelle payment volume jumped by 54% to $60 billion.
U.S. Bank reported that digital transactions accounted for 80% of total transactions in 3Q21, up from 67% in 3Q19.
Huntington Bank reported that digitally-assisted mortgage applications accounted for 96% of total mortgage applications in 3Q21, up from just 9% in 3Q20.
Traditional banks are developing their own digital banks. While many traditional banks are competing with digital challengers by enhancing their digital banking functionality, some are going further by
Launching standalone digital banks: Cambridge Bank launched Ivy Bank, a digital-only division.
Adding products to the digital bank’s offering: Citizens Access, Citizens’ national digital bank, is planning to introduce mortgage lending and student refinance by the end of 2021, as well as checking, home equity, credit card and wealth in 2022.
Traditional banks remain committed to the digital-human channel model. Many banks have realized that the broad transition to digital channels for everyday banking transactions means that they can continue to serve a market with a less dense branch presence, so are cutting branches in existing markets. However, their continued reliance on branches is seen is the fact that many are opening branches in de novo markets (JPMorgan Chase is halfway through a plan to open 400 new branches by the end of 2022). Banks are also redesigning branches in existing markets to reposition them to take on new roles (e.g., advisory centers, brand beacons, community hubs, locations to showcase new innovations).
Established and challenger banks responded to key changes in the small business landscape (ongoing economic recovery and the ending of PPP loans) in the third quarter of 2021 with new business banking solutions and thought leadership.
Banks published surveys that gauged small business owner optimism and addressed current hot topics, such as inflation (PNC), supply chain disruptions (Umpqua Bank), access to funding (Goldman Sachs) and relationship with their financial service provider (Kabbage).
Leading small business credit card issuers launched new cards with high earn rates to capture a greater share of the increased card spend following the pandemic. Noteworthy examples include Capital One Spark Cash Plus (2% cash back on all purchases) and U.S. Bank Triple Cash Rewards Visa Business (3% cash back on four core categories). In addition, American Express launched a business-to-business marketing campaign (“Built for Business”) promoting its business cards.
Financial firms continued to generate small business content, with new podcast services added to the suite of content options during the quarter (e.g., Regions Next Step for Business and Comerica’s Small Business Summer Series on LinkedIn).
Banks rolled out initiatives for historically-underserved business segments, including black-owned business (Ally’s $30 million commitment to help grow black-owned businesses) and women-owned businesses (BMO Harris’s Women in Business Credit Program).