Perspectives on Bank Marketing Spending

Directions in bank marketing spend have become more difficult to predict, as banks seek to balance the need to control costs with the desire to capture growth opportunities. Bank marketing spending trends for 2012 show these forces in action. Many large banks now have multi-year expense reduction in programs in place. However, there is growth potential in a number of lending categories (e.g., commercial, mortgage, and auto).

The chart above shows a mixed picture, with double-digit declines in marketing spending for Chase and Bank of America, but double-digit growth by KeyBank , PNC and Discover Financial. So, at first glance, it appears that the largest banks are cutting their marketing budgets, while some regional banks are ramping up their investment.

However, this just provides one year’s worth of data. Taking a longer-term view, the next chart looks at changes in bank marketing spending between 2007 (just prior to the onset of the financial crisis) and 2012.

This gives us a rather different picture, with 7 of 11 banks increasing their marketing spend over the five-year period. And different stories emerge for particular banks as we take the longer-term view.

  • KeyBank’s $68 million in marketing spend is 13% higher than 2011, but 11% lower than the $76 million it spent in 2007.
  • JPMorgan Chase had the largest decline between 2011 and 2012 (-18%), but its $2,577 million spend level in 2012 represented a 24% increase over 2007 levels (and in fact, there were significant shifts in spending during this period, with a 14% fall between 2007 and 2009, followed by a 77% rise between 2009 and 2011).

Even this five-year view does not give us a full picture, as the financial crisis has meant that many banks have changed radically between 2007 and 2012. For example, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have grown significantly, in large part due to the acquisitions of Wachovia and Wamu, respectively. On the other hand, Citigroup and Bank of America, two of the banks hardest hit by the financial crisis, have embarked on a long-term project to sell off non-core assets.

With this is mind, a more effective way to compare bank marketing spend levels is to look at bank marketing spend intensity (marketing spend as a percentage of revenues).

Taking this viewpoint, we can decipher a number of trends:

  • Banks that lack a retail branch presence (such as American Express and Discover) have the greatest marketing spend intensity. American Express recently reported that, even as it looks to reduce expenses (with plans announced in January 2013 for 5,400 job cuts), it plans to maintain marketing spend at 9% of revenues.
  • Next in bank marketing spend intensity are banks like Capital One and Citigroup, which have national lending franchises but relatively small branch networks. In the case of Capital One, its marketing spend intensity has declined in recent years, from 9.2% in 2007 to 6.4% in 2012. This has coincided with its transition from a monoline credit card provider to a more full-service bank.
  • National banks with extensive branch networks and a full range of services (JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America) tend to spend the equivalent of 2-3% of revenues on marketing. There has been some reduction in marketing spend intensity by these banks in recent years, most notably by Bank of America, whose marketing spend as a percent of revenues fell from 3.6% in 2007 to 2.2% in 2012. Wells Fargo stands out from its national bank peers, with marketing spend intensity below 1%.
  • Regional banks’ marketing spend intensity tends to be lower than other bank segments, at 1-2% of revenues.

In summary, bank marketing spend levels are set within ranges that are defined by the bank’s size, structure and product focus. Within these ranges, banks increase or decrease marketing spending from year to year based on both their strategic priorities as well as their assessment of their operating environment.

Bank Results Highlight Branch Network Resiliency

The emergence of online and mobile banking has led to many financial industry commentators to question the sustainability of the branch channel.   Recently-published data from three leading banks (Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo) indicates that online banking has achieved critical mass (with huge numbers of users, but low/no growth), while mobile banking is rapidly emerging as a key banking channel.

Does the emergence of online and mobile banking presage the end of branches? EMI’s analysis of the latest data on the top 15 branch networks indicates no significant evidence of banks dramatically scaling back their branch numbers.

  • Of the top 15 branch networks, 7 grew between end-2011 and January 2013, while 8 declined.
  • The largest growth in numbers came from PNC (due to its acquisition of RBC Bank in 2012), Chase and BB&T.
  • The largest declines came from Bank of America, which has signalled its intent to cut its branch network by 10%; and RBS Citizens.

Bank executives reiterated their commitment to the branch channel in reporting their latest quarterly earnings. However, they also highlighted the need for changes to the branch channel in the context of changing customer channel usage and technological advances, as well as the ongoing need to control costs.  Changes will probably involve some reductions in branch numbers, as banks eliminate underperforming individual branches and exit geographic markets where they feel they cannot gain critical mass.  Of course, banks may also seek to grow their branch presence in targeted markets (as Chase is doing in Florida and California).  In addition, bank need to make significant changes to branch design, staffing and operations, a topic that EMI discussed in a recent blog.

How Did U.S. Credit Card Issuers Perform in 4Q12?

Over the past week, leading U.S. credit card issuers have been publishing their 4Q12 and full-year 2012 results.  After we reviewed these financials, we detected the following trends, which are largely consistent with our recent blog on top credit card trends for 2013.

  • Outstandings: The top three issuers continue to report y/y declines in average outstandings, while traditional monolines and regional banks are driving growth. Both Wells Fargo and regional banks focus on cross-selling credit cards to their existing customer base. Wells Fargo reported that credit card penetration of retail banking households rose from 27% in 1Q11 to 33% to 4Q12. Bank of America indicated in its 4Q12 earnings call that it would be focusing on marketing credit cards through the franchise.

  • Volume: Most leading issuers reported strong y/y growth in volume in 4Q12. However, there is evidence that this growth rate is slowing down. American Express‘ 8% y/y growth in 4Q12 was down from 12% in 1Q12. And during the same period, Chase y/y volume growth fell from 12% to 9%.

  • Charge-off and delinquency rates: Charge-off and delinquency rates continue to trend downwards. Of the 11 issuers studied by EMI,
    • Only Capital One reported a y/y rise in its charge-off rate, and this was due to the acquisition of the HSBC card portfolio.
    • 6 of the 11 reported linked-quarter declines in the charge-off rate. 9 of the 11 have rates below 4%, with two issuers (American Express and Discover) reporting 4Q12 charge-off rates of below 3%. Even Bank of America (which is one of the two issuers with a rate above 4%) reported that its charge-off rate is at its lowest level since 2006. In many cases, charge-off rates are now below historic norms, which points to a fundamental change in consumer attitudes to carrying credit card debt.
    • Delinquency rates also declined y/y, although some issuers did reported linked-quarter increases, driven perhaps by both seasonality, as well as some upward movement as issuers start to pursue loan growth.