Trends Impacting Credit Card Marketing

A review of various bank and credit card issuer presentations at the recent Barclays Global Financial Services conference revealed a number of trends that could have a significant impact on how credit cards are being marketed.

  • Priority is cross-selling existing customers.  Regional banks that have recently re-acquired their branded credit card portfolios (such as KeyBank and Huntington) are following the lead of Wells Fargo model, in cross-selling credit cards to existing customers (35% of Wells Fargo’s retail households have a Wells Fargo credit card).
    • Regions Bank—which acquired its card portfolio two years ago—reported that its credit card penetration rate is now 13%, and it has ambitions to grow this to 20%.  In addition, even issuers with a national credit card franchise are concentrating efforts on their own customer bases.
    • U.S. Bank is increasingly focused on deepening customer relationships and has increased card penetration to 34%.
    • And Bank of America claimed that 60% of new cards issued in the second quarter of 2013 were to existing customers.
  • The online channel is now the most popular method for new account production.  The popularity of the online channel for new cardholder acquisition is largely driven by its lower cost-per-acquisition relative to other channels, such as direct mail.  It is also a by-product of consumers’ increased comfort with using electronic channels to manage their finances.
    • American Express reported that more than 50% of card acquisition comes through online channels.
    • 71% of Bank of America’s new U.S. consumers credit card accounts came from branch and online channels in 2Q13, compared to 57% in 2Q11.
    • And these examples are consistent with recent data from Chase, who reported in 2Q13 that 53% of credit card accounts were acquired online.
  • Card issuance is growing. 
    • Bank of America claimed that its card issuance is at its highest level since 2008.
    • This mirrors recent data from Experian, which found that overall bank card origination volume (based on credit issued) jumped 21% y/y to $69 billion in 2Q12, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2008.
  • Credit quality remains strong. Most issuers do not see any significant reversal in the continued downward trajectory in credit card charge-off and delinquency rates.
    • Discover does not envisage significant upward movement in its loss rates over the next 12 months.
    • Chase attributed part of the improvement in its credit-quality metrics to a shift in its customer mix toward higher-income consumers.
  • The competitive battle is centered on rewards.  Although most issuers now offer attractive teaser rates on their main cards, issuers are looking to differentiate and create a competitive advantage through their rewards programs.
    • Discover said that “rewards is the new competitive landscape” and this realization influenced the launch of its Discover It card.
    • U.S. Bank is looking to differentiate by taking its rewards program in-house, claiming that this will enable it improve redemption value, enhance the customer experience and customize rewards.

Five Branch Channel Trends

At the recent Barclays Global Financial Services conference, presentations by leading U.S. banks highlighted the extent to which they are adapting their branch networks, based on the need to reduce costs, leverage new technologies, and reflect changing customer behavior.  The following are five branch channel trends that emerged from the conference:

  1. Reduction in branch numbers.  Many of the larger banks are closing unprofitable branches.  Bank of America and SunTrust both reported 7% falls in their branch numbers over the past two years.  BB&T cut its branch network by 3%.  According to FDIC data, there was a net decline of 839 branches in the year to June 30, 2013.
  2. Emergence of new branch models.  Banks are no longer following a one-size-fits-all model for branches, and instead are deploying different types of metrics based on a range of factors, such as market characteristics, branch density and competitive strength. First Horizon is piloting a concierge branch model in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville, featuring no teller rows and staffed by universal bankers.  The Fifth Third micro-branch format, which it expects to pilot in the coming months, has 2-3 staff in self-service, non-cash-handling branches.
  3. Flagship branches and lower density. PNC presented its new hub-and-spoke branch model, which features an all-purpose universal branch surrounded by cashless branches, ATMs and electronic channels.  This comes as PNC plans to close 200 branches in 2013.  Other banks that have recently opened flagship stores include Bank of America, Citibank and Umpqua Bank.
  4. Overhaul of branch staffing and training. As branches process fewer everyday transactions, and the role of the branch shifts towards sales and customer relationship management, banks are reducing teller numbers while deploying additional specialists in branches.  In the first 6 months of 2013, PNC reduced its teller headcount by 6%, while growing investment professionals by 17%.  Bank of America claimed that its specialist headcount has grown to 6,800, with half of these based in branches.  In addition, banks are training and supporting staff to enhance their selling capabilities.  SunTrust reported that investing in training and technology for front-line retail staff resulted in a 30% rise in sales productivity (sales per FTE per day).
  5. Branch as beachhead. City National discussed the establishment of a branch in New York City, far from its Californian retail banking footprint. This branch is designed to support the bank’s targeting of the entertainment industry.  And other banks have established beachhead branches outside of their retail banking footprint, both to build brand awareness as well as support the banks’ commercial banking and capital markets activities, which tend to have nationwide reach.  This week, BB&T announced that it is establishing a presence in Chicago.  Earlier this year, BBVA Compass announced the opening of loan-production offices (focusing on commercial banking and wealth management) in New York and Washington, D.C.  And in October 2012, BMO Harris opened a corporate banking office in Atlanta.

EMI expects there will additional changes to branch deployment, design and staffing to its role fundamentally shifts away from everyday transaction processing, and more towards selling, providing advice, as well as branding.