– Tony Farnfield, Partner at BearingPoint
Earlier this year TSB announced that most of its Scottish branches will only open for two or three days a week. This once again illustrates the changing face of retail banking across the UK. In making the decision, TSB has set out figures showing the fall in branch visits by customers, while there has been a sharp increase in the use of online and phone banking, and visits to alternative branches.
TSB is not alone, consumer group, Which has estimated that there are over 1000 bank and building societies that have closed down, or plan to close down, in 2018 and 2019.
There are a number of reasons why the retail bank footprint is changing. Part of the reason is that traditional bricks-and-mortar retail banks are currently facing a unique – but exciting – challenge. As digital-only challenger banks are rising in popularity, incumbent banks are having to invest heavily in digitalisation to remain competitive. However, is there an opportunity to optimise their bank branches to support their long-term strategy?
With the benefit of not having high real estate costs, digital-only banks can offer their customers competitive interest; however, the power of the branch should not be underestimated. Recent research has shown that the majority of UK banking customers still require regular face-to-face interactions, but the way in which consumers interact with their bank branches is changing. The challenge for traditional players is to ensure their bank branch footprint is optimised to meet these needs, whilst remaining profitable.
The impact of the challenger: The digital bank
Following the Financial Services Act in 2012, new online-only banks, such as Monzo, N26, and Starling, have entered the UK banking market. With their user-friendly and ‘gamified’ apps, these banks have appealed to the new digital-savvy generation. In addition, digital-only banks offer tempting exchange rates and travel options to jet-setting millennials. As a result, one in four people under the age of 37 now uses a digital bank2. With reducing market share, traditional banks are seeing pressures on their branch footprint – both in the services they offer, and the costs they are incurring –driving the need to reduce overheads whilst also remaining competitive against these nimble banks.
The opportunity: The traditional retail bank
As well as introducing new competitors, the wave of digitalisation means that customer expectations are changing, along with the way they use retail bank branches. Customers are now demanding ‘anytime, anyplace’ access to their balances and simple services via digital means, reducing the need for physical branch visits. However, for services which are more personal, such as advice, most customers will still prefer face-to-face engagement at a bank branch. In a market-leading move, Metro bank has responded to their changing customer demands and now keep their branches open later during the week and on weekends. So, how can traditional retail banks keep up?
The answer: Data
One size does not fit all. Changing customer needs means that the use of bank branches is also changing, but customer needs are not the same everywhere. In order to make the best strategic decisions, traditional banks must know their data, know their customer and, importantly, listen to their customer.
Knowing your data
Although banks have a deluge of data, many organisations don’t truly understand what data they have, what form it is in, and where it is located. Complex and poorly integrated legacy systems are a global, industry-agnostic problem in the current rapidly evolving digital age. Investing in a new, integrated and organised system will help to prepare retail banks – and companies more generally – for the future by ensuring high data quality and ease of utilisation. Without understanding the form of their data, banks are unable to identify any gaps or missing information relating to their customers and the use of their branches, inhibiting them from making truly data-centric decisions around their bank branch strategy.
Know your customer
Retail banks are already collecting large amounts of customer data; about their behaviours, their preferences and their needs. However, most banks are not fully utilising this wealth of information to improve their customers’ experiences. In other industries, such as retail, large companies such as Burberry utilise their customer data to offer instant in-store recommendations to certain customers, making for a more personalised experience. Starbucks uses data on their customers’ regular drinks purchases to speed up queue times in store and create a smoother customer interaction. For retail banks, understanding who their customers are and their consumer habits is imperative to developing an optimal bank branch strategy.
Listen to your customer
Once banks know their customers, it is then important to take action to ensure that they are offering their customers what they need. By utilising customer and location data, such as high-quality demographic data, banks can intelligently shape their bank branch strategy to truly reflect their current and future customers’ wants. For each individual branch, it is important to understand: what services are being used; are these services combined with digital channels; who is using the branch, and when? Having sight of this will allow banks to assess what their branch footprint looks like, and how to develop, or reduce, this footprint according to customer requirements. Russian retail giant X5 already use a sophisticated technique based upon location and demographic data to recommend new store locations and predict revenue3 and as a result, the forecasts produced using this approach have reportedly had an accuracy of over 90%, leading to both fast and future-proof decisions. By adopting a similarly customer – and data-driven approach – retail banks may well be able to future-proof the high-street banking branch.
Although traditional retail banks are making moves to become more customer-centric, few are truly embracing data-driven decision making in terms of their branch footprint, and consequently reaping the benefits.
With leading retail banks and building societies closing, or planning to close, over a 1000 physical branches between 2018-2019 it is has never been more important to make well-informed strategic decisions.
By putting customer data and insights at the forefront of the decision-making process, retail banks will ensure that they are optimising their footprint in the most cost-effective and customer-centric way.
IS YOUR OFFICE LEASE CRUSHING YOUR BOTTOM LINE? YOU HAVE OPTIONS
By Jonathan Wasserstrum, Founder / CEO, SquareFoot
These are unprecedented times for us all. Nobody has a playbook to get through it. Every company right now is undergoing a series of budget cuts and enduring difficult questions, trying to trim wherever it possibly can to help withstand the profound pressures and unique challenges that the covid scare haqs brought with it from an economic standpoint.
Companies looking to avoid having to make significant layoffs to offset their expenses are having to find other budget items that they can slash or reconsider. For many companies, especially those on the smaller side, that relief may come through renegotiating or rethinking their office lease. Especially at a time like this, when there’s so much uncertainty on how long this pandemic might last, and with staffers working from home indefinitely, this sizable area of cost to the business doesn’t make sense for some businesses to carry.
At SquareFoot, the commercial real estate company I founded in 2011, near the beginning of a decade of positive economic outlook, I envisioned helping growing companies to find office space. And I staffed up with a talented team of in-house brokers to show offices in NYC, and to work on deals in 30 other major U.S. cities.
I raise this background to offer some context for how dire the situation is now with regard to commercial real estate, when it’s not possible to show available office spaces to interested parties. Just a month ago, we were looking ahead at a very promising 2020, on track to act on and to achieve goals we had set. Because of this current economic downturn that has hit us all, we’ve also had to shift priorities accordingly.
We’ve instructed our brokers – effective immediately – to make themselves available to all concerned business owners as trusted advisers to walk them through their current leases and to outline for them all of their options. Even if they never do a transaction with us, I want my team to step up and provide some expertise to stressed-out executives. This is our small but significant way of helping to prevent other companies from having to let go of key staffers. We want to make this an easy choice for entrepreneurs. But, first, it requires them to understand what options they can move on.
We are already working closely with a number of businesses to review and to summarize their current leases, giving them some clarity and greater comprehension of what is set in stone and what can be adjusted in the wake of this crisis. Among the options that I and the team are exploring on behalf of those who have reached out include:
- Checking with your insurance agent about your Business Interruption Insurance coverage;
- Subletting the space. It’s not an optimal time to find a subtenant, but it’s still something worth pursuing to salvage the situation at hand;
- Post empty desks on PivotDesk, a business unit that SquareFoot owns and operates to rent out (as a host) a small number of desks within an office (to a guest) to share the space;
- Propose a rent abatement now from the landlord and arrange for a term at a higher escalated rent on the back end; or
- Walking away. Closing up shop and declaring bankruptcy isn’t anyone’s first option, but handing back the keys and letting the landlord keep your security deposit is a path forward for the most desperate of clients.
Obviously, this is not a situation that anyone hoped to be in or had prepared for. We don’t proclaim to have all of the answers for every company, but we do hope that giving some knowledge and sharing some wisdom with those in the most vulnerable of positions right now would leave them better off than without it. In addition to the specifics of the situation for each individual client, we can also step back and have offered some additional background on what to expect from the real estate market in the coming months.
For instance, we anticipate that subleasing will emerge as increasingly important to fill spaces quickly. Amid the 2008 financial crash, subleases went from 20% of the market to 45% of the real estate market after the stock market market crashed. If that’s the direction we’re heading again – and it seems we might – it’s perhaps wisest for those holding onto long term leases to act quickly.
Once the quarantine is lifted, it’s possible that everyone else will catch up and get wise to this opportunity in the market and they will likely request these types of discounted transactions in a rush all at once; subleases could flood the market, driving costs straight up.
Moreover, if similar effects on the office market emerge soon the way they did during the 2008 financial crisis then there will likely be a sharp increase in the number of tenants looking to:
- Renew their lease
- Arrange for a short-term extension of their lease
This is the lowest risk strategy for any tenant, of course. Lease renewals are likely to be incredibly popular in the coming months. We expect that landlords will be working closely and compassionately with tenants at this time to offer existing tenants who are looking for short-term extensions to offer incentives, in the form of free or reduced rents.
As the markets go sideways, you can likely find better value on the space you already have. Whether you work with my team and me, or with someone else, we still advise that you should act quickly. Right now, it’s all about reducing costs to keep people in place. Your office lease is a better place to start the discussion than anywhere else on that long list of expenses.
CAPITAL MARKETS – LIQUIDITY MANAGEMENT DURING COVID-19
Tony Farnfield, Partner at management and technology consultancy, BearingPoint
When “Dr. Doom” predicted the 2008 financial crisis back in 2006, and spoke of a necessitated market correction and was calling for the repricing of riskier assets; predicting a continuation of a global financial slowdown, or even a global recession starting in 2020, this prediction was based on known factors affecting the global economy. The unforeseen outbreak of Covid-19 and the increased volatility this has brought to global financial markets was not taken into account.
Three months on from the initial outbreak, and we have already witnessed the biggest intraday drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The outbreak, coupled with the oil price shock, triggered responses from the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and Central Bank of Canada to cut benchmarks rates in an effort to even out the shock to the wider economies.
There is a high degree of uncertainty on how the coronavirus crisis will unfold. We could experience only a temporary disruption – lasting from a few weeks to a few months, or a prolonged stress in markets, assuming that it will be months until vaccine clinical trials begin and with rate cuts (already reaching bottom) having limited effects on the required stimulus.
Banks have undeniably improved their liquidity following regulatory guidance post financial crisis; however, treasury departments will need to prepare and caveat for a wide range of possible outcomes. Traditional stress testing, scenario development and re-calibration have not taken into account conditions such as the ones experienced with the Covid-19 outbreak or the speed with which things evolved.
At a generic level, there are three key steps Treasurer’s should look to take:
- Convert uncertainties into emerging and quantifiable risks
This is already being considered by some of the larger financial institutions under their crisis management responses. However, it’s important to highlight that even for those that have triggered the crisis management process, the forecasting, rebalancing and risk assessment should be continuous, taking into account new developments in the following manner:
Continuously monitor and develop scenarios of potential sources that could disrupt funding and liquidity usage. With the right analytical capability, cash-flow projections should adapt to changing scenarios, including scenarios coming from the different business lines. Scenario sources could include unexpected credit usage that could encourage either large prepayments or defaults, or changing corporate customer behaviour – deposit inflows from corporates and depositors affecting leverage-constrained institutions. Also, there should be some consideration given to the availability of funding sources or, for wholesale funding, acceleration or reduction of funding plans.
Take immediate actions in increasing liquidity and cash holdings in the short term to cover for the uncertainty.
Continuous risk assessment
Account for emerging risks previously not accounted for, such as the temporary closure of operations or reduced capacity of market utilities. Assess those scenarios and how these are captured and factored in stress tests. Intraday liquidity should be the primary focus to understand immediate cash requirements.
- Refine your liquidity risk measurement
Better identification, measurement and analysis of key liquidity drivers should become core for an institution’s ability to effectively manage and mitigate particularly unique risks not previously considered. To do this, Treasurers should consider the frequency of their monitoring, and increase levels to daily stress tests and daily Early Warning Indicator testing to include daily developments.
In-depth analysis of risks
Re-run your liquidity risk identification exercise to understand better your current exposures, especially examining certain instances of this outbreak crisis, e.g. oil-related exposures, airline, marine or supply chain related exposures etc.
Re-calibrate based on new understanding
Re-assess existing scenarios or add new scenarios in covering a range of events and timeframes (e.g. sustained spread of the virus over x months vs limited spread and containment). Revisit your Early Warning Indicators to monitor emerging risks. At a later point, revisit these to assess if market signals existed and if they were picked up by your indicators.
- Review your mitigation plan
Identification, assessment and measurement is only part of the overall response. Stresses or risks that can be crystallised need to be accompanied by mitigative actions, agile and feasible enough under the current market conditions. Contingency funding actions might need to be revisited to determine if additional actions need to be considered.
Revisit and verify the availability of near real time reports, such as positions of securities holdings reports. Such information should be readily available and synthesised in the event that you will need to communicate clear and concise plans to investors, regulators or other market participants in relation to liquidity management strategies to foster confidence in the market.
In summary, reviewing and preserving an institution’s liquidity under extreme and volatile circumstances is the core responsibility of any treasurer. However, we know that any scenario or contingency planning is unlikely to be fully predictive of unprecedented scenarios such as this. Re-visiting already set practices and testing their efficacy and completeness should be the first step before considering inserting new scenarios and new actions into the mix. Nothing tried and tested can always remain true.
HOW TO KEEP DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION ON TRACK AFTER THE PANDEMIC
Ashley Coker, CEO and founder, Slate Introduction The global coronavirus health emergency has made it abundantly clear how dependent...
THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IN DIGITAL BANKING
By Richard Billington, Chief Technology Officer, Netcall Over the past five years, the digital banking revolution has had a seismic...
TRANSFORMING BANKING: WHY COVID-19 IS UNFREEZING CONSUMER HABITS
Raj Chakraborty, Senior Managing Director, Publicis Sapient There is much debate about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy....
IS YOUR OFFICE LEASE CRUSHING YOUR BOTTOM LINE? YOU HAVE OPTIONS
By Jonathan Wasserstrum, Founder / CEO, SquareFoot These are unprecedented times for us all. Nobody has a playbook to get...
THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF TRADERS TRADING FROM HOME
Steve Haworth, CEO of TeleWare Group Banks had hoped to keep their London trading floors open amid the worsening coronavirus...
HOW WILL REVOLUT’S MOVE INTO OPEN BANKING AFFECT US?
By Richard Mathias, Senior Technology Architect at LiveArea Despite current uncertainty, the financial services sector is experiencing transformative change year...
IN CONSUMER BIOMETRICS WE TRUST: AUTHENTICATION FOR THE DATA PRIVACY AGE
Jonas Andersson, Head of Standardization at Fingerprints Data privacy is high on the global agenda. In the wake of data...
CAPITAL MARKETS – LIQUIDITY MANAGEMENT DURING COVID-19
Tony Farnfield, Partner at management and technology consultancy, BearingPoint When “Dr. Doom” predicted the 2008 financial crisis back in...
SONY BANK SECURES AND ENHANCES MOBILE BANKING WITH ONESPAN’S MOBILE SECURITY SUITE
App shielding, biometric authentication and additional technologies secure and improve the customer experience for Sony Bank’s mobile banking app ...
KOREA’S KB BANK USES TRUSTONIC IN-APP PROTECTION TO ENHANCE MOBILE BANKING EXPERIENCE
Using Trustonic Application Protection enables KB Bank to dramatically improve the authentication experience for users of its mobile banking app...
CUSTOMER CARE TODAY WILL BUILD RESILIENCE FOR FUTURE CRISES
Cathal McGloin, CEO of ServisBOT writes, “The COVID-19 pandemic has created major spikes in calls to financial sector helplines dealing with customers...
THE CO-BRAND CREDIT CARD MARKET – SINK OR SWIM
By Chris Vinnicombe, VP Financial Services at Acxiom The co-brand credit card market is the result of the partnerships between...
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash...
NEW IVALUA STUDY SHOWS TECHNOLOGY CHALLENGES ARE HINDERING PROCUREMENT TEAMS FROM ACHIEVING BUSINESS OBJECTIVES
Lack of system integrations and actionable insights are stopping organisations from accurately measuring performance Ivalua, a leading provider of global...
WHY DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION IN FINANCIAL SERVICES IS ABOUT CULTURE FIRST, TECH SECOND
Stuart Templeton, Head of UK at Slack In today’s world, there’s no such thing as a ‘non-tech fin’. Every...
STOP THE CONFUSION: HOW TO KNOW IF YOUR BUSINESS MAY BE INSURED AGAINST COVID-19
By Alex Balcombe, Partner at Harris Balcombe The last few weeks has seen businesses in hospitality, tourism, retail, leisure...
BRAVE NEW WORLD: A FUTURISTIC VISION OF PAYMENTS
James Booth, VP, Head of Partnerships in EMEA for PPRO Over the last ten years, the retail e-commerce ecosystem...
A PROPTECH FOUNDER’S BEGINNING, THE START OF KLEVIO AND HOW ACCESS-TECH IMPROVES FACILITIES MANAGEMENT
An interview with Klevio’s CEO and Co-Founder, Aleš Špetič What is Klevio? Klevio is a smart intercom that allows...
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN LEARN TO TRADE RISK-FREE DURING THE COVID-19 MARKET CRASH
Trading app BullBear has launched new features to support budding investors looking to hone their skills against the backdrop of...
ENTERPRISE BLOCKCHAIN: DRAGGING INSURANCE OUT OF THE DARK AGES
Ryan Rugg, Global Head of The Industry Business Unit at R3 The history of insurance traces back to the development...