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PCBB Banc Investment Daily January 16, 2015
Banc Investment Daily
January 16, 2015

Defining Beauty

When we read the recent announcement from the Miss World Competition that they are eliminating the swimsuit competition, we did a double take. It's true, the 63Y old pageant's chairwoman said the swimsuit section is being eliminated because it is no longer in line with the organization's goals. Instead, the Miss World competition will focus more on the contribution individual participants make to Beauty With a Purpose, the affiliated nonprofit organization the chairwoman established to help charities and humanitarian projects in the world's poorest communities. Given that swimsuit modeling has been such an identifiable portion of beauty pageants for so long, it makes one wonder if fans will be upset by this change from tradition or whether this is merely an indication that audience preferences have changed over the years.
Naturally, this change made us think about banks, specifically the shift that has taken place in consumer banking preferences in recent years. Today, more and more banking transactions are conducted electronically so community banks are finding it harder to compete with online institutions or behemoth banking chains. There is no doubt that community banks need to modernize business models and focus on mobile and online service offerings to stay relevant, but at what cost? A recent Gallup poll holds clues and found that many consumers are turned off by the anonymity and lack of ties to individual communities with this sort of banking. Customers with these priorities are ripe for the picking by community banks.
According to Gallup's 2014 Retail Banking study, roughly 36% of customers at community banks are actively engaged with their banks. Comparatively, only 17% of the customers at national bank chains and 27% of large regional bank customers are engaged. Even more interesting, the number of actively disengaged clients of these institutions is also climbing - at a respective 37% and 23%. Engaged customers represent a bank's best chance for increasing their customer base through recommendations to friends and family, so community banks should continually focus efforts on these clients.
One of the best ways to strengthen ties to "actively engaged" customers is by ensuring the best possible experiences of the people within this group who regularly make in-person visits. To do that, focus efforts on the tellers and bankers that customers regularly interact with. It is important to make sure these employees are not only well educated about business offerings and practices, but also that they are happy with their jobs. This last factor is important as it makes it more likely these individuals will be pleasant and make their best effort to serve customers.
Among the most obvious ways to ensure bank employees are happy is to make sure they know every effort is being made to compensate them fairly and that their jobs are secure. Retaining good employees is important, as regular customers appreciate the ability to develop personal relationships. This is a factor of customer service that has become far less commonplace in a world where chains and major conglomerates are the norm and employee loyalty to individual companies has become a thing of the past.
Keep engaged customers by strengthening your presence within the communities where you operate. Beauty may be a tricky thing to define but you certainly know it when you see it.