LOFTy Expectations

I’m a big fan of LOFT, the lower-cost little sister to the slightly more upscale Ann Taylor, but their most recent sale probably lost me as an online customer.

LOFT ran a big sale Sunday that offered a 70 percent discount off sale items. Who doesn’t love a good deal? The sale expired at midnight, so I started to browse late Sunday evening on my iPhone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get past browsing–the website constantly crashed. This isn’t the first time that LOFT’s website couldn’t handle extra traffic during a big sale.

LOFT Response LOFT’s response to my concerns voiced on social media Sunday night came on Monday morning–hours after the end of the sale–and instead of addressing the issue through that medium, they directed me to call an associate. Around the same time, I received a tone-deaf email advertising a 60% off flash sale email.

LOFT Flash Sale 07142014

I should note that the social media team at LOFT seems to be responsive to customers on its Facebook page. It’s true that I was disappointed that, instead of addressing the problem through social media, LOFT directed me to contact them by phone–an extra step that I didn’t want to take–but their team is just doing their job.

The real problem lies in the fact that marketing, product delivery and customer service aren’t strategically aligned.

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Where Do You Draw the Line on Data?

SharpPencils_MFIs a national conversation brewing about how companies use consumer data?

In case you missed it, on June 17 the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results of a January 2012 experiment, in which Facebook Data Scientist Adam Kramer, along with Jamie Guillory of the University of California, San Francisco, and Jeff Hancock, of Cornell University, manipulated Facebook’s news feed to provide some users with content that was emotionally positive or emotionally negative to see if this resulted in a correlating reaction by the user. Kramer, in a Facebook post, clarified the research, saying, “we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product.

Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has so far been silent on the matter, but today the Wall Street Journal reported that COO Sheryl Sandberg said:

This was part of ongoing research companies do to test different products, and that was what it was; it was poorly communicated.”

“And for that communication we apologize. We never meant to upset you.

The apology is a bit “I’m sorry if I offended you”, but if my own Facebook feed is any indicator, the social media giant will be OK. At any given moment you can read the results of my friends’ latest BuzzFeed quiz on their spirit animal or where they should go on a time machine. (Guess what? BuzzFeed is using your data too.)

I don’t know if it’s indicative of my generation–I’m firmly in the middle ground between Gen X and Gen Y–but I typically don’t get bent out of shape about how my data is used. Data is a part of my daily life, and I know the old Economics 101 credo–”There’s no such thing as a free lunch”. Facebook has to benefit from its user base. And data is really, really valuable.

But Facebook wasn’t transparent about how the data was used.

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The Power of ‘No’

The Wall Street Journal has a great piece on the growing prominence of chief risk officers: “After Crisis, Risk Officers Gain More Clout at Banks”. According to the piece, risk officers now have more say and are earning more for it, as much as 40 percent more than just a few years ago. Our recent research supports this:

Perhaps due to the increased prominence of the CRO, many bank boards feel that they can breathe a little easier when it comes to matters of compliance and risk management. In the 2014 Compensation Survey, we asked about the top compensation-related challenges that face bank boards today. Just over the course of the last year, the percentage that indicate that understanding and complying with regulations poses a challenge fell dramatically, from 41 percent in 2013 to 22 percent this year, a drop of almost 50 percent.

It should be noted that the decline in bank boards concerned about compliance was not as pronounced among banks with more than $5 billion in assets (though there was still a significant drop, of 16 percent). But perhaps this isn’t surprising, as the regulatory focus falls more on these banks as they approach the $10 billion threshold laid down in the Dodd-Frank Act – so the focus on risk will always be more heightened at these organizations.

Risk culture, and the board’s role in it, still has a ways to go. Less than half of bank boards regularly meet with their chief risk officer, so not every CRO has a seat at the table. But for many financial institutions, risk officers are gaining more prominence and playing a greater role in the strategic direction of the bank.

TopCompChallengesSources:

  1. 2014 Compensation Survey
  2. 2014 Risk Practices Survey
  3. “Handling Risk in the Modern Age”, Bank Director, 2nd quarter 2014

Big Disparities in Bank CEO Pay

As discussed in my prior blog post, the 2014 Compensation Survey finds that bank boards are earning more and lending is a big focus for executive hires. But the survey also delves more into CEO pay this year, and while the disparities in pay for the largest and smallest banks should be expected, it’s still jarring to see.

CEOpayBySize

For the industry overall, the median compensation amounts for bank CEOs total:

Salary: $241,600
Cash incentive: $44,600
Potential cash incentive: $57,600
Equity grants: $50,000
Benefits & perks: $21,231

Ninety-nine percent report that the CEO receives a salary, while 41 percent report that the CEO receives equity grants. Half report a cash incentive, and more than two-thirds say that the CEO receives some benefits & perks.

You’ll find more details on bank executive pay within the 2014 Compensation Survey.

Financial Research: Is a Focus on Growth Yielding Higher Board Pay?

GrapesUnsplashBank Director just released the results of its 2014 Compensation Survey, sponsored by Meyer-Chatfield Compensation Advisors, and the results may reveal some good news for the banking industry, as evidenced by two key trends:

Lending is fueling more executive hires than compliance or risk, with boards focusing more time on loans. Loan officers are in strong demand at banks of all sizes, with more banks citing growth than regulations as the driving force behind change at the executive level. 

Bank boards are earning more. After getting their regulatory ducks in a row, a renewed focus on profitability may have translated into increased pay and benefits for bank directors. With median fees set at $750 per board meeting and median annual retainers at $20,000, bank directors are seeing a modest income for their service. However, the view isn’t as rosy for small banks: Almost half of boards at banks with less than $500 million in assets haven’t increased pay since at least 2010, and director pay is significantly lower at these institutions.

You’ll find the complete results to the survey, including median pay data for CEOs and boards, HERE.

Infograph06162014_Comp2014

Financial Research: Digging at Fee Income

bucket_sand_MFMagnify Money, a financial referral and education website, just revealed the “20 Banks that Earn the Most in Fees“.

The list ranks banks by fee income per “branch”, and here’s my problem with it: Mostly branchless EverBank comes in at #5, just behind Bank of America. EverBank’s customers primarily interact with the bank through online and mobile channels (see: “Branchless Banking Comes of Age”). The top two banks in the report — Fort Hood National Bank and Cole Taylor Bank — have 10 and 11 offices each, respectively.

As banks increasingly shift and shrink their branch footprints, relying on analysis that looks at ‘per branch’ data will be increasingly skewed. EverBank has $703 million in deposits per branch. Looking at the other banks listed in the MagnifyMoney ranking, The Private Bank has $410 million in deposits per branch. Cole Taylor Bank boasts $362 million in deposits per branch, and Northern Trust Company comes in at a whopping $1 billion in deposits per branch. Compare these to Bank of America, which has about $46 million in deposits per branch.

Fort Hood National Bank only operates branches in Texas, and serves customers outside the state online. It boasts just $21 million in deposits per branch, but is also significantly smaller than the other institutions, with just $240 million in assets. To characterize the bank as a “leading fee collector” is a bit disingenuous.

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More Competition in The Midwest?

What are the most competitive markets for the banking industry? Two recent rankings may provide some clues.

affordable banking

Infographic provided by GOBankingRates.com. Click here for their story on the best and worst states for affordable banking.

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