Best Banking Reads of 2014

What a year it’s been for the banking industry! From threats from outside the industry by Apple and Wal-Mart, to questions on whether Colorado and Washington banks should work with legal marijuana businesses, to regulatory shenanigans at the New York Fed, 2014 has been memorable. As the holidays approach and I think back on the year that was, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share some of the banking-related stories I enjoyed in 2014.

Regulations

  • Banks given the go-ahead on working with marijuana businesses: Marijuana may be legal in some states, but that doesn’t mean banks are ready to work with marijuana businesses.
  • How to Punish a Bank: This is from National Public Radio’s Planet Money, so it’s more of a listen than a read, but delves into the problems of effectively punishing the big banks.
  • Bank of America Adds a Mortgage Settlement to Its Collection: Bloomberg’s Matt Levine (also cited in the NPR segment) provides the data on (at the time) Bank of America’s $68 billion in mortgage settlements, and asks how effective these penalties and fines are when they become business-as-usual.
  • Inside the Emerald City: Jack Milligan, editor of Bank Director, delved into the culture of the NY Fed following concerns that regulators got just a bit too cozy with the big banks they oversee.

NonBank Competition

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Financial Research: Grappling with Technology

Bank leaders want to know more about how to leverage technology to make their institutions more profitable, but don’t know where to start, reveals the 2014 Growth Strategy Survey. Bank Director and CDW surveyed 145 independent directors and executives in June and July to uncover technology’s role in growth strategy.

Growth-Survey-Group-1Bank leaders know that technology can make their banks more efficient, and know that customer demands are only growing. But less than one-third talk about technology at every board meeting, and one-quarter of banks lack the IT staff to grow the bank.

Growth-Survey-Group-4When asked about the top technology concerns for their banks, keeping up with the evolution of mobile banking is a concern for more than half. Data analytics is also top of mind, and the survey finds that big banks are better users of data. Forty percent of respondents overall use business intelligence tools and analytics within their organization, but more than three-quarters of banks over $5 billion in assets currently use data to support growth goals.

Growth-Survey-Group-2One-third are concerned that the bank’s core processor impedes the bank’s ability to innovate. Community banks in particular depend on vendors for their technological expertise, yet half say that their core processor is slow to respond to innovations.

Growth-Survey-Group-3It’s important to note that many of these concerns about innovation and the use of data tie into growing concerns about competition from outside the industry. Eighty-four percent of respondents say that today’s highly competitive environment is their greatest challenge when it comes to growing the bank, and 83 percent worry about nonbank competitors. Banks above $5 billion in assets reveal a heightened concern about PayPal and Amazon.

Full survey results are available online at BankDirector.com.

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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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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Consolidation isn’t killing community banking, but it is changing the landscape,and significant challenges remain.

The Bank Spot

An argument that I hear occasionally is that consolidation of the U.S. banking industry has put community banks on a path towards extinction. Two economists at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have shot down this theory in a new research study whose findings are counterintuitive.

On the face of it, the industry’s consolidation over the past 30-plus years has been pretty dramatic. The FDIC says there were approximately 20,000 U.S. banks and thrifts in 1980, and this number had dropped to 6,812 by the end of 2013. A variety of factors have been at work. The biggest contributor, according to the study, was the voluntary closure of bank charters brought about by deregulation, including the advent of interstate banking. A lot of the “shrinkage” that occurred between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s wasn’t so much the disappearance of whole banks as it was the rationalization of multiple charters by the same…

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