Redefining Primary Relationships

By Mike Branton and Dave DeFazio
This article originally appeared in Bank Director.

 

Ask 100 bankers to define what it means to be the primary financial institution for a consumer, and you’ll likely get 100 different answers. Ask 100 consultants to bankers what being the primary FI entails, and you’ll probably get 100 more answers.

Ask 100 consumers how they define which FI is their primary one, and you’re apt to get just a few answers. The most frequent answers will be: where my paycheck is deposited, or what I use to pay my bills.

At StrategyCorps, we talk to a lot of bankers about being the primary FI for a customer or member. We call this primacy. We talk about what they’re doing to lockdown primary relationships to keep from losing them, and what’s being done with non-primary customers to win them over and make them financially productive.

With few exceptions, most community and regional banks do not have a quantitative measurement or definition of primacy. It’s still very much rooted in a banker’s intuition or past experience, rather than a data-driven approach to determine precisely which customers are primary and which aren’t.

 

The Math
In our 20-plus years studying and analyzing retail checking relationships, products and pricing strategies, we have developed a database of well over 1 billion data performance points from hundreds of financial institutions.

We have found through this analytical approach a metric that holds true with nearly every FI we analyze, regardless of size or operating area location. Here it is: If the banking activity of a customer on a householded basis isn’t generating annually at least $350 in revenue, that household doesn’t consider your organization their primary FI.

Like clockwork, we find that when household revenue is less than $350, the banking relationship effectively nosedives. This typically is the case for 35% of all consumer checking accounts.

More specifically, we find this 35% of total checking account relationships represent slightly less than 2.1% of total relationship dollars and generate only 3.7% of revenue.

 

Address the Gap
Those customers are not engaged in a mutually beneficial relationship with their FI. They aren’t doing enough banking activities to generate enough revenue to cover the cost to manage and maintain their relationship. Many of those customers are primarily engaged at another FI and need a more compelling reason to bank with your FI than is currently being provided.

A major advantage of knowing specifically who does not consider your bank a primary FI is that you can develop product, pricing, communication and business development campaigns to move them closer to generating at least $350 in revenue. If you don’t, those 35% of relationships will continue to drag down financial performance. And this financial drag can be sizeable — conservatively speaking about $204 a year per relationship.

Do the math: If you have 20,000 checking relationships, 7,000 will be non-primary with a deficit of $204 per relationship. This equates to an annual loss of $1.43 million.

 

Build Profitability
Another major advantage of knowing precisely the amount of primary relationships at your institution is that knowledge provides great insight for a game plan to lock the relationship down even further with enhanced product offers, preferred pricing, elevated levels of customer service or, in some cases, a thank you. Doing one or more of those things diminishes the chances they’ll consider an offer from a competitor.


It's Time for a Business Checking Reboot

In today’s ultra-competitive marketplace, smart bankers realize a data-based definition of primacy in their retail checking base is necessary to make timely decisions. Banks that do so can better protect and grow primary relationships, and fix and grow the non-primary ones. By doing both, they optimize the performance and growth of their retail checking base and don’t leave the financial performance of their checking accounts to guesswork.

Mike Branton and Dave DeFazio are partners at StrategyCorps.