Maybe you know some of these points. But you do not know all unless you were there at the Washington Convention Center for the October BAI Retail Delivery confab. And even then, were you paying attention?
1. The Big Banks Are Primed for a Fall
Keynoter Richard Branson – the self-made billionaire of Virgin fame – is betting heavily that his Virgin Money bank can wrest huge market share from the handful of mega banks that dominate the United Kingdom. “Their brands have been damaged,” said Branson at BAI, and the plain point is that between their high pay packets and the financial shenanigans perpetrated by bankers, Branson believes an historic opportunity exists to profit from their misery.
He has bet over $1 billion – spent purchasing Northern Rock, a failed bank, from the government. And he said at BAI that Virgin Money now is originating one in three mortgages in the U.K.
He also coyly put out that he is scouting for bank opportunities in the U.S.
Branson’s theme: He loves playing David against plodding, unlikable Goliaths. And what’s more Goliath than a mega bank? His strategy will be to highlight their failings and simply to make fun of them (look at what he has done with British Air).
The unasked question at BAI: what is preventing credit unions and community banks from doing likewise with the money center banks in the U.S.?
2. Sir Richard Will Do Anything to Close a Deal
What will you do?
The occasion: they had met in a speaker ready room at a Moscow event where both were scheduled. Branson asked Kawasaki if he flew Virgin. Kawasaki said no, he always flew United. “What would it take to get you to try Virgin?” Branson asked.
Kawasaki hemmed and hawed and Branson got down on his knees and started polishing Kawasaki’s shoes.
The point: Committed leaders stop at nothing to get the deal.
A Kawasaki parenthetical comment: “You cannot imagine – don’t even try – Steve Jobs [for whom Kawasaki had worked at Apple] getting down on his knees for anybody.”
3. Good Mobile Banking Apps Hunting
A fact: today’s mobile banking apps may be popular with users but just about everybody concedes they are bland, boring, and not keeping up with the current generation of apps that tap the full range of substantial power built into late model iPhones and Androids.
They do their jobs. Barely. And do little more to win user mindshare or loyalty.
But souped-up versions – call this mobile banking 2.0 – are starting to come into the frame.
Developers at BAI talked about building in powerful digital wallet functions.
They also have begun to take steps to open their apps to feature content from third-parties, say payments tools from Dwolla or gift cards from Blackhawk Networks.
The push also is on to monetize mobile – to bring in dollars from the service – and building in new content figures high in this strategizing.
2013 will, suggested the experts at BAI, be the year when many institutions wake up to their need for more powerful and engaging banking apps.
4. PFM Tools Are Great - Too Bad No One Uses Them
Personal finance managers – think Intuit’s Mint – have gotten slick. On a panel – featuring senior executives from Bank of America and Canada’s BMO – the consensus was that those who use a bank-provided PFM are stickier, more profitable customers.
But usage is anemic, in the single digits of online banking customers.
Customer ignorance about PFMs is cited as a primary barrier.
But nobody has a good plan for upping usage.
Nobody has a plan they will talk about for building a PFM into a mobile banking app either and that is the obvious next frontier.
Bottom Line: if no one uses your institution’s PFM tools, know you are a member of a not very selective club.
5. Bluebird Is No Threat to Bankers (or Credit Unions)
People at BAI were buzzing about Bluebird – the essentially free financial account from Walmart and American Express – but the prevailing opinion is that this will gore somebody else’s ox.
The target market is the unbanked and under-banked. The working class. Few banks and not many more credit unions have made a full court press to sell into that market because the profits aren’t obvious.
That has left fertile – and profitable – turf for non-banks such as Green Dot with its pre-paid cards.
Many bankers at BAI seemed to think Bluebird is a non-event for them but a nightmare for Green Dot and its brethren because their offerings typically are fee laden. And those fees are what Bluebird takes aim at.