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Deposit Growth Strategies for Q1

By Mark's Minutes

The choices consumers have today for deposit relationships are broader than ever before. Internet banking options changed the game for everyone.

Ron Shevlin from Cornerstone Advisors warns, “The older Millennials predominantly went to Megabanks when they opened checking accounts. But the younger Millennials, and to a good extent Gen Zers aren’t going to megabanks. They are opening up digital accounts with digital banks, fintechs and others. Some are opening up second and third accounts with newer players.”

Today’s consumers demand real value, tech-friendly services, great pricing (rates), and easy account opening. The brand with the most relevance to the consumer wins out.

Winning the deposit game comes down to several core strategies.

While there are many paths to accomplishment, make sure that you explore the following as you prepare for this year. Now is the time to go on the offensive!

Brand Experience

Most of the pressure you will face is the “brand experience.” How does your brand meet the demands of today’s consumers? How much digital adoption have you allowed? How easy is it to open an account electronically? For instance, SoFi has an amazing experience, and they nurture the consumer with many other tools and insights. Prices and fees are not the only reason people select an account. Work hard to fix the deficient areas of your brand experience.

Acquisition Strategies

When looking at your deposit options, note the three unique categories and approaches to grow your base:

• Transaction Accounts – By far, the bread and butter includes checking and savings. Driving new business in this category should focus on key attributes important to your target customer. Many can be leveraged today, including High Rate Checking/Savings, Low/No Fee ATMs, faster access to cash and deposits, and other niche services.

Promoting these accounts can include a broad form of traditional media, targeted email, and direct mail. Some companies are even bringing back gift incentives for opening new accounts. Don’t be afraid to lead with a high-interest checking account.

• CD/Money Market Accounts – This is a price game right now with a 5% minimum APY to be credible in the market. With the Fed halting rate increases and the likelihood of rate stabilization coming in 2024, you’ll want to feature shorter-term CDs with higher initial rates so you can adjust going forward. These products need to be pushed into the market by all traditional media means.

• Retirement Accounts – Don’t forget the demand for traditional and Roth IRAs. These are products that people are shopping for, so don’t be afraid to use more traditional tools such as: Branch merchandising, Outside banners, posters and window signs, Digital and Traditional advertising.

Development and Retention

Cross-selling new accounts is crucial to keeping current clients and creating “sticky” relationships. In a recent case study from Onoative, one of its credit union customers encouraged indirect auto loan holders to open a checking account with an offer that leveraged the original relationship (the indirect loan) and a direct mail letter that included a QR code. The campaign had a target audience of 2,782, and the credit union gained 116 new checking account relationships – an impressive conversion rate of 4.2%.

For more great ideas for growing deposits, download Westamerica’s Deposit Success Brochure here: Deposit_Success.pdf

Lending Trends in 2023 – Growth Strategies for 2024

By Mark's Minutes, Uncategorized

While challenges with liquidity issues have buffeted the lending landscape, it still warrants a thoughtful strategy for success in the coming year. As you look ahead to what will likely be a challenging market, more discernment and targeted programming will be necessary.

Consumer lending trends for 2023 show:
• Cost of lending increasing for the consumer – Rate increases have made purchases for more expensive items like autos and homes out of reach. Consumers are now unable to qualify for many loans.

• Cost per loan increasing for the institution – According to the Federal Reserve, automotive lender rejection rates grew from 9.1% in February to 14.2% in June. This spike illustrates how quickly economic factors can impact credit access. Credit bureau service costs have also increased, making writing each successful loan more costly.

The economic impact of general softening follows the basic law of supply and demand. The prices of loans have increased, and the demand for items that are the beneficiaries of those loans has decreased. This is borne out by information from PSCU that shows consumer purchases softened in October, and the rate of growth continued to diminish to the lowest point of 2023.

This trend is expected to persist through 2024 and may take 2-3 years to normalize.

How will this impact 2024 marketing?

With demand falling, companies may instinctively cut marketing investments. You want to advocate for a commitment to marketing in these times, as it is often a chance to grow market share.

Biota Li MacDonald, Director of Marketing Strategy at Compremedia, contends their research supports increased marketing investment and showed the following consumer reactions to marketing during this downturn:
• 29% Researched a product or service online
• 20% Clicked on a social media ad
• 18% Responded to an email offer
• 16% Responded to a direct mail product offer
• 16% Followed a company on social media

As you can see, these consumer actions above are not from organic efforts. They come from a planned schedule of intentional marketing campaigns.

Encourage a balanced approach with 2024 lending marketing initiatives.

Maintain a strong marketing foundation in the coming year. However, ensure your efforts and marketing spending align with the current mix of lending opportunities. For instance, data shows that mortgage lending is down, and personal loans are up.

Think in terms of acquisition and optimization to grow your entire lending portfolio.

Acquisition efforts can be externally focused, reaching out to the marketplace for new lending dollars. Think of these efforts as pursuing new money for auto and personal loans from both new and existing consumers.

As suggested above, you want to use targeted media:
• Highly personalized and targeted direct mail with digital response options (QR codes).
• Personalized emails with splash page fulfillment.
• Social media ads around complementary products and lifestyle pages.

Because the lending space is very competitive, you also want to ensure each lead successfully moves through to closing. Consider additional staff follow-up for each loan lead.

Optimization efforts are funds/revenues secured through internal means. For instance, moving a consumer to a more profitable product. Focusing on these incremental optimization efforts during more difficult times can help you improve your overall business and build increased consumer account depth.

Work closely with your data and product teams to identify where there may be opportunities for improvement. Then, reach out to these consumers with email, direct mail, and personal calls to present these options.

The industry is in a challenging place going into the next year. If you need a ready partner for all things marketing, consider your friends at Westamerica. We exist to help you grow!

Fed rates and inflation have pushed consumer debt to new heights.

By Mark's Minutes

The growth rate is slowing, but consumers added $73 billion in Q2 2023, bringing the total owed to lenders to $16.84 trillion, per Experian.

Average credit card balances now range from $3,000 to $8,000, and interest rates have surged to an average of 24%. Rising rates and balances are hitting consumers hard, and the impact is expected to worsen with the holiday season.

Solving the Problem with a 1, 2, 3 approach

1) Consolidation

Prepare for debt consolidation promotions now. As January’s credit card bills arrive, you want to be present with solutions to help.
Direct Mail Invitation: A comprehensive mailer/letter could include a small worksheet to help them identify their current debt challenges.
In-branch and Outdoor Merchandising: Expect to see consumers in January and February as they begin to feel the strain.
Outbound emails: Alerting consumers to the service options. You should include all accounts in these offers.

Help consolidate higher balances into a more convenient, lower-cost option. With most homeowners sitting on record equity balances, a home equity solution might be perfect for consolidating higher-rate loans.

2) Balance Transfer

Today, most consumers possess three or more credit cards. With increasing balances, many will consider consolidating to fewer cards. However, getting consumers to switch requires aggressive marketing and highlighting product benefits beyond lower rates.

According to Mercator Advisory Group’s Report: 2021, here are the most important factors users consider when choosing a credit card:
• 62% – no annual fee
• 50% – attractive points/rewards program
• 33% – a competitive APR
• 23% – strong fraud protective features
• 21% – good customer service

That means you will likely need to have many of these features to move consumers over to your card.

Letter checks are the best promotional approaches we have seen for a balance transfer campaign. The letter check presents a cashable check that can be used to pay off other loans.

3) Education

Like any major life event, correcting a family’s financial health involves a short-term transition like the above, along with some education to avoid this circumstance in the future. Many younger consumers may have yet to learn how to live within their means and will likely repeat this behavior in the future.

Support your efforts above with budgeting and account education programs. These are critical to creating a sound financial footing for your consumers over the long term.

Rely on Westamerica for Your 2024 Marketing Needs

As you finalize your priorities for 2024, remember that we’re in your corner with over 30 years of Financial Marketing experience.

And remember to download our marketing planner for some additional helpful tools. It’s free! https://www.mywestamerica.com/marketing-planner/

Four Pillars of Financial Marketing Success for 2024

By Mark's Minutes

Countdown to 2024 – Are you Ready?

Happy November! We’re now less than 60 days from the new year, and many are still scrambling to finalize marketing plans and budgets. Will you repeat last year’s basic plan, or have you adjusted to make next year even better?

The Four Pillars of Financial Marketing Success in 2024

Amid all the chaos today, your institution can differentiate by focusing on four key pillars for success:

1 – Consumer Centricity
The Financial Services Industry was built on trust. In today’s environment, reinforcing your position of trust starts with understanding, supporting, and responding before competitors do. The institutions that garner the most trust will be those committed to understanding consumer needs by using insights from deep data.

Mining data to provide timely products shows a level of care that few currently offer. After all, if I can’t count on my primary institution for the best, timely solutions, what type of relationship do I really have?

Having the right data at the right time is a start. Communicating consistently, strategically, and effectively is where the payoff exists. Are you using all channels of distribution – in branch, email, direct mail, and other preferred methods?

Lastly, many institutions have eliminated one fact-filled, quick-read tool that reminds the account holder each month of their relationship – the newsletter. Few consumers visit the website to find out what is going on at your institution. If you no longer produce a newsletter, it’s time to bring it back.

2 – Financial Proficiency
Today’s consumer expects more insight and help with their financial decisions. The increasing Gen Z and Millennial segments understand how to access financial products, but they have yet to learn how to manage finances.

According to The Financial Brand, 69% of Millennials cite getting out of debt as their biggest financial goal, and 96% regret some aspect of their financial picture. This means these same consumers didn’t understand how to balance debt with their financial well-being.

Why? Most financial providers are only interested in the short-term benefit of the product sale. They haven’t embraced the opportunity to be a Financial Coach.

You can differentiate with a commitment to educate consumers while also servicing their product needs. Make the strategic decision to apply “human” staff to a higher level of knowledge and expertise while deploying your technical/digital support towards “transactional activity.”

Fill your branches with printed educational information, planning tools, seminars, webinars and even life coaching information so you can help consumers build their own financial security.

3 – Lending Relevancy
The lending market was turned on its head in 2023. With the costs of funds growing, retail lending and credit card rates have increased substantially. Rates grew so fast that everyone has had trouble realizing the new normal.

This IS the new normal. We need to adjust.

Lending rates must be relevant to today’s environment, not the one we came from. In talking to our customers, we find many “waiting for rates to go down” before they begin promoting loans again. In the meantime, consumers are going to their competitors for loans.

Being “relevant” within the lending space also means being present with fair rates and exceptional support. Your sales proposition should be to provide the best rates you can while delivering the right products to the right consumers at the right time.

This means you will likely need to increase your marketing budget for loan acquisition. With a tighter market and more competition, you’ll find greater success in using all your tools for building awareness and presenting relevant offers.

Use the power of pre-approved loan offers delivered via mail and email to a consumer who has shown a likelihood for a loan. Pre-approvals leverage data to drive convenient lending.

4 – Deposit Sufficiency
The current deposit environment will continue in 2024, so it’s essential to build a strategy around “sufficient” rates to help fuel your lending needs.

Generating deposits is easy when you have the highest rates in town, but few can afford it. When you adopt a strategy of sufficiency, it means you must work more diligently to acquire deposits. Key activities include:

• Ongoing outbound mailings and emailing to high deposit accounts and consumers.
• Retention programs that protect the deposit base
• Switching campaigns to move checking money to longer-term accounts with rate incentives.
• Staff incentive programs that support retention efforts
• Bundling campaigns to build more deposit relationships with the sale of other products.
• A stronger effort in longer-term and retirement products

Lastly, make sure to educate all staff members on how and why deposits are important. Many have never experienced a rate environment like this.

Rely on Westamerica for Your 2024 Marketing Needs

As you finalize your priorities for 2024, remember that we are in your corner with over 30 years of Financial Marketing experience.

And don’t forget to download our FREE marketing planner for additional helpful tools. https://www.mywestamerica.com/marketing-planner/

Strategic Creative Planning for 2024

By Mark's Minutes

It starts with your collective team including outsourced resources.

“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” Andrew Carnegie

Who Makes Up Your team?

As you start planning for 2024, evaluating inward and outward resources is essential. Who makes up your key team members? Which roles are handled from inside your department, inside your company, and outside through your vendor team?

Today, many of our clients manage departments of varying sizes. Some have large contingents of personnel representing creative design, data analytics, content marketing, web admins, email/digital specialists, and more.

Inside and Outside Teams

Successful organizations often rely on an even number of inside and outside resources to get things done. In fact, the best departments will expand their external teams to gain access to the freshest and most objective ideas. Ironically, sometimes working with the inside team can even be more difficult than working with an outside provider!

Often, the biggest drawback to effective department synergy is a combination of 1) failure to establish a project goal and 2) strong communication and feedback about reaching the goal.

Goal Setting

Nothing is more powerful in an organization or department than a unified goal. You make the effort real when you state the goal to your team clearly and succinctly. (The SMART goal format is a great place to start). How-to-write-a-smart-goal-template

Once you establish the goal, it’s your job to keep momentum by updating your collective team on progress.

Communication and Feedback

When you break the project goals down to individual responsibilities, it’s easier to keep everyone on track. Every member of the team should be clear on expectations and completion dates.

Outside teams can also offer more support and perspective when they see the entire picture, not just the small sliver of activity that represents their contribution.

Course Correction and Adjustments

If the assumptions you made or expected results are not materializing, you must be flexible to change. Course corrections during the journey are warranted if it means that the journey will be more successful.

A good practice is to check in with key team members and ask if goals are on track or off track. Nobody wins if plans come up short of the true goal.

Building your team and creating a unified focus is critical to your success. Let us know how Westamerica can help.