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Savings banks—Evolve products and sales

“It is more important than ever before to make products, prices and sales both customer-oriented and profitable. We call it mastering the balancing act.”
Peter Klenk, Partner, zeb

Challenges

A consistent further development of products and sales is necessary

The permanently low level of interest rates is weighing on the main source of income for all savings banks: net interest income. At the same time, there is a massive upheaval going on in the industry: tech giants and fintech companies have changed customers’ daily behaviors as well as their basic expectations. For an increasing number of people, it is now completely normal to interact with (financial) service providers in a predominantly digital way. It has also become a matter of course to compare products and prices online; the market is now more transparent than ever before.

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Net interest income from 2017 to 2018 fell by 3.1%.


 

Savings banks feel this upheaval every day in the way customers demand financial services. In order to meet the changed expectations, products and sales units will need to be completely redeveloped—even beyond the existing range of services.

A particular challenge of this further development lies in the fact that savings banks—even in times of digital change—continue to serve the entire population in all its diversity: it includes digital natives just as much as people who prefer to manage their everyday affairs offline. The customers’ needs vary accordingly. In addition, despite all customer centricity efforts, savings banks must keep an eye on their own cost and income targets due to the challenging market situation.

Insights

Products, prices and sales channels must be attractive from the customer's point of view and at the same time profitable for the savings bank. The balancing act can only succeed if the individual starting situation demonstrates a high level of transparency. Particularly with regard to market potential, it must be clear where the savings bank stands today, what quantitative and qualitative targets it can achieve and what options for action it can derive from them. 

In addition, it is necessary for savings banks to systematically challenge their own product and price management. A competitive design alone is not enough—customers expect this anyway. Since banking products are easy to compare and often interchangeable from the customer’s point of view, genuine differentiation is only possible on a case-by-case basis. This makes it all the more important to recognize the few existing possibilities for differentiation and to use them to achieve a positive customer perception. 

Savings banks can reinforce this positive perception in particular through the way they interact with customers—in other words, in the specific setup of their sales activities. Here they (still) benefit from their positioning as trusted service providers in a regional network with close proximity to the customer. In an environment of changing expectations and new market conditions, this proximity needs to be redefined and made perceptible.

 

Solutions

zeb has successfully supported savings banks in further developing their products and sales activities for more than 25 years. Some tried and tested starting points are:

Making potentials and own market position transparent 
The ideal starting point for this is to make the existing potential in the respective business area of the savings bank—and the extent to which this potential is exploited—transparent. Exclusive comparisons with other savings banks are only of limited use here because they do not take sufficient account of the specific regional situation, also with regard to local competition. 

We therefore analyze individually and regionally. This enables us to obtain accurate and detailed results on how the savings bank is exploiting its potential in terms of customer groups, segments and product areas. The insights gained make it possible to derive precisely the right strategic directions and concrete measures to increase earnings—also for product and pricing structures.

Achieving product and pricing excellence
Pricing and product design are the most important levers for profitability given the current interest rate policy of central banks. The opportunities for savings banks to earn money in an environment of constant or moderately rising interest rates especially lie in commission and lending business. Price management is therefore of particular importance in this context. 

Together with our experienced pricing team, we provide fundamental assistance in the further professionalization of price management in all product areas. In your pricing projects, we can support you with our proven process model, which ensures a comprehensive view of all relevant aspects. As the market leader for the optimization of product and pricing strategies in German regional banks, there are many good reasons that we accompany your project.

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We achieve long-term success. Our customers achieve revenue increases of 10 to 30 percent thanks to our pricing projects.

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We design the complete product range holistically. You benefit from our expertise gained in more than 20 savings banks projects per year.

Designing a branch network for the future
For regional credit institutions, having a presence in the region is as normal as it is expected. Nevertheless, changes in customer behavior and cost pressure mean that the company must rigorously review its own branch network. With the zeb.branch analyzer, we have a powerful tool for designing future-oriented branch structures together with our clients. In addition to profitability, we also explicitly consider criteria from the customer’s perspective as well as the local competitive situation. Our analytical and objective approach provides a valuable basis to help make the often complex decisions required in connection with branch optimization. 

In addition to these structural considerations, we work with savings banks to develop a customer-oriented branch design. Aside from a clear differentiation of branch types with various service offerings, another success criterion is the branch’s modern and innovative appearance that turns a visit into a positive customer experience. 
 
Establishing an efficient digital sales unit

But even with an optimal branch design, savings banks will not succeed in reaching all of their customers. After all, it is the customer who decides how they want to get in touch with their bank. More and more people want the entire range of services to be available to them without visiting a branch—in short: they want the savings bank to keep its multi-channel promise. 

We have already accompanied numerous savings banks on this path of establishing or expanding an efficient digital sales unit for retail  and commercial customers. Regardless of whether this unit is called a customer (service) center, business (service) center, digital branch or advisory center: we always develop it individually and together with the savings bank in order to achieve a perfect fit. 

As a result, we create a win-win situation: the customer finds visiting their savings bank to be convenient, easy and fast. The savings bank increases its efficiency and often its earnings at the same time.

Shaping the future with digital platforms
It is not enough to further develop the existing products and structures—the underlying business model of savings banks must urgently be rethought. In addition to the traditional service portfolio of a savings bank, new, non-banking topics are gaining major importance. They do this because these topics interest people—in contrast to financial topics, which tend to be unpopular to irrelevant for most people.

Why not make use of the regional strength of the savings banks and leverage topics that interest customers as well as potential customers and are highly relevant in everyday life? On this basis, platforms and ecosystems can emerge that offer real added value for retail  and corporate customers, strengthen regional structures and lead to new business models for savings banks in the long term or secure the existing market position. Initial steps are already being taken in the real estate and leisure sectors. These ideas and approaches have to be expanded, thought big and jointly implemented. In this way, zeb is helping to make regional proximity a new experience as the core of the savings bank brand in the 21st century.  

Feel free to contact us

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Christian Bröker

Manager

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Carolin Knoop

Senior Consultant

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Marion Pfaller

Senior Manager