Despite the big rush to globalize financial services, it is harder to make money when you move away from your home market, according to a study by Andersen Consulting.
"Going global might have been the mantra of the '90s, but few international financial services companies have achieved above-market value from their expansion strategies," the report said.
According to the survey, only 13 of 31 U.S. and non-U.S. multinational financial companies achieved above-market returns for shareholders over the 10 years through 1998. Andersen defined above-market returns as return on equity in the 20% to 25% range, or 5% above the industry average of 15% to 20%.
Andersen said the main reason for the shortfall is that companies that internationalize their operations do it for the wrong reasons and "have no clear strategy for capturing value through global expansion."
"The real key is what is your franchise and what is your ability to exploit it," said Robert Davidow, a partner with the firm and one of the authors of the study. "If you don't have an act to begin with, you can't take it on the road."
Andersen named Citigroup Inc., First Data Corp, and E-Trade as among the companies that have successfully globalized. It said leveraging a competitive advantage, pursuing narrowly focused strategies, and finding the right balance between global and local management were among the main ingredients for their success.
Although the study did not identify the remaining 10 companies with winning global strategies, Mr. Davidow said U.S., European, and Asian companies were well represented.
Although pressures on foreign financial institutions to boost return to shareholders were often less than on U.S. companies, Anglo-Saxon profitability benchmarks were increasingly being adopted by non-U.S. companies.
Despite an unimpressive track record, globalization is destined to accelerate within the financial services industry, and much of it will be carried out over the Internet, the Andersen report said. Retail and corporate customers are demanding global access to product and services because differences in global pricing are attracting companies to markets where they believe they have an advantage over local competitors.
Since financial companies will be affected by rising global competition, the report added, even those institutions without international operations need to evaluate what they do best and look to outsource or join joint ventures to compensate in areas in which they are not strong.