The superrich have always been well served by their financial institutions. Banks, ever careful to nurture these valuable relationships, have for the most part satisfied the needs of their special customers with plenty of personal contact and a deft application of kid gloves.
Naturally, the $10 million investment management client has a private banker at his or her beck and call.
House calls and "walking the dog" may be part of this banker's job description.
However, it's economically impossible to justify this level of personalized service to mid-tier or lower-end affluent clients. So what happens to those earning $150,000 a year with, say, $350,000 of investable assets, as well as a mortgage and two kids in school? Too often, the picture of their total financial needs gets lost among their trust administrator, private banker, and broker.
Most of the relationships at this level are informally managed. While informal structures generally work well when a banker has a low client load-50 to 100 clients-they are inadequate when a banker is serving upward of 200 customers.
The customer is usually faced with multiple contacts at the bank and may have to contend with spotty service and/or poor follow-up.
For the bank, this means a serious loss of potential business because the multiple points of contact are not working closely to maximize the bank's share of the customer's wallet.
The failure to harness this class of investor is widespread because banks have traditionally been organized around lines of business and not customer segments. The result is that each line of business is a "silo" with its own sales processes, culture, compensation plan, and technology platform. In many banks, such groups compete against one another for the same piece of business.
So what's a bank to do when these valuable clients get caught between the banker, broker, and trust officer? How can the bank achieve profitable revenue growth? Is there a possible downscale application of the traditional, high-end, private banking relationship management model?
Recently, Towers Perrin had the opportunity to work with a private bank struggling with these questions.
This superregional was entering a new geographic market and had the luxury of building a sales-and-service delivery model unencumbered by any historical baggage or legacy.
Its strategy was an attempt to apply the traditional, private-banking, relationship manager paradigm to the emerging affluent.
The bank's "relationship managers" served a dual role: business development officers and client relationship managers. They were supported by mortgage originators, commercial loan officers, trust administrators, portfolio managers, and sales assistants.
This model can give other banks the competitive advantage they may need, but it can also become extraordinarily expensive.
Here are some general guidelines for making this model work:
Target a narrow market segment. Determining the level of personalized service is critical to achieving profitability.
Customers with $1 million or more with the bank probably have a different service quality expectation than those with $250,000 to $500,000.
Define roles and responsibilities. The relationship manager is the "quarterback." In this team delivery model where everyone is equal, make it clear that relationship managers are "more equal" than others.
Product specialists pretending to be relationship managers cause confusion and can lead to missed cross-selling opportunities.
Hire sales-oriented relationship managers even though they are a scarce breed. This manager is also the primary business development officer. If you have a relationship manager who says, "I'm a private banker, not a used-car salesman," then he or she does not fit into this model.
Institutionalize sales processes. Provide training on topics such as building referral networks with centers of influence, developing sales skills, looking for cross-selling opportunities, and strengthening client relationships.
Make sure the bank-not the relationship manager-owns the client. Do not confuse personalized service with a single point of contact.
A client with multiple points of contact at the bank is less likely to leave if the relationship manager decides to go to a competitor.
Build a contact management infrastructure. With multiple points of contact, it is virtually impossible to keep track of who did what to whom.
Communicating through memos and e-mails within the team is ineffectual and inefficient. Things will inevitably slip through the cracks.
In certain instances, if the client calls several people about the same problem, follow-up will become overly burdensome and repetitive.
Streamline and improve this process with a contact management system that eases it. Although it may be painful to install and maintain, it will be worth it afterward.
Manage the pipeline and measure sales results. Today's business development activities result in tomorrow's new business.
Set reasonable profit productivity expectations. Throw out traditional performance standards.
This is a higher-cost sales-and-service-delivery model. A typical productivity standard may be six times cash compensation for the relationship manager.
The economics of this delivery model may not support typical productivity standards.
Towers Perrin recommends the use of total revenue rather than total assets managed as an appropriate productivity measure.
Align compensation plans with business objectives. Remember, true salespeople will do as they are paid not as they are told. The compensation plan should reflect the business strategy as well as the economics of the delivery model.
To reinforce the new delivery model, Towers Perrin encourages a substantial team-based payout. However, relationship managers' compensation plan should have a greater upside potential linked to productivity.
Some people are outstanding business developers, while others may be excellent client relationship managers. Both sets of skills are valuable, so reward them appropriately.
In the end, there is no formulaic recipe for success. It depends on the market, the product, the technology, the competition, the culture, and ultimately the people at the bank. But the guidelines I have outlined are a starting point for adopting a downscale application of the traditional, private-banking, relationship manager delivery model.