Mention one of the buzzwords in retail banking today, and chances are Roger O. Goldman will have none of it.
The gregarious National Westminster Bancorp executive vice president doesn t have much use for market segmentation ( There really are only three customer segments consumers and small business, wealthy people, and middle-market companies. ); the Internet ( Nobody uses that stuff. ); or viewing banks as value-added information providers ( We re a marketing and distribution company that happens to be selling financial services. )
That s not to say that Mr. Goldman has been resting on his laurels. In the last two years, Jersey City-based Natwest has been making a splash in greater New York and New Jersey renovating its branches to emulate the kind of lively retail stores Mr. Goldman admires (see related story on page 12A).
While much of the industry has concentrated on scaling back branch networks and encouraging customers to use electronic banking channels, Natwest has been trying to lure more customers into its offices to sell them more stuff.
Mr. Goldman rejects the common view that shopping for financial services is a necessary chore that is not as enjoyable as, say, buying a new car.
Something as simple as withdrawing cash from an ATM could be made more fun for consumers, he said. He envisions allowing customers to choose from among many cartoon characters or other icons to guide them through the transaction.
Who should be taking you through the ATM screens?, he asked? Simba or Pocahontas, referring to animated characters in recent Walt Disney films. Suppose we had had the guts to go to Disney three months before Pocahontas (was released) and said . . . why don t you pay us to have Pocahontas come out as an icon on our ATMs?
Mr. Goldman also dismisses the view of some consultants that branches are an inefficient way to deliver banking services to unprofitable customer segments.
Retailers, he notes, lose money on some products they sell but aim to correct the imbalance by getting customers to buy more.
Now let s substitute bank for retailer. And all of a sudden, if I were a segmentation person in banking which they all are except me I would call you a branch-dependent customer. Unprofitable! To be thrown out! Horsefeathers, he said.
But his branch renovation plans are on hold because Natwest has been put on the block by its British parent, National Westminster Bank PLC. I ve had better weeks, said Mr. Goldman.