Slideshow Best of BankThink 2012: Readers' Choice

  • December 20 2012, 3:45pm EST
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We revisit our 10 most popular BankThink posts of 2012 based on audience page views over the last twelve months.

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10. Multifamily Bubble on the Horizon?

Chris Terlizzi of First Niagara Bank postulates that the same low interest rates and easy credit that drove the "for sale" single-family housing market into a frenzy are now driving up prices in the multifamily rental business. Per the post: "To avoid the pitfalls of a potential bubble, lenders should be vigilant about sensitizing debt service coverage ratios to withstand reduced rents, higher interest and/or vacancy rates, and adjust their underwriting to provide a reasonable equity margin at loan maturity in order to minimize refinance risk."

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9. The Plot Thickens in the Bizarre Bitcoin Blackmail Caper

Matthew Elias, founder of the Cryptocurrency Legal Advocacy Group, questions whether the entire Bitcoin network could be implicated in a bizarre plot to extort money (in the form of the digital currency) from Mitt Romney by threatening to release his tax returns. Per the post: "Conspiracy typically requires 1) an express or implied agreement and 2) an overt act … Miners on the Bitcoin network would all be continually agreeing that the two Bitcoin addresses mentioned in the ransom notes were available to receive coins in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy, fraud, etc. They will have also overtly acted in deciding to dedicate computing power to mining."

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8. Big Banks Lack Convincing Business Model

Bonnie Baha, a portfolio manager at DoubleLine Capital LP, argues that the largest financial institutions, saddled with feeble economic growth, a moribund housing market, chronically high unemployment, regulatory uncertainty and low rates as far as the eye can see, have run out of ways to make money. Per the post: "In the post-Lehman regime of socialized losses, Washington won't allow another outright default among the top banks. But would Washington bless the bank boards' voting for real dividend growth? Insured by taxpayers and savers? … Not even Ryan Bingham has the savoir faire to finesse that one."

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7. Jamie Dimon Will Have His Comeuppance in 2012

As part of our 2012 Countdown, Accountable columnist Francine McKenna predicted a bad year for JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon-so bad, in fact, that he would be ousted. Yes, Dimon had a bumpy year, but it didn't cost him his job. In her column, McKenna predicted the CEO's ultimate comeuppance would come at the hands of the MF Global mess. Instead, the London Whale debacle damaged his credibility but by no means destroyed Dimon's reputation. Per the post: "The Obama administration will pull Jamie Dimon down along with Jon Corzine. They'll do this to regain momentum with working-class voters-the 99%."

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6. Why Do Prepaid Debit Cards Have Such a Bad Rap?

Jennifer Tescher, chief executive of the Center for Financial Services Innovation, outlines how the prepaid debit card industry can get beyond its bad rep, following the much-maligned debut of Suze Orman's Approved card. Per the post: "Prepaid companies need to look beyond 'must do' practices and think about adopting aspirational, 'should do' practices that provide real value to their consumers and to the bottom line."

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5. Lightning Fast, Dirt Cheap: Bitcoin Shows What Banking Could Be

American Banker Executive Editor Marc Hochstein provides a firsthand account of what it's like to obtain and transfer the alternate currency Bitcoin. Per the post: "The problem with Bitcoin right now is that if it were a car, it would come only in stick shift. When the automatic version arrives, though, watch out."

4. It's Time to Rethink Large Branch Networks

Piercarlo Gera and Wayne Busch of Accenture declare "the end of the branch network as we know it" as new regulations squeeze profit margins and make big bricks-and-mortar locations harder to finance. Per the post: "The model for the future is simple: Provide easy access across physical and digital channels to pull in customers and strengthen relationships."

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3. A Toxic Culture Can be Hazardous to Your Bank's Balance Sheet

L. T. "Tom" Hall, CEO of Resurgent Performance Inc., a bank advisory firm, urges banks to monitor internal politics, since a negative environment can hurt financial performance. Per the post: "Banks must take a stand against this shattered culture syndrome or suffer the repercussions of a fractured chain of command, low employee morale, reduced productivity, high employee turnover, weak customer service and poor work quality."

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2. Amex's Bluebird Is a No-Fee Checking Account, Not a 'Prepaid Card'

Columnist Andrew Kahr takes Amex to task for its Bluebird product, a prepaid card that all-too-closely resembles a traditional checking account, but does not offer FDIC insurance. Per the post: "Can Amex operate as an uninsured bank under the laws of 50 states, selling checking accounts untouched by bank regulation? I doubt it."

How to Make Customers Love Your Bank

Sandip Sen, CEO of outsourcing firm Aegis, encourages banks to be less of a "Peggy," Discover's satire of a stereotypical customer service representative, by responding to social media, making sure customer service thrives even as compliance rules get more stringent and focusing on existing customers. Per the post: "Customers are conditioned to expect increased service along with an increase in fees. How will charging for checking result in a better experience?"

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