Spatial tracking systems that make banks' floor plans and product positioning more effective;
5. Intelligent interactive displays that reflect the interests of the watcher;
6. Use of wireless tablet personal computers (PCs) for client interviewing; and,
7. Videoconference virtual experts for collaborative selling (56).
The same features that characterize high performance banks in their brick-and-mortar operations appear to relate to the use of technology as well, with the best performing banks having identified the optimum mix of services for the markets they serve. For instance, Grasing reports that, "Banks are taking a variety of approaches in implementing technology to make improvements in retail delivery. The methods differ, depending on the bank management's mindset toward the purpose of the software and its valued place in the new business or service delivery processes" (3). The main point in this area is that high performance banks apply technology in ways that help minimize errors as well as the cost and time required for individual transactions as well, making banking operations more efficient and allowing more time for new revenue generation (Grasing 4).
Based on the results of a recent independent survey conducted by the Robert E. Nolan Company, Grasing reports that the Nolan Efficiency Ratio Benchmarking Study found no relationship between a given software system and higher performance. These findings suggest that higher performance is related to how well the applications have been integrated into banks' operations rather than the specific software application that is in place (Grasing 4). The findings that emerged from the Nolan Efficiency Ratio Benchmarking Study also indicate that teller efficiency is significantly higher in top-performing banks compared to the banking industry averages: "The data demonstrates that high-performing banks handle 13% more transactions per month than average banks. The relative cost per transaction is 35% higher in the average banks than the high-performing banks" (Grasing 5). Moreover, the results of the Nolan Efficiency Ratio Benchmarking Study also found that high-performance banks have:
1. A work distribution of 55% on sales and account opening;
2. An 18% distribution on fee and non-fee services;
3. An 8% distribution on customer problem resolution; and,
4. A 19% distribution on administration and other services.
By sharp contrast, personnel in lower performing banks spend an inordinate amount of time involved with problem resolution, thereby allowing less time to be devoted to sales and opening new accounts (Grasing 5). For instance, high performance banks enjoyed a rate of 152 new accounts per employee compared to the average bank's 139 new accounts, representing a significant 9.35% difference (Grasing 5).
Likewise, another indication that high performance banks use their time and resources more effectively than the banking industry average is reflected in the fact that top-performing banks open just 25% of new deposits to the total deposit account balances compared to 32% for average performing banks. These percentages indicates the new non-time deposit account balances as a percentage of total non-time deposit balances was 14% in high performance banks compared to 20% in average performing banks, suggesting that high performance banks are not required to develop as many new deposit balances because they are realizing higher returns on their existing deposits compared to average performing banks (Grasing 5).
Other salient findings that emerged from the Nolan Efficiency Ratio Benchmarking Study included the importance of having an organizational culture in place that encouraged efficiency, the elimination of waste and value added activities at every opportunity by using customer relationship management tools to attract new customers and retain existing customers to the maximum extent possible (Grasing 5). According to Grasing, "Deployment is as much a part of the success of the tools as it is with any technology. . . . Applying science and analytics to the data suggests that the most pertinent information will lead to selling new products to existing customers. This analysis also applies to the possible loss of customers. In this way, banks may prevent the attrition of their customer base" (5).
The main themes that emerged from the Nolan Efficiency Ratio Benchmarking Study were not earth-shattering by any means, and Grasing suggests that the majority of banks understand that these metrics have basically reflected the same features that have characterized high performance banks for the past several decades. However, Grasing also emphasizes that, "What makes the difference between the top-performing retail banks and the average performers is the way they design and deploy their resources to achieve sales and service goals for their customers. The numbers tell a story over time. The comparative gap in efficiency ratio between the top performers, 27.1%, and the average bank, 47.5%, is significant at 20.4%. Interestingly, of the 20.4% gap, the personnel cost gap is 10% and the other operating expenses is 10.4%" (6).
The research showed that the environment in which banks compete today has changed in significant ways in recent years, with consolidation and deregulation introducing a number of challenges for banks of all sizes and types to remain competitive. The research also showed that the high performance banks were generally characterized by higher returns on assets compared to the banking industry average, but there were a number of other features that set them apart from lower performing banks as well. These features included more efficient use of time and resources to generate revenues, higher levels of banking personnel performance in the conduct of their duties, the integration of technology where it have the most significant effect on efficiency of operations and an organizational culture that emphasized the need for profitability and top-level performance. Finally, a consistent feature that characterized high performance banks compared to their lower performing counterparts in the banking industry was a solid financial structure combined with good strategies that took into account the unique market in which they competed and these attributes were shown to contribute to higher performance irrespective of the prevailing economic climate. Taken together, high performance banks were shown to have identified the optimal mix of products and services combined with more efficient operations compared to their banking industry counterparts, features that are characteristic of virtually all types of companies regardless of the industry in which they compete.
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