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What Can We Learn From Wells Fargo

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Optima Group is often engaged in the planning, branding and marketing of bank-sponsored wealth-management and mass-affluent programs. These programs are built on a relationship banking model that offers multi-account service packages to high-value clients. Clients are incented to join the programs through various rewards and advantages including lower fees, better rates, and better service. Well-run programs are fully branded as special units within banks, providing prospects with a real sense they are joining an elite service and an enhanced client experience.

The recent scandal at Wells Fargo is an extreme example of the problems that can arise when relationship banking or cross-sell programs lose their way. Below are a few of the key characteristics of successful wealth and mass-affluent relationship-based programs.

1.Programs should align the goals of management, investment, platform, service and referral personnel with each client. When bankers and brokers do not clearly understand their roles, success is typically compromised.

2.Great programs are well-branded and promoted to add distinct tangibility to the intangible world of financial services. Prospects should be able to quickly understand the value of what they get for their loyalty—and how much it costs.

3.Cross-selling is key, but training is critical. Compensation plans should only incent referrals that match the right clients to the appropriate overall relationship program. We have found that superior segmentation, and alignment of higher-level sales resources toward high-potential clients, drives better cross-sell and program profitability—all without needing to “force” sales beyond what a client needs or wants.

4.Management from top to bottom has to communicate and reinforce the goals of the program and monitor activities that may compromise clients or the bank. Incentives from top to bottom should align with each program’s goals.

Relationship banking is a superior way for banks to expand business with their clients. However, these programs are complex; especially when compared to single product sales. While they offer great potential, they require careful program design, marketing and oversight to reap their rewards.