Sunday, September 17, 2017

An Open Letter Calling For The Establishment Of The Consumer Beverage Protection Bureau (CBPB)

I'm fed up and not going to take it anymore! So I am proposing to my state's Senators to submit legislation to form the Consumer Beverage Protection Bureau (CBPB).

Dear Senators Casey and Toomey:

I am a citizen of your fine state and am writing to strongly encourage you to submit legislation to establish a Consumer Beverage Protection Bureau. The establishment will serve to protect the citizens of our fair land from the aggressive and deceptive practices of the beer industry.

For too long, the beer industry has been praying on our citizens. Luring us into beverage centers with cardboard cutouts of attractive young women or the likes of Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Such marketing tactics have had a disparate impact on those that fancy attractive women and NASCAR fans. Note that I made no reference to the identity of those clearly in the beer industry's cross hairs as I now have adopted political correctness in my protest letters. And don't get me started on Busch beer clearly targeting plaid shirt-wearing mountain folk. smh

Once the beverage centers lure you in, past the attractive woman or Earnhardt Jr. cutout, what do they feature? Expensive, high margin craft beer. Not the more reasonably priced Busch. We are bombarded with images and smooth marketing schemes of Troegs, Harpoon, and Flying Dog. The deception gets worse. Anheuser-Busch fools us into believing craft beers such as Elysian, Breckinridge, and Goose Island are brewed in small batches by people with long, scraggly beards. Not so. They are owned by Anheuser-Busch, who is in turn owned by beer conglomerate InBev. From Belgium! 

Gentleman, this is our new Battle of the Bulge!

Here is what I propose. Form the CBPB, that is within the Federal Alcohol Administration, yet is not accountable to the FAA or the President of the United States. In addition to investigating such deceptive practices, the CBPB should have examination authority over large beverage wholesalers to ensure that their practices are "fair", whatever definition they drum up for that term.

Give the CBPB the power to:

- Rescind or reform contracts;
- Demand monetary refunds;
- Disgorgement of violators' assets;
- Return of property;
- Restitution;
- Compensation for unjust enrichment;
- Payment of damages or other monetary relief;
- Public shaming of a beer distributor's violation;
- Limits on the activities or functions of a person;
- Civil monetary penalties

In this way, the CBPB can stop the practice of beer distributors from upselling a Hoppy Ending Pale Ale to the college student that just wants a PBR. The added compliance costs may put the small beverage distributor out of business in favor of their larger brethren, limit beer drinker choices, and raise prices. But let's face it, those small operators are not likely to support lifer politications anyway, and who wants that?

No, creating a government bureaucracy accountable to nobody creates jobs, and is a great gig for smart people like Jeopardy winners that can solve complex problems in the form of a question, such as "What is Fair?"

This madness must end! Support the CBPB!

Sincerely, your faithful servant that believes the government can solve what "ales" us...

~ Jeff Marsico

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Bankers: Five Ways to Use Profitability Data to Move You Forward

Accountability is a dirty word. It evokes images of finger wagging, stern looks, and sheepish floor staring. I'm sure at one point of the word's evolution it wasn't this way. Words and phrases earn their reputation by those that use and receive them. In banking, it is what we made it to be.

On a recent Pennsylvania Institute of CPA podcast, Bob Kafafian from my firm was asked how to use management information. Bob's response resulted in a follow-up question by a Midwest banker friend of mine. 

And since I am scheduled to speak about it at a Financial Managers Society breakfast tomorrow, I'll answer it.

Here are my ideas on how to use Management Information to create a positive accountability culture.

1. Hold branch managers accountable for revenue growth. Revenue growth equals deposit spread (coterminous using funds transfer pricing, or FTP), loan spread less provision (for loans that the branch is responsible for generating), and fee income. Imagine if Wells Fargo branch managers were accountable for this, instead of number of accounts per customer. Fake accounts with little or no balance generate little or no spread. But draws operating expenses from support centers. Imagine if your branch managers were accountable for this instead of deposit dollar growth. Would you be getting that desperate phone call asking for a rate exception to keep the money at the bank?

2.  Hold lenders accountable for their portfolio ROE. You read it right. That's an "E", not an "A".
Lending is a risk business, and aside from the provision expense, and net-charge off rate, those loans require equity to support them. If you allocate equity by product based on your institution's risk experience, then you know how much equity your institution requires. It should be part of your capital plan. Drill that down to the loan level, you can create ROE hurdles when lenders price loans, and measure their pre-tax ROE on their entire portfolio using the coterminous spread, less provision expense, less operating expense per loan type, to calculate the lenders' actual ROE for their portfolio. Imagine!

3. Hold support centers accountable for a decreasing relative cost per balance sheet category. If measuring a deposit operations department, then the operating expense from deposit operations as a
percent of deposit balances should decline long-term in a growing institution. It is the very definition of economies of scale. Notice I say long-term, because you don't want to defer investment in personnel or technology in fear of causing an upward blip in your trend. That's managing by budget that has caused executives to reduce innovation so they can make their budget.

4. Rank. Nothing should be more motivating than ranking branches, lenders, and support managers in achieving their goals as measured by Management Information than seeing where they rank among their peers. Including a ranking report of your twenty branches by revenue growth, and profitability,  in a sales meeting should put smiles on the faces of those at the top, and a look of determination on the faces of those wanting to get there.

5. Reward. Incentivize your personnel for achievement. Let's turn that frown upside down when we talk of accountability. Deposit Operations costing 16 basis points of deposits three years ago, and 12 basis points today, is an achievement that should be recognized by the entire institution. The same for ROE improvement for lenders, or pre-tax profit improvement by branch managers. Let's not foster a culture of fear, recrimination, and public floggings. Let's raise up our achievers!

I frequently speak of financial institutions' over-investment in under performing branches. Those investments of our precious operating expense dollars could be used in more promising areas. Instead, we limit resources to the very things that could lead us to a more sustainable future. Using profitability information to incentivize the right behavior will create a culture of achievement, and help us make more efficient decisions to better serve customers, reward employees, and improve performance. 

How do you use Management Information to run your bank?

~ Jeff

Note: This is my personal blog and I mostly refrain from direct sales pitches. But since I firmly believe 1) every financial institution should do this, and 2) few have the resources to do this, I offer this...

My firm, The Kafafian Group, does profitability reporting on an outsourced basis because we recognize the challenge community financial institutions face in building their own model, and running it quarter after quarter. If interested, call Gregg Wagner, our practice leader, at 973-299-0200 x114 or reach him at