Saturday, July 03, 2021

Bank Customer Lifetime Value

Who are your target customers? Answer: XYZ
Why are they your target customers? Answer: They are our most profitable customers.

May I see your profitability reports that show this? Answer: *crickets*

Is "most profitable" the right answer? Aside from my skepticism that the financial institution actually calculates who their most profitable customers are. But in doing profitability reporting for decades, I feel comfortable saying that most commercial-focused financial institutions' most profitable customers are commercial real estate investors. Not small mom-and-pop real estate investors. The ones with the big balances.

Targeting them would likely yield a very profitable bank. But would it be a valuable bank? It is highly competitive in the large commercial real estate space. Not only are there community financial institutions chasing that business, but large banks, conduits, insurance companies, loan brokers, etc. The competition is, well, not very "blue ocean" like (compete where the competition isn't). 

I'm not down on commercial real estate. Any balanced balance sheet should have its fair share of investor CRE to boost profits. But to boost value, I ask again, who are your target customers?

In comes what experts deem "lifetime value" (LTV). Can we categorize, and generalize, customer segments to predict what segment delivers the greatest LTV? Because if we consider spot profitability, we should target CRE. It is likely the reason why so many bank balance sheets have concentrations in this product. 

Let's take a doppelganger customer segment: Recent college graduates with high earnings potential. We're not talking philosophy majors here. I already have enough of them fumbling my coffee order. I'm talking the docs, engineers, accountants, cyber security, et al. The customers that SoFi targeted out of the gate.

See the table below for our recent engineering major grad, who is working as a junior engineer for an environmental engineering firm. Four years after becoming our bank's customer, he/she breaks out on his/her own. 

As you can see, the Total LTV in the top table shows a pretty profitable customer, and likely customer segment. But if you look at the spot profitability in Year 1 of the bottom table, our doppelganger customer doesn't look so attractive. Profits actually decrease in years two and three. THIS is why estimating LTV of identifiable customer segments is so important to strategic decision making in financial institutions. Not only must we calculate LTV by segment, but we must also compare to external data to ensure there are enough of these "households" in our markets so we can build critical mass.

There are business models that span the country for their targeted customer segments. In addition to the already mentioned SoFi, Live Oak Bank comes to mind. They started as an SBA shop focused on business segments that were recession proof, like dentists and veterinarians. And searched the entire country for them.

Most of us are geographic focused. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't build our infrastructure: the people, technology, and physical locations, to differentiate ourselves with those customer segments that deliver superior LTV and are in abundant supply in the markets we choose to serve.

Do you calculate LTV?

~ Jeff

And don't forget my book: Squared Away-How Can Bankers Succeed as Economic First Responders

Ten percent of author royalties go to, who work to bring down the suicide rate among our veterans. 




Thank you!

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