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How To Handle the New Year

By Blair Rugh 3 Jan 2017

New Year’s Day is one of my favorite days of the year. Being from the south, I love the ham and black-eyed peas my wife and I always have for dinner. I love the football. But most of all, I love the realization that so far this year I haven’t messed anything up, at least not real bad. Also, I do not make New Year’s resolutions. I have found over the years that I have the will power of a parakeet. One New Year’s morning I made a resolution that I was going to go on a diet. By noon, the left over Christmas cookies were screaming, “eat me”, I didn’t have a chance. Now I try to think of ideas for the new year so there is no pressure.

My first idea would be to think of ways I can be of more value to my institution. As I have said in this column before, bankers are terrible creatures of habit. If whatever we are doing worked yesterday, it will probably work tomorrow and the day after that, so we just keep on doing what we have always done. Here are a couple of simple ideas.

Review your outstanding consumer credit lines. Identify the customers who have handled their lines responsibly and can accommodate a higher credit amount. You can then write them a letter thanking them for their business, congratulating them on their prompt payments and telling them that you have increased their line to whatever amount. First, that costs virtually nothing, the customer may use the increase or it may encourage them to use their line and, more important, it will strengthen the bank’s relationship with the customer.

Write your closed end consumer loan customers and convey to them for a reasonable fee, one time during the coming year they can skip a payment on their loan. Everyone has Christmas bills to pay in January and a little relief may be appreciated. You aren’t waiving any interest on the loan so again it costs very little, but it is something your customers will appreciate and it may generate a little fee income.

Here is an easy one. If your bank opens at 9:00 a.m. and a customer is waiting at the door at 8:55 a.m., open the door and let them in. When I was doing my Christmas shopping, I went to the door of a merchant that opened at 10:00 a.m. at about 9:50 a.m. The sales people were inside the store having a cup of coffee and chatting while I stood outside. It irritated me so much I went to another store.

Another idea is if you are the person responsible for compliance in your institution, don’t be the black cloud of negativism. When you have to tell someone that because of a regulation they cannot do what they want to do, give them an alternative way that they can accomplish what they want to accomplish. Normally there is more than one way to skin a cat. Also, when you have to tell them that they cannot do what they want to do, explain why. Explain what the law or regulation requires and where they are running afoul of its requirements. Make sure that they understand that you are not arbitrarily picking on them.

The new year, just because it is a new year, is a great time to challenge the efficiency of all of the things that you are doing and see if there is a better way. More importantly, try to think of the things that you aren’t doing that you could do. What products could you offer that you aren’t offering? How can you improve the products that you are offering? How can you improve your customer service? How can you get your customers to use your services more often?

All of us at Temenos hope that you have a wonderful and prosperous New Year.

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