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World's Leading Retail Banks Outperform Peers in Both Customer Focus and Operational Efficiency, BCG Reports

Top-Performing Banks "Reject Traditional Tradeoffs" Between Serving Clients and Boosting Efficiency, Ramping Up Digital Channels to Achieve Both Goals

BOSTON, MA -- (Marketwired) -- 05/13/14 -- The top performers among the world's leading retail banks are improving operational effectiveness while also becoming more customer-focused than their competitors, according to a report released today by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The report, titled Operational Excellence in Retail Banking 2014: No Compromise--Advocating for Customers, Insisting on Efficiency, details the findings of BCG's fourth annual benchmarking of the global retail-banking industry. The benchmarking covered 18 of the 35 top retail banks in the Americas, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, collectively referred to as "premier league" banks.

"The top banks reject traditional tradeoffs and compromises between boosting efficiency and advocating for customers," said Michael Grebe, a BCG partner based in Munich and coauthor of the report. "Many if not most of them are developing and deploying digital capabilities to address both sets of challenges."

As banks adapt to continuing weak macroeconomic conditions, BCG's study found, customer centricity, supported by efficiency gains, has become an increasingly important competitive differentiator.

The most efficient and profitable half of the total field of 18 benchmarked premier-league banks surpassed the premier-league median in client excellence. At the same time, the leading banks have opened a gap with other banks by boosting productivity and reducing organizational complexity, the benchmarking showed.

Collectively, the leaders achieved a cost per customer of approximately half the median of benchmarked banks, while their income per customer was nearly 30 percent above the median, at more than $1,000. The top-quartile banks dedicated 82 percent of resources, excluding overhead, to client-facing roles.

Many leading banks are achieving step-change improvements in customer products and services by optimizing their business models, BCG found.

"The leaders have developed scalable models of efficient service," said Christophe Duthoit, a BCG senior partner based in Paris and another coauthor. "They are migrating most low-value transactions to alternative channels, tightly limiting nonclient-facing staff, and streamlining management."

The benchmarking confirmed BCG's earlier findings that retail banks that are the strongest operationally also deliver superior financial performance. Top-quartile banks achieved cost-to-income ratios -- a key measure of efficiency and profitability -- at or below 40, compared with the median of 54.

BCG identified four areas of focus that the leading premier-league banks share in common: competitive advantage through customer centricity, increased sales performance through digitization, excellence in organizational and process efficiency, and complexity reduction that drives business results.

Growing Digitization Boosts Bank Sales Performance

Digital engagement of clients with banks is expanding quickly, particularly mobile transactions, which quadrupled. The largest gap between top-quartile and median performers was in the share of online versus branch transactions, BCG found.

Expanding digitization is enabling stronger sales performance in two ways. First, multiple interactive channels please customers by giving them what they want, when and where they want it. Second, digital channels reduce operational costs and boost productivity by requiring fewer in-person, branch-office interactions.

Attracting and serving high-income-producing clients and expanding share of wallet have become key differentiators, BCG found. Increasingly, leading banks are turning to big data, sophisticated analytics, and digital capabilities to achieve those goals.

"However, we believe the main challenge for banks, before tackling big data, is to develop 'rich data' -- that is, customer information that is complete, current, coherent, and consistent," said Ian Walsh, a BCG partner based in London and the global leader of the firm's retail-banking segment. "Rich data is far more important than external data feeds in allowing banks to extract key insights."

A copy of the report can be downloaded at

To arrange an interview with one of the authors, please contact Eric Gregoire at +1 617 850 3783 or [email protected].

About The Boston Consulting Group
The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) is a global management consulting firm and the world's leading advisor on business strategy. We partner with clients from the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors in all regions to identify their highest-value opportunities, address their most critical challenges, and transform their enterprises. Our customized approach combines deep insight into the dynamics of companies and markets with close collaboration at all levels of the client organization. This ensures that our clients achieve sustainable competitive advantage, build more capable organizations, and secure lasting results. Founded in 1963, BCG is a private company with 81 offices in 45 countries. For more information, please visit

About features the latest thinking from BCG experts as well as from CEOs, academics, and other leaders. It covers issues at the top of senior management's agenda. It also provides unprecedented access to BCG's extensive archive of thought leadership stretching back 50 years to the days of Bruce Henderson, the firm's founder and one of the architects of modern management consulting. All of our content -- including videos, podcasts, commentaries, and reports -- can be accessed by PC, mobile, iPad, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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