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Risk & Relationship based Pricing Part 5

This continues and completes the description of good risk and relationship based pricing principles.
Principle 6: Define cost allocation strategy and models
As a general principle all customers should pay the costs associated with the product they buy. The questions are:
1. What costs should be allocated?
2. With what level of granularity should these costs be allocated?
3. How are you estimating these costs?

In the ideal world the cost allocations should be done are the most granular level possible. This means, as an example, that the ATM costs should be allocated to each customers on the basis of the ATM usage by the customer and all ATM may have a different cost structure on the basis of location and other variables. This requires a very big and complex cost allocation system that can individualise all costs (and revenues) at client/ contract level. Teradata for example has such an application, but be warned it’s a big project to implement!
But is this good enough? Not if you just allocate past costs, as we are looking at future cash flows of revenues and costs! Those future costs will vary in time due to inflation, capacity, operational efficiency etc. This means you have to estimate future volatile costs based on historical allocations. Not impossible but definitely not easy.
What could be the consequences of allocating future costs as they are expected to occur, while revenues are dependent on the contract characteristics? Take a mortgage with fixed monthly instalments. The revenues of such a contract will be very high during the first years then very quickly drop to become small in the following years, while operating expenses for this contract will remain stable and even increase through inflation. The net profitability schedule will show higher profits followed by many years of losses! Actually this is the simple consequence of accrual accounting and should be adapted in management accounting.
Some banks want to allocate all costs down to the taxes associated with the product. That is actually easier to do, but is it correct? Should the customer pay the bank’s corporate income tax, or the Chairman and CEO’s airplane? Should the customer pay the cost of the Equity allocated to the products he buy’s.
In my opinion the answer is definitely no. The principle is that customers must pay the expected losses and the expected operational expenses (direct and indirect), but that the shareholders should pay unexpected risks and indirect costs, at least the indirect costs generated because of the nature of the corporate activity (being a bank) and thus including regulatory expenses, general management, audit and control costs… Yes these should be paid by the shareholders through reduced net profits (RoE) and dividends. An all-in cost invoiced to the customers would have them pay the inefficiencies of management and would make the banking products unaffordable.
Also core is the cost quantification model used. What cost accounting models should be applied? Average costing by product, by process or activity based costing…?
Decisions on the cost allocation strategy will fundamentally change product pricing and profitability. What is appropriate for your bank, your market, your global strategy? How is your bank analysing this/ Life Time Value of the contract, or if you prefer the Fair value of the contract after all costs allocations appears to me as the only financially correct way of giving a value to that contract/ client.

Principle 7: Define, quantify and manage current and future client profit and value contribution
It is evident that bank profitability and shareholder value requires appropriate pricing. But excess pricing can destruct value by killing growth and client satisfaction. To avoid that pricing must be “efficient” i.e. be fixed on the basis of risks and market/ client specific demand and price elasticity.
We believe this means that client pricing but consequently the client’s profitability analysis, must be granular and forward looking. Average profitability of products, multiplied by the contract size, which is added to the profitability also calculated on an average basis, will only give you an average historical profitability of little use to manage your client in the future.
Is your profitability analytics compatible with modern value metrics, such as the Customer Fair Value, which we can be summarised as the fair value of the client current product holding (multiplied by client behavioural variables) plus fair value of future product holdings (multiplied by the related client behavioural variables).

risk adjusted current and future client value

 
risk adjusted current and future client value

Such a model will highlight and individualise the behavioural sales/ marketing risks and allow the management of business uncertainties. LTV is metric to integrate and manage all client value drivers: profitability, growth, risks and time.
We will discuss customer value in détail in a future series on this blog.

Principle 8: Manage competitive pricing
How should the bank integrate pricing information from the market, from competition?
What should the bank do when it models a theoretical risk and relationship based price (for a product sold to a specific prospect) which differs from the market prices?

  • Reduce its price to meet competition?
  • Increase its price when it is lower than the market price?
  • Keep price unchanged?

A simple question but a very complex answer, requiring a multi-dimensional analysis!

  •  How to handle market inefficiencies and bank specific inefficiencies?
  • How do you integrate product life cycle and relationship life cycle?

These multidimensional analysis should allow you to understand pricing inefficiencies and market/ pricing opportunities, but don’t make the client pay for your inefficiencies and always manage pricing in a transparent and open way with the prospect client.
Remember abnormally high spreads can lead to immediate profits but negative values because of increased attrition. You need a long term value measure to manage your client over a long term horizon, and the at least the life time cycle of the product holdings!
Strategically you may want to sell a product at breakeven or at loss because you are buying market share or you have bundled that product with high profit/ value products. In all such cases you must calculate the loss and/or negative value generated for allocation as a cost to sales/ marketing.

Principle 9: Manage the complexity and risks of your quant models.
Bank management is complex because cash flows are volatile and behavioural. Managing that complexity requires deep understanding of the market, the client, and the product value drivers.
Each bank must adapt the complexities of its business models to its needs and markets. It should use quant models that are useful for its specific strategies and market constraints (often restricted due to weak data quality and availability).
From a practical perspective, the bank’s sales force does not need to understand all these complexities. You must package products in a way that can optimise the sales unit efficiencies.
Likewise clients do not need to understand all the complexities of the product. Managing risk and operational intermediation risks is what bank should do. They must package the products to make them attractive but without hiding any financial risks that you could be transferring to the product buyer. If you sell a variable rate mortgage inform the customer that there is risk in such a product for him (the bank has passed the financial risk to the customer because it will not or cannot manage the interest rate…). Finally be transparent in pricing, client will understand and appreciate this honest and professional attitude.
Ensure strong communication between your sales force and the clients, based on a simple list of core variables such as:

  • Price is dependent on risk and collateral,
  • Standard, off-the-shelf transactions are cheaper than tailor made products,
  • Pricing is a function of operational process, automated process (internet banking) will be cheaper than 1:1 branch operational support.

Principle 10: Adapt the organisation to the requirement of risk and relationship based pricing
A close integration of all risk management processes and policies with other parts of the process flows, will generate operational and management synergies. In other words banks should consolidate management analytics and resource allocations and break operational silos. This has often been said but not often realised! The evolution of data management and management analytics can achieve what enterprise culture has often shied away from!
Consolidation of management analytics and resource allocations will include Enterprise wide Risk Management (ERM) capabilities, with often new and specialised functional responsibilities (Risk Transfer Pricing, Economic Capital budgeting and allocation, Risk policy recommendations and strategy implementation…). On that subject please don’t look at ERM as an organisational issue (bring all risk functions under one umbrella headed by the CRO. ERM is much more that that!
Breaking operational silos is ensuring that the process flows are managed from client product request to product delivery in the most efficient and effective way, and is focused on client satisfaction and the bank’s performance criterias (KPIs) including operational capacity usage and cost efficiency, Economic Equity optimisation etc.
I recommend that such an integration project completes a thorough “impact analysis” on all aspects of the business model: Process, Organisation, Data, Applications and Technology, or PODAT analysis.

Principle 11: Integrate pricing process within an efficient process flow management system, from the origination of the client request to its fulfilment
Pricing is just one element in a chain of processes from origination to product delivery.
In the case of a loan these will include:

  1.  application analysis and qualification,
  2.  product matching to client requirements,
  3.  credit analysis – – scoring & rating,
  4. credit structuring & pricing,
  5. credit approval,
  6. documentation development and signature,
  7. verification of condition precedent,
  8. disbursement(s),
  9. contract management (interest payments, interest rate fixings…),
  10. collection.

Any delay or mismanagement of any of these activities (themselves usually divided in multiple operational, analytical and management process) will have negative impacts on the bank’s value drivers!
Control and automation of these activities and process are essential to sustain efficiency and strong business development.
The activities and process are data driven, rule driven and model driven. Without clear Policies and Procedures the bank cannot achieve operational efficiencies and respond to international standards of good management. The bank must manage the related operational risks and have strong audit trails on all activities.
Regulatory constraints and capital adequacy rules are dependant of these activities and must be fully integrated.

Principle 12: Integrate risk underwriting and pricing in an integrated sales and marketing strategy
Efficient process, good pricing models and strategies can result in very bad client management if behaviour analytics are weak and below standard.
We will define the behavioural analytical models as:

  • Credit scoring models that allow appropriate credit risk rating (for risk management purposes and/ or not for regulatory purposes);
  • Collection scoring for appropriate collections management;
  • Marketing scoring models that allow the development of appropriate client information (intelligence) such as sales propensities, attrition risks etc.
  • The client score card for credit risk and product ownership (business) risks is a core input in financial risk management (interest rate, liquidity) and capital management.

Risk appetite and risk allocation will be RAROC (or RORAC) dependant and global strategy must manage the Earning at Risk (EaR), due to all the risks underwritten by the bank.  An Adjusted Return on Risk Adjusted capital (ARORAC) is an interesting approach of integrating the bank’s solvency in the equation. We will define ARORAC as the RORAC minus the Risk Free Rate (RFR), divided by the banks’ market beta.

Principle 13: Optimise risk appetite, risk budgeting and allocation and pricing towards clear and precise performance criterias
The 2008 – 2012 great banking crisis has imposed stricter internal risk management constraints not only in capital adequacy but also and possibly more importantly in the bank risk policies, strategies, models and process of risk management.
Consequently this puts new challenges in the Financial Control function of the bank and in its management accounting policies and procedures.
In parallel financial accounting (IFRS) is implemented and includes different approaches to the risk management concepts defined under the Basel Accord and Best Risk Management Practices(BIS).
All the approaches are valid, but different hence they need to be reconciled!
Shareholder Capital is at a premium. It is rare, expensive and insufficient to cover all the needs of the market. Strict Economic and Regulatory Equity management is an absolute requirement. This translates into new solvency management requirements.
Banks develop new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to meet these challenges. They must be integrated into pricing to generate value manage value drivers.
This can only be achieved if pricing is relationship based and risk based.

Conclusion
This concludes the series on risk and relationship based pricing. I realise that this helicopter view of the “best of class” approach can seem excessively complex for many banks and markets. High competition, highly volatile markets, the increasing complexity of products sold and the increasing weight of regulatory constraints, will force all banks to enhance pricing models and strategies.
I hope my view of the subject will generate comments and discussions.
Please don’t hesitate to add yours on the blog.
Next series will cover customer value metrics.
I will then start a new series regarding a new approach in credit risk management using available but rarely used data. I’m talking of Event Based Credit Management, which I am developing with a good friend and partner, Mark Holtom. Mark is founder and general manager of eventricity an expert in Event Driven marketing. I strongly recommend you check him out on www.eventricity.biz

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Risk & Relationship based Pricing Part 4

I believe we have shown in the previous blog postings, that pricing can be complex as it integrates many management aspects. That does not mean the pricing strategy and model used by a bank needs to be complex and based on expensive pricing applications. The pricing model must be adapted to the bank’s business strategy and environment; it should also be based on core principles of good pricing.

In our previous blog we mentioned other concepts that we will review later, such as customer profitability and Life Time Value. We will do so in a separate series that should start early May. Stay tuned and get an email advice by following the blog.

Before we start the review of good pricing principles, I need to discuss a number of requests received from readers of our last post: Can I send them a copy of the models, formulas used in the pricing exercise in post #4 ?

It is difficult to give a complete answer to the request because there are many sub-models in the pricing model. The inputs are also dependant on many additional models used by different units of a bank. Let me give you a few examples to illustrate this.

  1. Cost of Funds. The CoF is based on matched Modified Duration & Convexity or VaR, depending on the market and capabilities of the bank. That also includes all implicit optionalities such as delayed drawdowns, pre-payments… In some instances this includes specific market calculated liquidity premiums; in others best estimations of those premiums using a more deterministic model.
  2. Credit risk is based on PD, EAD, LGD. Each of these is dependent on multiple different models, including different scoring and valuation models…
  3. Customer Value can be a simple estimation of profitability or a more complex Life Time Value (LTV) calculation.
  4. Economic Equity. There are many different approaches of calculating Economic Equity, which as you know goes beyond Basel II and/ or Basel III. They also have different quantification models…
  5. Risk diversification/ concentration uses classic portfolio theory approach. The difficulty is in defining the future/ projected variance and covariance. To estimate these you can use many different models (Bayesian approach or simply historical statistical models…)
  6. Cost allocation. Do you use ABC, PBC… or other models and which costs do you allocate (fixed and variable costs? direct and indirect costs? Cost of Equity?…)
  7. Etc.

The appropriate pricing model is bank specific, as it is dependent on the strategy, activities, markets and corporate vision. It can be based on very complex or very simple models but always needs a full understanding of the variables or value drivers. The bank must control of the calculation models (no black boxes). The calculations I used in this blog are highly simplified models that are just good to illustrate the issues I want to highlight.

We recommend you start with a “pricing policy and process assessment” of your bank’s current state, develop a future state vision (what you want to achieve in line with the bank’s strategy and banking model) and develop a project to bridge the gap between the current state and where you want to go.

My company can help you in such a project. Send me a message at cw@bankstrat.com for any additional information required.

Strategic principles of good pricing:

At this stage I count 13 core principles for good pricing. I’m sure we can add a few but these would be specific to an activity, market, bank, and would probably relate to different sales strategies. I want to focus on the generic principles relating to the pricing of financial products.

Principle 1:   Price integrates the volatility (risks) of projected future Cash Flows

In my first post on pricing, I indicated the difference between financial products and services versus other manufactured goods. Again the main difference is that profit margins are realised during the whole life of the product, by opposition to profits realised at the day of the sale of a manufactured good. This difference is essential because profit margins are dependant of future volatile cash flow. The volatility is generated by all the risks associated with each product sold.

Profitability cash flows of Manufactured Goods versus Financial Products

Profitability cash flows of Manufactured Goods versus Financial Products

What are the risks that need to be defined, quantified managed and expensed to the client in pricing? (1) Credit Risk, (2) Interest Rate Risk, (3) Liquidity Risk, (4) Foreign Exchange Risks, (5) Business Risks, (6) Operational Risks, (7) Regulatory (Compliance) Risk.

Principles of good risk management are based on the separation between expected and unexpected risks. They require differentiated treatments in pricing!

  1. Expected Risks are managed through (1) hedging by collateral or other risk mitigation technics and (2) provisioning strategies. In both cases the      “cost” of managing the risk is passed on to the client through adequate      pricing.
  2. Unexpected Risks are managed through equity. The equity adequacy regulations (BII & III) define the amount required to be invested by shareholders to cover the activities of the bank. The cost of managing those risks is born      by the shareholders.

The quantification and management of all these risks is complex and require fundamental adjustments in the bank’s process, models, competencies and strategies.

Risks are also multidimensional and must also be viewed on a contract basis (variance management) and on a portfolio basis (covariance optimisation). Covariance management is done within each risk portfolios and between different risk portfolios. We can develop different way of integrating covariance costs/ benefits in pricing?

These questions need to be discussed at bank level as different approaches are possible. The approach will be described in the bank’s Risk Policies and Procedures and in the bank’s Pricing Policy and Procedure.

Principle 2:  Individualise all risks, price and manage to optimise their variance/ covariance on a 1:1 basis

Banks are moving from standardised products (amount, maturity, payment frequencies…) towards 1:1 marketing and product adaptation to specific client requirements (if not tailor making). The characteristics of each financial contract are then specific and require 1:1 pricing.

Client behaviour analytics are showing major differentiations between client and even client segments. The future expected behaviour can be defined and analysed. It is a crucial element of the products’ future cash flows and the value of the client relationship. To achieve this, data granularity is important. Technology allows such approaches and must be leveraged.

Risk concentrations and diversifications will be managed at product, client, market and bank portfolio levels. Price and management of all risk classes imply the integration of risk covariance (Interest rate and credit risks; credit risk and liquidity risk…).

To allow the implementation of such a risk adjusted model, the bank must develop a complete set of contract level Risk Transfer Prices (RTPs) with the appropriate valuation models. This includes Fund Transfer Pricing, Credit Transfer Pricing, Liquidity Transfer Pricing… and Expense Allocation/ Transfer Pricing.

The development of such an integrated risk based model is transversal and vertical across the whole organisation. It requires a full impact analysis and feasibility analysis. There are recommended methodologies to define the impact of such a business model, starting with a clear definition of the Business Principles to be implemented, the Assumption underlying the project and the Constraint applicable to the strategy. This is not a trivial project.

Principle 3: Understand the client elasticity to pricing on a multidimensional factor basis.

Most marketing/ sales/ distribution departments measure performance on the basis of volume (new transactions, campaign hit rate and transformation rates…), with very little on 1:1 pricing. Mispricing will negatively impact product sales propensities, in ways that go beyond a simple a sales volume metric.

For example the bank can integrate price elasticity with client solvency. If not there is a high probability of selling the wrong product to the wrong client at the wrong price. Low (good) rating prospects will have zero purchase propensities to high priced credit products, but high risk rating prospects will have high purchase propensities of loan products whatever the price. Pricing on the basis of average risk ratings and rating cut-offs rather than individualised risk based pricing, will lead to a risk degradation of the credit portfolio and of its risk adjusted return!

 
sales propensities per risk rating and risk price

sales propensities per risk rating and risk price

Too many retail banks are still using standard product prices that they only adapt to the customer through a “negotiation/ commercial margin” that is assigned to the sales unit. This is NOT individualised or 1:1 pricing, it just allows weaker sales unit to sell on price, and the strong client to force pricing down.

Bad pricing is a source of attrition of your best clients, those that will create sustainable profits, LTV. This is an important business risk resulting in a steady erosion of the bank’s value (goodwill).

Principle 4:  Define, quantify and manage business risk

What is business risk?

From the bank’s perspective Business risk covers a very wide set of issues, but for our discussion we will limit it to the risk of not achieving the expected (budgeted) performances in client relationship growth and profitability. This may be due to a number of internal and external factors. Again we will restrict this to the business risk from a sales/ marketing perspective, in which case we can define it as the risk that the client and prospect do not meet the projected behavioural estimated targets planned by the bank. That the sales propensities were lower (or higher) than anticipated, that cross sales and up-sales do not meet plans, that attrition rates were higher (or lower) than expected… Consequently the bank does not achieve its planned growth and profitability, its return on marketing costs.

business risk management by targeting improved performance and reduced volatility of the targeted performance

business risk management by targeting improved performance and reduced volatility of the targeted performance

One way of looking at it (and model this) is to estimate an expected result (for example the client’s LTV) and the dispersion around that expectation, measured as the Standard Deviation (STD). Managing the business risk is then the science/ art of increasing the expected LTV from A to B, and to reduce the STD of the return from STD1 to STD2, by implementing the appropriate strategies in:

  • Product development
  • Distribution strategies
  • Marketing campaigns
  • Pricing strategies
  • Etc…

Note that this 100% different to classic satisfaction surveys or other methodologies often used to estimate client behavioural variables. Indeed client satisfaction surveys do not allow the bank to measure and manage its growth and profitability targets, as it does not quantify the factors generating growth and profitability. What you need are behavioural models that can discover those factors and explain the causalities of client actions and expected future behaviours.

Principle 5:   Adapt the pricing strategy to the banks market strategy and client value proposition

Before you can define your pricing strategy, the bank must decide what its market vision and strategy is, what value proposition it wants to propose to the market.

You may want to use the approach developed by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema (The discipline of Market Leaders) or any other that focuses on what and why clients are buying from one bank rather than another.

Treacy and Wiersema suggest that customers will seek 3 core values from its suppliers of goods and services: “client intimacy”, “operational excellence” or “product innovation”. They also state that companies that are clear leaders in one of these values and hold a strong at par position in the other two will be the market leaders and have above par performances. Finally, the analysis shows that the business models (process, organisation) and the technical requirements (data, application, technology) are different for the three strategies, hence no one can hope to be the best in the three value sought out by the clients. Note also that Customer Intimacy is not equivalent to Client Centricity! Client centricity is to focus on delivering a product/ service that maximises the client’s satisfaction which can be either operational efficiency or customer intimacy.

In regards to retail banking two of these approaches are clear options: Customer Intimacy (Developing a 1:1 relationship based on analytics and proprietary information) and Operational Excellence (Mass marketing of standard products delivered at the best price and without any operational glitches). Product Innovation is more difficult to apply to banking because of a number of factors which I will not expand on here and now.

Customer Intimacy versus Operational Excellence bank models

Customer Intimacy versus Operational Excellence bank models

Imagine two banks with two different value approaches, where Bank A wants to focus on customer intimacy, while Bank B is targeting operational excellence. They will need to organise and build two very different types of banks, with different organisations, process and skills based on specific technology and analytics. They will also develop fundamentally different pricing strategies.

I will soon continue the review of the remaining pricing principles. Meanwhile give me your comments and be advised by email of the following posts!

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