With May and June right around the corner, months when many banks hold executive and board retreats and many state bank associations host their annual meetings, I thought I'd comment on what I don't see on many of these agendas: new ideas. You might think a state's annual meeting agenda in 2010 would look very different from the agenda of the 2006 meeting - but you'd be wrong in most cases. Discussions on balance sheet management, H/R issues, economic forecasts, and regulatory issues will still dominate most meetings. These are important topics to be sure, but they aren't very inspirational or motivational. And banks need to motivate in the direction of building new sources of revenue, especially fee revenues based on real value-added features, design, integration capabilities, etc. I am especially worried about the future for those banks who feel that back to the basics (taking deposits, making loans, and managing risk) will be enough to ensure viability over the long term. It won't be: already over 50% of lending in the U.S. is done outside the traditional banking system, and margins in the intermediation business are in a long-term state of decline. At the same time, a lot of customer needs are going unmet. It's time to put some fresh thinking into the discussion on such topics as retirement, new insurance products, P2P payments, the future of bill payment, getting paid for advice, the next generation of debit cards, making the mobile channel into a real revenue generator, etc. I don't see these topics on many agendas, but I hope banks of all sizes are spending time brainstorming, designing, and developing new products, services, and ways of reaching customers and prospects. Without new sources of revenue, it's hard to see how banks will be able to generate sufficient returns for shareholders in an era marked by higher costs and a tepid economic recovery.
Let me know what you think and what other opportunities you see for 2010.