In the highly competitive market for credit cards and debit cards, issuers are constantly looking for ways to differentiate their card programs. Their list of strategies and tactics includes rewards, value-added features, and other program benefits. Security innovations (including alerts, on/off switches, and biometric identification) have significant appeal to cardholders. These are among the findings from Innovations in the Card Market, a recent study from Phoenix Synergistics (a MarketCast company). The study included a nationwide internet survey of 2,000 consumers ages 18 and older.

Account alerts can provide cardholders with a variety of real-time information, ranging from account-management matters (such as statement alerts) to those involving security (such as unusual account activity or international transactions). Overall, approximately seven in ten cardholders report receiving some type of card-account alert either by email (71%) or text message (65%). The types of alerts received vary somewhat based on email or text. Unusual account activity is one of the top alerts for both text and email. Other common alerts include a card being used internationally and a large purchase being made with their card.

An “on-off” feature (sometimes called an on-off switch, a pause button, lock/unlock, or freeze) is another valuable security innovation for payment cards. A majority (59%) of debit/credit card users indicate that they have an on-off feature on either a credit or debit card. Four in ten credit card holders indicate they have an on-off option, and one-third of debit card holders have this feature. Overall, approximately one-third (36%) of credit/debit card users have used an on-off feature. Usage for credit cards (22%) and debit cards (20%) is about equal. A significant number (77%) of credit and debit card users indicate that an on-off feature is very/somewhat valuable, and more than four in ten (45%) rate the feature “very valuable.” Millennials are the generational group most likely to find the on-off feature to be valuable. In addition, perceived value increases with household income.

Biometric-identification methods are also receiving a great deal of attention as a security innovation for payment cards. A large number of consumers believe that each of the various methods in the study would be an improvement. Fingerprint scans top the list followed by face scans, eye scans, and voice recognition. Overall, close to half (48%) of consumers indicate they have used some form of biometric identification when making a payment. Fingerprint scans are most likely to have been used.

Further evidence of the importance of security features was found when credit card users and prospects for obtaining a card in the next year were asked about the importance of various features when choosing a credit card. Of the benefits and features in the study, reliable ID-theft and security features rank at the top along with the issuer having a good reputation. An on-off feature is important to three-fourths, and biometric-security features are important to close to seven in ten.

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “Card issuers can choose from a number of innovations to differentiate their card programs. It is clear that security features are critical to competing in today’s market. They are no longer optional. Cardholders, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, think security features are valuable. In addition, issuers need to emphasize the availability of security features in their marketing communications—both to encourage adoption of their cards and to retain current cardholders.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics report, Innovations in the Card Market, which features responses from 2,000 online interviews with consumers ages 18 and older.

Phoenix Synergistics (a MarketCast company) is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial-services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

For more information about this report, click here.

This announcement was featured in AdWeek.

Los Angeles, Calif. – March 24, 2022MarketCast today announced the acquisition of Phoenix Marketing International, a leading research and analytics provider that specializes in advertising measurement. With Phoenix, MarketCast is accelerating its advertising effectiveness expertise, and gaining a powerful portfolio of research products that span the entire advertising lifecycle, from identifying what consumers think about pre-released ads to measuring how ads influence consumer beliefs and behaviors.

As media consumption shifts, advertisers are challenged to deliver the right marketing messages and creative to engage and convert audiences. Phoenix is known for its lightning-quick ad testing and measurement insights. The company’s Phoenix Brand Effect platform (formerly Nielsen TV Brand Effect) is considered the standard for measuring ad performance, including the influence of ads on consumer affinity and consideration, and purchase intent and lift. Today, the company tests and measures thousands of ads annually, gathering critical feedback about advertising storylines, creative elements, and messaging from core audience segments.

“The acquisition of Phoenix supports MarketCast’s vision of creating the most tech and data-forward research business on the planet, where primary research is combined with big data to determine what fans watch, buy, and listen to most, and why they choose to watch, buy, and listen” said John Batter, CEO of MarketCast. “We see tremendous opportunity to bring these two businesses together, combining our unique media research and big data expertise to innovate new ad effectiveness solutions.”

Combined, MarketCast now boasts more than 100 technologists and data scientists and 400 quantitative and qualitative researchers skilled in media and brand advertising research and analytics. Phoenix will benefit from MarketCast’s big data expertise, including its Smart TV and ad attribution measurement capabilities, to deliver even more value to advertising clients. Together, MarketCast will help advertisers and media companies uncover deeper audience insights, with more granularity, to better understand and predict advertising performance.

“We are very excited to join MarketCast, a team that shares our common values, passion, and vision for the future of advertising research and technology,” said Allen R. DeCotiis, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of Phoenix. “With a powerful portfolio of media and advertising research and a record of working with the biggest names in entertainment, sports, and technology, MarketCast is the ideal home for Phoenix’s people, platforms and clients, and we look forward to beginning this new chapter of growth and innovation together.”

MarketCast is building upon an already solid foundation in advertising effectiveness in media, entertainment, and sports, which today includes more than 3,000 TV and digital ads tested annually with millions of fans. The addition of Phoenix helps MarketCast expand its measurement beyond media and entertainment to support large brand advertisers, including leading telecommunications companies, automakers, financial services, and CPG brands. It also introduces Phoenix’s clients to MarketCast’s quantitative and qualitative research, which is trusted by top media and technology companies.

The Phoenix team, which includes researchers, data analysts, product leaders, and engineers, will join a growing MarketCast organization, which features leaders from Nielsen, Gracenote, Omnicom, Comscore, Material+, Kantar, Netflix, and Dreamworks. Earlier this year, MarketCast acquired real-time entertainment research platform, Invoke, and, in late 2020, acquired and integrated data science leader, Deductive.

This article was published by The Financial Brand.

Many digital banking disruptors are hobbled by a lack of name recognition and customer loyalty. American Express — arguably the original disruptor — already has both and has now expanded its portfolio of banking services to include a digital reward checking account for consumers.

Fintechs and digital banks have been rocking banking’s boat for almost a decade. But one player with a much longer track record may have just become a far bigger threat to legacy institutions.

Around as a company since the mid-19th century, American Express has been both partner and competitor to banks and credit unions. Now, it’s shifting the balance more to “competitor” by taking a deep dive into digital banking with the launch of its rewards consumer checking account in early February 2022.

Called American Express Rewards Checking, the account is all-digital and free, with a high-yield APY and reward points for every eligible debit card dollar spent along with other unique features thrown into the mix.

Many observers believe the new product is a step in the direction toward becoming a megabank with a wide range of banking products. The consumer checking account accompanies the AmEx business checking account, launched in October 2021.

Other banking experts argue there’s less to the move than it may appear. They point to the fact that AmEx had yet to launch a marketing campaign more than a week after publicly announcing the new account, and a prime time ad on Super Bowl Sunday didn’t mention the checking account. Also, the account is also only available to existing AmEx customers until further notice.

So, what exactly does this new service mean for the banking industry?

Two Views of What AmEx Checking Portends

“I love the product,” raves Bill McCracken, President of Phoenix Synergistics, in an interview with The Financial Brand. “I think it is a product that is being crafted to where banking and younger people are today.”

In the initial press release announcing its consumer checking product, American Express released findings from two surveys it conducted in partnership with Morning Consult that explored what different consumer segments are looking for in a banking experience.

One study found that consumers prefer to use debit cards for smaller purchases — such as cups of coffee and Uber rides. On top of that, more than four out of five (81%) of Gen Z and Millennials say they are using their debit card in place of cash. Although AmEx has a variety of card products, most of the most popular ones are charge cards or credit cards.

Given that, Andrew Davidson, Senior Vice President and Chief Insights Officer at Mintel, concludes that this new digital checking product, by being tailored to younger markets, is in fact a very defensive strategy.

Food for Thought:

Most product launches are an effort to expand into new markets. Some experts say AmEx’s digital checking account could be more defensive.


“The account is currently only available to card members who have had an AmEx credit/charge card for three-plus months, indicating that this is a defensive move to counter any interest that AmEx card members might be showing in fintechs like SoFi that has been expanding its range of services,” Davidson wrote in a blog post.

But as is often said, the best defense is a good offense and Davidson points out that American Express has several competitive advantages over both legacy banks and digital-only challengers, including its potent brand recognition.

“With these fintech challengers, many of them are unknown. Even Goldman Sach’s Marcus is a new brand,” he adds. “So, you have to put some investment dollars in building the brand and raising awareness.”

American Express doesn’t have an issue getting customers. It reported 121.7 million credit card holders at the end of 2021. Yet, its expansion into a traditional banking space has been slow. (The company became a bank holding company in 2008 and was granted a banking charter well before that, but used it for limited purposes.)

“Inertia is their biggest obstacle,” he explains. “71% of consumers agree that it is ‘too much of a hassle to switch banks’ but AmEx is out to overcome that by not requiring a minimum deposit or balance and not charging monthly maintenance fees. It is clearly comfortable with the idea that American Express Rewards Checking isn’t going to be the primary checking account for everyone.”

Davidson points out that the slow launch could be AmEx’s way of testing the waters.

Reinventing Checking:

The AmEx all-digital checking account may be the strongest evidence yet of major change in this most traditional of banking products.


There is a greater implication in American Express’ announcement. Although it is called rewards checking, the new account could be the start of an broader trend transforming the traditional checking account to better match what younger customers want, McCracken explains. Phoenix Synergistics’ research found over half (53%) of people say checking accounts need a different name while three out of five people would consider opening a checking account with a nonbank provider.

“Individual consumers are saying ‘I don’t know why I need the traditional bank account, but this digital checking account with a mobile interaction and an attached debit card — that’s what fits our lifestyle’,” he says. “AmEx is correctly reading that trend and jumping on the band wagon.”

Additional Details About the New Account

The phrase ‘Don’t put all your eggs in one basket’ is common in finance, especially in investing. But Davidson says Mintel found 64% of consumers really enjoy having all their financial information in one app — 80% of Gen Z and 84% of Millennials feel that way.

The new AmEx digital checking app doesn’t go that far, but has a bevy of features, some of them unusual for a transaction account and clearly borrowed from the company’s charge card domain:

  • 0.50% high-yield APY on the entire checking account balance — AmEx says this is ten times higher than the national rate.
  • Earn reward points for every $2 spent.
  • No monthly maintenance fees or minimum balance fees.
  • Purchase protection on eligible American Express debit card purchases covering accidental damage or theft.
  • Fraud Protection and monitoring.
  • 24/6 customer care providers through both phone and chat.
  • Fee-free ATM withdrawals at 37,000 MoneyPass ATM locations nationwide.

More Checking Innovation Ahead

American Express isn’t the only big brand player pushing into traditional banking. Marcus and SoFi are two being watched very closely.

In fact, Davidson believes that AmEx could be expanding to counter threat from companies who are attracting consumers with high APYs, access to investing and a range of services. “Cryptocurrency is what younger consumers in particular are interested in with some of these additional services,” Davidson adds.

The analyst believes SoFi specifically could become a primary competitor, given their marketing strategies targeting younger populations. The fintech lender — which announced in January 2022 it cleared final hurdles to acquire a national bank — also offers what Davidson calls a “one-stop-shop” app.

“Obviously, that is appealing to a certain segment of consumers, and I think that there’s a defensive play in sort of responding to that,” he adds.

Down the road, Davidson says he wouldn’t be surprised to see American Express shift its strategy to include additional banking products, such as investing and crypto.

“That seems to be where a lot of the battleground is starting to move towards and if American Express wants to compete there,” says the analyst, “they need to broaden their range of services.”

This announcement was featured in Insights Association, Quirk’s Daily News Queue and MR Web.

NEW YORK, February 28, 2022 – Global Advertising and Brand Specialist Phoenix Marketing International (Phoenix MI) is excited to welcome Brigette Lytle as Senior Vice President – Client Services.

With over 20 years in consumer insights, Lytle worked across disciplines and industries to advise companies on brand and creative strategy. She will be leading the Phoenix Communicus client service team for various key accounts, utilizing her experience and expertise in how advertising works to build brands, she will also provide thought leadership across brands and throughout Communicus.

“I am incredibly excited to join the Phoenix family and continue the amazing work they are doing on campaign assessment and strategy,” said Lytle.

Before Phoenix, Lytle spent close to 6 years at MetrixLab, working closely with Fortune 500 companies on strategy across multiple areas such as packaging & production innovation and brand & advertising development and assessment. Before that, she worked closely with client teams to provide research support and solutions at Starcom Worldwide.

“We are thrilled to have Brigette’s passion, expertise, and leadership,” says Kacy Doster, Managing Director, Communicus. “Her breadth of knowledge will add immense value to our clients and our team.”

Lytle holds a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Marketing from DePaul University.

About Phoenix Marketing International

Global advertising and brand measurement specialist Phoenix Marketing International (Phoenix MI) is one of the Top Research Firms in the U.S. (IA Top 50 Market Research & Data Analytics Report) and is one of the fastest-growing Market Research firms in the world. Operating in all major industries, Phoenix utilizes modern technology, innovative research techniques, and customized approaches to help our clients elevate their brand, refine their communications, and optimize their customer experience. Phoenix’s advertising and brand measurement solution was recently enhanced via the acquisition of Communicus, providing clients both strategic and tactical insights, no matter how complex the creative or channel mix, and regardless of cookies and walled gardens.

Founded in 1999, Phoenix has over 400 employees in offices across the globe, including North America, Europe, and Australia. Learn more about how Phoenix can be put to work for your business at

This article was published by The Financial Brand.

Many younger consumers have never written a check, and probably never will, yet their checking accounts remain a primary hub for them. As new technologies and apps lead consumers to use these accounts very differently, banks and credit unions need to rethink their checking strategies, especially how they generate revenue.

Now that checks have become the payment method of last resort for most consumers, many industry observers argue the term “checking account” is a misnomer and that these accounts — at least as we have known them — will no longer exist in the coming years.

While checking accounts remain central to consumers’ lives, they’re now far more driven by mobile devices and digital functionality than actual checks, which even older consumers now use only infrequently.

“Younger consumers are less wedded to the term of ‘checking account’ and think of it more as a ‘digital access account,’” says Mark Hamrick, Senior Economic Analyst at “Within five to ten years, I think we’ll be calling it something else.”

Stuck with a 20th Century Name:

More important than what checking accounts will be called is the challenge of how to create more value for consumers from these accounts.


“Checking accounts as the foundation for writing checks has never been less relevant,” observes Jim Marous, CEO of the Digital Banking Report and Co-Publisher of The Financial Brand. “Yet, the need for a service that provides storage of funds and a portal for payments, with a savings/investment component, is still needed,” says Marous. “What we call it really doesn’t matter.”

What does matter is that banks and credit unions connect these accounts with ancillary financial and non-financial services, Marous emphasizes. He notes consumers have driven the cost of most checking accounts down to zero because they don’t see a differentiated value between financial institution offerings. “The key now is for financial institutions to build value in these accounts,” he says.

Checking’s New Role as a Digital Hub

Consumers have historically used their checking accounts as the primary means to perform the majority of their financial activities, typically keeping just enough of a balance to cover expenses for a month or two.

Yet the rise of new payment options and the greater ability to quickly move money around is leading the traditional check to the brink of obsolescence. The use of checks sharply declined from 42.6 billion check payments in 2000 to only 14.5 billion in 2018, with the average consumer writing just 3.3 checks per month, according to the Federal Reserve. Those numbers have likely fallen even further since the start of the pandemic.

Still, most consumers continue to use checking accounts, only now in different ways and for other reasons. The growth of digital payment and banking options has led to a “hub and spoke” financial system with checking accounts serving as the hub, Bill McCracken, President of Phoenix Synergistics, tells The Financial Brand. The checking account is now less of a holding place and more of a transit point and intermediary to integrate with other accounts and fintechs, he says.

Still at the Center of Money:

‘Hub account’ doesn’t have much of a ring to it as a name, but that’s what checking has become. Building on that functionality is bankers’ challenge.


For example, a consumer may now get paid via ACH, then make payments with Zelle and Venmo and have a series of auto withdrawals established for bill payments and automatic savings or investment apps. “You have funds hitting the account, but in many cases immediately going out on these spokes towards a variety of different purposes,” McCracken explains. “The checking account is still very functional and at the heart of the consumers’ life, but it has a different definition.”

“It’s more of a vehicle for moving money than for writing checks,” agrees Paula O’Reilly, Senior Managing Director, Accenture. She adds that “even as we have moved to a more mobile and digital environment, people still move money from their checking account, even though that name is now a bit of a misnomer.”

Still the Primary Account for Most

Whatever they may be called in the future, checking accounts remain a primary account for consumers across all demographics. Approximately 80% of adults say they have a checking account with a bank or credit union, according to a Bankrate survey.

Despite the growth in new apps and platforms, checking accounts remain the primary repository for consumers across all generations, says Mark Hamrick. Even consumers that rely heavily on platforms like PayPal and Venmo often have it tied to a checking account or debit card.

“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of innovation in recent years, but the fact that these accounts are still held among majorities of age groups is quite noteworthy,” says Hamrick. “It remains the primary account.”

Another notable finding is that consumers said they have used the same checking account on average for 17 years. As to why, 17% said it was the “account I’ve always had,” and 10% said it was “too much hassle to switch.” Not exactly a ringing endorsement. In addition, a quarter of consumers said they are loyal and stick with the same account because of low or no monthly fees.

Chart showing how long consumers have had their checking account from The Financial Brand

If that account longevity trend were to continue, it would mean that even as checking accounts evolve, they’re likely to remain a primary tool for attracting and retaining long-term customers. Time will tell whether the youngest user group will feel the same when they are 50+ as people in that age bracket currently do.

Another plus for checking accounts is that loyalty and cross-selling potential are strongly correlated to where the accountholder’s primary checking account is located, according to a Raddon Relationship Survey. Checking account holders are 70% more likely to bring the institution their future loans and three times more likely to bring all future deposits. These account holders are also 30% more likely to keep accounts at that institution for life.

Chart showing checking account impact on customer loyalty

A New Focus on Fees and Value

Checking accounts remain an important revenue source for many financial institutions, according to data collected by Raddon’s Performance Analytics program. At the end of 2019, checking account and interchange fees made up 86% of the overall net income for the average financial institution. Yet this is quickly changing due to downward pressure on overdraft and NSF fees and on monthly charges. Government regulations and industry moves — led initially by neobanks, but now by large banks — are making checking fees less viable.

Meanwhile, the idea of charging for checking is quickly going out the window. Nearly half of all non-interest checking accounts are now free, the highest level since 2010, according to Bankrate’s annual checking survey. In addition, smaller balances in the accounts means less opportunity to generate revenue on the spread, McCracken observes.

Jim Marous believes it’s time for banks and credit unions to look beyond expecting the checking customer to support checking services. “While there is the potential of adding value for a fee, it is also possible to generate revenues from third parties who would like access to the customer base of financial institutions,” he believes.

Life Beyond Fees:

The long-term decline of fee-based revenue is spurring creative thinking, including third-party partnerships and new value-add offerings, some of which are very ‘unbanklike’.

As a result, many financial institutions are rethinking their checking account strategy in a digital banking world. In this new environment, financial institutions now have to offer alternative products that can support some monthly fees or generate additional revenues.

Two examples Marous points to are Caixa Bank and Emirates NBD. Both have created services for younger consumers that provide a transactional hub, but add value with music, technology, gaming, social interaction and other services from outside providers.

Even in a hub and spoke system, what is most important is where incoming direct deposits go, says Accenture’s Paula O’Reilly. Forward-thinking banks and credit unions can leverage their trust and infrastructure to capture more opportunity in the hub.

She points to new innovations and partnerships with fintechs as a promising means for banks to offer more value in the checking account space. Many financial institutions are also focusing on faster account opening processes and a “mobile-first” strategy to improve the checking account experience.

“Even if we renamed these accounts, where your direct deposits go is still going to be the primary transactional account,” O’Reilly believes.

This article was published by The Financial Brand.

Consumers remain satisfied with their primary financial institution, a new survey finds. However, this bond is increasingly fragile, with more consumers likely to switch providers in the next year, either by openly closing accounts or by “invisibly” shifting some of their business elsewhere.

The trend to more fragmentation of consumers’ banking relationships continues, creating a much more complex environment than used to be the case. A Phoenix Synergistics survey exploring loyalty trends in banking revealed that even satisfied customers who are happy to recommend their primary banking provider also have relationships with an average of 3.3 financial institutions. Others won’t hesitate to move their assets should they find better service or a better offer.

What makes this trend even more complex is that in many cases, people aren’t closing out their primary accounts, but are moving funds to Robinhood, Affirm, Chime or elsewhere — an “invisible migration.”

Despite this, the news regarding customer loyalty in many respects continues to be good. Whether this could create a false sense of security is an open question. Here are some of the key findings from the Phoenix Synergistics research, beginning with the positive.

Trust Is the Top Loyalty Driver

Nearly all (94%) of the 2,000 U.S. survey respondents said they have a primary financial institution where they hold most of their assets and conduct most of their financial services. A majority of these consumers (81%) also identify as either “extremely loyal” or “loyal” to that primary financial institution. Respondents cited several reasons for this high level of loyalty, including excellent customer service, a smooth experience and nearby branches, but the top reason — cited by 42% of consumers — is trust in the institution.


These high levels of trust and loyalty also translate into higher Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and a willingness to be brand advocates, recommending the institution to other consumers, according to the research.

“Being the primary banking provider is still a big deal, and it’s all about people trusting the institution with their own and their family’s finances,” Bill McCracken, President of Phoenix Synergistics, tells The Financial Brand.

Creating Brand Ambassadors

The greatest benefit of loyal customers is they often serve as brand ambassadors who are highly likely to recommend an institution to others.

More than half (57%) of respondents are promoters of their bank or credit union, while slightly more (59%) say they have recommended it to someone else. Among those who have done so, 35% recommended their banking provider five or more times.

Two Groups to Nurture:

Higher-income and younger consumers are more likely to be brand advocates for their primary banking provider.


Banks and credit unions must continually maintain and enhance customer relationships across the board, but they should focus on the younger segments in particular. “They are doing some great PR for your brand,” McCracken maintains. “It’s the best advertising you can buy, and there are segments within your customer base that are actively promoting you by making multiple recommendations.”

Impact of Interactions on Loyalty

The frequency of interaction with a bank or credit union still plays a key role in customer loyalty. Consumers who interact with their primary institution more often are more likely to report high customer loyalty and satisfaction scores.

Don’t be Too Efficient:

More frequent customer interactions with a bank or credit union increases loyalty, so be careful not to reduce those interactions too much in the name of efficiency.


On average, respondents said they handle financial matters with their bank 3.6 times per week. 44% of those who had six weekly interactions said they were “extremely loyal,” while only 30% of those who had less than two interactions per week said so. While many financial institutions believe the goal is to reduce cost and interactions, that is often contrary to what drives loyalty and satisfaction, McCracken observes. Sometimes any interaction can help.

“An excellent mobile interface that encourages more consistent interaction can pay off in securing that loyalty,” he states.

And the Bad News: Loyalty Is More Fragile

Loyalty has never been something any company or individual could take for granted, yet the research reveals that despite overall high levels of satisfaction, customer loyalty with their primary banking provider has become more fragile. This is mainly due to a growing fragmentation in the market.

As noted above, consumers reported relationships with an average of 3.3 financial institutions and had an average of 4.4 accounts per household. Of those accounts, only 2.9 were held at the primary financial institution, however.


This indicates that banks and credit unions must continually work to sustain loyalty because the ability to switch is so easy now, McCracken notes.


“The reality is there are several other financial institutions in a consumer’s life besides yours and they may have products that are a competitive threat. That’s a huge caveat to saying ‘Our customers are happy and satisfied’.”

— Bill McCracken, Phoenix Synergistics


While banks and credit unions may equate consumer longevity to loyalty, that’s not always the case. What was notable was that many customers expected rewards for being loyal, with 60% saying they expected a perk for reaching the five-year mark. However, very few banks offer or even acknowledge relationship anniversaries.

“Even just a text saying ‘thank you,’ or a special promotion like extra interest, can go a long way,” says McCracken.

One-Third Are Likely to Switch in the Year Ahead

Customer churn rate in banking has been steadily rising, but now there is increased potential for switching primary financial institutions in the year ahead, particularly among younger and higher-income consumers. Nearly half (45%) say they changed their primary financial institution in the past ten years, with almost a quarter saying they did so more than once, according to the research. Notably, 33% said their household is likely to switch in the next year.


Loyalty and history alone can’t keep these consumers from opening accounts elsewhere. Among “extremely loyal” customers who said they would switch banks in the next year, the top two reasons were to get special features or services and to get financial advice. Banks and credit unions need to ensure they have a broad array of products and that they have partnerships in place to help meet changing consumer expectations.


The research data indicates that banks and credit unions could enhance loyalty and satisfaction through financial wellness tools and programs. 60% of respondents say they are aware of such tools or programs at their primary financial institution, and of these, nearly eight in ten say they use at least one of them.

These include financial planning calculators, online dashboards with an overview of the person’s financial picture, incentives and budget planning tools.

“All this falls under the umbrella of interactions,” McCracken observes. “It’s an area where banks and credit unions are falling short, and that has a tremendous impact.”

This article was originally published by Next TV.

NBCUniversal, which has been active in the search for alternatives to Nielsen for audience measurement, is touting some metrics that could encourage its Olympic advertisers.

The fancy metrics show that NBC’s coverage of the Beijing Winter Olympics has fewer commercials and that those commercials are working hard, the kind of data NBCU believes is important to companies writing big checks to sponsor the games.

The traditional counting of total viewers, even using NBCU’s Total Audience Delivery metric combining data from Nielsen and Oracle to capture all TV audiences, pointed to a 43% drop in viewing, compared to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics four years ago.

At a time when ratings are falling and cord-cutting is rampant, the decline is not a big surprise.

But according to one of the newer measurement companies NBCU is working with, iSpot.TV, Olympic primetime programming has a 14% lighter ad load than other primetime shows. At the same time, the Olympics are delivering 247% more ad impressions per unit than the three other big broadcast networks.

Those commercials are being watched all the way through. iSpot, which measures ads on a second-second basis, is telling NBCU that commercials within the Olympics have a 98% completion rate. That translates into a 13% lower ad interruption rate than ads on all TV programming.

iSpot also said the top-performing ad pod on February 4 happened at 9:41 p.m. ET as skater Karen Chen was getting off the ice. The ad most liked by consumers was for Delta.

The Olympics had a 23.01% share of voice on February 5, despite competition from the NHL All-Star Game, a Duke-North Carolina college basketball game, and an NBA game featuring LeBron James’ return after an injury. The Olympics nearly doubled the No. 2 telecast in terms of share of voice.

Data from two other measurement companies, Phoenix and EDO showed that for Olympic advertisers, brand recall and message memorability were up 53% and 70% versus norms for broadcast and cable ads.

Ad likeability was 88% higher than norms and there was a 39% greater likelihood to search for brands that advertisers in the primetime Opening Ceremony. During the Tokyo Olympics, the likelihood to search was 20% higher and in Korea it was 32% higher, according to EDO.

Defining customer loyalty is an ongoing challenge in the ever-changing market for financial services. A wide variety of factors—including products, services, and channels—can impact customer loyalty. Aspects such as trust, customer service, frequency of interactions, and relationship longevity can also affect loyalty. Recent research from Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International) reveals that mobile banking is playing an increasingly important role as a factor in financial-institution customer loyalty. This is just one of the findings from Building Customer Loyalty, a Phoenix Synergistics study based on a nationwide survey of 2,000 consumers ages 18 and older.

Almost all (94%) consumers in the study identified a primary financial institution. When asked about their degree of loyalty to their primary financial institution, slightly more than one-third said they are “extremely loyal,” and another two-fifths consider themselves to be “loyal.” When those who are extremely loyal and those who are loyal were asked about the reasons for their loyalty, they indicated a variety of factors. Trust in the institution, excellent customer service, and never having had a problem with the institution top the list of reasons. These top-three factors are identical to findings in a 2017 Phoenix Synergistics study. The percentage indicating that mobile banking services are a reason for their loyalty increased from approximately one-fifth (22%) in 2017 to close to one-third (31%) in 2021.

Consumers are increasingly placing importance on mobile banking when first opening an account with a financial-services provider. In the study, consumers were asked which factors were most important in their decision to obtain their first account with their main financial institution. Among those who opened their first account six or more years ago, convenient branch locations were the factor mentioned most often. For those who opened their first account more recently (i.e., five or fewer years ago), mobile banking services top the list of important factors.

Bill McCracken, President of Phoenix MI’s Synergistics, stated, “Consumers are increasingly emphasizing mobile-banking services as a reason for loyalty and as an important consideration when making decisions about financial relationships. In some instances, mobile banking has overtaken more-traditional features, like branch locations, as an important factor. For providers of financial services, the impact of mobile banking on loyalty and account acquisition is more measurable when compared to intangibles like trust and excellent customer service. As the financial environment becomes increasingly digital-centric, financial-services providers need to place mobile banking at center stage.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics report, Building Customer Loyalty, which features responses from 2,000 online interviews with consumers ages 18 and older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

For more information on this report, click here

This article was originally published by Payments Drive 

Recent efforts by big-box retailers to undermine debit and credit card rewards programs are disastrous for consumers and merchants alike. This fact is intuitive enough—after all, everyone loves their rewards. But more than that, the value of rewards is supported by substantial empirical research, as the Electronic Payments Coalition’s (EPC) recently-released study clearly illustrates.

However, this reality hasn’t stopped retail advocacy groups from attempting to tear down the very rewards programs that so many enjoy. These well-funded groups are seeking to expand the 2010 Durbin Amendment, overhauling credit routing regulations and capping interchange fees. Doing so would eliminate the vital investments funding debit and credit card rewards programs and serve as a massive wealth transfer—putting more money in the pockets of Amazon and Walmart.

Their latest tactic: spreading a factually vacuous myth known as “Reverse Robin Hood.”

Perpetuated by mega-retailers and their allies, this bogus idea asserts that low-income cardholders subsidize rewards programs for the benefit of the wealthy. Essentially, they falsely claim that debit and credit card rewards rob the poor to give to the rich, establishing an unfair system.

But, unfortunately for retailers, such claims rely on weak assumptions and ignore the tremendous utility these rewards programs provide consumers of all income levels. As one recent report accurately summarized, “the reverse Robin Hood may be more mythical than the original Robin Hood.”

The biggest blow to the “Reverse Robin Hood” myth is the fact that card issuers bring in more revenue from high-income cardholders. According to data from Phoenix Marketing International, credit cardholders with higher incomes pay significantly more in fees and interest than those with lower incomes.

Cardholders with higher incomes also deliver more value to card issuers than those with lower incomes in the form of interest payments and annual fees, and their higher purchase volumes generate more interchange revenue. Indeed, higher-income cardholders generate almost three times more value for card issuers than lower-income cardholders.

Proponents of the “Reverse Robin Hood” myth principally assume that card issuers impose exorbitant costs and fees on low-income cardholders. This is not true.

According to an EPC analysis of Verisk Financial data, the relationship between income and credit scores is quite weak. As such, lower-income cardholders do not face higher interest rates than their upper-income counterparts — in fact, the average annual percentage rate charged to the lowest-income cardholders is nearly identical to that of the highest-income cardholders. Consequently, low-income cardholders do not bear unequal cost burdens as a result of these programs.

But the falsehoods don’t end there. Adherents to the “Reverse Robin Hood” myth also argue that merchants pass through the costs of card acceptance to customers, resulting in higher prices on all consumers (including lower-income consumers who are more likely to pay with cash or debit) in order to pay for rewards cards.

However, there is little evidence supporting the existence of this pass-through because merchants gain far more from accepting rewards cards than they pay in interchange and other fees. Specifically, after accounting for savings from the cost of cash, incremental transaction increases from ticket lift, and other benefits, merchants that accept credit cards gain more than 9% in transaction value—far exceeding the 2% to 3% they typically pay in swipe fees.

One of the key ways that merchants benefit from accepting credit cards is via the “ticket lift” effect in which customers who pay with debit or credit cards spend more than those who pay with cash. This effect is even more pronounced among reward card users.

The coalition’s Value of Rewards study finds that rewards credit cards are associated with an average transaction size 25% to 60% higher than non-rewards credit cards. As such, the rewards card ecosystem accelerates economic activity, and a rising tide lifts all boats. In reality, merchants and retailers stand to lose a great deal if these programs are eliminated.

Most importantly, Americans— regardless of income—love their credit card rewards programs. The study found that 95% of consumers earning less than $20,000 per year have access to a credit or debit card. Of these, 82% of cardholders own at least one rewards card. Moreover, 97% of total credit card spending is charged to rewards accounts, and almost three-fourths of rewards cardholders redeemed their benefits within the past year.

The popularity of rewards cards is only growing stronger as well—56% of cardholders reported that their rewards card became even more important to them during the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s no question about it: rewards cards are a ubiquitous feature of American commerce, and consumers from all backgrounds place tremendous value on their benefits.

The “Reverse Robin Hood” myth claims low-income cardholders bear the costs of credit card rewards programs without receiving any of the benefits. While it’s an effective misinformation tactic, the claim is untrue. The reality is that rewards programs are both popular and incredibly helpful to consumers and merchants alike, and for good reason.

For consumers, debit and credit cards provide convenience and security, and rewards-based cards offer an additional perk. For merchants, accepting debit and credit cards provides more sales revenue, and the value these cards generate for their bottom line far exceeds the interchange fees they pay. Enacting policies to reduce or eliminate rewards programs is a fools’ errand.

Relationship managers are a key strategy for financial institutions when building relationships with small businesses. When this strategy is extended to digital channels, such as mobile apps, there is the addition of ease and convenience. Providing access to mobile relationship managers can enhance small business customer relationships. Both usage of and satisfaction with mobile relationship managers are strong. These are among the findings from Mobilizing Banking Services for Small Businesses, a recent report by Phoenix MI. The study included a nationwide survey of 600 owners and executives of small businesses with annual sales of $50K to $5M.

Overall, seven in ten (72%) small businesses are mobile banking users, averaging 7.8 uses per month. A majority (54%) of small businesses who use mobile banking say they have a mobile relationship manager. Incidence of mobile relationship manager usage is particularly strong among small businesses with annual sales of $500K to $5M, with close to seven in ten mobile banking users in these upper sales groups indicating they have a mobile relationship manager. Two-thirds (67%) of small businesses who use mobile relationship managers report that they were assigned a relationship manager, and three in ten (29%) indicate they were able to select one.

Small businesses use mobile relationship managers to perform a wide variety of activities—from routine banking to customer service and sales. At the top of the list, in terms of incidence of specific activities, is checking balances and reviewing account activity. This is followed by addressing customer service issues and problem resolution. Close to half of mobile relationship manager users report performing two sales-related activities—asking for information on new products and applying for accounts/services online.

Potential for mobile relationship managers among nonusers is significant, particularly among larger small businesses. A majority (55%) of nonusers indicate they would be very/somewhat likely to adopt mobile relationship managers. The likelihood of adopting is stronger among larger small businesses, increasing from two-fifths (44%) of lower sales volume firms to seven in ten (70%) small businesses with higher annual sales volumes

Additionally, there is widespread satisfaction with mobile relationship managers. Almost all (98%) users indicate they are very/somewhat satisfied with their mobile relationship manager, and seven in ten (70%) are “very satisfied.” The positive influence of mobile relationship managers may also be evident when looking at net promoter scores (NPS) for primary financial institutions. Overall, small businesses report NPS of 46 for their primary financial institution. Small businesses using mobile relationship managers report NPS of 59.

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “Relationship managers provide small businesses with personal contact with their financial services provider. Mobile relationship managers go one step further by increasing convenience and ease of access. Small businesses perform a wide variety of activities—including transactions and sales—with their mobile relationship managers. The pandemic likely accelerated the adoption of mobile relationship managers. The potential to begin using mobile relationship managers is strong among nonusers, particularly among the larger small businesses in the market. Moving forward, FIs should position mobile relationship managers as trusted advisors and should use the service to develop stronger partnerships with their small business clients.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics report, Mobilizing Banking Services for Small Businesses, which features responses from 600 online interviews with owners and executives of small businesses with annual sales of $50K to $5M.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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NEW YORK, December 14, 2021 – Global Advertising and Brand Specialist Phoenix Marketing International (Phoenix MI) is excited to announce that they have joined the VAB alongside other industry leaders to help guide and inform both consumers, media partners, and businesses on video trends, critical narratives, marketers’ challenges, solutions, and business needs all relating to the video landscape.

The VAB (Video Advertising Bureau) is an insights-driven organization that inspires marketers to reimagine their media strategies resulting in smarter, more educated decisions. VAB develops unique market insights and answers questions from a marketer’s perspective, tackling the toughest issues with fresh thinking and supporting data.

“As a leader in video ad creative testing and in-market impact measurement working with both advertisers and media providers, Phoenix is excited to contribute to shaping the advancement of measurement through innovative new thinking,” comments Martha Rea, President and Chief Research Officer of Phoenix MI. “This will enable us to not only shape the future, but leverage these learnings in our approaches and solutions to meet the needs of our clients.”

As a member, Phoenix is eligible for participation under the Measurement Innovation Task Force’s ‘working groups’ which will cover topics and agendas relating to current measurement and future currency.

“As each of these complementary initiatives explore, evaluate, and expand new measurement yardsticks, our new Task Force will provide regular feedback, questions, and perspective on behalf of every VAB member company,” said Sean Cunningham, President and CEO, VAB.

About Phoenix Marketing International

Global advertising and brand measurement specialist Phoenix Marketing International (Phoenix MI) is one of the Top Research Firms in the U.S. (IA Top 50 Market Research & Data Analytics Report) and is one of the fastest-growing Market Research firms in the world. Operating in all major industries, Phoenix utilizes modern technology, innovative research techniques, and customized approaches to help our clients elevate their brand, refine their communications, and optimize their customer experience. Phoenix’s advertising and brand measurement solution was recently enhanced via the acquisition of Communicus, providing clients both strategic and tactical insights, no matter how complex the creative or channel mix, and regardless of cookies and walled gardens.

Founded in 1999, Phoenix has over 400 employees in offices across the globe, including North America, Europe, and Australia. Learn more about how Phoenix can be put to work for your business at

About VAB

VAB is an insights-driven organization that inspires marketers to reimagine their media strategies resulting in smarter, more educated decisions. VAB develops unique market insights and answers questions from a marketer’s perspective, tackling the toughest issues with fresh
thinking and supporting data.

The 2021 winter holidays may be shaping up as the season of “buy-now, pay-later” (BNPL) payment options. BNPL services are already popular, and they continue to gain traction in the financial-services payment market. Fintech companies and traditional credit card issuers offer a variety of options to consumers for making purchases. Recent research from Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International) reveals that four in ten consumers have used some type of BNPL payment option. This is just one of the findings from Fintech: Competitors or Collaborators?, a Phoenix Synergistics study based on a nationwide survey of 2,000 consumers age 18 and older.

Younger consumers are more likely to report they have ever used BNPL to make a purchase at a store or through a retailer’s website or mobile app. Incidence is highest among Gen Z consumers, with two-thirds indicating usage. Among Millennials, six in ten are users. Incidence of usage among the other generations declines sharply. More than one-third of consumers with household income less than $100K report using BNPL, and usage spikes among those with household income of $100K or more. BNPL users are as likely to report using the service online as they are to say they have used it in a physical store. Eight in ten users believe that BNPL is a very/somewhat valuable service.



What is the relationship between BNPL and credit cards? Respondents who do not have credit cards are more likely than cardholders to have used BNPL, suggesting that the service may be filling the credit gap for card non-holders.


Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “Buy-now, pay-later services are an interesting phenomenon in the payments market. Merchants are jumping on the bandwagon and offering these services from a variety of new players in the market. Now, traditional credit card issuers are entering the market with their versions. The service is very popular with consumers, particularly in the younger generations. There is widespread appeal, but there are also critics of these services. Concerns about delinquencies and defaults are often voiced. The relationship with credit cards is an issue to be considered. It is anticipated that BNPL usage will increase substantially in the 2021 holiday shopping season, given the popularity of the product as well as concerns about inflated costs of goods and services. Payments providers—including traditional credit card issuers and the new BNPL providers—need to monitor usage and developments on this payments frontier.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics report, Fintech: Competitors or Collaborators?, which features responses from 2,000 online interviews with consumers age 18 and older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email


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This article was published by The Financial Brand

After being out of favor among lenders for a couple of years, the home equity business is heating up again. Financial institutions that want to deploy the massive surplus deposits they have and not get left behind must step up their digital strategies on this front or get ignored by digitalized consumers.

Traditionally a product many homeowners looked to local branches for, consumers are increasingly applying for home equity lines of credit through mobile and online channels, according to the annual Home Equity Lending Monitor from Phoenix Synergistics.

Financial institutions that don’t adapt to this market preference for digital access, and which also fail to actively cross-sell home equity credit, run the risk of missing out on a lending opportunity that appears to be coming, suggests William McCracken, President at the research firm.

The urgency to move on this is underscored because many institutions remain flush with more money than they know what to do with, he adds. Unlike mortgages, which banks and credit unions typically sell into the secondary mortgage market, home equity credit is generally held by lenders.

The fintech Rocket Mortgage (formerly known as Quicken Loans) has already become the largest primary mortgage lender in the U.S. While Rocket doesn’t currently promote home equity credit, something that should prod traditional lenders is that Phoenix Synergistics’ research has found that about three-quarters of home equity line of credit (HELOC) borrowers typically open their credit lines with their primary mortgage lender. And that may no longer be a bank or credit union.

In fact, McCracken says he has been surprised that more traditional financial institutions that offer mortgages don’t take advantage of this tendency. To him, it’s low-hanging fruit that many inexplicably aren’t reaching for. The firm’s study found that only about one out of four homeowners with a HELOC were approached to open a line by their primary mortgage lender. This may reflect the fact that some of the largest mortgage lenders, such as Chase Mortgage, had paused HELOC efforts for a time.

While fintechs haven’t made a significant dent in HELOCs yet, according to McCracken’s data, the planets are lining up for them.

Portion of U.S. homeowners using some form of home equity credit

Already, the company’s research indicates that 27% of homeowners surveyed have either a HELOC or a home equity loan. As the chart above illustrates, this is the highest level in years. The credit lines are much favored over the loans for their greater flexibility, according to McCracken.

All these issues come at a point when interest in home equity credit, chiefly home equity lines of credit carrying floating interest rates, are becoming more attractive again.

What’s Favoring a Surge in Home Equity Lines of Credit

In an interview with The Financial Brand McCracken pointed to a number of factors that favor reentry into this business, in a digital way.

A key one is rising home prices.

“If you have had your home for at least a few years, you are equity rich,” says McCracken. “Rather than refinancing to get cash out, you have an opportunity to access an equity line that will let you draw out only as much as you need.”

Nationally, home prices rose year-over-year by 18% in September 2021, according to CoreLogic Home Price Insights. This is partially due to an ongoing housing supply shortage, the firm said. There are areas at risk for price drops. And the high rate of growth won’t go on forever, but McCracken’s point is that there’s equity to be tapped now. He notes that Freddie Mac is predicting a 5.3% rate of price growth for 2022.

Inflation is going to tamp down demand for refinancing.

McCracken says his research indicates that 45% of homeowners have refinanced in the last two years and that another 35% expect to refinance over the next 12 months.

“If that bears out, 80% of all homeowners will have refinanced over a three-year period,” says McCracken. “So that tells you that the pool for refinancing is going to be quite small, because no one will want to refinance as rates are edging up.”

HELOC rates are generally much lower than those of unsecured personal loans and credit card loans, McCracken points out. This will make them attractive for people looking for major personal credit.

Working from home will create additional demand for credit.

While many companies have been trying to bring their staffs back to the office, working from home has become an option for many Americans. McCracken says that now that this trend has gone beyond a temporary measure, more people are looking to beef up their space. This includes home improvements, extensions, additional or better furniture, and more.

“That kind of spending lends itself to home equity borrowing,” says McCracken. A plus for home equity credit is that for people who itemize their taxes the interest can still be tax-deductible, subject to limits, something that you don’t get if you obtain personal loans or rely on credit cards.

Local lenders have enjoyed some advantages in HELOC lending but this time around there may be a limited window of opportunity, according to McCracken.

Opportunistic fintechs are one risk. Another is the return of major league competitors.

At the start of the pandemic some large HELOC lenders were worried about potential risks and shut off the spigot. McCracken thinks they will be opening it wide again.

“I think a lot of the traditional lenders who have been completely on the sidelines or at least taking a less-aggressive marketing stance on home equity are going to realize, ‘Oh my gosh, look at how much wealth is now sitting in homes, and what borrowers could do with the funds’.”

— William McCracken, Phoenix Synergistics

Harvesting HELOC Potential Will Demand Digital Applications

Having a robust digital process for taking home equity applications has become a “must-have,” according to Phoenix Synergistics’ research.

McCracken points to two aspects of the annual study.

Channels borrowers use to apply for home equity lines of credit

The first are the channels that consumers told researchers that they have actually used when they applied for home equity credit. Applications taken via digital channels have pulled ahead of applications taken in bank branches or other offices. The younger the consumer, the more likely they took either the mobile or online route, or some combination of both.

Channels borrowers would prefer to use to apply for home equity lines of credit

What is more dramatic is the way the future is shaping up. The first chart is in the past tense, that is, it is how home equity borrowers obtained their loans, which reflects the way things had been over the last few years.

On the other hand, what institutions need to adhere most closely is how people want to apply in the future.

Looked at in this way, willingness to go to an office to obtain home equity credit is dwindling away. Less than a third of the study respondents are willing to do that.

“Home equity credit is really an older product, but it’s kind of in a new package today, in terms of how it’s going to be accessed,” says McCracken. “Instead of going to a branch to talk to someone, it’s gravitating to filling in a form after dinner on your laptop or your phone.”

The recent environment for deposit acquisition and retention has been extremely unusual. For the first time in a number of years, the personal savings rate of consumers increased. Some industry analysts described the situation as a “coronavirus deposit bonanza.” Consumer spending declined during the first phases of the pandemic, and consumers parked funds in deposit accounts while waiting for the right time to spend and/or make changes to investments. Recent research by Phoenix Synergistics revealed that a majority of consumers made changes to their checking, savings, or investment accounts in the past year. While no specific activities were dominant, these moves resulted in changes in net flows for various types of financial institutions. These are among the findings from Competing for Deposits: Acquisition and Retention Strategies, a recent report from Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). A highlight of the study is a nationwide, online survey of 2,000 consumers ages 18 or older.

A small majority (51%) of consumers indicate that they made major changes in their savings and investment accounts in the past year (up from the 20% who reported doing so in a 2018 Phoenix Synergistics study). Fairly equal numbers moved funds in secure deposit accounts from one institution to another or moved funds from conservative accounts (e.g., savings accounts, money market deposit accounts, or CDs) to checking accounts to use for household expenses. Younger consumers are more likely to have moved funds from conservative accounts to stocks or mutual funds and to have moved money invested in stocks and mutual funds from one institution to another. Consumers who made major changes to their accounts in the past year identified a variety of factors that motivated these moves, including seeking better returns or interest rates, uncertainty about the economy, advisors’ recommendations, and pandemic-related economic pressures.


Those who made changes to accounts were questioned about the types of institutions they moved funds from and the types they moved funds to. Banks and savings institutions were the top institutions for both outflows and inflows. However, the number of consumers moving funds out of banks or savings institutions was greater than the total number moving funds in, which resulted in negative net movement. Credit unions and mutual fund companies experienced net outflows. Internet-only banks (without café-style branches) were the only type of institution experiencing net inflows. In general, younger consumers were more likely to report moving funds among the various types of institutions.


Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “While the overall incidence of consumers that engaged in major changes in savings and investments has increased, no one type of activity is dominant. Consumers are moving money to and from a variety of accounts and institutions as they emerge from the early stages of the pandemic. However, when money movement has occurred, it has resulted in modest declines for traditional depository institutions, including banks, savings institutions, and credit unions. The winners, in terms of positive net flows, are internet-only financial institutions—a growing competitive force for branch-based providers to contend with. Traditional FIs must meet the challenge across all relationship aspects—including pricing, channels, and customer service—and must proactively communicate with and educate consumers about product changes and improvements. Deposit acquisition and retention is the lifeblood of branch-based depository institutions.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics report, Competing for Deposits: Acquisition and Retention Strategies, which features 2,000 online interviews with consumers ages 18 or older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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Homeowners are increasingly using online platforms for a variety of purposes when obtaining home equity loans or lines of credit. Online activities range from obtaining information to actually applying for the product. This is in sharp contrast to the time when home equity lending was introduced and the process was completed entirely in person at branches or offices. Today, home equity lenders must have their online systems ready to provide up-to-date product information and offer homeowners the ability to apply via computer or mobile phone. These are among the findings from the 2021 edition of the Home Equity Lending Monitor, a study conducted annually by Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). The Monitor is a comprehensive examination of the market from the consumer’s perspective and includes an online survey of 2,500 homeowners.

Current holders of home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) were asked about the channels they used to obtain information about HELOCs. Branches were the top channel for information, followed by the internet using a mobile phone and the internet via computer. Usage of the internet (via both mobile phone and computer) to obtain information has increased when compared to 2020.

Channels Used to Obtain HELOC Information (2017-2021)

Current holders of HELOCs were also questioned regarding the channels they used to apply for the product. More than half (54%) report they applied online, which represents an increase from 36% in 2020. Usage of computers and usage of mobile phones are about equal. Homeowners in the 18 to 49 age segment are more likely to indicate they applied via mobile phone. In-person application is indicated by close to half (49%), declining from 60% in 2020. Mail follows, and at the bottom are various telephone channels. On average, HELOC holders used 2.0 channels when applying for their line of credit.

Channels Used to Apply for HELOCs

Online channels also dominate application preferences among HELOC prospects. More than four in ten cite some type of online method as their preferred application channel. Applying online by computer is preferred by one-quarter of prospects. Slightly more than one-quarter would prefer to apply in person.

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “After many years of primarily in-person applications, the home equity lending market is now largely online. Online platforms are essential as information sources and as application channels. Mobile phones are an especially important channel for younger homeowners. Home equity lenders must make sure the online information about their products and services is up to date and comprehensive. Online application channels need to be available and be made as seamless as possible. The home equity lending market now feels at home with online channels.”

These are among the findings from the Phoenix Synergistics 2021 Home Equity Lending Monitor. This twenty-first-annual installment of the study surveyed 2,500 homeowners—including 1,125 holders of home equity lines or loans, 375 home equity credit prospects, and 1,000 home equity credit rejecters. The Home Equity Lending Monitor is the most comprehensive home equity lending study available, profiling and tracking consumer behavior, attitudes, and trends in the market for home equity loans and lines of credit.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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One likely side effect of the pandemic is the small business credit market being nudged online. Small businesses are increasingly using online channels for a variety of credit activities, beginning with the shopping process and obtaining information about credit services. For small businesses, the ability to monitor credit activity online is an important factor when selecting a credit provider. In addition, more small businesses are applying for credit online. These are among the findings from Small Business Credit and Lending, a recent study conducted by Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). A highlight of the study was a national, online survey with 1,000 owners and executives of small businesses with annual sales of $50,000 to $5 million.

When small businesses were asked about their most preferred method for obtaining information about credit services, online via PC was most likely to be preferred when shopping for both loans/lines of credit and credit cards.

Small businesses indicated that the ability to view their credit activity online is an extremely important factor when selecting a credit product. This feature tops the list of important factors and is followed by a fixed rate and the ability to make credit payments and obtain advances online. Two of the top-three product-selection factors involve online access.

When it comes to applying for credit, online via PC was again the most preferred method. Small businesses are most likely to cite online via PC as the most preferred channel for applying for both loans/lines of credit and credit cards. In-person at a branch is the second-most-preferred channel. A variety of channels follow these two top mentions.

When small businesses that have applied for credit were asked about their most-recent application experience, online via PC was the top channel to have been used, followed by in person at a branch. Three in ten (29%) credit applicants most-recently applied for credit online using a mobile device, which is significantly higher than the 6% who applied using a mobile device in 2017. In 2021, a large majority (80%) of those applying online (via PC or mobile device) indicated that the entire process was completed online.

Non-traditional and non-bank online lenders are a significant factor in the small business credit market. A majority (60%) of small businesses have borrowed from a non-traditional lender, such as an e-commerce company, a non-bank online lender, a logistics company, or a supplier. This represents an increase from 40% in 2017. In 2021, small businesses that have borrowed from non-bank online lenders are most likely to cite PayPal (58%) as a platform/service they have used.

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “The small business credit market is clearly becoming an online market. It is essential for lenders to provide a robust and seamless online experience for small business credit customers across all types of online devices—computers, mobile phones, and tablets. This experience must be all-encompassing—from providing information about credit services to providing the ability to view credit activity online to facilitating online credit applications. The competitive threat posed by non-traditional and non-bank online lenders is strong, and traditional small business lenders cannot be caught unprepared for this new online world of small business lending.”

These are among the findings from a recent Phoenix Synergistics study, Small Business Credit and Lending, which features 1,000 online interviews with owners and executives of small businesses with annual sales of $50,000 to $5 million.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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Sales activity at financial institution branches experienced an uptick over the past year. The incidence of consumers who experienced cross-selling at branches increased, which resulted in sales of additional financial products and services. Consumers are shifting away from applying for accounts and services with branch personnel to applying via self-service devices in branches. These are among the findings from the 2021 edition of the Consumer Branch Monitor, a study conducted annually by Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). The study included a nationwide, online survey of 2,000 consumers ages 18 or older.

When branch users were asked about the acceptability of cross-selling at branches, a significant majority (80%) say it is acceptable for a teller or other representative to ask them about their interest in additional products while they are at a branch conducting other business. Four in ten (43%) indicate cross-selling would be “very acceptable,” representing an increase from 35% in 2020. Branch users ages 18 to 49 are more likely than older branch users to find cross-selling “very acceptable.”

In addition to the growing acceptability of cross-selling, there has been an increase in the number of branch users experiencing cross-selling while at the branch. A majority (53%) of branch users indicate that a teller or representative has suggested a new product or service while they were at their primary branch. Branch users ages 18 to 49 and those with household income of $100K or more are more likely to indicate they have been cross-sold products at a branch. Four in ten (39%) branch users requested additional information about products or services in response to cross-selling, and one-third (32%) ultimately applied for a product or service. Incidence of both of these activities has increased when compared to 2020.

A significant number of branch users report that, in the past year, they have participated in some type of activity at a branch to obtain information about a product or service in which they had interest. This is particularly true among branch users in the 18 to 49 age segment. Branch users report a wide range of information-gathering activities, including speaking to a branch representative, using appointment banking, and picking up brochures about products and services.

While sales activity at branches is increasing, methods of applying for accounts and services at branches are shifting. Overall, more than one-third (35%) of consumers indicate they opened a new account or service in the past year (up from 27% in 2020). Among these, close to half (49%) report applying at their primary branch (unchanged from 2020). Of those applying at a branch, a majority (56%) did so with branch staff (down from 67% in 2020). Meanwhile, incidences of using several types of self-service devices to apply for accounts and services in branches increased when compared to 2020.

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “The concept of the branch as a sales center has been talked about for years. Evidence from our research indicates that branch sales activity, in the form of cross-selling, is indeed increasing. However, in an unusual twist, those opening accounts and services at branches are increasingly using self-service devices to apply, while usage of branch personnel when applying has declined. Financial-services providers need to monitor branch sales activity, particularly the in-branch methods that consumers use to apply for accounts and services, as they design and implement branch transformation and configuration strategies.”

These are among the findings from Phoenix Synergistics’ latest study, Consumer Branch Monitor 2021, which features 2,000 online interviews with consumer financial decision-makers ages 18 or older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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This article was published by Finextra

Mastercard is to phase out the magnetic stripe from all of is debit and credit cards, ditching an anachronistic payment method that has been redered obsolete by the emergence of chip-based cards.

An early 1960s innovation largely credited to IBM, the magnetic stripe allowed banks to encode card information onto magnetic tape laminated to the back. It paved the way for electronic payment terminals and chip cards, offering more security and real-time authorisation while making it easier for businesses of all sizes to accept cards.

A fixture on billions of payment cards for decades, the thin strip has finally reached its expiration date, with Mastercard becoming the first payments network to phase it out.

As contactless and biometric payment cards become the norm, newly-issued Mastercard credit and debit cards will not be required to have a stripe starting in 2024 in most markets. By 2033, no Mastercard credit and debit cards will have magnetic stripes, which leaves a long runway for the remaining partners who still rely on the technology to phase in chip card processing.

The US had been the last major market to convert to chip cards, necessitating the continuation of magstripe technology – and all the security liabilities that came with it. But with the rollout of chip cards to the US market almost complete, merchants, banks and consumers have quickly come to appreciate the faster chip checkout process and improved security.

More than half of Americans prefer using a chip card payment at a terminal over any other payment method, with security being the driving factor, according to a December survey for Mastercard by the Phoenix Consumer Monitor. That was followed by contactless payments — with a card or a digital wallet. Only 11% said they preferred to swipe, and that drops to 9% when looking at cardholders with experience using contactless payments.

And in a July study by Phoenix, 81% of American cardholders surveyed reported they would be comfortable with a card that does not have the magnetic stripe, and 92% would increase or keep usage of their cards the same if the magnetic stripe was no longer on the card.

The pandemic has also been a driving factor in chip card usage. In the first quarter of 2021, Mastercard saw 1 billion more contactless transactions compared to the same period in 2020, and in the second quarter of 2021, 45% of all in-person checkout transactions globally were contactless.

John Drechny, CEO of the Merchant Advisory Group, which represents more than 165 US merchants, comments “We applaud Mastercard for taking this next step to help to strengthen payment security and protect merchants and consumers from risk. We’d like to see others in the industry move in this direction.”

In the wake of the pandemic, an unsettling economy, and increased merger and acquisition activity, financial-services providers have accelerated their evaluation of how today’s bank branches should look and operate. Many consumers prefer bank branches that are casual, streamlined, and café style. In addition, consumer response to smaller, limited-staff facilities and fully automated facilities is increasingly positive. These are among the findings from Consumer Branch Monitor 2021, a study by Phoenix Synergistics (a unit of Phoenix Marketing International). The Consumer Branch Monitor has been conducted annually since 2020 and includes a national, online survey with 2,000 consumers ages 18 or older.

Many branch users indicate that their current primary branch is a full-service, fully staffed branch, yet many are warming to various alternative branch configurations. Approximately two-thirds (67%) of branch users report that their primary branch provides full services and is fully staffed (down slightly from 71% in 2020). Branch users ages 50 or older are more likely to indicate that their primary branch is a full-service facility. Younger consumers are more likely than older consumers to use various types of alternative branch facilities.

When asked about the appeal of various alternatives to fully staffed branch configurations, the largest number (73%) of branch users say a casual facility is very/somewhat appealing. This is followed by a supermarket branch (61%) and a branch with limited staff and self-service devices (59%). A fully automated branch with no staff is appealing to slightly more than half (54%) of branch users. Positive response to supermarket branches, branches with limited staff and self-service options, and fully automated branches has increased since 2020.

Many consumers also find café-style branches valuable. Slightly more than four in ten (44%) branch users report that one of their financial institutions has café-style branches (up from 24% in 2020). One-third (34%) of branch users indicate that they have visited a café-style branch (up from 18% in 2020). Almost all (93%) of those who have visited a café-style branch find them to be valuable, with two-thirds (68%) reporting they are “very valuable.”

A variety of features of café-style branches are appealing to those who find these facilities valuable. A more relaxed atmosphere (48%) tops the list and is followed closely by liking coffee, drinks, and snacks being available for customers (46%). A notable minority (42%) report that the café-style atmosphere makes them feel more connected to the financial institution.

Many younger consumers seem to indicate that traditional branch facilities are “so yesterday.” When branch users are asked to describe the type of branch style they prefer, “comfortable and casual” (44%) is most widely cited, followed by a “traditional and conservative” branch (28%) and a “modern and high-tech” facility (23%). Those in the 18 to 49 age segment are significantly less likely to say “traditional and conservative.”

Bill McCracken, president of Phoenix Synergistics, stated, “It is clear that many consumers prefer branches that are more in tune with a casual lifestyle. Smaller branches with more automation are increasing in appeal, as are facilities with limited or no staff. Consumers’ usage of café-style facilities, similar to a Starbucks, is increasing. These branches or cafés have features that encourage customers to relax and stay awhile. In particular, many younger consumers—who are more apt to be branch users and to be in the market for financial services—find these innovative facilities attractive. When designing new branches and updating existing branches, FIs need to recognize that branches need to transition from the traditional, conservative model to branches that better reflect the needs and attitudes of today’s consumers.”

These are among the findings from Phoenix Synergistics’ latest study, Consumer Branch Monitor 2021, which features 2,000 online interviews with consumer financial decision-makers ages 18 or older.

Phoenix Synergistics, a unit of Phoenix Marketing International, is the leading provider of multi-sponsor marketing research for the financial services industry. For more information, contact Bill McCracken, president, Phoenix Synergistics, email

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This mention was published in Cynopsis Media

In the News

“It’s like if somebody is running the 100 meters and they have a weight around their ankles,” former Olympics host Bob Costas told the New York Times, of shrinking viewership for the Games this summer. “That is not a fair judge of their speed.” NBCUniversal paid over $1 billion for an event slammed by the pandemic, the shift to streaming and the absence of some star athletes, drawing about half the viewership of the 2016 Games in Rio. Still, NBCU expects the Games to turn a profit, with ad sales higher than 2016. Throw in digital and social, and through Wednesday night, more than 100 billion minutes of Tokyo Olympics content had been consumed across NBCUniversal platforms.

But it’s not just about the numbers – advertisers are benefitting from their connection to the Olympics, notes NBCU. In a survey, the company found 69% of consumers said that brands that support the Games by advertising are helping the world come back together after the pandemic, and 2 in 3 respondents say the brands are helping bring families together (65%). NBC Prime Olympics coverage continues to outperform prior year brand norms, according to Phoenix MI, with a +15% lift in brand recall, and a +21% lift in message breakthrough.