Last week, most banking professionals were reminded of age-old problems that accompany acquisitive growth – including me. I came across an article in Crain’s Chicago Business highlighting some common acquisition missteps that BMO Harris bank fell victim to in its recent acquisition of M&I Bank. The impetus for the article was the recent J.D. Power & Associates retail customer satisfaction survey – focusing on BMO’s dramatic fall from the middle of the pack among Midwest banks to second from last.
From my experience working on several dozen bank merger integrations in my 25+ year career, I have been privy to some really great bank integrations and some not so great ones. We can all learn from industry best practices to avoid the common pitfalls of banking executives, and avoid being part of the next news cycle. From these good and bad experiences, I’ve learned:
- First and foremost, any integration needs to be customer-centric. Then and only then will the right decisions be made and the results meet the needs of customers, employees and shareholders
- When preparing for integration activities, ensure your timeline accounts for the necessary system and process integrations – don’t rush your timeline just to meet the prescribed date given to analysts
- Ensure that customer facing channels do not take a step back (i.e., no unplanned downtime, consistent services, ease of use, etc.)
- Develop a comprehensive customer engagement plan that includes differentiation for the needs of customer segments based on complexity and value
As you consider your next acquisition and subsequent integration of those operations, give careful thought to these points – they could be the difference between losing or retaining your most valuable customers. At West Monroe, our M&A teams approach each integration with the end in mind: focused on meeting the customers’ needs and experiences as well as the needs of shareholders throughout the process.