Joe Brady discusses the importance of commercial real estate to shareholder value and how banks are adapting to meet the needs of their customers through adjustments to retail banking space.
Participants in the financial services industry roundtable heard David Nelson explain Wells Fargo Bank’s goal to get customers signed up for at least eight products, and Mark Nicholls discuss the impact of demographic trends on Bank of America’s brand strategy. Great—but what does it have to do with real estate? As it turns out, a good deal.
Nicholls and Nelson laid out a short list of their priorities, including looking to shed millions of square feet and managing integration in the wake of major M&A activity. What was striking about the session was the degree to which their approach to the business now includes stakeholders and thinking outside the traditional realms of real estate.
A discussion of whether and where to change signage after a merger was really a discussion of how depositors in different places relate to changing brands. The inevitable discussion of cost-cutting focused on the challenges of managing business unit leaders. In a discussion of branch strategies, Nelson observed that drive-through lanes are not always possible in some land-constrained California markets, but in Texas, no branch is acceptable with less than three or four drive-through lanes! Differences that Global CRE Managers are used to finding in Latin America, Asia or EMEA. Nicholls encouraged CRE Managers to talk the language of the General Manager, thinking in terms of cost of goods sold rather than cost per square foot. Both talked about brand strategy, with Nicholls favouring a “burn and bury” approach to old brands.
Sure, they also talked about workplace strategy (“do more with less”) and sale & leasebacks (neither consider this to be the best strategy given the banks’ low cost of funds and proposed changes to accounting practices) and other real estate issues. The audience, a cross-section of CoreNet members, understood the connections without needing to have the dots connected by PowerPoint as the presenters made the delibertae choc to avoid “death by slides.”