At Fifth Third, Now What?

  • JJ Hornblass
  • November 5, 2012
  • 5

Want to know what is Fifth Third Bank‘s next move in customer acquisition and retention?

So would Fifth Third.

The super-regional bank, whose territory includes nearly every swing state in tomorrow’s election, has all the tricks of the banking innovation trade: RDC, mobile, geo-location apps. Fifth Third is also reaching out via focus groups, email surveys, and Skype chats to see what their customers’ needs and wants are. So when Bank Innovation asked last week what’s next, the answer was, we don’t know.

And we sense that Fifth Third, which has around 1,300 branches, is not alone here. The fact is that innovative banking tools are proliferating so fast and so ubiquitously, mainly because of the concentration of industry IT vendors, that to pinpoint what’s next is becoming exceedingly difficult. It is as if we have moved into a post-innovation phase, when everything innovative becomes anything but in a compressed timeframe.

Fifth Third and other banks have also hit this wall because some of the out-of-the-box innovations will required shared information between financial institutions and more sophisticated analytics. Banks want to share information about as much as Smokey the Bear wants a cigar.

The other factor to note is that mobile banking continues to grow at such a rapid clip that banks don’t need to reinvent it. The mobile user base at Fifth Third, for example, has grown 10x over the last year, the bank reports. With that kind of growth, who needs to know what’s next?

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JJ started the first iteration of Bank Innovation back in 2007, and has been working on it ever since. He also serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Royal Media, Bank Innovation’s parent. He founded Royal in 1995 and oversees all aspects of the New York-based diversified media company. Prior to forming Royal, JJ was on the editorial staff of American Banker, the daily newspaper, and worked as an editor of a business magazine in Hong Kong. As a reporter and editor, he has won journalism awards from the National Press Foundation, Newsletter & Electronic Publishers Foundation, and the Reader’s Digest Foundation. He has a BS in Economics from Yeshiva University and a Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was also a Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School of Banking. He lives in New York City with his wife, two daughters, and son. He counts among his accomplishments one New York City Marathon, two New York City Triathlons and the 2010 Father’s Day 5K, the first race he ever ran with his daughters. He can be reached at or 212-564-8972.

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5 thoughts on “At Fifth Third, Now What?

  1. Smokey the Beer…love it

  2. Are you suggesting that banks do not need to look to keep improving and enhancing mobile offerings (or other out-of the box solutions) because users are currently adopting at such a rapid pace?

    • No. I am suggesting that there is ubiquity in the tools available to banks and, by extension, to consumers, and that is leading to great parity among banks. Banks install a fixed population of tools, and they are “done” in the sense that they have what “every” bank has. As a result, the need to reinvent banking has dissipated, in my view — which is too bad.

  3. Interesting to note the potentially blinkered focus on “innovation” having to be technology or channel based.

    Sadly, banks continue to focus too much on these questions that, as the article itself says, can be replicated too easily by others and become a commodity in a matter of days, removing any differentiation capability or sensation of added value.

    Banks often appear to lose sight of the need to innovate in the product space also, offer clients solutions – not just products – and improve internal efficiency and operation flows. A poor product offering with great channel delivery does not impress customers long term.

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