Building Global Card-Issuing Capabilities: A Multi-Dimensional Benchmarking Approach
Virtually every credit card issuer, global or local, practices benchmarking. By taking a multidimensional approach to benchmarking—one that combines the quantitative, the qualitative, and the market context—issuers can generate greater insights from their benchmarking efforts. Not only can they then accurately assess their own performance relative to that of their competitors, but they can also start to understand the underlying reasons for performance gaps and move beyond target setting to design change initiatives that close those gaps and improve their competitive positioning.
Victor Koss David Wyatt David Baldry
Building Global Card-Issuing Capabilities A Multidimensional Benchmarking Approach
This report was originally published before March 31, 2014, when Booz & Company became Strategy&, part of the PwC network of firms. For more information visit www.strategyand.pwc.com.
Contact Information Amsterdam David Wyatt Principal +31-20-504-1940 firstname.lastname@example.org London Victor Koss Partner +44-20-7393-3738 email@example.com David Baldry Senior Associate +44-20-7393-3236 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Virtually every credit card issuer, global or local, practices benchmarking. The goal: to measure current operating capabilities and compare them with competitors’. Yet all too often, issuers limit themselves to quantitative performance measures, without taking into account either more qualitative measures or the strategic demands of the markets in which they operate. As a result, just 20 percent of issuers gain any tangible benefits from their benchmarking efforts. By taking a multidimensional approach to benchmarking—one that combines the quantitative, the qualitative, and the market context—issuers can generate greater insights from their benchmarking efforts. Not only can they then accurately assess their own performance relative to that of their competitors, but they can also start to understand the underlying reasons for performance gaps and move beyond target setting to design change initiatives that close those gaps and improve their competitive positioning.
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BENCHMARKING AND THE COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT
The pressures facing the credit card industry have never been fiercer. The economic downturn is creating unprecedented levels of bad and doubtful debt, while governments are scrutinizing card companies’ interest rates and fee practices more closely than ever. To compete effectively in this challenging environment, credit card players must maximize their operational efficiency and effectiveness. Among the most useful techniques they can use to better understand their existing capabilities and how they can be enhanced is benchmarking. Quantitative benchmarking in the global credit card business is nothing new: The vast majority of the global card organizations we have worked with regularly undertake some kind of effort to quantify how their credit card processes compare with internal peers and external rivals. However, less than 20 percent of issuers succeed in realizing any tangible benefits from their benchmarking activities. Even when they find gaps in performance, they often can’t identify the reason for them, or they justify the gaps as the result of differences in strategic goals or market contexts. They may even use the benchmarking results simply to set performance targets, rather than taking practical and actionable steps to close the gaps. Moreover, only about 10 percent of the issuers we have worked with have adopted a more sophisticated benchmarking approach, one that combines quantitative benchmarking with other benchmarking techniques.
In our work with leading global credit card organizations, we have found: 1. Quantitative benchmarking can be valuable when used correctly; however, it is hard to do effectively and is too often used as a data-gathering or targetsetting exercise, rather than as a means to develop new insights or improvement initiatives. 2. The true benefits of quantitative benchmarking can be realized only when the effort is combined with a qualitative benchmarking approach and a calibration against the strategic market context—all with an appreciation of the issuer’s strategy. 3. The most powerful benchmarking insights are gleaned through the process of making internal and external comparisons. In this Perspective, we demonstrate a multidimensional approach to benchmarking that national credit card organizations can use to assess existing capabilities with greater levels of understanding and more causally identify opportunities for improvement, and that global credit card organizations can apply to transfer best practices and capabilities across markets. Most important, when combined with our database of quantitative and qualitative reference points, the approach provides specific insights into the mechanics and nature of changes to business processes that will enhance the overall efficiency and effectiveness of card operations.
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Organizations turn to benchmarking to understand how their internal capabilities compare with those of their peers within a particular market or across markets. Without that understanding, it is very difficult for organizations to establish how and where to enhance their capabilities or transfer them to operations in other markets. Local and national card issuers— those operating in single markets— typically use benchmarking to enhance their operational efficiency and effectiveness. Yet too often they struggle to specify exactly what “good” looks like and how to focus and prioritize their improvement initiatives. Global credit card players—those operating in multiple markets around the world—typically turn to benchmarking to meet a different challenge: how to maintain their leading positions in key markets while strengthening their capabilities in markets where their position is less established. In our experience, an effective benchmarking approach consists of three elements: 1. The strategic market context. Because all markets are different, success in any individual market requires specific strategies. Thus, when evaluating capabilities and performance in a particular market, it is vital to understand the factors that underpin that market’s
strategic context. Those factors include the following: • The overall level of market development (revolve rates, cards per head, average turnover, historical and forecast growth rates, share of cards in total domestic payments) • Customer needs (plain-vanilla cards versus innovative product offerings) • Regulatory environment (restrictions on level of interest rates and how they are calculated, restrictions on credit limits) • Competitive positioning (market leader or market follower) • Local market team’s strategic priorities (cost efficiency, product innovation, mono-line versus multiline approach) 2. Quantitative benchmarking. Quantitative metrics can serve as an effective tool for benchmarking operational performance for specific card processes, both within an organization and when compared with the operational performance of external competitors. But constructing reliable internal and external quantitative benchmarks can be difficult. Among the key challenges: selecting the right metrics; measuring them in a consistent, normalized manner; and finding accurate data for both internal operations and competitors.
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Even when done right, however, quantitative benchmarking on its own rarely yields actionable insights. It can help uncover quantitative performance gaps, whether against internal or external benchmarks. But it cannot tell you why the gap exists or show you whether the gap is material. And it cannot determine how to close the gap through capability building or operational improvement. Thus, organizations that focus solely on quantitative data gathering often lack the ability to interpret their benchmarking data and extract the insights that matter. Using a one-dimensional quantitative benchmarking approach serves only to answer the question “What does the performance of my card operations
look like?” It does not go beyond this insight to assess whether that performance level is good or bad, or help identify factors that might have led to that level of performance. 3. Qualitative benchmarking. By supplementing quantitative data gathering with benchmarking tools designed to reveal qualitative distinctions across the card-issuing value chain, organizations can better identify the root cause of poor performance across markets. Such tools, typically developed through detailed observation and assessment of the card technologies and operations used by numerous global card issuers, allow credit card organizations to develop a more holistic understanding of their card-issuing operations and
plot a clear path to performance improvement. In reaching beyond the insights generated by a purely quantitative benchmarking approach, these tools can help answer the following critical questions: • What does the performance of my card operations look like? • How advanced are my operations compared with those of my key competitors? • Why are there performance gaps in different parts of my organization? Do they matter? • How should I go about prioritizing the importance of these gaps, and how can I start to close them?
Organizations that focus solely on quantitative data gathering often lack the ability to interpret their benchmarking data and extract the insights that matter.
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THE POWER OF BENCHMARKING
A multidimensional benchmarking approach allows global card issuers to develop more powerful insights into their operational performance at both the local and global levels, and ultimately to improve their performance. By identifying operational strengths and weaknesses, organizations can start to prioritize improvement
opportunities and transfer best practices across markets to build and improve capabilities. Exhibit 1 provides two examples of how combining quantitative and qualitative findings with a deep knowledge of the strategic market context helps generate insights that would not have been possible by collecting quantitative metrics alone.
Exhibit 1 Multidimensional Benchmarking Insights
Capability Process Step Customer Acquisition and Retention Collections/Fraud
Customer-initiated attrition: - Brazil = ~30% annually - Average for other markets = 8% annually
Fraud as percentage of turnover: - Mexico = 0.48% - Internal range for other markets = 0.02% to 0.25%
- Capabilities within the issuer’s Brazilian operations tend to follow practices standard at any large-scale or leading issuer in most areas. - However, the firm’s Brazilian customer analytics and product development capabilities are below those of the competition. - Only basic customer data capture observed - Limited ability to apply test-and-learn response-tracking analytics - Product development characterized by market follower position with unlinked product/parameter tactics
- Mexican market team’s collections/fraud capabilities follow standard practices and are broadly in line with capabilities of local competitors. They include: - multi-path collections activities based on product/segment profiles - early warning capabilities for delinquent accounts analysis - Customer analytics capabilities are below par compared with those found in other parts of the organization.
Strategic Market Context
- Brazilian credit card market is not as developed as some, though it is more sophisticated than most other emerging markets. - The average attrition rate is 10% to 15% annually.
- Average fraud levels in Mexico are significantly higher than in other markets. At some other Mexican issuers, fraud as a percentage of turnover can be as high as ~0.7%
- Customer attrition in the organization’s Brazilian division is extremely - Comparing fraud performance of Mexican market team with that of high and well above market average, resulting in the need to other market teams may be misleading. reacquire ~30% of customer base every year just to stand still. - Fraud is an inherent problem when operating in Mexican market. - Limited capabilities in terms of customer analytics and product development highlight key areas for improvement. Closing - Although fraud level may be high relative to other market teams, our these capability gaps would result in improved understanding client compared quite favorably with other competitors in Mexico. of customer behavior and customer needs. That would in turn allow product propositions to be tailored to improve customer - Even if fraud is not as big an issue as it first appears, there may be acquisition and retention. scope to develop a source of competitive advantage versus local competitors by leveraging analytics capabilities from other markets to improve fraud performance—by improving predictive models to identify ”at risk” accounts, for example.
Source: Booz & Company client engagements
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THE QUANTITATIVE APPROACH
Despite its limitations, quantitative benchmarking remains a critical part of a multidimensional benchmarking program, providing the necessary foundation of performance metrics on which to build the rest of the program. If structured appropriately, quantitative benchmarks can be repeatable so that the organization can continue to add metrics, gather
additional internal and external data, and continuously refine improvement opportunities. The most common challenge in quantitative benchmarking lies in identifying which metrics to measure and how exactly those metrics are defined. Exhibit 2 outlines the key metrics used by one leading issuer.
Exhibit 2 Quantitative Metrics across the Credit Card Value Chain
Sales and customer acquisition
Customer relationship management
Annual applications FTE Time taken for application decision Time taken to issue card
Annual core IT-processing cost per account Percentage of automated payments Transaction authorization rate (%)
Internet registration (%) Annual calls per active account Average call time
Customer-initiated attrition (%) Average active accounts (%) Balance per active account Turnover per active account
Right party contact rate (%) Fraud as percentage of turnover Bad & doubtful debt as percentage outstanding Percentage recovery
Approval rate (%) Pull-through rate (%) Percentage of credit card customers who are also bank customers Percentage of banking customers with a credit card
Source: Booz & Company analysis
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No matter which metrics you choose, they should cover the entire card value chain, from sales and customer acquisition to transaction processing and collections. And every metric should be selected with the following considerations in mind: • Does the metric accurately represent the process step? • Is the metric clearly defined? • Is the metric available in other markets, so that true comparisons can be made? • Is internal data available to objectively generate the metric? • Do comparable external benchmarks exist, particularly in priority markets?
The most readily available benchmarking data is likely to come from the global issuer’s various country teams. Gathering data on the efficiency of operations in China, France, the U.K., and the U.S., for instance, should reveal vital insights on areas of relative strength and weakness. Where possible, it is also helpful to compile external benchmarks on the bestpractice performance of competitors, leveraging databases from card associations and industry bodies. As always, making sure to use common definitions, product classes, and the like when collecting external data is critical; not doing so will lessen the value of the metric immeasurably. When available, metrics from related industries can provide further useful benchmarks for comparable processes, such as collections activities or call centers in utilities, account opening in retail banking, and fraud management in telecommunications.
Choosing quantitative metrics that can deliver truly representative and reliable insights for capability building depends on several key factors, no matter the source of the benchmarking data. Operational context: It is essential that you understand the various operational contexts from which metrics are collected if you are to draw meaningful comparisons. Key factors that need to be understood: • Scale of operations • Systems used • Sourcing model employed • Skill levels • Process quality • Geography/extent of market development
The most common challenge in quantitative benchmarking lies in identifying which metrics to measure and how exactly those metrics are defined.
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Understanding the context tends to be easier when comparing internal market operations. Although data from public sources, such as trade associations, can be useful in capturing a directional view on benchmarks, such data usually lacks context and cannot be normalized, making accurate comparisons difficult. Normalization: Ensuring that data is reported using common, consistent definitions is imperative if you hope to make accurate and useful comparisons. Unfortunately, data is rarely measured in a standardized, consistent manner within organizations, let alone in different organizations. For example, the definition of a delinquent account, or the process by which accounts are activated, will vary widely from company to company. Data availability: All too often, the data needed to benchmark operations may simply not be available,
particularly in some emerging markets. In such cases, it will be necessary to develop a composite approach, such as grouping the relevant countries into clusters with similar requirements and then creating a benchmark for the respective clusters. Data from the U.K., for example, might be used as a stand-in for data from the U.S., or Malaysian data for Indonesian. Drivers: On its own, gathering quantitative data on key card process metrics is not sufficient. Understanding what the key drivers are for each metric and which levers to adjust to affect performance is critical if you hope to translate your benchmarking findings into tangible improvement actions. Target setting: In our experience, it can be difficult, and sometimes inappropriate, to set market-specific targets for each metric—for several reasons:
• The data on certain markets is lacking. • Some metrics, such as approval rates, are determined by a strategic choice. • Some metrics, such as turnover per account, are overwhelmingly influenced by market factors. Even so, it may be appropriate to determine achievable ranges for target performance on the basis of the type of market—“emerging cards markets,” for instance, or “developed cards markets.” Quantitative benchmarking can provide an early indication of areas ripe for operational improvements and the transfer of best practices from market to market. But the most powerful insights come only when combining quantitative findings with more qualitative benchmarks.
But the most powerful insights come only when combining quantitative findings with more qualitative benchmarks.
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THE QUALITATIVE APPROACH
A key benefit of the multidimensional approach to benchmarking lies in its ability to corroborate the findings of each individual approach and derive further insights from the combination. Thus, qualitative benchmarking can help verify the hypotheses and insights generated from the quantitative benchmarking, and even reveal significant qualitative
operational differences that may remain masked when a solely quantitative approach is employed. Exhibits 3 and 4 lay out in detail the level chart tool we use to provide qualitative benchmarks throughout the credit card activity chain. Exhibit 3 describes the key activities across the credit card value chain.
Exhibit 3 Qualitative Benchmarking across the Credit Card Value Chain
Product development and management
Application processing and fulfillment
Transaction processing and statements/ payment
Customer awareness Advertising Sponsorships
Market research and analysis Product/program development Test and learn
Analysis Credit/ underwriting (prospect qualification) Campaign definition and execution Channel integration Test and learn/ response tracking Inbound sales Outbound sales
Application capture/entry Credit/ underwriting Manufacture and distribute Activation Other fulfillment activities - Points - Programs
Liquidity Low-cost funding Local currency
Transaction capture (monetary and points) Transaction authorization (monetary and points) Fraud investigation Data capture Bill processing, editing, printing, inserting, and mailing Remittance processing Adjustments
Call presentation and handling Call center management Customer, account, and reward program management (cross-sell, product and customer attributes, points management) Correspondence (paper, electronic) processing Charge-backs Loyalty and customer retention
Account analysis Collection activities Account closure
Group company (product sale referrals, customer profile management) Partner (partner customer account management, reward program management, campaigns/ special offers)
Product/yield management (limits, rates, fees) Yield management
Source: Booz & Company analysis
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Exhibit 4 defines the five capability levels for the “application processing and fulfillment” part of the value chain and describes representative activities typically observed at each capability level. Such charts allow organizations to make direct comparisons quickly and effectively, both among their operations in different markets and with industry benchmarks.
It is unlikely that any global card issuers will achieve “best in class” or “composite world class” in every activity area. Indeed, they probably should not strive to do so. Instead, they should focus their investments on developing and sustaining one or two key capabilities that are particularly well aligned with their overall business strategy.
Companies should focus on developing and sustaining one or two key qualitative benchmarking capabilities that are particularly well aligned with their overall business strategy.
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Gathering qualitative data can be a challenge. Making sure senior country managers get involved can help.
Exhibit 4 Application-Processing Maturity
Best in class
Composite world class
- The lowest level of activity that a responsible card issuer needs to provide to operate this activity - May meet regulatory requirements, but not good practice
- Underperformance compared with established and leading players - Often a marginalized or neglected area of activity - Suggests a weak point in the business model
- Standard practice, to be expected from any largescale or leading issuer - Has neither a competitive advantage nor disadvantage
- Advanced performance in this area - A source of differentiation from the market in this area
- The top capability for this area; combines the best observed practice across issuers - Frequently not yet in broad-based rollout
- Key in all form data - No completion checking - Manually store forms for regulatory purposes
- Key in data with basic field completion checking - Store scans of forms to capture signature
- Partially prefilled forms - Key in data - Basic field completion checking—some optical character recognition
- Link customer static data to existing customer records across group - Intelligent application forms to manage risk pricing - Highly automated decision making with artificial intelligence rule engines and counterpropositions for rejected applicants - Automated credit bureau referencing plus historical and dynamic referencing
- Single customer view across group - Central master record to prefill forms and prequalify customers
- Manual underwriting - Apply policy rules manually
- Basic scorecard application with tiered cutoffs - Manual underwriting backup - All applications checked manually against credit bureau
- Scorecard support by pre-/post-screening rules to tune underwriting outcomes - Automated exemption management with human oversight - Automated credit bureau referencing
- Customer self-selection from prequalified products - POS/instant decision making supported by sophisticated artificial intelligence rules and multiple scorecards - Bureau data electronically linked to underwriting system, and bureau model fully integrated into decision process - Differentiated service levels for new and replacement cards - Minimum order size of one - Localized printing - Customized fulfillment “while you wait”
Manufacture and distribute
- Basic card print and pack - Basic print, pack, and - Postal or delivery service dispatch - Turnaround 28 days - Include marketing/crossselling materials - Turnaround 14 days
- Differentiated packing and dispatch based on dispatch area risk - Link with customer profiling to manage insert selection - Turnaround 14 days
- Intelligent card batching to minimum efficient order quantities - Dynamically tailored fulfillment - Sourcing of card printing services to complement in-house capabilities - Call center activation with potential for cross-selling
- Automatic activation, no customer intervention
- Automatic activation of card, although some potential activation delay
- Dial-up activation via phone system
- Call center activation with potential for cross-selling
- Additional fulfillments - Two forms processed (e.g., loyalty/rewards) run separately (e.g., Amex/ independently Nectar in U.K.)
- Integrated application with single sourcing of data and linkage of rewards programs
- Integrated solution for rewards across different providers with card
- Predictive action of cards with loyalty - Cross-fertilization of behaviors and trends
Source: Booz & Company analysis
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Exhibit 5 illustrates three examples of how issuers might form an overall picture of their credit card capabilities and compare themselves with their competitors. Like most issuers, the three organizations in this example have made sure they are at least at the “qualified participant” level for the majority of their activities, while focusing their investment on developing and sustaining one or two key capability areas:
• Issuer 1 focuses on customer and product yield management. • Issuer 2 focuses on the affinity business. • Issuer 3 focuses on partnerships and segment/brand alignment. Gathering qualitative data can be a challenge. Making sure senior country managers get involved in assessing the current capabilities of
their card operations against each dimension of the level chart tool can help. This approach allows issuers to quickly develop a clear view of key capability gaps. Assessing the perceived capabilities of other leading competitors in a specific local market, where possible, can provide a further point of comparison with best practices in each local market. In addition, benchmark comparisons can also be built from proprietary databases of qualitative assessments of leading players.
Exhibit 5 Process Capabilities and Competitive Advantage
Brand management Product development & management Customer acquisition
Transaction processing/ statements Service/support 1
s as as si te w or om po ld cl
Leading multi-region issuer capability level 1 2 3
Source: Booz & Company capabilities assessment interviews
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The goal of every benchmarking effort is to gain a better understanding of how operations are performing in every area of the value chain, and then to translate that understanding into a program for reaching the target capability level in each area. In moving from insight to actual capability-building opportunities, senior management should ask the following questions: • To what extent are there any major capability gaps in the global organization? Are there any areas in which no market has achieved “qualified participant” status, for instance? • Where do key capabilities reside within the organization? In which markets can the best capabilities be found? • What are the key capability gaps within a particular market? What is needed to reach target capability?
• Given your strategic priorities, which gaps should be filled first? How should they be prioritized? • How can best practices be transferred from leading markets in order to fill gaps in priority markets? Once you have identified improvement opportunities, a variety of courses of action may be appropriate, depending on your organization’s strategic imperatives and existing capabilities. Senior management should review all of the potential courses of action, and seek to prioritize them to develop a clear and focused plan of action. Prioritization could be done by means of business case assessment for specific initiatives, or by alignment with specific strategic objectives. See “Capability Gaps and Courses of Action” (page 14) for several examples of how issuers facing business problems in particular areas closed the capability gaps that created the problem.
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Capability Gaps and Courses of Action The goal of multidimensional benchmarking is to compare operational capabilities in order to uncover areas that could be improved. Exhibit A provides examples of issues that may be uncovered through a multidimensional benchmarking exercise, and the kinds of actions that might be taken to address them.
Exhibit A Examples of Credit Card Capability Issues and Potential Remedies
Element of the Value Chain
Courses of Action
- Brand management is too customer-focused, with little evidence of product-focused brand building or advertising.
- Develop a mixed customer versus product (mono-line) approach where appropriate. Where the bank’s retail presence is nascent or where the existing banking base is relatively saturated, card-specific branding may be helpful to build awareness and differentiate a bank’s card product.
- The credit card organization is not perceived as a market leader in terms of product development. Focus often tends to be on product enhancements rather than outright product development. - Product development efforts tend to follow a customer-level approach, even though a mono-line (product-focused) approach may be more appropriate.
- Product development efforts need to be clear and tailored to reflect whether a customer-level or product-level (mono-line) approach is being used. - Customer segmentation approaches may need to become more card specific, focusing on factors such as activity level, risk class/revolving behavior, and lifestyle preferences. - A more standardized, global approach to product development may be warranted, including more consistent use of analytics, yield management tools, etc.
- Existing customer acquisition strategies focus on crossselling card products to existing bank customers, rather than targeting non–bank customers.
- Develop a differentiated customer product/channel value proposition in each market, offering something unique to customers to encourage them to choose your card over competitors’. - Differentiation could be achieved by a variety of means, including product innovation, partnerships, sponsorships, etc.
Source: Booz & Company analysis
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Very few leading players are ”best in class” in all dimensions. Thus, every global credit card organization can benefit from leveraging its global operating model and building better capabilities in multiple markets by transferring its best practices across markets. Rarely will one market lead in every dimension within an organization. We have also encountered organizations whose operational sophistication in a particular market is very high, but whose position in the market is already dominant, raising the question of whether it makes strategic sense to make further major operational investments in that market. Furthermore, although one market team may have developed leadingedge capabilities in one area, such as application processing, it may still be able to learn from other market teams about filling capability gaps in other elements of the value chain, such as collections. Establishing a small, central global credit card capability team may be an effective way of coordinating efforts across markets, building a standardized global credit
card operating model, and sharing best practices. Forming working groups and holding regular roundtable discussions that bring together senior management from country credit card teams can play a key role in sharing information and best practices and leveraging the global operating model. Finally, certain capabilities, such as analytics, typically cut across more than one part of the value chain. Yet global credit card organizations that have developed strong analytics capabilities at the group level often struggle to consistently leverage those capabilities across all markets. Certain markets, often emerging ones, may benefit from leveraging internal best practices—by learning from other markets’ leading-edge analytics capabilities. Generally, developing a more standardized global analytics capability that can be used across all markets should yield operational efficiencies. Again, however, prioritization is key. The first step: Review which specific analytical capabilities should be a priority for global rollout and standardization.
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To position for success in a globally diverse credit card market, card issuers must make sure they have a global operating model that leverages scale and builds world-class capabilities. Applying a purely quantitative benchmarking approach can often result in meaningless data or data that doesn’t adequately explain the causes
of performance differences. In contrast, a multidimensional benchmarking approach can be used to help identify key capability gaps and highlight key opportunity areas for building capabilities, transferring best practices across markets, and improving the overall effectiveness of an organization’s credit card operations.
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Resources Alan Gemes, Victor Koss, “Spending Power: Cards Strategy Series, Where Is the Value?” http://www.booz.com/ media/uploads/Spending_Power_ Cards_Strategy_Series.pdf Alan Gemes, Victor Koss, “Spending Power: Cards Strategy Series, International Growth Opportunities” http://www.booz.com/media/uploads/ Spending_Power.pdf
About the Authors Victor Koss is a partner with Booz & Company based in London. He works in the financial services practice, with a focus on retail and commercial banking business strategy, performance improvement, and restructuring. David Wyatt is a principal at Booz & Company based in Amsterdam. He works in the financial services practice and specializes in corporate banking, structured finance, and credit insurance. David Baldry is a senior associate at Booz & Company based in London. He works in the financial services practice, with international card issuers and associations.
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