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Why Branch Banking is Dying in America

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the end of branch banking

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The Briefing

  • In the last decade, 27,943 bank branches have closed in the U.S.
  • The increasing prominence of mobile and digital banking is leading to lighter demand for in-person banking services

Branch Banking Is Dying

The 2008-09 financial crisis was triggered by reckless banking practices that dominoed into the global economic system.

Though the world has since recovered and moved on from the crash, the banking system that ignited such damage has in some ways never been the same.

Take U.S. branch bank net openings, which is undergoing a notable trend reversal. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), for 11 years and counting, the number of U.S. bank branch closings has exceeded the number of branch openings.

YearOpeningsClosingsNet
20201,2512,788-1,537
20191,4603,090-1,630
20181,5633,134-1,571
20171,0652,986-1,921
20161,0842,826-1,742
20151,2092,689-1,480
20141,3512,996-1,645
20131,4702,500-1,030
20121,6232,570-947
20111,9012,364-463
20101,8972,892-995
20093,4572,877+580
20083,5622,300+1,262
20075,1682,024+3,144
20063,7591,609+2,150
20053,9472,026+1,921
20044,0952,217+1,878
20033,4042,271+1,133
20022,5562,469+87
20013,1932,982+211
20003,2743,826-552

There are fewer banks in America with every passing year—in 2020 alone, a deficit of 1,537 branches was recorded, almost 2% of the roughly 85,000 branches in the country.

Branching Towards Digital

Unsurprisingly, the fall in branch banking coincides with the adoption of digital activity in the banking space. And this is especially true for younger, tech-savvy generations.

Undoubtedly, convenience is a big factor, as now nearly 50% of traditional branch banking activity can be conducted online. As a result, mobile banking activity occurs most frequently on one’s couch or bed.

The Good Ol’ Days

The decline in the number of branch banks also reflects the overall downturn of the broader banking industry. In that, the industry faces a slew of challenges including:

1. Contracting net interest margins
Net interest margins are the difference between the interest income generated for financial institutions and the amount they pay to lenders.

2. Fintech industry disruption
Fintech is bridging the gap between finance and digitization, sleek modern technologies enable firms to optimize financial services and the customer experience.

3. More stringent reserve ratio regulations
Reserve ratios are a portion of reserves that a financial institution must hold onto rather than invest or lend.

Investors are fleeing to other avenues as is evident in the stock price performance of the big U.S. banks. As a result, underperformance has been a common theme in the last decade.

 Number of U.S. BranchesStock Price Performance
(Jan 2011 - Jan 2021)
Change Relative to S&P 500
JPMorgan Chase5,016208%+17%
S&P 500191%
Bank of America4,265116%-75%
U.S. Bancorp3,06776%-115%
Citigroup70425%-160%
Wells Fargo5,195-2%-193%

What Lies Ahead

Yet, despite the progress towards digital banking, the U.S. is still a laggard. For instance, large cohorts of Americans still use cash as a frequent transaction method, while the country’s mobile payment penetration rates are lower than most developed nations.

As a percentage of smartphone users, 29% of Americans have adopted mobile payments. A tepid figure relative to Denmark at 41%, and India at 37%.

America’s fierce economic rival, China, has a whopping 81% of smartphone users that have adopted mobile payments. That’s 801 million people, compared to America’s 69 million. Adjusting for population disparities, China still has 2.7x more mobile payment users.

If the U.S. follows on the path of other more fintech savvy countries, visiting a bank branch and using physical cash may become as increasingly antiquated as writing a check is today.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Notes: This data was updated last on January 8, 2021

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Datastream

Ranked: The Performance of Restaurant Stocks on the NYSE

Restaurants are increasingly digitally driven, and this shift can be seen in the recent performance of the 18 restaurant stocks on the NYSE.

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restaurant stocks 12 month performance

The Briefing

  • In the last 12 months, the performance of restaurant stocks on the NYSE ranges from 90% to -21%
  • The average return for restaurant stocks has been 16.8%, underperforming the NYSE Composite’s 23.8% over the same time period.
  • Executing on a digital ecosystem has been a big driver of value for the best performers on the list

Restaurant Stocks on the NYSE

Restaurants, arguably more than other industries, have had to adjust swiftly to a new and unrecognizable landscape during the pandemic. And the level of preparedness towards adverse and unpredictable conditions reflects in the last 12 month (LTM) stock price performance of the 18 restaurant stocks on the NYSE.

The performance for this basket of stocks ranges from a high of 90% to a low of -21%. The companies that have rewarded shareholders are at the forefront of industry trends, doubling down on a digital ecosystem through concepts like membership programs, ghost kitchens, delivery, and mobile sales.

Winners and Losers

The vast division of stock price performance has a David and Goliath component to it in that the larger companies with deeper pockets have had the ability to invest in modern initiatives.

The top five performing stocks have an average market cap of $14 billion, while the bottom five possess an average of $630 million.

StockLast 12 Month PerformanceMarket Cap ($M)
Brinker International, Inc.90.85%$3,120
Shake Shack, Inc.88.63%$4,970
Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc.70.19%$40,580
Yum China Holdings, Inc.37.53%$25,090
Luby's, Inc.32.92%$98
Darden Restaurants, Inc.28.26%$17,900
Flanigan's Enterprises, Inc.16.10%$44
Yum! Brands, Inc.6.18%$31,060
Biglari Holdings Inc.2.90%$356
Cannae Holdings, Inc.-1.87%$3,420
McDonald's Corporation-1.88%$153,690
Restaurant Brands International, Inc.-2.81%$27,580
Aramark-4.82%$9,650
J. Alexander's Holdings, Inc.-6.12%$131
Dine Brands Global, Inc-9.25%$1,330
Biglari holdings (Class A)-10.20%$363
Drive Shack Inc.-11.82%$238
Arcos Dorados Holdings Inc.-21.23%$1,100

Digital Haves and Have Nots

The same types of initiatives appear to be paying off, especially for the biggest winners.

  1. Brinker International has exceeded expectations with its ghost kitchen virtual offering—It’s Just Wings. A ghost kitchen is a restaurant optimized strictly for delivery, with a no dine-in approach and a condensed menu, they are intended to achieve higher margins.
  2. Shake Shack saw 60% of shack sales go digital in Q3’20. Their digital footprint is expected to grow along with their target to open 50-60 new locations in 2021.
  3. Chipotle’s loyalty rewards member program reached 17 million members as of late. Furthermore, digital sales grew 177% year-over-year in their fourth quarter, and nearly 50% of revenues are now derived from digital orders.
  4. Dine-in Drought

    Those in negative territory have not had the same good fortune. They tend to be sit-down establishments suffering from drastic falls in foot traffic.

    Without a pre-existing digital presence to reach customers, sales run the risk of taking a nosedive. Hospitality workers are among those hardest hit by the pandemic, and a lack of demand for hospitality labor again points to the dire circumstances for some sit-down restaurants.

    Delivery Mania

    For the food industry, the fall in foot traffic is partially offset by the rise in food delivery. Pure play companies in the food delivery space like DoorDash and Grubhub have fared well. Grubhub reported 622,700 Daily Average Grubs (daily deliveries) in 2020, up from 492,300 from the year prior. And for Uber, growth in the delivery segment of their business has buoyed the decline in ride hailing.

    With the vaccine rollouts in play, the restaurant stocks on the NYSE may get a much-needed boost. But pandemic or not, the digital trends in the restaurant space will continue to shape the industry after COVID-19 just as it has done prior.

Where does this data come from?

Source: Top Foreign Stocks
Notes: Data is as of March 1, 2021

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Charted: Money Can Buy Happiness After All

We’ve heard that money can only buy happiness up to a certain point. But a new study suggests cut-off may be a lot higher than we thought.

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The Briefing

  • Previous research has indicated that money stops buying happiness after $75,000/year
  • However, new research finds a strong correlation between income and happiness, trending upwards even after $80,000/year

In One Chart: Money Can Buy Happiness After All

What’s the relationship between money and happiness? Previous studies have indicated that, while money can in fact buy happiness, it plateaus at approximately $75,000/year.

However, new research suggests otherwise.

Using over a million real-time reports from a large U.S. sample group, a recent study found that happiness increases linearly with reported income (logarithmic), and continues to rise beyond the $80,000/year mark.

Below, we’ll provide more details on the research methodology, while touching on a few possible reasons why higher incomes may improve people’s happiness levels.

How is Happiness Measured?

Past research on happiness relative to income has relied on retrospective data, which leaves room for human memory errors. In contrast, this new study uses real-time, logged data from a mood tracking app, allowing for a more accurate representation of respondents’ experienced well-being.

Data was also collected by random prompts over a period of time, with dozens of entries logged for each single respondent. This provides a more well-rounded representation of a person’s overall well-being.

Two forms of well-being were measured in this study:

  • Experienced well-being
    A person’s mood and feeling throughout daily life.
  • Evaluative well-being:
    Someone’s perception of their life upon reflection.

Both forms of well-being increased with higher incomes, but evaluative well-being showed a more drastic split between the lower and higher income groups.

The Results (Measured in Standard Deviations from Mean)

Annual IncomeWell-Being (Experienced)Well-Being (Evaluative)
$15,000-0.21-0.34
$25,000-0.11-0.32
$35,000-0.09-0.19
$45,000-0.06-0.15
$55,000-0.05-0.07
$65,000-0.03-0.04
$75,000-0.01-0.02
$85,0000.010.03
$95,0000.030.01
$112,5000.040.08
$137,5000.060.17
$175,0000.080.17
$250,0000.170.24
$400,0000.190.35
$625,0000.150.38

Why Does Money Buy Happiness?

The report warns that any theories behind why happiness increases with income are purely speculative. However, it does list a few possibilities:

  • Increased comfort
    As someone earns more, they may have the ability to purchase things that reduce suffering. This is particularly true when comparing low to moderate income groups—larger incomes below $80,000/year still showed a strong association with reduced negative feelings.
  • More control
    Control seems to be tied to respondents’ happiness levels. In fact, having a sense of control accounted for 74% of the association between income and well-being.
  • Money matters
    Not all respondents cared about money. But for those who did, it had a significant impact on their perceived well-being. In general, lower income earners were happier if they didn’t value money, while higher income earners were happier if they thought money mattered.

Whatever the cause may be, one thing is clear—Biggie Smalls was wrong. Looks like more money doesn’t necessarily mean more problems.

»Like this? Then you might enjoy this article, Which Countries are the Most (and Least) Happy?

Where does this data come from?

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Details: Participants were 33,391 employed adults living in the United States; median age was 33; median household income was $85,000/y (25th percentile = $45,000; 75th percentile = $137,500; mean = $106,548; SD = $95,393); 36% were male; and 37% were married

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