Banking Industry of a country serves and fulfills quite a lot of essential requirements and the needs of its individuals. The arena of consumer financing is thus one of the pertinent areas that are the forte of Banks. One of the major tools used for serving this area are credit cards. Because of their growing importance, banks should be particularly conscious about maintaining and introducing consumer friendly policies so as to increase the profitability of their bank and to be able to increase their market share by satisfying their customers. Pakistan in particular witnessed the decline of consumer financing in the past decade. The decline occurred because of lack of trust in the banking industry by the consumers and also because there were no formal regulations regarding the policies of consumer financing, banks had to face a huge pool of non-performing loans. With the advent of strict and formal prudential regulations implemented by the State Bank of Pakistan, consumer financing began reviving and thus there arose a need of credit cards for which various banks started making efforts. CitiBank was the pioneer of consumer financing in Pakistan. Habib Bank Limited was the first bank to introduce credit card and then other banks followed suit. Currently, the major players of consumer financing are Muslim Commercial Bank, Bank ALfalah, Allied Bank Limited, Silk Bank and United Bank Limited.
This report analyzes and explains the importance of credit cards and the switching behavior of the credit card holders of United Bank Limited as soon as they introduced the chip maintenance fee without prior notice to its consumers. Because of this particular action taken by the Bank’s management, not only did the consumers switched to the credit cards of other banks and defaulted on their accounts at United Bank Limited, but their action also resulted in colossal losses to the Bank. The objective of this report is thus to analyze the impact caused on the credit card of United Bank Limited because of this unannounced chip maintenance fee and to present the recommendations and solutions for the damage caused to the bank’s profitability and brand equity. In order to meet the set objectives of the report, a hybrid method of research was used consisting of both primary and secondary research. The major tools used for conducting primary research were consumer surveys and interviews with the concerned consumer financing staff of United Bank Limited. The insights of in depth interviews and questionnaires gave revelations about the causes, immediate impact and after effects of the action taken by the management of the Bank. The secondary sources used consisted of articles from the journals, newspapers and online resources. The sources thus used involved exploratory research from secondary sources and self-administered questionnaires consisting of both disguised and open ended questions. The results were thereby compiled on the basis of qualitative and quantitative data gathered from processing of the information gained through these sources. As a result of the vigorous research, a number of observations and findings were made regarding the research problem. Firstly, since United Bank Limited did not announce the increase in charges of the credit cards a lot of consumers felt that the action was unjustified and switched to the credit cards of competitor banks like Muslim Commercial Bank, Bank Alfalah and Silk Bank which introduced a credit card with relaxed terms and conditions.
Also, since consumers were not willing to pay this additional fee as revealed by the results of the consumer survey, they began to default. The defaults faced by the bank were of two kinds that is willful default and consumers’ inability to pay because of lower income levels. Another finding that came out was that most of the credit card holders were also the consumers of branch banking and thus United Bank Limited had to face colossal losses and defaults because of the switching behavior of these credit card holders. Majority of the respondents of the consumer survey also stated that they would prefer using the credit card of United Bank Limited if the fee is removed and new incentives are offered along with assurance of the convenience factor. Based on the findings and analysis of the surveys and the detailed insights behind the step taken by the United Bank Limited, a number of recommendations have been made in the report. These include introduction of various offers to the NTBs which are New to the Bank customers so as to improve the market share of the bank. These customers can be offered free services for a limited time if they use the credit card of the bank. In order to recover the defaults, the bank can offer relaxed charges to the consumers so that they can recover at least some, if not all the losses which were the result of this fee. Apart from that the bank should improve their credit card services and introduce incentives to the credit cardholders if they use it for a particular amount to encourage the usage of the card. Therefore, it becomes evident that since credit cards are in huge demand in the country, United Bank Limited should not ignore this area for earning profits. Thus, efforts should be made where the prudential regulations are followed, new incentives are introduced, brand equity is improved and eventually the bank becomes able to recover their losses and improve their profitability and their market share as a final frontier.
Introduction of the Firm
The foundation of United Bank Limited was laid by Agha Hassan Abedi in 1959. The operations of the bank were nationalized by the government of Pakistan in 1972. However, several years later, in 2002, the bank was sold to a consortium of Abu Dhabi Group and Bestway Group. In that same year, the operations of the bank were merged in the United Kingdom along with the operations belonging to the National Bank of Pakistan in order to establish a new bank United National Bank Limited. UBL, of the newly formed joint venture, has an ownership of about 55% whereas the remaining 45% are owned by the National Bank of Pakistan.1 Immediately after its establishment, a few months later UBL had expanded its operations in the country by June 1960. The bank opened its branches in the following cities
- Chittagong and Naravangani
United Bank Limited is a part of the big five banks of Pakistan and is therefore one of the largest commercial banks of Pakistan. United Bank Limited has thus a huge branch network spread throughout the country and it comprises of more than 1220 online branches within the country. Apart from the operations in the country UBL has fifteen branches outside the country as well in the following countries:
United States of America
- UAE and
- Republic of Yemen
Apart from this, UBL also has representative offices in the countries of Tehran, Iran and Kazakhstan and the bank also owns some subsidiaries in United Kingdom as well as in Zurich, Scotland.3 United Bank Limited has a major competency and that is their strong belief in the culture of innovation and adapting and changing constantly according to the evolving technologies and environmental changes. Because of the need of the changing times, United Bank Limited became the first bank to introduce a credit card in Pakistan. The first credit card of Pakistan was thus introduced and brought in the country by the United Bank Limited in the decade of 1970’s by the name of “UNICARD”. Apart from having a first mover advantage in the introduction of credit cards in the country UBL was also the first bank to start the Islamic banking operations in Pakistan and was also the first to offer e banking facilities to the citizens of the country following its core competency of innovation and change.
United Bank Limited is operating according to the following mission statement: Set the highest industry standard for quality, across all areas of operation, on a sustained basis Optimize people, processes and technology to deliver the best possible financial solution to our customers Become the most sought after investment, and Be recognized as the employer of choice5
The following is the vision statement of the bank, United Bank Limited: “To be a world class bank dedicated to excellence, and to surpass the highest expectations of our customers and all other stakeholders.”
6 Core Values:
- Honesty and integrity
- Commitment and dedication
- Fairness and meritocracy
- Teamwork and collaborative spirit
- Humility and mutual respect
- Caring and socially responsible7
Products and Services of the Firm:
United Bank Limited offers a wide range of banking services and it is also providing non-resident Pakistanis with a variety of services and offerings under the head of NRP services for the ease and facilitation of Pakistanis living abroad. The services of United Bank Limited are therefore classified under two categories: 1. Banking Services and
2. Non Resident Pakistani (NRP) Services
UBL is currently offering the following banking services:
“A consumer loan is an amount of money lent to an individual (usually on a non-secured basis) for personal, family, or household purposes. Consumer loans are monitored by government regulatory agencies for their compliance with consumer protection regulations such as the Truth in Lending Act.”8 UBL is offering different consumer laon facilities such as UBL Address (Home financing facility), UBL business line (Business financing loan), UBL Cashline (running financing facility), UBL Drive (auto loan financing facility) and UBL Silah Mila.
A service offered by the UBL for its high priority and high potential clients. Premium services are offered by the bank to such clients in order to ensure customer retention.
Corporate banking specifically deals with the corporate and business clients of the bank who bring in huge deposits.
In order to offer banking services in all rural and urban areas of Pakistan, UBL has started branchless banking by providing banking services to the nearest dukaans so that everyone can take advantage of it.
The Islamic banking initiative of the bank that offers a lot of Islamic products and services. f) CARD PRODUCTS:
UBL also offers a variety of card brand services including prepaid cards and credit and debit cards. g) RETAIL ASSET PRODUCTS:
In order to facilitate the farmers and small businessmen who wish to establish their own businesses UBL offers them Agriculture Finance Scheme
and Small Business Scheme facilities.
UBL is one of the very few banks that provide investment banking services to its clients and it is one of the largest and most experienced investment banking groups and has a professionals of 19 experienced investment bankers who provide professional services.
The product portfolio of deposit products also offers a variety of products in its deposit product portfolio such as UBL Uniflex, UBL business partner and UBL unisaver etc.
OTHER RETAIL PRODUCTS:
Since the major core competency of the bank lies in innovation, UBL offers several services such as insurance and payroll requisites of small businessmen through UBL pay partner services.
TREASURY AND CAPITAL MARKETS:
The team of UBL TCM has been awarded in the recent years for providing innovative services and providing the bank and its customers with profitable ventures and have specifically excelled in the skills of derivatives and structured solutions
UBL also provides e banking services to its clients and is an innovator in introducing these services in Pakistan.9
NON RESIDENT PAKISTANI SERVICES:
The services provided by the bank for facilitating the clients that are abroad and are non residents of Pakistan are the following:
- UBL Click N Bank
- UBL Click N Remit
- NRP Direct
- UBL Tezraftar
- UBL Tezraftar Accounting Services
- UBL Tezraftar Pardes Card
- UBL and Western Union10
Banks are required all over the globe for managing transactions and ensuring smooth monetary flow in every country. They have always been used as facilitators in terms of extending credit to promote business activity. Loans can either be extended to individual consumers or corporates and the returns gained are then invested to make and earn profits.
Banking Industry of Pakistan
In the infant years of Pakistan’s banking sector, the industry was majorly dominated by five state owned commercial banks. However, because of nationalization, Pakistan’s banking industry could not grow rapidly and therefore it was felt that these banks should be privatized. This was a part of the banking reforms of 1990’s. Two state owned banks, Muslim Commercial Bank and Allied Bank Limited were privatized on the priority basis and that is when the era of nationalization began to end in the banking industry. Later, when another major bank United Bank Limited was privatized, a severe blow struck to the banking industry’s nationalization and privatization began ruling the sector. Ever since then, immense growth was witnessed by the country in this particular sector. According to a report issued by International Monetary Fund in 2004, due to the increased strength of State Bank of Pakistan, the banking industry grew stronger and became more resistant to shocks. That is when, the banks emerged as a sound component of the entire financial sector. Not only banks, but other financial institutions also began growing stronger due to prudential regulations of State Bank of Pakistan. Some of the major events and changes that mark the history of banking evolution are summarized below: Unlike the early years, where majority of the assets were held by the nationalized banks, currently approximately 80% banking assets are with the banks of the private sector. Because of privatization, the negative environment of bureaucracy subsided and professionalism began seeping into the system.11 The risk management practices of the commercial banks have also been improved. This is ensured by increasing the minimum capital requirement for banks. Initially, MCR was merely rupees 500 million and over a period of time has been increased to rupees 10 billion. This has been done through the profits earned by the banks which had become inefficient in the period of nationalization.12 With
the introduction of online reports issued by the Credit Information Bureau, the loan giving policies have been improved and more stringent. Through these measures and newly introduced policies, an efficient check can be maintained about the consumers’ credit history. This ECIB report has also helped in the reduction of non-performing loans and has helped in building the trust of individuals in the banking sector and vice versa.13 Over the period of time, the improvement in banking technology has lead to the facilitation of banking clients and thus brought in the concept of convenience, flexibility and efficiency. The introduction of credit cards, debit cards, ATMs and RTGs ( Real Time Gross Settlement Systems) the banking sector’s technological environment has been completely revolutionized.14 The business of banking sector has witnessed immense diversification in terms of products and services that it offers to its individual clients. Banks are currently engaged in almost all kinds of businesses. They have their expertise in giving out loans, insurance management, investment banking, SMEs, mortgages and housing finance.
Current Situation of the Banking Sector
Even though the introduction of banking reforms and other evolutional banking policies brought immense profits and success to the banking sector, there are certain issues that still need to be resolved. Since, minimum capital requirements have been increased; there are nine banks which are still facing problems for raising deposits to meet these requirements. Most of the banks that are facing these problems are majorly banks that are small or medium sized. This problem has surfaced as a problem of immediate concern because a huge part of these deposits lie with banks that are large in size. The growth is shown prominently by those five banks which are considered to be largest in the banking industry of Pakistan. Apart from these banks, the only banks that show some growth are large foreign banks, others are facing serious problems in raising deposits.15 Another issue of immediate concern for the banking industry is currently regarding the economic and political environment which is posing serious threats to the society. A number of foreign banks are leaving the country and wrapping up their operations in Pakistan. Even though the overall profitability of the banking sector has been improved, and these foreign banks are earning large profits too, however, these profits rae not large enough for these banks to continue
operating in Pakistan. Also because of the global European crisis, foreign banks had to do a lot of restructuring in their international operations, for their profits at home had to be reduced.
History of Consumer Financing
Worldwide EvoLVEMENT AND GROWTH
The consumers’ need for loans for products such as buying cars, furnitures, building and repairing homes, sewing machines and other domestic products has been there since times immemorial. However, the concept of consumer loans or consumer financing is relatively new. This concept started to evolve in the 19th century but the demand for such products was relatively low at that time. Slowly and gradually, the concept started to grow its roots and emerged as a new field of banking by the name of consumer financing in the 20th century. Banks all over the globe had to introduce it to meet the demands and needs of the consumer and to provide him with competitive rates for consumer loans. They knew that the inability to do so would result in competitive failures and colossal losses. Consumer financing only recently began developing because initially they were unable to assess the creditworthiness of the borrowers and so were reluctant and hesitant in giving out loans to meet the daily products’ needs of their consumers. With the passage of time, after the enforcement of prudential regulations and other stringent practices adopted by the banks to ensure creditworthiness and to reduce the ratio of NPL’s banks could get into this field more conveniently and by adopting a smug approach could easily do so. Also, they were thereby able to manage the costs of such loans as well.16 GROWTH
The increased demand for consumer credit started to build after the rapid growth of urbanization all over the world. Because of an increased demand in the consumer products, mass production of these goods had to be undertaken to meet the demand. The growth became even stronger after the end of World War II in 1945 and evolved fully in the 20th century. On the basis of a recent survey conducted by Federal Reserve on consumer finances, it has been revealed that 76% of the families in U.S carried some form of debt burden in the year 2004 and before that the proportion of such families was even
higher than this.17 Before giving out loans to the consumers, financial institutions have to account for those borrowers who won’t be willing or able to pay back their debt and so there arises a need for ensuring creditworthiness of the borrower. The mechanisms for doing so have also been improved over the years by segmenting consumers on the basis of different default criteria to mitigate or at least be able to reduce the risk that the bank might get exposed to while giving out such a loan. Because of improved technologies and better ability of banks to segment such customers the growth in consumer loans has been increased.18 CONSUMER FINANCING IN PAKISTAN
The pioneer of consumer financing in Pakistan was Citibank. Citibank introduced it by launching some products in 1990 and it immediately became a success. Following the footsteps of Citibank, many commercial and other banks started getting involved in this by offering lucrative rates and offers to encourage consumer financing. The banking sector has been actively involved in encouraging consumer financing over the past few years by offering a variety of products. The consumer loans reached Rs.325 billion during 2006, and further increased to Rs.354.4 billion in June 2007. However, as soon as the banks started increasing consumer financing facilities the profitability rose and so did the interest rates, consumer financing started declining in the years 2008-2010. The reason for this can be considerable increase in the ratio of non-performing loans and high interest rates being charged.19
In order to obtain consumer loans, the consumers are required to go through a procedure designed by the banks to fulfill the formalities of loan giving procedures. The consumer cycle can be more easily understood by looking at the figure below:
Source: UBL Internal sources
TYPES OF LOANS:
A loan is a general agreement between a lender and a borrower on some interest terms spread over a specified period. The loan can either be
secured or unsecured and examples are autos and mortgages. A secured loan is the one which is given out by keeping some asset or property of the borrower as a collateral which can be sold if the borrower defaults or fails to pay back. The examples are autos and mortgages. An unsecured loan on the other hand is the one where no collateral is pledged by the borrower and is therefore a more risky kind of loan because the burden of the loan has to borne by the lender. Most of the consumer financing being practiced these days in Pakistan is unsecured and that is why the consumer financing has been revived again in Pakistan. The examples of unsecured loans are credit cards and running finances.
BANKS INVOLVED IN CONSUMER FINANCING IN PAKISTAN:
- Bank Alfalah- Cards and Autos
- MCB- Cards and Autos
- UBL-Cards, Cashline, Autos (Mortgages)
- Dubai Islamic Bank
- HBL- Ready Cash
- Standard Chartered Bank- Cards
- HSBC- Cards
- Faysal Bank- getting aggressive in consumer financing by offering various products20
CREDIT CARDS BY LOCAL BANKS
- Bank Name
- Max Limit
- (rs in million)
- Max Interest Rate(%)
- Soneri Bank
CREDIT CARDS BY FOREIGN BANKS
- Bank Name
- Max Limit
- (Rs in million)
- Max Interest Rate(%)
- Citi Bank
State Bank of Pakistan
While giving out loans to the consumers, banks have to monitor and assess the credit worthiness of the borrower which is now performed by Credit Information Bureau (CIB) in Pakistan. However, initially, banks did not have any guidelines or limitations by the regulatory authority for giving out the loans to the consumers and so in the year 2003, for the first time, prudential regulations were issued by the central bank of Pakistan i.e State Bank. These Prudential regulations are to be followed by all the banks engaged in consumer financing in order to mitigate the risk. State Bank of Pakistan in collaboration with the Pakistan Banking Association devised the separate guidelines for different sectors such as corporate, consumer and SME financing. Separate guidelines are devised for different categories of loans within the consumer financing.21 These are as follows: CREDIT CARDS
The banks / DFIs should take reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that cardholders have received the cards, whether personally or by mail Banks / DFIs shall provide to the credit card holders, the statement of account at monthly intervals Banks / DFIs shall be liable for all transactions not authorized by the credit cardholders after they have been properly served with a notice that the card has been lost / stolen. However, the bank’s / DFI’s liability shall be limited to those amounts wrongly charged to the credit card holder’s account. In case the cardholders make partial payment, the banks / DFIs should take into account the partial payment before charging service fee / mark-up amount on the outstanding / billed amount so that the possibility of charging excess amount of mark-up could be avoided. Due date for payment must be specifically mentioned on the accounts statement. Maximum unsecured limit under credit card to a borrower (supplementary cards shall be considered part of the principal borrower) shall generally not exceed Rs500,000/. Banks / DFIs may, however, assign a clean limit beyond Rs 500,000 but not in excess of Rs 2 million to their prime customers who have extraordinary strong repayment capacity, moderate debt burden and a clean track record. Banks / DFIs may also allow financing under the credit card scheme in excess of Rs 500,000/- (up to Rs 2 million) to other customers as well, provided the excess amount is appropriately secured23
CREDIT CARDS IN PAKISTAN:
Habib Bank Limited was the first bank in Pakistan to introduce the concept of credit cards in the country. The card that was launched by HBL was their gold card. However, the credit cards began gaining growth and popularity in Pakistan during the decade of 1990’s. This is the time when Citibank, which is the pioneer of consumer financing launched their own credit card by the name of Citibank Pakistan Visa Card. Citibank being the pioneer of consumer financing was capable of gaining customers instantly and so that time is marked in the history as a turning point for the credit cards countrywide. Immediately after the launch of citibank’s credit card, many other banks also introduced their services in the credit card business. The banks that followed first in this respect were NBP, MCB and Bank of America. Gradually, various different types of credit cards were introduced in the country and currently there are the following main types of credit cards that are in use:
1BALANCE TRANSFER CARD
This is the type of card which is most commonly used for the purpose of transferring a balance with higher percentage to a card that offers low annual percentage rate (APR)24
INSTANT APPROVAL CARD
In case an individual needs credit instantly, then such a card is there to provide them with instant approval on credit depending on the sound credit history from specific banks25
BUSINESS CREDIT CARD
A business credit card is the one that offers the provision of keeping business accounts separate from the personal accounts. This facilitates tax payment and business planning expenses easier. Sometimes, additional credit cards are provided to employees for their travel and other such expenses.26
STUDENT CREDIT CARD
This is one of the most common type of credit cards amongst teenagers and university students. These cards have lower credit limits. Also, such cards come with fewer rewards in order to keep a track of their spending patterns and to control them27
PREPAID CREDIT CARD
Prepaid credit card functions like a secured credit card in terms of credit limit. This credit limit is directly dependent on the security payment that the card holder must pay upfront. It functions like a regular credit card in all other aspects.28
REWARD CREDIT CARDS
Reward credit cards are those credit cards that provide its holders with certain incentives or rewards on the usage upto a limit or on collection of some points.29
United Bank Limited
The net income for the bank has constantly been increasing over the past three years which means the bank has made a remarkable effort to improve its profits by earning interest revenue and gains on the investments made in different sectors. Also it can be gauged that probably the bank was able to manage its interest expenses in an efficient manner and so was able to generate more revenues. Also it could be because the branches have been increasing and consumers have started using online facilities of internet banking.
Earnings per share is a good perimeter of measuring the earnings that the shareholders have been getting over the years by injecting their money in it through purchasing of stocks. This also shows the shareholders the performance of the bank and whether they are earning income on it or not. An increase shows that the bank has been able to generate revenues more than the expenses. As far as United Bank Limited is concerned, The figure has constantly been improving and shows the profitability improvement of the bank within three years.
The investments of the bank have been constantly been rising which shows that the gains over the years were significant enough and so the operations apart from the core activities of the bank have also been generating revenues for the bank. Overall, in terms of profitability, the bank’s performance has been quite satisfactory. And the future profitability seems to be increasing as well based on the previous trend.
By taking a look at the net advances that have been given out to the clients over the past three years, it becomes evident that the increase in branches has brought more business for the bank and that can be seen by looking at the trend of advances over the past three years.
GROSS SPREAD RATIO:
Source: Adapted from Annual Reports 2009-2011,UBL
The spread of a bank is calculated as the difference between yield on assets and the cost of funds. The higher the ratio, the better is the profitability of the bank. For United Bank Limited, the Gross spread has constantly been increasing over the past three years. This means that the bank was successful in generating revenues more than the cost of providing funds. And it also shows that the profitability of interest revenue is constantly increasing in the bank.
RETURN ON ASSETS
Source: Adapted from Annual Reports 2009-2011,UBL
The return on assets is calculated to show the utilization of all the assets for generating income in a company or a bank. It shows that how effectively is the management using its assets for generating revenues. As for United Bank Limited, this ratio has also been constantly increasing over the past three years which means that the management of the bank is efficiently using its assets for generating revenues. In a bank however, for measuring profitability, return on equity provides more meaningful insights which is explained below
RETURN ON EQUITY
Source: Adapted from Annual Reports 2009-2011,UBL
Return on equity is the most important profitability parameter of a bank. It can be used to assess whether the bank is generating revenues and that too from the core activities or non core activities. The breakdown of the net income can reveal this information by which more detailed analysis can be made. For the United Bank Limited, the ratio of return on equity has also constantly been increasing over the past three years. This is because the detailed analysis of income statement shows that the interest revenue and gain from other investments has been constantly rising. However, the revenue received from giving out loans is far more than the gain on investments. Therefore, it can be easily said that the bank is making profits from its core activities and so the profitability can be termed as sustainable in the long run as well and bank is expected to show profit improvements in the coming years as well.
IMPAIRED LENDING TO GROSS FINANCES
Source: Adapted from Annual Reports 2009-2011,UBL
This ratio shows that out of the total advances given out by the bank to its clients how many are termed as bad loans or are being classified as impaired loans. For United Bank Limited, this ratio has constantly been increasing as well. This means that since the loans being given out over the years are constantly rising so are the no of borrowers who are defaulting. Also the graph shows that this increase has been significant and that the bank needs to take appropriate stringent measures to avoid the further increase in its impaired lending. They need to make the creditworthiness assessment parameters more stringent and strict.
Muslim Commercial Bank
Muslim Commercial Bank, along with United Bank Limited is one of the leading
banks of Pakistan. Muslim Commercial Bank was established on July 9th in the year 1947 before independence of Pakistan. MCB believes in prudent banking practices, ethical business principles and technological development to provide superior banking services to its clients. Just like all the other companies and banks in Pakistan MCB was also nationalized in the decade of 70’s in the year 1974. However, after the end of nationalization era, MCB was also privatized to the Nishat Group lead Consortium in the year 1991.30 MCB has been showing phenomenal growth ever since it has been privatized. MCB has not only been successful in Pakistan but has also been successful abroad in Sri Lanka. As far as serving its own country is concerned, besides that, Global Depository Receipts were also introduced for the first time by MCB in Pakistan in the year 2006. MCB is operating in these countries through its indirect operations:
- Dubai (UAE)
- Hong Kong and
MCB has a huge branch network of 1130 along with 600 ATM’s throughout Pakistan with a customer base of 4.5 million.33
BANK ALFALAH LIMITED
As compared to United Bank Limited and Muslim Commercial Bank of Pakistan, Bank Alfalah is rather a younger bank. It was established on June 21st in the year 1992 as a public limited bank under Companies Ordinance of 1984. The banking operations however started in the year 1997 i.e 5 years after its establishment. The registered office of Bank Alfalah is at B.A.Building, I. I. Chundrigar Road, Karachi. Bank Alfalah has its presence in the following countries: Pakistan
- Bangladesh and
The management of the bank has been making keen efforts to introduce and implement new strategies to make their bank stand out from the other banks. During the past five years, Bank Alfalah has evolved as one of the few banks striving to meet the needs of tomorrow today.35
This graph shows that in terms of earning spread Muslim Commercial Bank is the most profitable bank as their spread is more than the other two banks i.e UBL and Bank Alfalah in all the three years. However, another thing that needs to be seen is that both UBL and Bank Alfalah have been showing a rising trend even if it is a slight increase but MCB’s spread dropped by a huge percentage in the year 2010 but again increased in the year 2011. UBL can therefore compete with MCB which seems to be most profitable.
RETURN ON ASSETS
The return on assets ratio has also been constantly high for MCB in all the three years. The ratio however has been constant throughout this period for MCB bank whereas ratios for the other two banks have constantly been increasing showing an improvement in profitability. So in terms of return on assets as well the ratio shows that MCB ranks better than the remaining two banks.
RETURN ON EQUITY
As already mentioned, the return on equity ratio is the most pertinent ratio for a bank and again for comparison purposes the graph drawn shows that MCB has the best ratio figures as compared to the other two banks but UBL has been following closely and since the detailed analysis shows that the source of revenue is sustainable for UBL it is likely to give a tough competition to MCB in the future.
EQUITY TO TOTAL ASSETS
IMPAIRED LENDING TO GROSS FINANCES
For assessing the impaired loans to total advances ratios of all the banks the graph shows that the worst performer has been United Bank Limited and is unable to manage its impaired advances. The lowest ratio of impaired lending to total advances is in Bank Alfalah because it has lower proportion of advances. MCB however has more advances than the other two banks and yet has lesser impaired loans as compared to the United Bank Limited. This shows that MCB has adopted more strict policies for assessing the creditworthiness of its borrowers and is doing better than other banks.36
Research Problem and Methodology
Consumer financing has immense importance for the economic progress of a country if seen and analyzed through a macroeconomic view point. Easy availability of credit helps fulfill the needs of millions of individuals who are unable to raise finance for their personal needs be it in terms of acquiring and purchasing a new car, getting loans for studies of the children or for financing their houses. The concept of consumer financing and credit cards in particular was introduced to serve various purposes such
as convenience, reliability, easy and inexpensive transactions facility and also to avoid the hassle of carrying cash all the time. With the growing insecurity and rising crime rates in Pakistan this is one way to secure your money. However, if these benefits are reversed and turned into the disadvantages than the entire concept is shaken and consumers will no longer feel the need of using credit cards. Therefore, banks need to ensure that they continually provide these benefits to the credit card holders and avoid losing them for that would bring a bad name and loss of revenues and customer equity. Even though there is no denial to the importance of consumer financing, However, because of rising Non performing loans and rising skeptical credit worthiness of borrowers it has been declining and banks are giving more importance to the businesses. United Bank Limited is currently facing a similar problem of remarkable increase in the default ratio of individuals who were their consumers of credit cards. Initially, when the cards were launched, there were no additional charges on its usage. However, after two years, they introduced annual membership fee and chip maintenance charges because of which the consumers started defaulting and switched to other banks like Bank Alfalah which sustained its initial policies regarding credit cards.37
The research question that needs to be analyzed and probed into based on the problem statement mentioned above is that
“What is the impact of introduction of annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee on the UBL’s credit card product and its consumers?” RESEARCH OBJECTIVES:
Based on the area of research mentioned, the research that has been conducted involves certain specific objectives. These objectives include: To study and analyze the impact of weak banking regulations that is responsible for default on credit cards. To find out how many consumers have defaulted on the credit card of UBL after introduction of additional charges To find out how many consumers have switched after the introduction of additional charges of annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee To identify the need of educating the individuals about consumer financing in order to promote it in Pakistan. To make an effort to identify existing gaps in the
system and mechanisms that are hindering the growth of credit cards in UBL. To analyze the measures taken by the credit department of United Bank Limited and seeing if they are stringent enough to identify the credit worthiness of the borrower To analyze the past trends of default and consumption of credit cards and its prospective scope of improvement and profitability in Pakistan in general and UBL in particular
For conducting the in depth research on the problem statement that has already been explained and to implore answers into the research question formulated above, a proper research methodology had to be mapped out. For this particular purpose, considering the area of research chosen, it is evident that exploratory research alone would not have sufficed. Therefore, the research undertaken involves both the exploratory and survey research methods. Another reason for using this particular combination is the fact that qualitative data when combined with the quantitative data, provides a more meaningful insight into the solutions to the problems under study. Literature review, that has already been written above is a proof of the fact that exploratory research has been used for serving the purpose of research. Also, exploratory research heavily depends on the secondary data which has been taken from various different sources such as: Company and competitor websites
- Company and competitor annual reports
- Online articles
- Trade Journals
- Student Reports
- Research articles
Exploratory research method was opted because it helps in defining the concepts that are to be used in the procedure of the research. An initial clarification of confusion is thus required and necessary for conducting research before any primary data is gathered and analyzed. Likewise, exploratory research helped in getting familiar with the consumer financing
in general and then about credit cards and their detail in Pakistan in particular. As has already been mentioned that the procedure involved both the use of exploratory research and survey research therefore, in order to gather primary results this aspect of research methodology was also intertwined into the research process. Survey research provides a major benefit of improving the validity of the results through the first hand information that is gathered. The methods of survey research involve the following: The first is that of questionnaires administered personally. These questionnaires are technically known as “self-administered questionnaires” A few interviews were also conducted with the concerned employees of United Bank Limited that handle recovery and consumer financing issues. These include District Recovery Manager, MIS Manager and the Head of Consumer Financing. The questions of the consumer survey were a hybrid of disguised, open ended and structured questions to gain better insights into the responses of the survey. In all, because of the time constraint, 30 consumer surveys were filled. The results were then tabulated and analyzed and findings were presented eventually.
In order to strengthen the results from the primary research interviews were conducted at the bank from the concerned employees. The details of the interviews are written below: The first interview was conducted with the District Recovery Manager, Allama Fatima who said that United Bank Limited was only charging annual membership fee on the credit cards in the initial years. Since the last one year, a new fee that is chip maintenance fee was added without informing the users of credit cards of UBL. This resulted in two major consequences: Consumers switched to other Banks
Default Ratio on credit cards increased
Because of these consequences, the bank started to probe into the reasons and realized that two kinds of defaults were occurring, namely; willful default and inability to pay. Since cards were given out to the branch banking consumers, without verifications, they transferred their accounts to other banks in order to avoid mark-up. Even though the markup being charged by
United Bank Limited is the lowest, still consumers switched because of the introduction of unannounced annual membership fee. These are the customers who contributed to the defaulters list. Apart from this willful default some consumers contributed to this pool because of low incomes and thus their inability to make more payments. Thus it is evident that introduction of this fee resulted in dire consequences for the United Bank Limited. The second interview was conducted with Faraz Basheer, Assistant District Recovery Manager who provided some pertinent information about the credit cards. He said that initially the UBL credit card was launched with extremely polite credit terms and manageable fee charges, however, after this fee, the acceptability of the card declined majorly. United Bank Limited should not have introduced such charges without bringing it into the notice of its existing credit card holders so as to avoid these adverse results. If we look at the competitor banks such as Bank Alfalah, it would become evident that they did not make changes to their credit terms and thus gained credibility and trust of their clients. Opposed to that United Bank Limited made unannounced changes and increased and added charges because of which the credibility factor was affected amongst the users of the products and as a result of which they either switched to the credit cards of other banks or defaulted with the bank. United Bank Limited was offering an additional feature of insurance on the card. According to this particular attribute, the cards being issued were 100 percent completely insured to help the consumers and they could stop availing this service anytime they wanted. Bank, because of the charges experienced that many consumers stopped availing this facility. This should have been a warning enough before they introduced the annual chip maintenance fee. This is also one of the contributing reasons to the fact that the default ratio was increased on credit cards because these cards were not insured. United Bank Limited should look at the practices adopted by the competitor banks. Only recently, a credit card was introduced by Silk Bank on 10th September and in order to attract consumers, 0% interest was charged on Balance Transfer Facility and resultantly a lot of consumers switched to other banks. Apart from this, Bank Alfalah is one of the leading banks of consumer financing and has been providing quality services to the clients.
Question No 1:
Do you use UBL’s credit card?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was the first question and was placed as a first question so that a general idea could be obtained about the usage of UBL credit card and to know if it is commonly used or not. The results can be seen through the pie chart above which shows that majority of the respondents do use UBL’s credit card i.e 73.3% and 27% approximately said that they are not users of the card. Therefore, the results are more valid as most of the questions were asked from users so as to analyze their views about the issue in hand. QUESTION NO 2:
Do you use credit cards of other banks?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was added so as to analyze that how many users use credit cards of other banks and how many use credit cards of both UBL and other banks. Considering the responses of the respondents it can be said that 17% consumers on average use credit cards of UBL only.
Question No 3
Which bank’s credit card do you have besides UBL?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
- Bank Alfalah
This question was set in place so as to analyze the usage of the credit cards of other banks and to know that which banks are posing a competition to UBL. Also since Bank Alfalah and MCB were taken as competitors for UBL in the field of consumer financing the results have reiterated the fact that they are indeed the biggest and major competitors of United Bank Limited. This is because both Bank Alfalah and Muslim Commercial Bank’s credit cards are being used by the majority i.e 30% each. The missing area is for those who said that they do not use credit cards of other banks.
Question No 4
Out of the credit cards that you have which one do you prefer to use?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was there so that an idea can be taken from the results in judging the preference of consumers who use both UBL and other banks’ credit cards. This way preference of consumers can be judged and it can be analyzed that which credit card offers better service to the consumers in general. Based on the results above we can see that the majority is using credit cards of Muslim Commercial Bank as 30% voted for that and the second most preferred bank is Bank Alfalah for 23.33% voted for that and UBL is preferred by only a small percentage i.e 6.67%. Therefore, UBL should also look at the credit terms being offered by its major competitors that are Bank Alfalah and Muslim Commercial Bank otherwise consumers are likely to switch from UBL in future.
Question No 5
Your credit card provides the following benefits?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
Based on the responses given in the previous question it becomes evident that consumers prefer to use either MCB or Bank Alfalah’s credit card therefore this question was pertinent so that it could be analyzed that why do consumers prefer credit cards of other banks. For that matter various options were provided to them such as convenience which means that they do not have to run to the bank all the time for solve their problems pertaining to the credit card, the helpline service is efficient and that the card can be used almost anywhere they shop or dine in. Lower fee charges mean that
the extra service charges are relatively lower and no fee charges mean that banks are not asking for any fee and the last option was lower interest rate. Most of the consumers responded with convenience and so it means that this is the first thing they see in their credit card. No fee charges was responded by only 20% of the consumers and lower interest rate was answered by 10% only. This is because interest rates are extremely competitive. Therefore, the most preferred option is convenience and service charges are of less concern to them.
Question No 6
Did your usage of UBL’s credit card get reduced after it introduced annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee? (If you have UBL’s credit card)
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was asked from the users of United Bank Limited’s credit card. The question was asked to know that whether their usage behavior was affected from the introduction of annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee. As can be seen from the results majority said that their usage actually got reduced after the introduction of the credit card fee. Out of 22 people who use UBL credit card 15 replied in affirmative that their usage of credit card was affected because of this. However, only a small proportion of 7 consumers said that their usage was not affected even though UBL has introduced this additional fee. The missing portion on the pie chart represents those consumers who do not use credit card of UBL.
Question No 7
Do you think UBL should remove this fee or reduce the charges?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
The users were then asked about their opinion on this newly introduced membership fee and chip maintenance fee by the United Bank Limited. Respondents were asked to provide opinion as to whether UBL should remove this fee or not and the results are surprising because even the individuals whose purchasing pattern did not get affected after introduction of this new fee they were of the view that UBL must remove this fee and only a small proportion of 2 consumers said that they have no problems with the newly introduced fee. Therefore, even though the usage pattern of some consumers remained unchanged they still believe that UBL needs to remove this fee. However, in my opinion UBL can continue to charge the fee if the usage doesn’t get affected by a huge percentage and that is subjective which depends on the Bank management’s decision.
Question No 8:
Will you prefer switching back to UBL’s credit card if they remove the above mentioned charges?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was added to be used as a solution to the problem being faced by UBL. It has been already proven that majority of the consumers responded in affirmative to the fact that the usage pattern did get affected after the
introduction of these fee by the UBL. The results are starkly suggesting that all those consumers whose pattern of usage got affected said that they would prefer switching back to UBL’s credit card once the fee is removed and so this suggests that UBL should remove the fee to regain their customers and compensate for the loss in brand equity. QUESTION NO 9
How do you feel should UBL improve their credit card services?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
- Offering better incentives on usage of a particular amount
This question was entered to take an advice from the general consumers that how do they think UBL can improve their credit card services and were provided with certain options as well. The most commonly answered response was that UBL should start offering better incentives on the usage of a particular amount. The second most preferred option was that they should remove the annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee. These responses also confirm that the convenience attribute is most important for credit card service providers and so UBL should focus on providing better services to their consumers and should also lower the fee charges that they are currently using.
Question No 10:
What rate are you paying on your credit card?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This question was only asked to have a fair idea as whether the interest rate being charged by UBL is a problem or not and it is evident that this is not the issue for the UBL is charging 3% interest rate per month which is most competitive amongst the banks QUESTION NO 11
What is your monthly household income?
- Valid Percent
- Cumulative Percent
This was the only demographics question used to analyze the incomes of the respondents in order to relate it with their concern about the fee charges. The majority interviewed was from the income bracket of 50,000-70,000.
Findings of the Primary Research:
Considering the interviews conducted with the staff of United Bank Limited and generating the results of the consumer survey, which have been explained in the detail above, a number of findings and observations came up which are written below: The major shortcoming that came on the surface about United Bank Limited was the fact that they breached the agreement of credit card consumers and so should not have introduced any fee be it chip maintenance or service fee without informing the credit card holders. Also, since the state Bank’s prudential regulations state, no bank is allowed to introduce any new terms, conditions or policies without the prior notice. Therefore, as expected, consumers were not willing to pay this additional fee and so switched to other banks. United Bank Limited did not suffer from poor consequences on behalf of their credit card business only but they also faced losses from their Branch Banking clients as majority of the cards had been issued to them. Competitor banks have been performing way beyond the expectations of the consumers and are thus better able to attract consumers and meet their demands. The prime example is that of Silk Bank which introduced 0% charges. In such a competitive environment, United Bank Limited should have considered it twice before introducing any such thing. The results of consumer surveys also revealed that the consumers are not satisfied with the credit card terms and their usage pattern was affected severely. Besides, United Bank Limited should also introduce convenience factor in their credit card services. Apart from that they should stress on introducing incentives and promotional offers to their clients on usage of a particular limit. Such strategic moves will attract the consumers. And relaxed terms would help recover the defaults that have affected the credit card business of United Bank Limited. Currently, they should focus on designing such packages which offer free and complimentary services to new to the bank consumers to increase their market pool and recover losses and improve profitability.
Findings and Analysis of Primary and Secondary
Considering the research carried out through primary and secondary sources, the analysis and findings that have been gathered are summarized below. The consumer financing is an area of concern for every economy. Over the past few years, because of lack of trust in the banking regulations, the consumers stopped taking loans from the banks and so the business of consumer financing began declining. However, with the introduction of strict and formal banking regulations for credit purposes and other such measures, the credibility of the banking sector revived among the consumers and thus they started taking interest again in consumer financing. Credit cards and other such services that fall under the realm of consumer financing got a tremendously positive response and so there was seen the revival of credit cards and consumer financing. Currently, consumer financing is in its boom years and so every bank should start making policies to increase their profitability through this area of banking. The secondary research shows that CitiBank is the pioneer of consumer banking in Pakistan, whereas currently Bank Alfalah, MCB, Allied Bank, United Bank Limited and others are aggressively involved in this particular area of interest. Consumer financing because of its rising trend is particularly attractive for banks for it is likely to bring loads of profitability to the individual bank and the banking sector both. Habib Bank Limited was the first bank to introduce the credit card in the country and then others followed the suit. Various kinds of credit cards are currently in use such as Balance Transfer Cards, Student Cards, Business credit cards and the innovations in this particular are happening quite frequently. Also it was revealed that there are a number of factors that affect the default probability on the credit cards because of which consumers prefer to switch to other banks because they have been unable to pay back their due amount on the credit cards of a particular bank. Some of the variables that were highlighted are the following: Age
The percentage of total credit line which the consumer has used The number of credit cards on which the consumer has charged to the credit limit Change in the income level Accidents because of which they are unable to pay further amounts These results were reassured through the interviews and consumer survey which were a part of the secondary research. According to the staff at United Bank Limited, they had seen a significant switching behavior in terms of credit cards of their banks and since most of the credit card users were a part of branch banking as well, the business in both the areas was affected severely. They believed that United Bank Limited should not have introduced the unannounced chip maintenance fee because of which majority of the clients switched to other banks and defaulted. They believed that since competitor banks did not introduce such sort of fee therefore the consumers remained loyal and United Bank Limited’s clients also switched to these other banks. Apart from that Silk Bank also introduced a credit card with relaxed terms and conditions and that served as a contributing factor to the loss of market share. Now moving on to the results of consumer survey, it became evident that clients believed that United Bank Limited should not have introduced this fee because that affected their usage of the card severely. These are the finding of the consumer survey: Majority of the customers were using credit cards of banks besides UBL as well The usage pattern of the credit card of United Bank Limited was affected of the majority of the consumers Majority of the credit card holders believed that United Bank Limited should not have introduced this chip maintenance fee without prior notice to the clients Consumers were also of the view that they prefer using the credit cards of Bank Alfalah and Muslim Commercial Bank. These two banks are the immediate competitors of the United Bank Limited Majority of the respondents believed that the first and foremost factor that decides their usage of credit card of a particular bank was that of convenience and they also look for lower fee charges of a bank. When asked for the recommendations, it came out that consumers were more interested in promotional schemes and believed that United Bank Limited should also start focusing on that by providing incentives on the usage of a particular amount of the card.
Based on the analysis generated through the literature review and credit cards in Pakistan and the fee that is charged by various banks along with the primary data gathered from the questionnaires, I have suggested the following recommendations for United Bank Limited with regard to the fee they introduced on their credit cards:
- Firstly, as the results of the survey have shown and the statistics provided in the literature review, it is evident, that majority of consumers prefer using credit cards of Bank Alfalah and Muslim Commercial Bank. Therefore, United Bank Limited should take it as a first signal for improving on their usage of credit cards. Since the usage is already low, therefore, they can’t afford to lose on more consumers by offering below the line services.
- Secondly, since it is evident that UBL should improve on retaining its customers of credit card and therefore they need to either reduce the fee and chip maintenance charges or convince their customers about the need of it by compensating through other means
- Also, as majority of consumers said that UBL needs to offer more incentives and benefits to the consumers on usage of a particular amount or by other promotional efforts
- It is evident that UBL lost a lot of revenue in credit cards by introducing annual membership fee and chip maintenance fee and so they should work on other benefits such as convenience etc
- Based on the results of the survey, United Bank Limited can regain the loss of brand equity by removing these newly introduced charges. However, if that is not possible, they should try to increase brand equity by focusing on the benefits of the card that UBL credit card holders enjoy
- They should improve their marketing efforts to inform consumers that they realize the importance of the money provided by the account holders and this is the step that has already been taken. The recent UBL advertisement (I am a happy UBL customer) is a proof of this and they should continue to improve their services.
- Considering the State Bank of Pakistan’s “ Operational Guidelines on Credit Card Business in Pakistan”, United Bank Limited does not have the authority to levy any additional charges besides those that were already explained to the consumers at the time of issuing credit cards to them. The only charges that can be levied afterwards are excise duty or the charges imposed by Provincial or Federal Government. Therefore, they should take the consent of the consumers before introducing any additional charges.
- United Bank Limited should also work on improving risk and fraud management for that would ensure the provision of creditworthy clients and thereby increase and improvise the chances of healthy profits for the bank. This can be done by ensuring the effective performance of the risk department and making stringent criteria for giving out credit cards to the consumers.
- United Bank Limited should also work on improving their credit card services by constantly keeping the regular customers well informed about the new rewards and benefits that they introduce on the monthly or annual basis so that the customers do not switch to other credit cards
- In order to reduce the defaults on credit cards, a default track should be kept and proper action should be taken against those who default. This way the bank will be able to perform the necessary actions for avoiding defaults and can also take the legal course of action to avoid future defaults.
- In order to avoid future defaults and lower profitability, United Bank Limited should strictly follow the operational guidelines of State Bank of Pakistan and communicate to the consumers at the time of issuing a credit card all kinds of fee and service charges that they will be likely to pay in the future. By doing this, they will be able to generate customers who would be loyal to the Bank’s services and will not create such problems for the bank in the future.
- Even though consumer financing saw a negative trend in the previous years, the studies and research has shown that it is again reviving and the demand for credit cards is rising because of the growing personal needs of the increasing population, therefore, this should be taken as an attractive opportunity by the bank and so United Bank Limited can increase its profitability.
- In order to recover the loss from defaults, certain packages can be introduced, where the same consumers are offered a lower mark up so that the customers with inability to pay or those defaulting willfully can repay at least some amount if not whole back to the bank
- Lastly, in order to improve their business, United Bank Limited can offer schemes to NTBs i.e New to Bank clients whereby they are offered insurance free of cost on their credit cards for a certain period. Apart from that they can also introduce the free services to these new to the bank customers such as cashline etc for free if they purchase the credit card of United Bank Limited. These promotional activities will not only attract new consumers but will also help increase the credibility and market share of the bank.
Based on all the data gathered through primary and secondary sources, it has been clarified that UBL did face loss of brand equity because of the introduction of these additional charges. Also, United Bank Limited saw some decline in the revenues as a lot of consumers switched to the credit cards offered by other banks. Therefore, it is evident, that for future purposes and considering the current situation as well, the bank needs to announce before time if they plan to implement any changes in policies and they should continue to provide benefits to the consumers considering the intense competition. This is the only way by which United Bank Limited can regain their brand equity and revenues and can continue to progress and improve in these two aspects. Another major consequence that had to be faced by the Bank was in terms of willful default and the clients’ inability to pay. Therefore, they need to start working in order to regain their lost brand equity and to improve it further in order to increase their market share. Therefore, they should start introducing such promotional schemes to add and recover lost customers.
Based on the research conducted through primary and secondary means, it also became evident that consumer financing is currently on its peak and since the demand for personal loans and personal and industrial goods is rising continuously, therefore they should focus on making this particular area their forte for gaining profitability. By introducing lower fee charges, they can gain profits through economies of scale as a huge portfolio of credit card holders and consumer financing would eventually lower their costs and thus they can eventually recover the lost profits and cover the already occurred default portfolios of the bank. The banking regulations also show that no bank can introduce regulations that are not there at the time of giving out loans and so United Bank Limited should follow the State Bank’s prudential regulations in order to avoid colossal losses in the future and improve and enhance their credibility in the market.
- https://www.ubldirect.com/Corporate/AboutUs/UBLHistory.aspx 5.
- http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/consumer-loan.html#ixzz24ZzaCIZb 9.
- http://dawn.com/2012/05/13/banking-industry-in-profit-but-some-banks-in-trouble/ 16.
- Information from, Perspectives on Consumer Finance in Pakistan, www.sbp.org.pk/fsr/2008/PDF/Chapter%205%20Perspectives%20on%20Concumer%20Finance.pdf
- http://www.sbp.org.pk/publications/prudential/PRs-Consumer.pdf; and http://www.scribd.com/doc/19383535/Need-and-Scope-of-Consumer-Banking-in-Pakistan
- Information from State Bank of Pakistan, Consumer Prudential Regulations, www.sbp.org.pk/publications/prudential/PRs-Consumer.pdf
- http://www.ehow.com/about 4614459 instant-credit-card-approval.html
- http://www.ehow.com/info 7971444 business-credit-card.html