Post-Merger Communications

By Hillary Kelbick

Make post-merger communications planning a top priority.

If you’re in charge of communications for an upcoming bank merger, most of your planning—along with 100% of your angst—will probably be focused on managing the conversion of your customers to their new accounts and services. That’s only natural.

But it’s what happens in the days post-conversion, after customers have migrated to their new accounts and the first statements have arrived, that may matter most in the long-term success of your acquisition. Let me explain why.

Delivering on your promises.

Smart legally-required conversion communications often provide not just key change information, but also some much-needed reassurance, a believable dose of optimism, and an introduction to your key brand promises—all without overwhelming your new customers.

Congratulations! Your good work will earn you a honeymoon period—a 30- to 90-day window after conversion where your new audience gets to decide whether all the commitments you’ve made can be believed. This is your moment of truth. And it is proper post-merger planning that will encourage your customers to decide in your favor. Here are a few strategies for your consideration:

  1. Identify and target your at-risk customer segments.

If your goal is 100% retention, you’ll need to make sure that every customer group sees a clear benefit from your merger during this initial time period. However, some of your new customers may be experiencing a fee increase or other negative impact. That’s when you want to find a special offer that you can make to them—a reduced loan rate, an exclusive savings bonus rate, or anything that will make them feel like they’re getting something of value from their new bank. It can make a world of difference.

  1. Cross-sell your new customers a checking account.

Nothing promotes customer loyalty and longevity better than a solid checking relationship. During this honeymoon period, when customers tend to re-evaluate account choices, you have a perfect opportunity to cross-sell checking to those who use another bank for these services. If your branch network is bigger thanks to your acquisition, you can use geo-targeting to identify prime prospects who now have convenient new branches close by (still a critical selling point for most checking customers).

  1. Reach out before fee waivers expire.

In many acquisitions, fees are waived temporarily to give customers time to make account and balance adjustments. As the waiver end-date approaches, it’s always wise to follow up with a reminder, especially to those whose balance levels indicate a potentially negative impact. Always encourage conversation with a banker to identify the best solutions for each customer.

  1. Give your bankers the tools to communicate effectively.

A warm welcoming letter from a banker, perhaps with a recap of contact information to have on hand, can mean a lot to new customers. Give your bankers some letter and email templates they can use, as well as talking points that reprise some of the key brand attributes, which bankers can reinforce and validate on a more personal level.

Remember, in any merger, engineering a smooth transition is only part of the job. What happens after, in those first few crucial months, is where the rubber meets the road. So make sure you close the loop on the promises you made at conversion with the right kinds of follow-up communications. You’ll build a more loyal group of new customers as a result.

Hillary Kelbick is president of MKP communications inc., a New York based agency specializing in financial services marketing and merger communications. [email protected].