HSBC Direct Attracts 350,000 Accounts

In a Jan. 1 case history published in Direct Magazine (article here), HSBC Direct says it has attracted 350,000 customers since the launch of its high-yield savings account just over a year ago (Nov. 2005).

Assuming typical high-yield balance levels of $8000 to $10,000 per account (our estimate), the bank has attracted more than $3 billion in deposits. The bank has marketed its 5%+ APR account heavily, so it's not likely that the new business is making much of a profit contribution yet. 

Based on the bank's reported online ad spending, its acquisition costs were $75 per account from the online spending only, not including what it spent in other media to support the direct business unit (see note 1).

The bank said it is working on new products to offer through the direct bank. This is a crucial step in the evolution. There just aren't enough customers with $10,000 savings balances to feed all the financial institutions looking for new deposits. HSBC's ability to sell other services to its 350,000 new customers will determine the long-term success of the direct banking initiative. 

Thanks to former Forrester senior analyst, Ron Shevlin, now VP at Epsilon, for the link in his Marketing ROI blog. 


  1. According to data from TNS published in American Banker here, HSBC spent $20 million online during the first three quarters of 2006. To calculate the acquisition cost we annualized the online spending and divided by 350,000. This calculation excludes the portion of non-Internet advertising that went to support the direct unit. The bank's total ad spend was $42 million during the first 3 quarters of 2006.

HSBC Teams with Marriott to Give New Customers Free Lodging

Hsbc_smartoffer_home HSBC <> is offering new Smart Idea checking customers a free night at participating Marriott hotels, and are even tossing in breakfast for two. The only major requirement, as outlined in the relatively scant fine print (click on continuation link at the bottom of this article), is a direct-deposit relationship or $3,000 deposited by the end of September. The screenshot right shows the offer on the bank's homepage (click to enlarge).

Here's the landing page for the offer (first click off the homepage):


This is a good offer because the perceived value of $200+ is likely far less than what HSBC is paying for it, which we estimate is considerably less than $100 due to the exposure Marriott receives. While it may not appeal to the stay-at-home crowd, they are not the target market for HSBC's premium checking account.

We also like the alternative to dropping $3 grand in the account in lieu of direct deposit. That appeals to small business owners and the self-employed who often are ineligible to participate in many bank premium offers  that require direct deposit. However, the bank should work with the single-deposit customers to get some electronic hooks into the account as soon as possible, either electronic bill payments, pre-authorized debits, or an integrated credit line with automatic payments from checking.



Fine print for HSBC's offer:
* Minimum balance to avoid monthly maintenance fee applies if direct deposit ceases. To receive the Marriott award, customers must open an Interest Checking account by 9/30/06 and either set up direct deposit or deposit at least $3,000 by 10/31/06. Interest Checking Account has 0.15% Annual Percentage Yield (APY), which is accurate as of 8/1/06 on balances of $5 or more. APY is variable and subject to change after opening. Charges and fees may reduce earnings. HSBC reserves the right to charge your Interest Checking account an amount equal to the bonus if your account does not remain active for at least 180 days. Hotel redemption forms will be sent to qualifying customers by 12/31/06. Hotel award includes accommodations for a one (1) night stay, including breakfast for two and room tax, at participating Marriott properties in North, South and Central America, Hawaii and the Caribbean, subject to availability. Breakfast not included at SpringHill Suites and TownePlace Suites properties. Hotel reservations must be booked and used by 1/1/08. Limit of one hotel award per customer. Cost of gift will be reported on IRS Form 1099.

** The Introductory APR does not apply to cash advances. After the Introductory Period or if during the first 12 billing cycles of your Account, whichever is earlier, your Minimum Payment (or any greater amount) is late or you exceed your credit limit twice, the Introductory APR will increase to the Customary APR. The variable Customary APR is 11.99%, 15.99% or 18.99% (as of 8/1/06), depending upon your creditworthiness. There is no balance transfer fee for balance transfers that post to your Account within 90 days of your Account opening; otherwise a 3% ($5 minimum, $50 maximum) balance transfer fee will apply, unless otherwise disclosed. We apply payments to lower APR balances before higher APR balances. We have the right to change your APRs, fees, and other terms at any time, for any reason including, but not limited to, any change in your credit history, credit obligations, Account performance, use of your credit lines with us or any creditor, or our financial return. Any changes will be in accordance with your Cardmember Agreement and applicable law.

Citibank’s Forecast for Online Savings

Google_onlinesavingsaccount In an effort to boost awareness of its 4.5% e-savings account (see NetBanker March 29), Citibank made the unusual decision to reveal its 5-year forecast for industry-wide sales of online savings accounts. In today's New York Times, director Catherine Palmieri made the following market size estimates:

$250 billion in 2006
$600 billion in 2010

To put the numbers in perspective, the 2006 estimate is approximately four times the total deposits of the two biggest direct banks, ING Direct and E*Trade. And it's about 4% of the total U.S. deposit market of $6 trillion.

Assuming Citibank is right and the online savings market grows at a compounded rate of 25% per year, it will represent 10% of today's total deposits or 8.5% of the total $7 trillion in total deposits 2010, assuming a 3% annual growth rate.

The article also said that HSBC Direct is on track to have 250,000 accounts by the end of this year.

Googling "online savings accounts" from a Seattle IP address today found Citibank in the number seven position. Here were the top advertisers (see inset above for closeup):

1. HSBC Direct
2. Emigrant Direct
3. Capital One
4. American Express
5. E*Trade
6. Alaska USA Credit Union (Seattle local ad)
7. Citibank Direct