The volume and value of commercial card
payments is increasing year after year. In this article, Frank
Martien
* examines the potential for
commercial card organisations to cross-sell card offerings to the
consumer segment, as well as to existing commercial
cardholders.

For many commercial card organisations, a major
issue is the conversion of consumer cardholders to commercial cards
and the cross-selling of additional commercial cards to businesses.
This represents a substantial opportunity, as the industry
estimates that between 5 and 15 percent of consumer credit card
spend is actually business-related.

The main question is how to identify consumer
cardholders predisposed to taking a commercial card, and to
identify where there may be potential in cross-selling existing
commercial cardholders with additional commercial card
products.

Commercial to consumer cardholders

A consumer-to-commercial card conversion initiative requires (i) a
consumer card file (yours or somebody else’s) large enough to
warrant the effort; and (ii) access to customer-level data to
correlate the likelihood that a given cardholder may be interested
in a commercial card. A few illustrative examples for identifying
potential prospects for commercial cards within a consumer card
customer base through analysis of a variety of cardholder
touchpoints would include multiple cards under one account for
which cardholders’ last names or surnames vary;

  • a billing address that matches a record in a prospect database
    of businesses or with words more frequently associated with a place
    of business, such as ‘suite’; recurring airline, hotel or office
    supply spend, particularly if it’s during the week;
  • relatively constant spend (ie, no spike) during the winter
    holiday season;
  • inbound calls originating from a person acting on behalf of an
    authorised user;
  • payment on accounts made using a business cheque;
    and
  • downloading of transaction data on a monthly basis.

Typically, an issuer would start with their
consumer cardholder file; remove accounts with delinquencies, late
payments, sub-par risk scores, inactivity, ‘do not solicit’
indicators or better pricing than would be offered in a business
card solicitation; and then select a prospect file from the
surviving account records based on likelihood of response and
credit approval.

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The form of solicitation can be subtle (eg, a
statement message or insert), more explicit (eg, a stand-alone
mailing or outbound telemarketing call), or some combination of the
above. Results from previous such initiatives have been closely
guarded; however, the business case emanates from better matching
of product features with intended usage and the potential for
higher interchange rates.

Commercial credit to commercial debit
cardholders

Commercial card industry experience regarding other types of
cross-selling is less pronounced, although a significant
opportunity could be available for a bank re-entering or
relaunching a business credit or charge card programme by
soliciting into its existing business deposit account customer
base. Here, we would suggest looking for:

  • seasonality in debit card usage or deposit balances suggesting
    credit need;
  • frequent enquiries regarding deposit account
    balances;
  • frequent usage of cheques for payment at mainstream card
    accepting merchants;
  • issuance of forward-dated cheques;
  • request for/usage of overdraft protection;
  • enquiry into line of credit products; and
  • signs of business maturation.
In a similar manner to cross-selling into a consumer cardholder
file, banks would want to ensure a high likelihood of credit
approval for responders so that loyal depository relationships are
not compromised. In positioning the offer, the message to prospects
of validation of their businesses,
therefore earning them access to additional credit, may be worth
testing.

Commercial to fleet cardholders

A third opportunity for cross-selling emerges for fleet card
issuers that have evidence of demand for general purpose commercial
card utility within their fleet customer files. A few examples of
such demand could be:

  • frequent phone authorisations or usage of access cheques at
    non-accepting merchants;
  • name of business denotes a specialised fleet with potential for
    general purpose spend (eg, a bus company with drivers unlikely to
    be eating or staying overnight at travel centres/truck
    stops);
  • fleets whose drivers may benefit from a prepaid or credit-based
    payroll access card; and
  • businesses whose name suggests existence of significant
    office-related spend, such as a pharmaceutical company or real
    estate company.
A key for success in such cross-sales may be to seek some card
product integration (eg, online access, reporting, controls) to
inject hard-to-replicate value into the general purpose commercial
card offering from the fleet card issuer.

Fleet to commercial cardholders

Finally, we also see potential for cross-selling fleet cards
(particularly fleet cards offering enhanced
reporting/controls/potential for rebates) into pools of
general-purpose commercial card accounts based on several
criteria:

  • customer seeks to limit card access to fuelling/maintenance
    merchants only;
  • one or more sub-accounts are used primarily for
    fuelling;
  • frequent requests for customised reports involving vehicle
    spend analysis; and
  • the cardholder probably operates a commercial fleet, but there
    is a notable absence of fuelling spend placed on a card (eg, the
    company name includes words such as trucking, moving, lines, bus,
    coach, heating, oil, plumbing, painting or contractors).
We believe significant opportunity exists in the market for such
cross-sales as a way to capture more share of customer wallet and
therefore enhance loyalty and stickiness. Keys to success include
sufficient critical mass of prospects, compelling card products to
be cross-sold, and closely monitoring credit so as not to render a
good paying customer bad due to an over-availability of
credit.

*Frank Martien is a partner at international financial services and
investment banking consultancy First Annapolis Consulting