Ample space is given to the new research by Excellence Consulting in the printed edition and on the website of Il Sole 24 Ore, which highlights how rates have burned a fifth of Italian credit revenues. In this context, the recovery of the network banks stands out, with revenues tripling thanks to fees.
In the last fifteen years, Italian commercial banks have seen something like 12 billion euros in revenues go up in smoke, a fifth of the total, due to the long season of negative or low rates (rates that are only now starting to rise again) and of the repeated crises that have upset the Italian economy. But at the same time, it must be said, domestic institutions have made a virtue of necessity, and over the years they have changed their approach, managing to compensate, at least in part, for lower interest income with commissions, an item that today is stably worth half of total revenues and which is destined to be worth more and more.
It is a radical change, the one experienced from 2007 to today by the world of credit. First the Lehman crisis, and then the recessionary waves that followed the multiple crises of the peripheral countries and of the Italian sovereign debt, profoundly changed the morphology of the system. While in the background the long season of the transformation of the Popolari into Spas and then of the banking mergers was taking place – thanks to the cracks of the sick banks – the institutions inside them changed their way of doing banking. And so the traditional activity linked to borrowing and lending money has been increasingly joined by the business oriented towards consultancy for families and businesses, savings and wealth management, and bancassurance.
Photographing the changes in a world that is still on the move is a research by Excellence Consulting, a company that analyzed the financial statements of the top six commercial banks (Intesa Sanpaolo, Unicredit, BancoBpm, Bper, Mps and Crédit Agricole, to which are added data from the now former Ubi, Veneto Banca, Pop. Vicenza and Creval) and the first six network banks (Fideuram, Mediolanum, Fineco, Banca Generali, Allianz, Azimut) between 2007 and 2021.
The first datum that emerges clearly is the net drying up of the total revenues of the system. The intermediation margin of commercial banks, which includes the items of revenues from interest and commissions, has been progressively decreasing: as mentioned, overall revenues have dwindled from 59 billion euros in 2007 to 47 in 2021, with a net loss of 12 billion. The fault of a cut in the interest margin, which fell from 38 to 25 billion. «The reason for this drop is to be found above all in the drastic drop in interest rates and therefore in credit prices – explains Maurizio Primanni, CEO of the consultancy company – But this is associated with the weight of credit rationing and therefore of minors volumes of loans, thanks to the economic crises of recent years and increasingly stringent regulations”.
The future, at least in the short term, will inevitably be marked by the change of approach of the ECB, which has begun a U-turn on rates destined to restore oxygen to this source of revenues. Certainly, the revenues from commissions will assume greater weight: revenues from individual and collective management, fees on investments or on the placement of securities and funds, revenues deriving from the sale of insurance products and services have become the new mantra for all banks in these years. This paradigm shift was requested by the ECB Supervision itself, which forced commercial banks to review the business model and favor sources deemed more stable, long-lasting and with greater added value. The pressure was served because additional revenues from commissions rose by one billion (from 21.2 in 2007 to 22.1 in 2021) so as to bring commissions to 47% of total revenues against 36% almost 15 years earlier . Among the banks that have done better in the development of revenues from net commissions, we should mention Intesa Sanpaolo, Bper and Credit Agricole. «Commissions have risen but there is still a long way to go – adds Primanni – Today commercial banks must help retail customers improve their spending profile, thus favoring the generation of savings which can then be channeled. It is enough to see how much the commission item of the network banks has improved».
Here it is: precisely because the banks built on networks of consultants and advisors, oriented towards asset management rather than lending, have continued to constantly increase revenues. Suffice it to say that between 2007 and 2021 total revenues almost tripled (from 2.1 billion in 2007 to 5.7 billion in 2021), with net commissions recording a growth of over 3 billion (from 1.6 billion to 4.7 billion in 2021). «The difference between commercial banks and network banks bears witness to the fact that there is still an important potential for higher revenues from net commissions available to the former – concludes Primanni -. In addition to investments in technology and training, there is a need for a change of strategic focus and a review of the consultancy model with the development of effective network skills”.