zeb case: Quo vadis, customer?

Solved 2.4k times | Rating: (5.0 / 5.0) 1931

Problem Definition

The bank "His Earlship Charles", a domestic retail and private bank is in a difficult situation. Profits have been declining over the past years due to the ongoing low interest rates set by the central bank. Additionally, the bank is suffering from a decreasing number of customers. The board of directors is worried about digitalization and wondering, whether the bank is adequately prepared for it.

Please analyze the situation of the client and develop means to sustainably increase profits. Consider the worries expressed by the board of directors.


This is a candidate-led case. The interviewer's responsibility is to support the interviewee when necessary and provide information needed.

The first part is of a quantitative nature. A holistic overview should be preferred over a complete calculation.

The second part requires creativity and is more qualitative.

Short Solution

The bank "His Earlship Charles" is inadequately prepared for digitalization.

The digitalization offers great opportunities for process optimization, which positively affects costs and speed of processes. The bank should focus on improving its digital capabilities and products.

Detailed Solution

Paragraphs highlighted in green indicate diagrams or tables that can be shared in the “Case exhibits” section.

Paragraphs highlighted in blue can be verbally communicated to the interviewee.

Paragraphs highlighted in orange indicate hints for you how to guide the interviewee through the case.

I. Analyze declining profits

Decreasing profits can be explained by either one of the following reasons:

  • declining revenues at constant costs,
  • increasing costs at constant revenues,
  • increasing costs and declining revenues or
  • a greater decline of revenues than of costs

For simplicity assume that revenues only originate from sales of products and fees of existing clients. We already know that customers are leaving our client. We should look into the historical development of product sales and the average profit for each product.

II. Analysis of product portfolio

Share table 1 with the interviewee.

Key learning

Sales are declining strongly. However there is no particular product that sells extraordinarily bad. All of the sold products have a positive contribution margin, hence we cannot exclude any of the products. The problem has to be something else. Since the sales volume has declined, we can assume that the sales team has underperformed lately.

The interviewee should have realized that the sales division is the problem. As this appears to be the focus of the upcoming analysis, the interviewee should ask for more detailed information of sales numbers. You can try to trigger this learning by asking questions like: "Is there anything you would like to look into, specifically?"

For a deep-dive into the bank's sales we would need KPI like sales/employee or channel-specific sales figures.

III. Analysis of the sales channels

Share diagram 1 and table 2 with the interviewee

The interviewee should take a moment to get an overview and then formulate hypotheses. He/she should come up with explanations for "Other". A sensible answer would be an app, for example.

Ideally the interviewee realizes that online there are significantly more customer touchpoints compared to traditional (i.e. offline) sales. However, an analysis can only be carried out with knowledge of the number of interactions per close and the related profits.

Share diagram 2 and table 3 with the interviewee

From the data provided we can conclude that the bank is strong (in some cases even exceptionally good) in its traditional business, compared to industry averages. It is noticeable, however, that digital channels have not at all or only very carefully been entered. Low sales numbers, partly high costs and unused opportunities are responsible for sinking profits.

It looks like the worry of the board of directors is valid. The bank is not well prepared for changed customer needs in a digital environment. This could be a reason for customers leaving the bank and switching to competitors, since customers' needs have clearly changed in the last decade.

Until now, this is a hypothesis. The interviewee should ask for data on why customers are leaving the bank. Upon request, you can share diagrams 3 and 4 with him/her.

IV. Analysis why clients are leaving the bank

In the following reasons for customers leaving the bank should be analyzed and potentially be related with each other.

Key learnings

  • Generally fees are a problem for clients
  • Linking high fees with low digital capabilities (observable from almost no digital products and the complicated online banking) and extensive, slow processes, we can assume a low degree of automatization and digitalization of processes in the bank.
  • The intrusive offering of products may be linked to little coordination between sales clerks and channel representatives. The channels seem to operate separately.
  • Consequently, there probably is no unified database for sales. This limits the effectivity of process optimizing and profit increasing initiatives as well as the usage of analytics systems.

The bank is mainly losing young customers. This is especially in the long term a serious issue for the bank. More than others young customers have high expectations towards a bank regarding digital products. This implies an important area of improvement for His Earlship Charles.


The bank is lacking digital capabilities. What is needed now is a digital roadmap and an implementation plan to recover from this apparent competitive disadvantage.

V. Design of roadmap

How exactly and how detailed the roadmap is sketched out by the interviewee is up to him/her. The interviewee should find a well-balanced answer without getting lost in details nor only using buzzwords. Find an exemplary roadmap in the following lines:

Primary goal should be to stop customers from leaving the bank. The following three initiatives will do so:

  1. Fee reduction/elimination: Taking the customer complaints into account, the fees should be reduced​, even while running the risk of short-term losses. To find a sustainable solution to the problem, the business processes have to be analyzed to what extent they can be made more efficient or even automated at best. This allows for saving costs and reducing the processing time. Thus, two of the main complaints can be tackled.
  2. Enhancement of digital offer: In addition, the digital offer of the bank has to be enhanced. Online banking must be simplified, it might also be necessary to restructure the website, as significantly low conversions can be identified on this channel. The bank has to develop an app (if not available already) which should at least offer the standard functions for account keeping. Writing mails must also be simplified and automated. The current costs are more than three times as high as in the rest of the sector. This might be explained due to the manual e-mail process.
  3. Omnichannel strategy: In order to harmonize the different channels and make communication transparent across all channels, an omni-channel strategy has to be developed. It is key to set up a standardized data source so that all channels know which information has been sent to the customer or which inquiries have been placed. This data source can be used in the long run to optimize the sales behavior on customer level. Analysis methods for large data volumes allow for identifying customer preferences regarding the type, frequency and schedule of communication and considering them during the sales process. If existing product and personal information is taken into account in the analysis, product recommendations for the sales staff can be derived on customer level.

Difficult Questions

More questions to be added by you, interviewer!

Related consulting question(s)

A little late for this question, but thought I give it a shot, since I use charts in my cases often. What's the biggest mistake I see? Looking for patterns in values. To give an example: Let's say,... (more)

Best answer so far out of 4 answers:
Incoming Associate Consultant @ Bain & Co. - advanced casing techniques that will make you stand-out

Hello! I don't fully understand what you meanby front-end digitisation. In the IT world, it's development of the interface/design/customer journey of a tool and/or product. Having said that, I b... (more)

Best answer so far out of 3 answers:
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (700+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous, the job is likely to be pretty different, as you are comparing in-house vs general strategy consulting, and as a consequence also the career progression. As reported ina previous post... (more)

Best answer so far:
Ex BCG | MBB Specialist | #1 Expert for meetings done (700+) and recommendation rate (100%)

Hi Anonymous, although some additional specialization will not hurt, given that your goal is to increase the chances to get into MBB, the ideal points you may want to focus on are those that will m... (more)

Let me just throw some key words of financial terms at you which you should very familiar with: revenues, cost, profit, ROI, payback period, COGS, CAGR, NPV, balance sheet, income statement. Important... (more)

Related BootCamp article(s)


Benchmarking can be very useful for a case interview. You can benchmark internally (comparing your own plants) or externaly (comparing to competitors)

0 Comment(s)

How to read charts and data in Case Interviews

We explain and give tips on how to understand and analyze graphs, charts and data presented by interviewer to candidates in case interviews.

0 Comment(s)
Case exhibits