Displaying items by tag: financial services

In the past few years, the financial services industry has faced some extensive challenges. Since the Australian Banking Royal Commission’s recommendations were handed down, there have not been many brands within the sector that have escaped completely unscathed, even if by the simple association of being within the financial services sector. Consumer confidence and trust in financial services brands have been greatly affected. New entrants including neobanks such as Volt, 86400 and Xinja, digital fintech brands such as PayPal and Tyro, subsidiary brands of the major banks such as Ubank and BankWest have all emerged to take advantage of these gaps in consumer trust with the traditional players.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. There has already been a major shift from a sole focus on profits and share prices to a focus instead on customer needs and breeding a positive culture and community.

With significant rewards for customers, brands and shareholders, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action.

In a brand sense, this could result in a rebrand or a refresh with a new positioning, values and brand story. It will take some time to rebuild the trust lost, however, looking at the examples of some financial services brands such as ING, Bank Australia and Future Super, being values-driven is definitely resonating with consumers.

When reviewing the business case for rebranding, financial service brands need to start from the inside by understanding the state of play within their organisation:

  1. What are the internal perceptions of the brand?
  2. Is the vision, values and positioning of the brand clear to the team?
  3. Does the culture accurately reflect the brand’s positioning?
  4. Is the business willing and able to invest appropriately into rebranding if required?

The opportunity to rebrand presents a number of benefits for an organisation and it’s critical to weigh the benefits against the risks. Undertaking brand research can provide the answers in understanding both the positive and negative perceptions towards a brand which informs both strategic and tactical brand decision making. 

The importance of brand research in the rebranding process.

In the world of marketing and branding, everyone (absolutely everyone) has an opinion or personal preference. With an objective, external evaluation of a brand to inform decision making, brand strategies and tactics can turn into a nightmare of the loudest voice or strongest opinion. Employing the objective outputs of brand research ensures a brand can position itself appropriately within its competitive context and take advantage of any identified areas of positive differentiation.

Conducting brand research can help mitigate the risks associated with a rebrand. It starts with gaining a deep understanding of the market, customers (both current and potential) and competitors (existing and new entrants). For organisations with long-standing, loyal customers, research can evaluate how these customers will react to a new brand. Understanding the response of current advocates can be the difference between success and failure of a rebrand.

The general sense in the financial services market is that consumers are hungry for positive change. One year on from the recommendations of the royal commission, forward-thinking financial services organisations have the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competition by considering an investment in a rebrand.

Rebranding presents an opportunity for an organisation to align and clarify its brand message, create or redevelop a new positioning and values. It also presents an opportunity for organisations to realign internal culture and create a magnet to attract new talent.

Once a rebrand has commenced, it is vital to ensure it is executed efficiently and communicated effectively. A smooth roll-out of a rebrand with minimum overlap between the two brands will avoid confusion both internally and externally. Central to this is always referring to the outputs of external, objective brand research, the critical analysis that will keep a rebrand on track and on message.

If your organisation is considering a rebrand, we have recently released an updated Guide to Rebranding, feel free to download it as a good starting point in the consideration process.

Since the Royal Commission Final Report and throughout the hearings Commissioner Hayne has repeatedly come back to two connected areas: remuneration and culture. The inwardly focused remuneration schemes that prioritised sales and profit over customer benefit have caused a great many of the sector’s systematic problems and created a ‘win at all costs’ culture. So what can they do now?

 We see four key factors that summarise the journey to the situation we now find ourselves in:

  • A consistent market and media focus on individual industry player market performance and shareholder returns.
  • A highly protected market with little competition and almost insurmountable barriers to entry.
  • A deeply honed and sophisticated sales infrastructure, with short term incentives layered right through the organisation.
  • An under-resourced and slightly intimidated regulator – ill-equipped or unwilling to detect or handle the sheer scale of potential malfeasance that has occurred over the decades.

 

In case you need some evidence that things need to change 

  • As reported in Mumbrella 22 January 2019, Brand Finance annual report highlights how Australia’s big four banks suffered a $1.1 billion drop in brand value, led by ANZ.
  • ClearView estimated it had breached the anti-hawking provisions, somewhere between 300,000 and 303,000 times in just over three years.
  • $6 billion of commissions paid to financial advisers with respect to life insurance over a five-year period.
  • In the past six months since the Banking Royal Commission commenced, consumer satisfaction ratings with banks has dropped from 81.2% to 78%, the lowest satisfaction rating banks have seen in more than seven years.

 

Some suggestions as to how the financial services industry can respond

First and foremost, there must be a united front. What’s needed is a true and authentic commitment from the entire industry to work towards rebuilding consumer trust. A collective action and a collective promise made, shared and then kept. Admittedly much easier said, than done.

The industry would benefit from an entirely new approach, a new norm to be created where customer centricity is the key focus – in the knowledge that from truly satisfied customers profit will prevail, and shareholder returns will come. A new focus on serving and improving the lives of customers will prove they can be profitable and trustworthy at the same time.

Again, very idealistic, but that is how dramatic the shift needs to be.  An institution that can put its customers first, can have a broader purpose, can nurture and create a new and positive culture. One that focusses on delivering for customers and that isn’t all about internal remuneration.

The regulator and the Government also has a role to play, through ongoing relaxation around regulation and licensing allowing greater levels of competition in the industry. This will force the major players to be fairer and more responsive to their customers’ needs. We are already seeing new entrants and disruptors joining the market including neo and fintech banks, like Volt and 86400.

The regulator also needs greater resourcing and financial resourcing, so it can stand up to the fiscal might that exists in some of Australia’s wealthiest companies. The regulator could also lead a new shared vision, code of practice and industry wide charter to create shared value for a much wider group of consumers, investors, and the broader community. It could also lead an entire industry wide – as well as individual focus – around remuneration structures and incentive schemes. This needs to fundamentally consider the link between quantitative sales targets and compensation, to minimise misconduct and help individuals ensure that they prioritise the meeting of customer’s needs.

 

Some suggestions and guidance around culture

A key to success is recognising that organisational culture is constantly evolving. Embedding culture, reinforcing the right behaviours and aligning conduct and risk management practices need to be an ongoing and everyday practice within everyday business. We need to ensure over time that complacency does not creep back in when this moves from the headlines.

As always, leadership matters. Senior leadership must embed conduct and culture messages and expectations from the top down, and from middle management through to customer facing staff. Measures must be in place around how all levels of employees are trained, promoted, supported and measured.

 

Finally, at an individual brand level – it all comes down to purpose

Financial services brand research highlights the need to start with the biggest piece in the complex world of brand – vision. A reason to exist, a reason to get up out of bed, to serve customers. A vision that is compelling and drives a positive internal culture, doesn’t matter if you’re B2B or B2C. A focus on culture that serves and encourages the appropriate behaviours through every strata of the organisation – including middle management and especially client facing staff. For financial services brands that means creating a vision that creates buy in from all employees to say ‘hey, we are here for a broader purpose than simply profit’ – we must be here to do more than just create value for ourselves and for our shareholders.

Is the industry up for this level of change? Well, the jury is still out on this. However, there are already positive signs. The disposing of wealth and insurance businesses and other potential conflicts of interest, together with a renewed focus on their core functions should see the capacity to drive new and better outcomes for customers. This includes being far more sensitive to customers human needs.

In summary, this is a complex and daunting task for the industry and the individual brands, including Westpac, Nab, AMP and Commonwealth Bank. Simultaneously they have to re-build trust, along with managing new digital entrants, evolving customer needs, market expectations and overall competitive pressures.

For financial services brands, it is time to listen, learn and act. With significant rewards for customers, for brands and shareholders. In terms of a make or break moment for the industry, it feels like this is the moment to take positive action. If not now, when?