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FAMILY AND EXPERIENCES ARE KEY TO WINNING THE HEARTS AND WALLETS OF THE AFFLUENT GLOBAL MIDDLE CLASS

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Economic growth and rapid urbanisation are swiftly expanding the number of people in the affluent global middle classes. New research from Collinson Group reveals distinct motivations and attitudes amongst this group which go beyond traditional demographic and geographical boundaries. Today’s affluent consumers place a higher priority on family, altruism and enriching experiences (69%) ahead of luxury products and short-term satisfaction.

The findings indicate that the world’s most affluent consumers say their priority is to spend time with their families (72%), provide for their families (62%), save for the future (64%) and almost a third prioritise giving back to the community and protecting the environment equally.

Christopher Evans, Director at Collinson Group says: “The quality of experience is increasingly the new currency for today’s affluent middle classes.   Where previously the affluent global middle class was more motivated by luxurious trappings, they now place a higher priority on family and life experiences such as travel, as well as experiences offered by the products and brands they choose. This is an important distinction for businesses trying to attract this growing and influential group.”

The research identifies four global “tribes”, or groups of people, who share common traits which cut across age, gender and international boundaries.

The Prudent Planners are motivated primarily by family and trying to help others. The Stylish Spenders do still yearn for the finer things in life.  Mid-life Modernists are characterised by their enthusiasm for technology. Finally, the Experientialists who put money-can’t buy experiences at the top of their priorities.

Collinson Group commissioned research with 4,400 consumers within the top 10-15% of global income in Brazil, China, India, Italy, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Christopher Evans says, “The affluent middle class are the most valuable customers for many brands, particularly in the financial and travel sectors.  As well as having high disposable income, this group shape the aspirations, buying habits and behaviour of other consumers.”

“Traditional definitions tend to define the middle class by income, spend or the products they buy” continues Evans. “Our research identifies tribes which span geographies and in fact share common behaviours and attitudes.  Understanding these motivations and offering tailored experiences, rewards and communications is key to winning the hearts and wallets of the affluent middle class.”

Tribal attitudes to travel

Travel is a common motivator for the affluent middle class and they all expect travel enhancements such as airport lounge access, fast track security and upgrades from their banks or credit card providers, but there are different expectations between the tribes.

Stylish Spenders travel in luxury, viewing services such as airport lounge access, concierge services, airport valet and pick-up by limousine as “essential”. Travel to the most luxurious locations with the opportunity for them to “show” their status is also important.  Hence we are seeing hotels and airlines such as The Mandarin Oriental and Delta Air Lines “Delta 360” invitation only club offering very exclusive rewards which are not widely publicised to attract this group.

For Prudent Planners and Mid-Life Modernists, which represent 69% of the affluent global middle class, offering more flexible travel related rewards, such as the chance to transfer points to family members or provide access to lounges or priority airline seating for family, will appeal the most.

To attract Experientialists, brands should consider expanding the rewards and benefits offered in their programmes to include more international content to reflect the motivations of this segment. For example a credit card could give travellers priority access to the world’s best restaurants or the opportunity to experience local cultural events.

Use of technology differentiates the tribes

The research shows a strong correlation between the most active users of technology and willingness to recommend and endorse brands they trust.  A group of ‘technophiles’ spend over 20 hours a week of their leisure time on the Internet and are avid users of apps, social media, online shopping and streaming of digital content.  Within this group, 72% are willing to make a repeat purchase from a brand they feel loyal to, 70% would recommend that brand to friends and family and 53% will choose this particular brand even if it is more expensive.

There are however clear differences in how the tribes prefer to use technology.

For example Stylish Spenders particularly value information which is personalised to them as well as the opportunity to tell others about access to exclusive destinations, hotels and restaurants via social media channels.

Smartphones, apps and digital experiences are valued by Mid-Life Modernists and offering promotions and price comparisons via mobile devices, particularly those that can benefit a whole family, is an effective way to engage with them.

Prudent Planners continue to value face-to-face interactions and retaining this as an option, rather than solely focusing on digital channels, is important for this sizeable segment.

Experientialists “live for the moment” and expect brands to regularly update digital content and offer unique experiences to maintain their interest.

Pen portraits of the tribes

Prudent Planners are the largest tribe representing 41% of the overall sample.  This group is motivated primarily by family and altruistic goals and is most prevalent in the United Kingdom and United States.  Three quarters of this tribe (76%) cite spending on family members as a priority and they have a higher than average interest in giving to charity (31%) and protecting the environment (30%). As the largest proportion within the affluent middle class, they are particularly valuable customers but are less motivated by material products and spend less time using technology such as smartphones or apps. Prudent Planners travel less than the other tribes but still take an average of six business and leisure trips a year.  As a result, airline loyalty programmes are popular with this group, particularly if they extend benefits to the cardholder’s family. It is clear that to win over this group, companies need to think and act differently than they are today.

In contrast, Stylish Spenders seek the finer things in life.  This tribe is most common in China and the United Arab Emirates and is four times more likely to buy leading brands than other affluent middle class consumers (76% compared to 22%) and drive a luxury car (70% compared to 25%.) This is the group which invests the most in travelling in style across all aspects of the travel journey. Stylish Spenders are a small but very influential tribe with over half under 34 years of age (55%) and 32% earning over $190,000 per annum.  Despite their high spending power, this group is the most loyal to brands they trust, participating in an average of five loyalty programmes and feeling loyal to up to eight brands.

Mid-Life Modernists stand out for their enthusiastic use of technology, with 61% citing gadgets as their biggest indulgence, 90% spending more than five hours a week using their smartphone and 45% spending over 20 hours a week online via a computer.  Mid-Life Modernists are well represented in India and Singapore.  Digital experience has a significant influence on this group and businesses which invest in this area can create powerful advocates amongst Mid-Life Modernists.  This tribe is willing to endorse and promote a brand they feel loyal to via social media, with three quarters prepared to recommend a company to their friends and family; 74% more likely to make a repeat purchase from a trusted brand and 67% saying they are engaged members of loyalty programmes.

Unique, money can’t buy experiences and exclusivity rather than standard products and services motivate the Experiential tribe.  This group is prevalent in China, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom and are most likely to enjoy experiencing a different culture (76%) and use travel as a way of keeping in touch with friends and family (67%).  Experiences such as spending on holidays (81%), dining out and luxury foods (64%) are also a priority.  Engaging these customers demands flexible rewards that includes attainable travel redemption options and enriching lifestyle benefits.

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense

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Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense 1

By Rob Harrison, MD UK & Ireland, SAP Concur

The last few months have been an exercise in adaptability for businesses across the UK. With the sudden mandate to work from home, company processes that were ingrained in employees’ day-to-day routines were either put on hold or turned upside down. The new office normal now includes virtual meetings, conversing through instant messaging instead of in the hallway, and the redefining of “business casual” attire.

Many of the processes that have undergone changes fall into the category of travel and expense. With most business travel on hold and the nature of expenses changing, finance managers have had to adjust policies and practices to accommodate the new world of work. Recent SAP Concur research found that 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. Examples of travel and expense related changes that were made at the beginning of work from home mandates include:

  • A halt to business travel and its associated expenses.
  • Temporarily ending expensed meals for business lunches, dinners, or in-office meetings.
  • Increase in office expenses like monitors and chairs as employees furnish their home offices.
  • New expenses to consider like Internet and cell phone bills for employees who must work from home.

Now, as companies begin thinking about return to work plans, finance managers are discovering it’s not simply business as usual again. SAP Concur research found that many expect finance will return to normal quicker than general workplace practices, but vast majority see the process taking up to 12 months. New policies and processes need to be put in place to accommodate travel restrictions and changes in expenses. While finance managers need to stay flexible as the business environment continues to evolve, spend control and compliance should still be a high priority.

Here are a few questions that can help finance managers prepare for return to work while keeping control and compliance top of mind:

  • What will travel look like for the company? Finance managers must work with travel and HR counterparts to determine the need for employee travel, if at all, and how to keep employees safe. At SAP Concur, we surveyed 500 UK business travellers and found that health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%. Clear guidelines should be developed, even if they are temporary or evolving, so it’s clear who can travel, when they can travel, and how they can travel. Duty of care plans should also be re-evaluated and businesses should ensure they know at all times where employees are traveling for business and how they can communicate with them in the event of an emergency.
  • Who needs to approve travel and expenses? While it may be temporary, businesses may have to implement a more stringent approval policy for travel and other expenses. Due to health concerns related to travel and the need to conserve cash flow, business leaders like CFOs may want to have final approval over all travel and expenses until the situation stabilises. To help ensure new approval processes don’t cause delays and inefficiencies, finance managers should implement an automated solution that streamlines the process and allows business leaders to review and approve travel requests, expenses, and invoices right from their phones. According to SAP Concur research, 11% of UK businesses implemented some automation of financial processes in response to COVID-19. This is definitely set to increase post-pandemic.
  • Rob Harrison

    Rob Harrison

    What types of expenses are within policy? Prior to social distancing, employees may have been allowed to take clients out to dinner. In-person team meetings held during the lunch hour, may have included expensed lunches. As employees return to work, finance managers need to determine if these activities and expenses will be allowed again. Clear guidelines must be put in place and expense policies need to be updated to reflect any changes.

  • What happens to home office items that were purchased? While new office equipment may have been purchased for employees’ home offices, they remain the business’s property and what to do with them as employees return to work needs to be determined. Perhaps employees will continue to work from home a few days a week and need to keep the equipment to ensure productivity. However, if a full return to work is expected, finance managers have options that can maximise their asset investment and possibly save the company money, like replacing old office equipment with the new purchases, reselling to a used office furniture company, or donating to a non-profit.
  • How can cost control be ensured? For many businesses, cash flow will be tight for the foreseeable future. Spend needs to be managed to help ensure recovery and stability. An important aspect of controlling costs is having full visibility of expenses throughout the company. Implementing an automated spend management solution that integrates expense and invoice management brings together a business’s spend, giving finance managers an understanding of where they can save, where to renegotiate, and where to redirect budgets based on plans and priorities.

Once finance managers have asked themselves the questions above and determined how they want to approach travel and expense procedures, it’s vital they create guidelines and communicate clearly to employees. Compliance can only be ensured if employees have a clear understanding of what has and has not changed with travel and expense policies and what’s expected as they return to work.

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Spotting the warning signs – minimising the risk of post-Covid corporate scandals

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Spotting the warning signs – minimising the risk of post-Covid corporate scandals 2

By Professor Guido Palazzo is Academic Director at Executive Education HEC Lausanne.

A recent report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) found that almost seven out of 10 anti-fraud professionals have experienced or observed an increase in fraud levels during the Covid pandemic, with a-quarter saying this increase has been significant. Almost all of those questioned (93%) said they expected an increase in fraud over the next 12 months and nearly three-quarters said that preventing, detecting, and investigating fraud has become significantly more difficult.

For corporations, banks and financial directors, this is a clear warning signal of new risks ahead. Indeed, it’s not difficult to predict that the birth of next big corporate scandal will be traced back to this period. As the ACFE put it, the pandemic is “a perfect storm for fraud. Pressures motivating employee fraud are high at the same time that defenses intended to safeguard against fraud have been weakened.”

If we want to stop corporate misconduct, where should we be focusing our efforts? What should we do to minimise the chances of corporate scandals, fraud and unethical decision-making? Compliance and risk management are obviously critical in detecting fraud, but given that corporate scandals keep happening, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether we need to take a different, more holistic approach to combat unethical behaviour.

Bad Apples or Toxic Cultures?

Most compliance is based on the premise that we need to keep bad people in check and to root out the ‘bad apples’ who usually get blamed when there’s a corporate scandal. When the scandal breaks, we all ask, “how was that possible? What were they thinking?” And we also tell ourselves that we could never behave like that and that it could never happen in our organisation – it’s not our problem.

But are those who succumb to this temptation really ‘bad apples’ or rather people like you and I? Most models of (un)ethical decision-making assume that people make rational choices and are able to evaluate their decisions from a moral point of view. However, if you made a list of the character traits of a rule breaker in an organisation and then compared it to a list of your own, you might be surprised to find a lot of overlap.

When we examine corporate scandals, what we invariably see is good people doing bad things in highly stressful circumstances. If you put sufficient pressure on an individual and they start making ill-advised decisions or behaving unethically, the first reaction is fear as they realise what they are doing is wrong. But then they will start to rationalise their actions to justify what they are doing. Over time, such behaviour becomes normalised and they convince themselves that there is no wrongdoing involved. That’s something that my HEC Lausanne colleagues, Franciska Krings and Ulrich Hoffrage, and I have termed ‘ethical blindness’, and it is a phenomenon that plays a fundamental role in systematic organisational wrongdoing.

Professor Guido Palazzo

Professor Guido Palazzo

The trouble with conventional technical and regulatory compliance strategies is that while policies, codes of conduct and formal processes are all very necessary, they don’t take into consideration the importance of leadership behaviour or human psychology.   We can’t pre-empt those who succumb to the temptation to do bad things in difficult circumstances unless we understand why they behave in the way they do. If we simply attribute problems to the psychological failings of ‘bad apples’ while ignoring the context, culture and leadership style which made their wrongdoing possible, then the barrel will still be contagious.

So what can be done to reduce the chances of new corporate scandals emerging in these challenging times? One take-away from previous scandals is the learning how to read the warning signals. This entails a deep understanding the psychological and emotional factors behind human risk, which surprisingly is not included in most compliance and ethics training. These small signals viewed in isolation may seem insignificant, but over time they can combine to create a dysfunctional context and culture where it can be all too easy for people to slip into the dark side.

Develop a Speak Up Culture

One of the most potent antidotes to that sort of dysfunction and the ethical blindness it encourages is a culture in which individuals at all levels feel able to speak up to their superiors about problems and ethical issues without fear of retaliation. But that will only happen if their own bosses are prepared to speak up and the tone for this must be set at the top. So, the critical question every executive needs to ask themselves is, “do I speak up?” Then they need to reflect on whether people come to them and speak up freely without fear of the consequences. That’s an approach to compliance that offers real protection against the onset of ethical blindness in a way that no conventional strategy can match.

This understanding of human risk element also elevates compliance to a leadership topic with all kinds of positive implications beyond compliance.  Whilst on the one hand, this approach helps to boost the status of the compliance and risk function, my experience of working with senior executives is that when they start to understand the psychological elements of the dark side, it shines a light on their own behaviour. One thing they realise is that, yes, it perhaps could have been them doing those things in one of those scandals. The other is understanding that their leadership style can unwittingly creating the context for unethical behaviour.

That’s one reason I invited two former senior executives who were involved in corporate scandals to share their first-hand experience as teachers on our new certificate in ethics and compliance. Andy Fastow is the former CFO of Enron and Richard Bistrong is a former sales executive involved in an international bribery scandal. Amongst other things, the valuable insights of people like these can help others to understand how risks accumulate over time and how this can impact the integrity of an organisation. Their stories also highlight the temptation that people can face as a result of the tension between the pressure to succeed and the pressure to comply.

Traditionally, compliance training and development has been technical and regulatory – what are the rules, what are people allowed to do or not allowed to do, and how do we demonstrate to the authorities that we did everything possible to ensure that people understand the laws and regulations? But what’s becoming increasingly clear is that it’s time for a multi-disciplinary approach if we are to start redressing the balance between the legal dimension of risk management and the human element.

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Trust is a critical asset

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Trust is a critical asset 3

By Graham Staplehurst, Global Strategy Director, BrandZ, explains how it’s evolving.

Trust is what makes us return to the same brands, particularly during times of uncertainty and crisis.

Pampers is an instinctive choice for many parents. It’s the go-to global nappy brand whether they shop online or in-store. By our reckoning, it’s also the world’s most trusted brand, driven primarily through its perceived superiority over competitors, which it has honed through a relentless focus on technological improvements that make its products the best in the category.

BrandZ has been tracking Trust since 1998 because it’s a critical ingredient in delivering both reassurance and simplifying brand choice, thereby boosting brand value. It’s also become extra critical in delivering business performance at a time when consumers are uncertain and often anxious.

Even brands that haven’t been available during Covid-19 lockdowns, brands that are already trusted, have found that they are more reassuring to consumers when they start returning to market with new safety measures such as protecting staff, which will be seen as evidence that the brand will take similar steps to protect customers.

With a growing demand from consumers for more responsible corporate behaviour, this in turn amplifies the need for brands to make a positive difference.

Alongside Pampers, other brands in this year’s BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands ranking that have strengthened their trust and responsibility credentials include the Indian bank HDFC, which has supported customer initiatives across its consumer and business banking and life insurance operations – with innovations such as mobile ATMs, and DHL, which has proven itself even more essential as a delivery service during the COVID-19 outbreak.

New brands too have managed to grow Trust relatively rapidly. Second in the Top 10 most trusted brands was Chinese lifestyle brand Meituan with a trust score of 130. This delivery and online ordering brand, which was launched just over a decade ago, has clearly demonstrated its understanding of what consumers want and developed a strong reputation for customer care.

Then there’s streaming service Netflix – founded in 1997 but which only became a streaming service in 2007 – which scored 127 and was the fifth most trusted brand in our ranking. Netflix has created a strong association with being open and honest compared to other ‘content’ platforms, despite the fact that it uses customer’s personal data to suggest future viewing options.

Top 10 Most Trusted Brands in the BrandZ Top 100 Ranking 2020

Position Brand Category Trust Score (Average is 100) Position in Top 100 ranking
1 Pampers Baby Care 136  70
2 Meituan Lifestyle Platform 130  54
3 China Mobile Telecom Providers 129  36
4 Visa Payments 128  5
5 Netflix Entertainment 127  26
6 LIC Insurance 125  75
7 FedEx Logistics 124  88
8 Microsoft Technology 124  3
9 BCA Regional Banks 124  90
10 UPS Logistics 124  20

What defines trust?

The nature of trust is evolving with ‘responsibility’ to consumers forming an increasingly large proportion of what builds perceptions of trust.  This amplifies the need for brands in all categories to act as a positive force in the world.

Traditionally, consumers trusted well-established brands based on two factors:

  • Proven expertise, the knowledge that the brand will deliver on its brand promise, reliably and consistently over time.
  • Corporate responsibility, which is about the business behind the brand. Does it show concern over the environment, its employees, and so on?

In recent years, the latter factor has become increasingly important. It is now three times more important to corporate reputation than 10 years ago and accounts for 40% of reputation overall, with environmental and social responsibility the most important component, alongside employee responsibility and the supply chain.

Companies such as Toyota, with its emphasis on sustainability, Nike, with its campaigns around social responsibility, and FedEx focusing on employee responsibility, highlight the fact that responsibility is high on the agenda for many brands in the BrandZ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands, which has been tracking rises and falls in brand value via a mix of millions of consumer interviews and financial performance data since 2006.

Such actions explain why trust in the Top 100 brands has been increasing not declining, filling the gap as trust declines in other institutions like government and the media. This is being driven largely by consumer concerns over the bigger issues including sustainability and climate change that society faces today.

One of the challenges that we face in assessing trust is understanding how and why consumers will trust brands they hardly know or have never used? Why do we trust Uber the first time if we’ve never used the platform before, or Airbnb the first time we rent an apartment or holiday accommodation?

The answer is that there are three elements that build trust and confidence when a brand is new to a market. These are:

  • Identifying with the needs and values of consumers
  • Operating with integrity and honesty
  • Inclusivity, i.e. treating every type of consumer equally.

New brands that can develop these associations not only build trust rapidly and more strongly but also tend to outperform their competitors in growing their brand value.

As a result of this new understanding we have added an additional pillar to our previous understanding of Trust builders. Alongside proven expertise and corporate responsibility, we have a new quality of ‘inspiring expectation’ driven by our three key factors of identification, integrity and inclusivity.

Airbnb, for example, has long had promoted a platform of inclusivity for both renters and users of properties on the platform, helping it to build an overall Consumer Trust Index of up to 105 – and 110+ on the specific dimension of Inclusivity.

Flying Fish in South Africa is a premium flavoured beer that has gone from a launch in October 2013 to being the second-most drunk brand in the country, with trust equal to the vastly more established Castle and Carling brands.  It has appealed to a new generation of beer drinkers with strong integrity and inclusion, using a playful mix of young men and women in its messaging to portray South Africa’s multicultural society.

Brands have a unique opportunity to earn valuable trust and create change, providing this is seen to be genuine. Being sincere, empathetic and ensuring your brand remains consistent with its core values will ensure your corporate reputation is not compromised.

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