How the finance industry can better harness digital communities

When it comes to digitalisation, the financial services sector is under considerable pressure to adapt. According to a report by PWC, by 2020 it’s estimated that digital natives will make up at least half of the world’s population, not only comprising the next generation of the workforce but also creating a new audience for the financial services companies. 

At Nationwide Building Society, the voice of its Members is at the heart of the organisation and core to everything the Building Society does.

Its Member and colleague community – Nationwide Connect – helps to ensure the business runs with a Member-centric view.

Being owned by their Members, rather than shareholders, Building Societies must have a different level of focus when it comes to obtaining feedback across a broad range of issues, hence why the Connect platform has become instrumental for Nationwide as it is able to deliver a fast and scalable way of bringing the Member view to the decision-making table.

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Since introducing Connect in 2012, in partnership with consumer insight agency Join the Dots, it has evolved and grown to be Nationwide’s primary research tool at the forefront of insight-led thinking across the organisation. Connect has helped close a gap in its insight provision, where previous research often proved costly, slow, and provided no real opportunity to iterate and evolve the conversation.

In 2016, the business developed Member and employee sentiment trackers to help them understand more about the lives of these two groups and in 2017, with the support of Nationwide CEO Joe Garner, the community was extended to an ‘open to all’ model, enabling the entire Membership base to join Connect and engage in on-going dialogue with the company.

The true power of a platform such as Connect, comes from its ability to reach many different audiences in a variety of ways at any time, meaning Nationwide is now more responsive than ever to all of its stakeholders. This is reflected at the very top level of the company by the CEO Joe Garner, who has called out that “data and insight are worth more than highly paid opinion.”The breadth of coverage is vast, allowing the business to face into questions across the entire spectrum of proposition development, both strategic and tactical.

The speed and impact the research has had on the business can be demonstrated by a recent example where a discussion and poll on Member Connect was set up with an hour’s notice and provided results to the advertising team just 24 hours later. In response to these research findings, Nationwide was able to optimise its advertising plans, saving cost and avoiding any risk of adverse feedback on launch.

As the demographic of natives that have grown up in a completely digital world increases, this new generation of employees and customers clashes with the more traditional service models that still dominate the finance sector. They are less enamoured with legacy systems and more open to using computer-generated systems for banking services.

Where Nationwide’s Connect platform has transformed its approach is by designing a support network and community that has enhanced an increasingly digital journey. It is by no means a way of replacing digital to non-digital touchpoints with employees and staff, but instead creating a communication channel that is adept at serving these increasingly savvy communities, while simultaneously providing a real-time research tool that has allowed the business to become more agile.

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