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Importance of branding for financial services and the need for internal engagement

Mona Bhatnagar

As the American business tycoon Warren Buffet, famously once said: “It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Nowhere has this proved truer than in the financial services industry which is still struggling to rebuild a reputation severely tarnished by financial crisis more than a decade ago. According to YouGov International Omnibus Study in 2017, only 55% of Britons trust banks, and only 36% think they work in their customers’ interest. And across Europe, the picture is even bleaker.

With customers starting to turn to new entrants like Monzo and Starling who don’t suffer from the same stigma as them, how can institutions break away from the homogenous perception of the industry and distinguish themselves? Mona Bhatnagar, Strategy Director at Brand Experience Engineers, Rufus Leonard, shares key considerations for financial service organisations to overcome this.

Mona Bhatnagar, Strategy Director at Brand Experience Engineers, Rufus Leonard

Mona Bhatnagar, Strategy Director at Brand Experience Engineers, Rufus Leonard

The answer lies not in what they say, but what they do.

In this digital age, customers can easily access more information than ever before about the brands they use, so advertising and marketing can no longer be relied on as the go-to ways to build a brand. The rapid evolution of technology has also led to a seismic shift in customers’ expectations of how brands should act, react and interact. And, it has given them the ability to immediately and harshly dismiss any brand which fails to meet their expectations.

Financial institutions are realising that to rebuild their brand and maintain long-term sustainable growth, they must move away from a sales – and product-focused mindset to one of genuine customer centricity. In short, they must pay attention to how they deliver their brand across all elements of the customer experience.

According to a study from insights and analytics company, MESH Experience – involving 5,000 participants and 23,000 experiences – a positive experience has around 3 times the impact on brand consideration compared with a neutral experience[i]. The same is true in banking.In fact, the study showed that resolution of a problem via a call centre generated the most positive and persuasive experiences of all owned touch points, whereas paid media proved largely ineffective at generating positive sentiment.

Whether its online, on the phone, or in person, brands have to ask themselves how they and their people can deliver a better experience for customers, balancing genuine needs and financial limitations.

The question is, how do they do that?

Of course, a well thought out brand strategy and customer experience plan are essential, but what institutions often lose sight of is that without buy-in and engagement from the board right through to front-line staff, even the most innovative of strategies are doomed to fail.

The key to brand building is employee engagement.

It is fundamental that employees understand the brand and their role in delivering it to customers. Only then can they effectively make the service better and champion the customer in everything they do.

Reach everyone

It’s crucial to have understanding and engagement from all levels of the organisation, from board level to the bank branch. The entire organisation should know what the brand stands for, what differentiates it, and the unique benefits it provides to customers.

Lead with purpose

Use your brand’s purpose to inspire and unite employees. Financial institutions can play an enormous role in a country’s economic development, so connecting employees to an idea or mission that is more substantive and influential than their day-to-day activities can motivate them by reinforcing that they are part of something bigger.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Close the gap between how employees and customers are engaged. Every brand knows that one advertisement, played once, will have little impact on customers’ perceptions – and it’s the same with employees. The core ideas behind the brand should be reinforced as often as possible–by both leadership and line management – through communications and integrated into employee initiatives and programmes.

Make it relevant

Translate the brand purpose and vision into tangible principles for all core activities across the business, from the financial products and services you offer, to the digital and physical interactions you enable. This will help employees understand their roles in designing, managing, and delivering customer experiences that inspire customer engagement and loyalty.

Empower action

Brand training is as important as regulatory training. Give employees the information, instruction, and tools they need to make on-brand decisions and to nurture, interpret, and reinforce your brand in everything they do.

Build the workforce you need

Align recruitment, evaluation and recognition criteria with core brand values to ensure that the brand becomes a filter for human capital decisions and is always tangibly present in every employee’s career development.

Measure impact

Linking employee engagement metrics to overall institutional performance and brand metrics will ensure that the organisation appreciates and prioritises the need of internal brand building and the power of employees who are true brand advocates.

To be successful in the future, it is now a pre-requisite for financial institutions to create a deep bond between employees across all functions and business units and the brand. Now is the time to ensure that action plans are in place to overcome the biggest barriers to effective brand engagement: senior leadership support, funding, the lack of training, and technology engagement. Only then will financial services be able to deliver a consistent, connected and meaningful brand experience.

Contributed  By Mona Bhatnagar Brands Strategy Director, Rufus Leonard

[i]https://blog.meshexperience.com/hubfs/ungated-pdfs/mesh_experience_retail_bank_annual_experience_landscape_2018_report_brochure.pdf

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