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THE IMPORTANCE OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP CONTENT IN THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR

The collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 marked a turning point in the financial services industry. Not only did the collapse have disastrous financial and regulatory consequences, but it also caused reputational damage on a mass scale, leaving the entire industry to rebuild trust. Indeed, as little as two years ago, AXA Group CEO, Thomas Buberl, commented that while trust may have returned to the financial markets, “it has still not found its way to society and citizens yet.”

Perhaps hauntingly, Mr Buberl also warns of the need to “better understand new risks to avert the next crisis”, which he says “could well have a non-financial cause.”

If the issue of trust remained fragile two years ago, then the challenges that COVID-19 has added only compound matters. KPMG recently reported that out of six principal matters financial services organisations face as a consequence of the pandemic, communications and transparency is right up there. For Executive teams and CMOs, in particular, this highlights the need to communicate effectively, not just with customers but with employees, suppliers and third-party dependents too.

But what does effective communication entail? As Yogesh Shah, CEO, iResearch, argues, now more than ever there is a huge opportunity for financial services organisations to leverage the benefits of thought leadership content within their communications strategies to re-build brand authority and trust at a time when it’s needed most.

 

Banking on industry expertise

Within every financial services organisation, a CMO will be able to find spokespeople with a wealth of expertise and experience in a range of industry matters. From data security to financial liquidity, business stability and risk mitigation, it is these experts that must form the backbone of an effective communication strategy. Effective communication, after all, relies on the ability of the reader to relate to their content; this in turn, relies on the ability of the author to convey their thought leadership position.

Thinking back to rebuilding trust post-Lehmans and beyond, there are many related and relevant topics to be addressed. What impact will particular regulations have on not just demonstrating compliance, but on providing customer insight as well as safeguarding customers and investors in the event of economic uncertainty? How will these regulations enable the market to continue to grow, whilst protecting data and removing unethical sales and promotions from the industry? Furthermore, how can customers be reassured about the use of automation, AI and data security in the midst of seemingly consistent reports of cyber security breaches? Every CMO should have a solid content strategy built around addressing these topical issues – and planning for other eventualities.

There are numerous examples of financial services companies that have used thought leadership effectively within their content strategies. In addition to the excellent example from Mr. Buberl, in response to the discussions around topics such as Brexit and the coronavirus, J.P. Morgan regularly produces thought leadership articles, reports and insights on the consequences of new developments and practical advice for not just its customers, but for the industry as a whole.

 

Demonstrating data depth

Using data within thought leadership content is also extremely important. Backing up key arguments with industry research or surveys to show why the issue or challenge is so pertinent, and how the rest of the industry might be responding to these issues, will also see engagement soar, especially if the research is relevant, timely and issues-driven. BlackRock Investment Institute has used data intelligently within its thought leadership strategy by creating focused investment information that aims to improve the way its portfolio managers control their funds and, importantly, helps its clients to maximise their own investment results.

 

Community and continued communication

Thought leadership content should be used to create a community; after all, every CMO will be aware that the financial services sector has been through the same challenges together for years. Capital Dynamics has been a prime example of this, regularly producing a 200-page guide of professional advice, guides, statistics and case studies in order to encourage other institutional investors to invest in its clean energy strategy. It is by creating this community that financial services companies can truly establish trust and authority with their target audience, and in turn, that the industry’s reputation can continue to be rebuilt. HSBC is demonstrating both data depth and continued community communication effectively in this space through their annual sustainable financing and investing survey.

 

Opportunities to engage in uncertain times 

KPMG highlighted how important both communication and transparency are for financial services organisations, and with so much change and turbulence currently across many sectors, customers in both the B2B and B2C worlds need to be assured that they can have confidence in financial services organisations once again; that they are one step ahead of industry issues and that their investment, in any capacity, is safe. And, with no doubt that more disruption and uncertainty is on the horizon, CMOs need to plan how they can use thought leadership content to support future contingency plans and be prepared with comments on possible scenarios.

By discussing issues directly relating to the sector and subtly showing the reader a solution to their challenge, thought leadership content will demonstrate invaluable industry expertise. Every CMO knows that content is king, but data-driven, issues-led thought leadership content is a proven way to appeal to target audiences and show how they can trust financial services industry once more.

 

Finance

2021 TRENDS: TECHNOLOGY CONTINUES TO TRANSFORM FINANCIAL SERVICES

By Angus Panton, Head of Banking and Financial Services at Expleo

 

Angus is responsible for leading strategic client relationships and driving business forward within Expleo’s financial services, banking & fintech and insurance portfolio.

 The financial services industry has evolved at an incredible rate in recent years, underpinned by rapid advances in technology.

In fact, our own consumer research into people’s attitudes toward technology revealed that 62% of people consider easier and faster banking one of the best technological developments of the past decade. And it seems traditional banks are listening, with 56% now putting digital disruption at the heart of their strategy.

At the same time, rather than going away as traditional banks would have hoped, younger banks like Monzo and Starling have matured into formidable rivals for customers and their cash, putting pressure on the rest of the financial services sector to step outside its comfort zone, innovate rapidly and embrace a fail-fast culture.

As we look past the end of 2020 and into the future, technology is only going to play a bigger role across the banking sector. With that in mind, we’ve outlined the biggest tech-driven trends we can expect to see in 2021 and beyond that financial services need to take note of.

 

Personalisation

Marketing experts have promoted the benefits of personalisation to attract, and keep, customers. Big data – and artificial intelligence that helps us process, store, and drive insights from the data – means that personalisation will be possible on a scale never seen before.

Banks now have information about their customers’ behaviour and social and browsing history. AI enables real-time multi-channel integration of these insights to deliver a personalised one-to-one marketing experience for their customers at the time when the information is most relevant and useful (e.g a car loan or credit card).

That said, sorting through torrents of unstructured data for useful information is no small undertaking. It requires powerful data analytics technology if institutions are to reap rewards.

 

RPA

Already, financial firms have quietly introduced machines that think. Moving forward, robotic process automation (RPA) will continue to impact financial institutions to help them be more efficient and effective.

This includes processes such as customer onboarding, verification, risk assessments, security checks, data analysis and reporting, compliance processes as well as most other repetitive administrative activities. This frees up a bank’s workforce to perform more complex, value add activities.

Importantly, RPA shouldn’t been seen as a risk to jobs, it should be seen as an exciting opportunity to innovate. After all, with basic processes taken care of, people will have more time to focus on creativity in order to drive improvements.

 

Chatbots

According to Gartner, by 2020, chatbots will interact with the customers of 85% of banks and businesses. According to one report, financial chatbots save over four minutes on every interaction, so it’s within a bank’s interest to use them.

Customers of financial institutions have come to rely on the 24/7 service these conversational interfaces provide, as the possibility of an instant response and quick complaint resolution improves the experience of personal banking significantly. Conversational interfaces also provide an easy and economical way for organisations in the financial sector to receive customer feedback.

 

Blockchain

Blockchain will continue to disrupt financial institutions, beyond just ensuring data security.

Cases across the globe are already proving the value of blockchain in a wide variety of banking and investment applications, such as solving challenges faced by investment banks, to helping customers make safer payment transactions.

Industry-wide adoption of blockchain is unlikely to occur until we reach a tipping point, however – when that time arises, the regulators will need to determine best practice and how to oversee its use.

 

Biometrics – especially around mobile payments

Mobile payment innovations could do away with traditional wallets entirely as global consumers become less reliant on cash. Google, Apple, Tencent, and Alibaba already have their own payment platforms and continue to roll out new features such as biometric access control, inducing fingerprint, and face recognition, which is likely to become the preferred route of access over the next decade

 

Greater collaboration between fintechs and traditional banks

While many financial institutions are continuing to adopt new technology to enhance operations and improve customer service, Fintechs provide exciting avenues for ongoing innovation. Already, financial institutions have realised they must learn how to use fintech to their competitive advantage, and this is only going to continue in the years ahead.

 

Tech-first is the only approach

A tech-first approach is now the only approach. How banks leverage RPA, Blockchain, Chatbots and Biometrics will determine their ability to tackle cyber risk and compete with highly scalable alternative banking providers, who are reducing the lending cycle down from a few weeks to a few hours.

Businesses are digitising their customer journeys and scaling-up transformation. They’re finding more agile ways of working, boosting productivity, building key skills of the future in-house and modernising with targeted investment in technology, data, testing, assurance and information.

If innovative technology is implemented incorrectly, then there can be a severe, negative impact not only in terms of working ability but a knock-on effect in the form of consumer trust.  Something no business can afford to lose…especially at this time.

This can all be avoided by embedding continuous quality to help drive digitalisation and innovation. Combined, they achieve excellence in execution and help to deliver greater cost-efficiency, by identifying and mitigating business risk at every step. At Expleo, we’re experts at shaping agile cultures across entire organisations, and at fully-equipping teams for the path ahead, embedding quality right down into your own DNA too.  We help identify and mitigate business risk in technology-led transformations, using standardised methodology, industrialised automation solutions, global delivery and deep domain knowledge. With Expleo as a trusted partner, businesses can embed continuous quality to drive digitalisation and innovation.

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Finance

IN THE AGE OF ‘NEAR ME’ SEARCHES, FINANCIAL SERVICES MUST LEVERAGE TECHNOLOGY TO WIN NEW CUSTOMERS

by Paul O’Donoghue, VP solution engineering, Uberall

 

The coronavirus pandemic has seen a dramatic increase in digitalisation across all aspects of our lives, from remote working and online shopping to digital banking. Indeed, during the UK’s lockdown period, six million people – the equivalent of 12% of the UK’s adults – have made the switch to digital banking, and according to Deloitte, over 60% of people who used online banking more during lockdown say they are likely to continue doing so in the future.

Whether it’s personal credit, loans, insurance or investing, customers are turning to their digital devices first to find financial services. But while customers are looking online, they’re also browsing to find local options, and as of May 2020, searches for “available near me” have grown globally by over 100% in just one year, per Google data. But how do financial institutions ensure that their local outlets are being found online, and that they can still attract new customers back in store, even with Covid-restrictions in place?

Considering nearly 60 million people in the UK alone are smartphone users, financial services have a huge opportunity to connect with more customers in their local area that are looking for financial services on their mobile devices ‘Near Me’. To succeed, financial companies must shift their digital strategies to fit this new paradigm, and move away from focusing on overall web traffic to instead optimising all the online touchpoints customers have with them, from the first online search, to engaging on social media and through online reviews.

 

Paul O’Donoghue

What are ‘Near Me’ searches and how do I optimise them?

The term ‘Near Me’ made its debut in Google when people were looking for something they needed right away and close to them — like an ATM when they needed cash. For financial organisations, ‘Near Me’ searches are particularly pertinent as customers typing in local search queries usually wish to make a purchase or take an action right away.

As ‘Near Me’ searches grew, search engines got smarter and customers didn’t need to add ‘Near Me’ every time they were searching for something with local intent. The definition of ‘Near Me’ has expanded and is no longer solely about finding a specific place, “It’s now about finding a specific thing, in a specific area, and in a specific period of time,” said Google’s VP of Marketing for the Americas, Lisa Gevelber.

When it comes to optimising local searches, this is about ensuring a high ranking in search results, which is critical to being found online. For example, when a customer Googles “best home insurance agency London”, they are presented with three results, but recent research found that if a location doesn’t rank in these top three results, the click-through-rate falls to under 8%.

To increase visibility and connect with prospective customers who are searching for services at the exact moment they are ready to invest, purchase insurance or apply for a mortgage, financial institutions must ensure their online presence is optimised. This starts with listing branches and independent locations on business directories, map services and review sites – the number one way to rank highly in local search. This sounds simple enough, but where financial organisations fall short is in the accuracy and consistency of their business information.

 

Three steps to ranking at the top of ‘Near Me’ searches

Google uses the accuracy and consistency of business address, opening hours, contact details, business name, website and postcode as trust factors to see whether they should send a user to a specific location. The more accurate the information is, the more likely Google will rank the location in one of the top three spots.

Yet accuracy and consistency across the most important directories are a real problem for many finance and insurance brands — a recent Uberall study found that 96% of business locations had inconsistencies across Google, Bing and Yelp. This may seem trivial, but these small discrepancies undermine major search engine trust factors. If information is missing or incorrect for a particular location, customers looking for financial services nearby won’t be shown that result at the top of their local search.

To optimise these trust factors and subsequently gain visibility, financial services organisations must ensure accurate and consistent business listings information across multiple directories for their locations. In addition, and to encourage brand loyalty and repeat visits from customers, replying to reviews and engaging with customers online is also a must. Below are some more tips for how these organisations can keep customers coming back in the age of ‘Near Me’:

 

Step 1: Find out if locations are optimised for ‘near me’ searches

  • Focusing on optimising listings and reviews is the best way to ensure connections with customers while they are searching for services near them. But first, it pays to understand how well locations are optimised across the directories that matter most for ranking in local search
  • Perform a quick search to see if your locations appear at the top of the results, or see where they rank on Google compared to Bing and Yelp
  • Knowing where you stand is key, and there are even tools available to help you find out your current online optimisation score.

 

Step 2: Optimise business listings

  • Enter address, opening hours, phone number, business name, website and postcode on the most important directories, including Google, Bing, Yelp, Apple Maps, Facebook and Trustpilot
  • Ensure that each location has the exact same information listed across different directories, review sites and search engines
  • Be as specific as possible about the business and what it does, as the more information provided, the higher the ranking for specific search queries will be
  • Include photos that display the highlights of the location.

 

Step 3: Optimise reviews

  • Ask customers to leave reviews online by encouraging them at the end of a customer service interaction, whether that’s in-store or digitally
  • Encourage them to leave reviews across the board including on Trustpilot, Yelp and Facebook — not just Google
  • Make sure to reply to reviews, wherever they are — Trustpilot found that 75% of customers agree that positive customer ratings would make them more likely to become a customer of a bank, compared to only 9% who disagree
  • Get as many authentic reviews as possible, as often as possible – review volume and velocity is critical for rankings.

‘Near Me’ searches are here to stay, even more so during the pandemic as people turn to local services. To ensure visibility and optimisation in these searches, it’s important to understand that business listings and review management go hand-in-hand. While having accurate and consistent business listings is a trust factor for search engines, so is a local review score, review volume and the frequency with which a business location replies to its customers. Search engines want to know that customers are engaging with you, that they can trust the information you are providing, and that you are engaging right back with customers when they need it most.

 

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