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A new beginning for financial services B2B marketing

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Michael Richards, Managing Director, alan agency

 

Financial services B2B marketing is dead. A bold statement with B2B ad spend set to pass $30bn next year in the US alone. But it is dead, or at least, it’s dead boring.

B2B marketing has long carried a reputation for being dull, lacking emotion, heart or guts. Indeed, the same could be said for financial services, with its technical jargon, long-winded T&Cs and an array of complex services and products to promote. Put the two together and you have a considerable marketing challenge on your hands.

Michael Richards

But there are green shoots of change springing up on the beige horizon, as financial services businesses begin to recognise that they deserve better and start to see the lessons to be learned from their B2C peers. For example, many financial services B2B brands moved to digital to refine client experiences and grow relationships during the pandemic, meaning they could connect with businesses in a more accessible way through tailored and creative solutions. But it’s not enough to just convince a business to buy a product or service with a smattering of data and a selection of charts. There needs to be a focus on provoking the truth about these progressive brands; giving them what they deserve: intelligence, imagination and emotion to provoke their truths and tell their stories in ways that just can’t be ignored.

There are so many financial services B2B brands that are missing the mark on creating provocative work and telling their stirring stories. The industry is full of inspiring stories but needs to adopt the techniques of B2C (and fast) to avoid being left behind.

Below, I’ve outlined three approaches B2B financial services marketing should take from B2C:

 

Be 100% brand and 0% product

Let’s look at the lessons we can learn from one of the biggest brands in the world. Coca Cola used to advertise on a single poster with simple descriptive messaging that didn’t make a lot of sense … but that was in the early decades of the 20th century. Coke is now one of the most instantly recognisable brands in the world. It has evolved so much from that early uninspiring product messaging that some Coke ads today feature nothing more than a red background, a white glass bottle silhouette and the message ‘Open Happiness’. 0% product, 100% brand.

Financial services business brands can learn a lot from this. Very few are tapping into the vocabulary of emotional marketing. They sell their product in line with industry jargon, expecting their ever-changing audience to understand what they mean. When really their product or service should be learning to speak a new language. One that showcases the brand over the product, communicating to their audience with a personality and values of their own.

No company can rely solely on their product features because no product is unique anymore. The power of a brand can generate that differentiating value that will set it apart from the competition.

 

Use data to personalise your offer

Data is the beating heart to personalisation. It gives businesses the foundation to build a product that is bigger and better than its competitor. One that entices new audiences while maintaining loyalty.

Consumer brands are obsessed with collecting data to better their product and reach audiences far and wide. In fact, nearly 90% of UK shoppers will hand over their personal information for improved online customer experiences.

B2B businesses also use data, but on a much narrower scale. In a survey of B2B companies, only 25% of B2B businesses use data weekly to understand customer needs, while 9% admitted they never use data at all. This is evident given that 47% of B2B buyers who need a new financial service go straight to their existing bank, and 75% of those who claim to shop around also end up with their current bank. Most buyers don’t even consider more than two brands. Meaning lots get left behind.

This is where B2B marketing shouldn’t just rest on its laurels of tedious white papers and limited data. It should inject its own personal touch and emotion by undertaking its own research and data collection to produce insightful pieces of research and showcase its unique findings. This can include specific consumer trends and behaviours in the financial services space, so they can really understand their audience and further improve their product.

 

Be audience aware

Audience Blindness is a condition that hinders B2B brands from seeing that business decision-makers have changed. They have become younger; they’re millennials. The content they consume is worlds apart from what their predecessors consumed and is constantly evolving – particularly as we enter Web 3.0 and the metaverse.

Even in the finance sector, B2B marketing is still about appealing to ‘people’ and their needs. B2B isn’t a machine and shouldn’t just cater for a computer. It needs to connect to real life audiences – those with feelings, thoughts and emotions. Because behind every business partnership is a room full of people interacting, debating and sparking ideas.

The B2C financial services sector has progressed significantly, understanding changes in audiences and catering to new needs and desires. The rise in neo-banking, investment made easy and services specifically for young adults and children looking to save is testament to this. They’ve introduced digital-first approaches, influencer techniques and new ways of improving the shopping experience through buy now, pay later (BNPL).

We’ve seen glimpses of B2B’s new beginning, but its future is to live in the present, and inject it with the power of B2C. Only then can B2B see the new audience, hear the new market and feel the new world.

Business

How can businesses boost employee experience for finance professionals?

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By Martin Schirmer, President, Enterprise Service Management, IFS

Over the course of the last year, The Great Resignation has seriously impacted organisations across the globe. Staff are quitting in huge numbers, leaving companies unprepared and struggling to fulfil their workloads. In fact, mass departures are happening at all levels of the labour market, as employees attempt to adapt to the hybrid working model and growing socio-economic uncertainty.

In light of this, optimising the employee experience (EX) to attract and retain talent has become a top priority for employers. Organisations have come to understand the necessity of taking immediate steps to drive employee engagement and reshape workplace culture.

The financial services (FS) industry is no exception to this trend. From increasing employee burnout to growing career dissatisfaction, the pandemic has exacerbated the need for transformation across finance teams. This is exemplified by recent data from Spendesk, which found that approximately 40% of finance professionals are willing to leave their roles or already have concrete plans to do so.

Organisations looking to get ahead of the competition must put in extra efforts to retain their existing workforce. The fact is that employee expectations and requirements have irreversibly changed, with more workforces becoming increasingly distributed. Today’s hyper-connected workforce values flexibility and simplicity, and it is organisations which offer these experiences that will succeed in the long term.

As part of this process, finance companies must look towards the power of technology to create seamless user experiences across devices. From automating workflows to improving overall efficiencies, Enterprise Service Management (ESM) can help organisations to boost user satisfaction and go that extra mile for their employees.

How poor EXs are driving finance teams to quit

With over 40% of employees spending a significant proportion of their time carrying out mundane, manual tasks, it is not surprising that poor EXs are having a detrimental impact on job satisfaction. Finance teams in particular have been slower to digitise core processes, leading to a heavy reliance on manual tasks. This not only increases the amount of time spent on each task, but also impacts the engagement levels of finance professionals who cannot focus on more strategic aspects of their roles.

As a result of the pandemic, flexibility has also moved to the forefront of finance teams’ desires. Given the fast-paced nature of this industry, the conversation surrounding work-life balance has increased rapidly. Failure to offer flexible working policies, coupled with a lack of technology to facilitate this flexibility, has led to poor EXs across the board.

Most notably, the overarching move to omnichannel, digital-first approaches has dramatically reset both customer and employee needs. Finance is the third-slowest running corporate function behind legal and IT. Operating in a competitive environment, 73% of finance operations are facing pressures to speed up, improve efficiency, and prioritise automation.

Mitigating the problem using technology

ESM, an offshoot of IT Service management (ITSM), is the cornerstone of smart digital transformation for organisations. It can help finance teams to streamline and automate routine processes, such as monitoring the status of service requests, approving expenses, sending invoices, and tracking payments. In turn, this will free up employees’ time, reducing the burden of manual tasks and enabling them to focus on the more strategic tasks.

Another advantage ESM can offer finance teams is the ability to adapt to each department’s minimum requirements for data privacy. Accounting, for example, needs additional layers of compliance built into the system.

ESM can also facilitate cross-departmental collaboration, helping finance professionals to communicate with the wider business and perform tasks more effectively.  Organisations can use ESM to incorporate all internal services into a single platform, offering employees a well-rounded view of the business and promoting a sense of community across all levels of an organisation. This will boost productivity, whilst enhancing visibility and control.

Ultimately, the current job landscape has brought with it a new set of challenges. Organisations in the FS industry looking to navigate the storm and retain top talent must refocus their efforts on bolstering the EX. Embracing a new era of technological innovation that empowers employees and boosts engagement is a critical step in this process.

 

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Business

CBDCs: the key to transform cross-border payments

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Dr. Ruth Wandhöfer, Board Director at RTGS.global

 

If you work in finance, you’ll have been hearing a lot about central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) and the moves different markets are making towards using, regulating and evaluating the viability of moving to an economy based on digital currency.

We are already seeing progress in the research, piloting and introduction of CBDCs into the financial system. The Banque de France for example, recently launched its second phase of CBDC experiments in line with the “triple digital revolution” unfolding in the financial sector. The infrastructures of financial markets and fintechs, however, are not prepared to accommodate their security, stability, and viability.

This could be an issue in the not too distant future. Each year, global corporates move nearly $23.5 trillion between countries, equivalent to about 25% of global GDP. This requires them to use wholesale cross-border payment processes, which remain suboptimal from a cost, speed, and transparency perspective. In fact, the G20 cross-border payments programme considers improving access to domestic payment systems that settle in central bank money, as one of the key components in facilitating increased speed and reducing the costs of cross-border payments.

The current state of cross-border payments

International transactions based on fiat are currently slow, expensive, and highly risky due to today’s disconnected financial infrastructure, messaging, and liquidity. Wholesale cross-border payment settlement can take 48 hours or longer, which is not practical in today’s digital world. Even if not every market moves to CBDCs, in an increasingly digital era, cross-border settlements between central banks will unavoidably involve dealing with CBDCs. So, not only will we have different currencies, we’ll have different technical forms of currency being exchanged – digital and fiat – as markets adopt CBDCs at different rates, adding another layer of complexity to cross-border settlements.

While there is much anticipation about the opportunities CBDCs can bring, the adoption of this technology will only be widespread if payment and settlement capabilities are overhauled to allow for new innovations in currencies.  This need for transformation represents an opportunity to redesign existing infrastructure to support cross-border CBDC transactions.

The current cross-border payments system involves correspondent banks in different jurisdictions using commercial bank money. Uncommitted credit lines used in cross-border transactions are a potential risk for any bank that relies on credit provided by a foreign correspondent bank. Interestingly, there is no single global payment and settlement system, only a complicated network of interbank relationships operating on mutual trust. While trust has allowed financial systems to function smoothly, when it begins to fail, as it did during the 2008 financial crisis, the result can be catastrophic.

Following the crisis, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) implemented the Basel III agreement, which required banks to maintain additional capital against correspondent banking account exposures. These risk-weighted assets impose a costly capital charge on positions held by banks at other banks under correspondent arrangements. While this framework helps combat risk, it neglects to address the inherent problems in traditional correspondent banking that contribute to these risks.

Making the case for CBDCs

CBDCs can offer an improvement in settlement risks and are certainly thought to have potential benefits by the BIS. If implemented correctly, wholesale CBDCs can indeed accelerate interbank transactions while eliminating settlement risk. They can also encourage a more efficient and straightforward method of executing cross-border payments by reducing the number of intermediaries.

It is likely the evolution towards CBDCs will initially see the financial market supplement rather than replace existing payment instruments with new types of digital currency. CBDCs will coexist with current forms of money in a wholesale context, and their payment rails will also work alongside the existing payment systems. In simple terms, CBDCs will need to be linked to the broader capital markets ecosystem and applications such as securities settlement, funding, and liquidity.

If built with an innovation-first mindset, the future of banking infrastructure should provide full interoperability and convertibility between fiat, CBDCs, and any other type of digital money used in wholesale payments.

The future of CBDCs

To unlock the full potential of CBDCs, a ‘corridor network’ will need to be formed. This involves combining multiple wholesale CDBCs into a single, interoperable network under common governance agreed upon by all central banks involved. The legal framework of this platform would then allow for payment versus payment (PvP) or, where applicable, delivery versus payment settlement.

Practical wholesale CBDCs appear to be on the horizon, either as a supplement to existing financial systems or as part of a transition to a digital, cashless world. Looking ahead, central banks would benefit from collaborating with fintechs that provide innovative cloud native technology to enable seamless wholesale cross-border payments without interfering with the flow of funds. If wholesale CBDCs are to become a reality, fintechs must be prepared to accommodate them.

 

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