Finance brands need a new approach in the Privacy-first era

By Richard Wheaton, UK MD of global data company fifty-five


Trust is a brand value that pertains to every industry, but for banks, insurers and advisors trust is the core of their brand. Indeed respect for the customer’s privacy is at the heart of all financial companies’ principles. And it is imperative that laws are followed to the letter to avoid falling foul of regulators or losing the trust and business of their customers.

It is therefore concerning that many financial firms are falling short of some of the basic requirements for the handling of personal data in their digital communications. We recently commissioned YouGov to carry out a study of compliance with current privacy legislation, and were shocked at the lack of action or planning for the increasing privacy-first future. Almost 1 in 2 respondents to our survey from Finance and Banking companies surveyed admitted to not currently having a Consent Management Platform correctly implemented. Meanwhile a shocking 66% admitted they were not doing anything to prepare for the end of the Cookie – a mainstay of digital measurement over the past few years.  This could represent a huge risk to the reputations of these companies, and their future growth.

Richard Wheaton

The dropping of cookies onto internet users’ computers has for many been the only game in town for many digital marketers over the past few years. It has helped them target customer offers and measure effectiveness. When it comes to a complex area like finance, customers want information tailored and simplified and digital targeting can be very helpful to achieve this and win new customers. But financial institutions need to be up to speed with changing legislation and rules, or risk significant penalties.


The end of third party cookies

The biggest changes in 20 years for the digital landscape are now taking place, with the move towards a more privacy-first internet. The big tech platforms are now limiting the use of third-party data collection, and instead providing their own ‘walled garden’ solutions based on more anonymised solutions.

Apple with its market dominance were first to impose limitations on the use of third-party tracking on its devices, driven by a strict interpretation of the legal requirements. These changes were a huge factor in Facebook’s plummeting share price – with its heavy reliance on access to data via Apple’s IOS.

Next Google followed Apple moves toward restricting access to data with its landmark announcement last year that it was moving to a ‘privacy-first web’. Although Google has given a stay of execution for the end of the third-party cookie to 2023, the clock is ticking.

To navigate this new unfamiliar terrain and still be able to effectively reach customers, finance brands should be developing a more strategic approach. However, that work is clearly not yet happening.


YouGov study highlights failure to plan for the cookieless future

Fifty-five recently commissioned a YouGov study to compare different UK business sectors to see how they were preparing for the new privacy-first internet.

This survey, in which marketing personnel across more than 500 UK businesses of various sizes from small to large enterprises were interviewed, revealed that only 34% of finance brands were currently developing alternative plans for targeting potential customers when the dropping of third-party cookies is phased out.

Although this is higher than the overall average across all industries of 24% it still means that two-thirds of the companies surveyed are doing nothing to prepare for a situation that will dramatically impact their ability to reach customers in the future. This is worrying.


Failure to prepare apparent across business sectors

The research also showed a significant gap between the intentions and the actions of businesses.  Worryingly, 78% of finance marketers claimed to be aware of UK laws for privacy and compliance with the data laws.  Yet when asked whether their customers are able to opt in or out of communications using a consent management tool (CMP), just 53% of finance companies surveyed gave a positive response.

UK law now requires all websites to provide customers with these options. With the huge sensitivities people have over their financial information, this represents a significant challenge for finance marketers.

Lack of skills inhouse biggest concern for senior marketers

The rapidly changing and complex digital landscape requires relevant expertise. This is obviously something keeping financial marketers awake at night. The survey revealed senior marketers’ biggest concerns in developing their digital marketing strategies in the future. The top two concerns were whether my team has the skills in house to implement a robust digital strategy (25% of companies surveyed), tied with facing a fine from the ICO (25%). This compared to an average of 12% for other industries, highlighting the heightened  risks for finance brands.

Other big worries were not being able to accurately target customers in the future (20%), whether my team’s skills are up to date and relevant for the AI driven future (20%), and not having joined-up first party data (20%).

It is clear the majority of senior finance marketers are unprepared for the new privacy-first internet and the ability to target customers based on previous browsing behaviour. The new rules around digital marketing and consent are complex, varied and in flux – and are layered onto additional rules finance brands face. It is no wonder they are having some sleepless nights. However, the best way to tackle the challenge is to put a plan in place and the good news is there is still time but the work needs to begin today.


A new strategic approach required

The new world requires a more strategic approach utilising a variety of different measurement frameworks and a greater use of permission-granted first party data. The good news for finance brands is that they often have great sources of under-utilised data that can be used for measuring and targeting their audiences.

While we are in an era of increased digital privacy, with the right lens and expertise finance brands can still use anonymised data to prove the effectiveness of their marketing activity, and make informed optimisation and budgeting decisions. The new approach will be based on a ‘modelled approach’ to help account for the missing signals that cookies used to provide. This is something many of the tech platforms are introducing including Google’s Consent Mode and Facebook’s version, CAPI.


A bridge connecting the walled gardens

It is imperative for finance brands to develop their own bespoke measurement solution. The requirement going forward is developing a cohesive strategy, developing a truly comprehensive, cross-channel view, if you like a bridge over these walled gardens.

Google’s delay in fully eliminating the use of third party cookies provides a limited window of time where brands can test new models against real world data. It is possible, for example, to achieve very similar levels of accuracy in terms of targeting while still respecting the privacy of users.

Finance marketers face a real headache with the end of third party cookies layered onto the additional rules they must follow. Many are failing to take action now to address the issues. A new strategic approach is required to still be able to effectively target customers while respecting their privacy. There is still time to develop a new approach but the work needs to begin today.




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