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HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS CAN MAKE THE MOST OF SOCIAL MEDIA

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Social media text on casual group of people meeting

By: Melissa Murray Bailey, CRO at Hootsuite

 

The pandemic has changed the way financial services organizations operate, with many of them now adopting social media as a critical tool within this new business environment. Whereas in-person meetings were expected practice pre-COVID, client-firm relationships now look drastically different with financial advisors fostering stronger client connections, driving new business acquisition, and increasing sales revenue – all via social.

As social media is still a new environment for some, and can be a vast and complex landscape, I’ve compiled four tips to help financial services organisations leverage social for lead generation, new business development, and much more.

 

Four key ways finance firms can leverage social

  1. Build your brand purpose and community trust

According to research by Zeno Group, consumers today are four to six times more likely to buy from companies that champion purpose. In fact, Edelman found that when there’s a major news event, more than half of consumers expect brands to issue a public statement on social media regarding their position within two or three days.

Melissa Murray Bailey, CRO at Hootsuite

Melissa Murray Bailey

But brand purpose can’t be communicated by the marketing team alone. Instead, it needs to be championed throughout the entire organisation—in turn building brand trust and loyalty. For finserv firms, one great way to start is by encouraging the entire organisation to support small and local businesses within their community.

A great example is US-based financial institution, Howard Bank, which launched a campaign called “Keep it Local.” The contest was designed to highlight and support local small businesses that go above and beyond in their community by telling their stories on social media channels like YouTube.

The campaign, now in its second year, calls on small businesses to submit videos. Howard Bank selects the finalists, who then appeal for votes on social media and the winning local business is awarded a grant of $10,000 while runners-up each receive $1,000. Even Howard Bank’s tagline, “We care about here,” continues to highlight small local businesses on social—earning them credibility as champions of SMBs over the long term.

 

  1. Gain key industry and customer insights

Social media is a key channel for industry research, providing a wealth of information to those looking to stay on top of what’s happening in their field. Whether it’s details on a competitor’s latest product launch or determining brand sentiment – social media is the fastest way to gain insights about customers and competitors.

Listening tools track social media platforms for brand mentions and conversations and then analyse them to provide insights that uncover opportunities to act, whether that’s making a public statement on a trending issue, or even shifting brand positioning. But most importantly, listening offers a unique view into customers, and some hints at what they want.

A great example is US-based Securian Financial, who,  through careful social listening, found that its most important demographic wasn’t complaining about lockdown but instead was making positive and meaningful connections within their larger communities via social media.

Understanding this, Securian created a user-generated content campaign with the hashtag #LifeBalanceRemix to encourage people to share inspiring stories. They also made a donation to a food insecurity charity for every user who posted with the hashtag or shared the campaign. The result was more than 2.5 million impressions and an estimated ROI of over £25,000.

What this tells us is that data and analytics matter. These tools give us insights into the effectiveness of our own social efforts and highlight what works best for finserv customers – allowing organisations to refine their social media marketing strategies as they go.

 

  1. Create another channel for commerce and customer service

Due to COVID-19 related lockdowns, and difficulty accessing in-person products and services, Hootsuite found that e-commerce saw more growth in the first 90 days of the pandemic than in the entire previous decade.

The growth of social commerce has been particularly staggering with the global industry now worth more than half a trillion US dollars. This sudden boom shows no sign of slowing down and offers finserv firms a unique opportunity to reimagine how consumers experience their brand.

Where social media was once considered an extension of a brand’s voice, it now makes up part of its very core. This new interface of commerce is integral to the new customer experience, and businesses need to ensure they are meeting consumers’ needs, and that digital and physical experiences are seamless.

Between lockdown uncertainty and staffing shortages, businesses in 2022 will be fielding more consumer enquiries than ever—and social media channels offer better ease and immediacy of response. With 64% of consumers preferring to message a business rather than call them, forward-thinking financial services firms should act on the opportunity to deliver more proactive customer care experiences via social.

 

  1. Utilise employee social employee advocacy to improve brand reputation, employee engagement and drive recruitment

A simple definition of employee advocacy is the promotion of an organisation by its workforce. When it comes to social, this could mean workers sharing information about specific products or campaigns, or amplifying brand content that’s helpful to a particular industry or practise. It can even mean offering a glimpse into a company’s culture.

LinkedIn reports that an organisation’s employees have on average ten times more combined followers on social media than the organisation itself making employee advocacy initiatives a powerful way to extend a company’s organic reach—while at the same time engaging the entire workforce.

Organisations that engage their employees as advocates see significant success in improving key brand health metrics, such as relevancy and positive sentiment.

The concept of employee advocacy may seem risky and daunting for some financial services firms concerned about managing brand content on social media. I know that the field of finance is highly regulated, and non-compliance with industry requirements can hurt brand reputation and even result in fines.  But finserv firms can reduce risk by providing pre-approved content directly from employee advocacy platforms – enabling employees to become engaged advocates while maintaining a consistent and curated voice.

 

In conclusion

Social media brings businesses closer to their stakeholders, enhances customer service, and strengthens brand identity. But to realise the rewards of social, organisations need to establish a strategic approach, following best practices for the financial services industry and making the most of tools like social listening and employee advocacy platforms.

Social is now an integral part of the customer journey, and when used effectively, can drive revenue, strengthen customer loyalty, and ensure competitive advantage for any organisation.

 

Business

Addressing the ongoing global pilot shortage issue

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By Bhanu Choudhrie, Founder of Alpha Aviation

 

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the aviation industry to a halt, causing vast market disruption and putting the future of many key players at risk. Now, just as airlines were getting back on track, staffing shortages are causing new complications – and part of this issue is a growing pilot recruitment problem.

So, where does the sector go from here and what steps need to be taken to mitigate pilot shortages?

The root of the issue

Even before the pandemic, there was a global shortage of pilots, with people flying more due to a rise in more affordable airlines and falling fuel costs. In fact, the 2020-2029 CAE Pilot Demand Outlook suggested that the global civil aviation industry will require more than 260,000 pilots by the end of the decade.

However, when demand for air travel dropped across the globe, airlines were quick to offer early retirement packages to reduce immediate outgoings. Whilst this approach helped some airlines stay afloat during the slowdown, a wave of early retirements has left them on the back foot.

Bhanu Choudhrie

Now demand is coming back much faster than expected. In the US alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expecting 14,500 openings for commercial and airline pilots each year until 2030, and this imbalance is already having a detrimental impact on the aviation industry. With flights being cancelled, travellers left stranded, and some airports losing service altogether, it is crucial that the larger aviation ecosystem comes together to work out a solution to effectively address this pilot shortage crisis, so that it can once again meet capacity demands.

Re-directing efforts to rebuild pilot pools

With vast swathes of pilots put on furlough during the pandemic – and therefore unable to maintain their license requirements, the damage isn’t just in the ongoing pilot shortage, but also in the decades of experience the industry has lost. In response to this narrative, last month a Senator in the US introduced legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age of commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67 – and the US are not alone in this shift. Last week, Air India announced that it will be raising their retirement age for pilots from 58 to 65. Now we need to see other countries and airlines follow suit to help retain the talent that can help guide and mentor the next generation of cadets.

Moreover, training schools and airlines will need to work together to challenge industry stereotypes and empower more women to pursue a career in the cockpit. Currently, just 5.1 per cent of the world’s commercial pilots are women. This means that for every twenty flights taken, only one of them will be piloted by a woman. Unfortunately, this gender imbalance has become a long-established trend within the aviation industry and, stereotypically, pursuing a career as a pilot has been considered a male occupation, with women type cast to cabin crew instead. Therefore, if we are to make proactive strides towards addressing the current pilot shortfall, finding a way to shift that percentage is essential.

The cost of training to be a pilot is also a key barrier the industry needs to address, and at pace. On average, the cost to train as an air transport pilot can exceed $100,000 – making a career in the cockpit unattainable to many. One way for the industry to help narrow the gap and mitigate what is often seen as a considerable financial risk, is to make bursaries more accessible. There are already a number of programmes in place, to support both aspiring pilots and those who need to maintain their licenses, however, now the industry needs to work on championing and expanding these support systems.

The industry also needs to start to embrace alternative approaches to alleviate this substantial outlay. For example, at Alpha Aviation, we have started running the the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL). This is a shorter, more simulator-focused way of training that not only opens up opportunities for prospective cadets from less privileged backgrounds, but also offers a more flexible training programme and quicker route to qualification – reducing the financial expenses for cadets to cover.

Technological innovations can also play a crucial role in advancing the training process to help support a consistent employee base. For example, e-learning programmes can enable airlines to expand cadet class sizes. No longer restricted by the physical capacity of training centres, e-learning programmes have the potential to significantly open up access to becoming an aviator and will ensure airlines can recruit the best talent, irrespective of locality. In addition to this, pilots still need to clock up over 1,500 flying hours to receive their ATP certificate. Therefore, investing in simulator training facilities is now pivotal in supporting cadets to keep on top of the legal requirements and improve their skills set at a significantly quicker pace, alongside supporting existing pilots to retrain on new aircrafts when necessary.

Looking ahead

The pressure on the aviation industry shows no signs of abating any time soon. Therefore, while it is great to see passenger numbers returning to near pre-pandemic levels, the industry needs to take this as a significant wakeup call and re-assess its pilot recruitment process.

At the end of the day, there is no quick fix – training top of their class pilots takes time, investment and enthusiasm. However, addressing the ongoing chaos and driving the sector out of this turbulent period is essential to the economic revival of the nation. Therefore, decisive action is needed – and it is needed now.

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How exporters can mitigate risks and operate smoothly in stormy, post-Brexit waters

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By Morgan Terigi is Co-Founder and CEO of Incomlend

 

The past few years have presented a series of hurdles for companies whose operations rely heavily on international trade.

Brexit brought with it a storm of bureaucratic complexities that upended long-standing trade routes and routines, impacting not only those in the United Kingdom and Europe but also businesses across the globe. This on its own would be enough to cause logistical headaches for even the most senior of operators, but the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, the subsequent worldwide lockdowns, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created an environment where running a business smoothly becomes an altogether more difficult task.

According to information from Eurostat, between January 2020 and December 2021, EU imports coming from the United Kingdom fell by 16.4 percent and at the same time, EU exports to the United Kingdom decreased by 2.1 percent. Taking a sector such as the fishing industry, which exports much of its goods to the EU (113 thousand metric tons in 2019), trade has been impacted by both additional costs and delays due to red tape which can be a nightmare.

Analysis by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations the bulk of the UK fishing fleet is set to lose £64 million or more per year, with a total loss in excess of £300 million by 2026, due to Brexit. This is just an example of one of the many industries which have suffered post-Brexit, and for many, it has only gotten worse.

Morgan Terigi

The spread of COVID-19 quickly added another monumental hurdle to international trade. According to statistics on UK-EU trade from the House of Commons Library, the first lockdowns in the UK and EU, which occurred in March 2020 saw the value of UK exports to the EU drop by 17 percent from the first quarter to the 2nd quarter of 2020. Imports from the EU to the UK fell by 26 percent over this same period and there was an 18 percent drop in UK exports between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 and imports from the EU fell by 25 percent over the same period.

Moving past COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions on trade and imports of goods from Russia would stand as the next major hurdle to the UK, the EU and the wider world.

According to an analysis of the impact of economic sanctions of UK trade in goods with Russia, the imports of goods from Russia dropped to £33 million in June 2022 – the lowest level since records began. There have also been no imports of fuels from Russia in June 2022, another first, while exports to Russia dropped by £168 million (66.9percent ) compared with the monthly average for the 12 months to February 2022.

The combination of Brexit, COVID-19 and the war has caused significant logistic supply-chain related issues not just for companies in the UK and Europe, but across the entire world.

So what can exporters do in order to minimise risks to their business operations?

It is important for exporters to diversify in order to survive. While imports from the EU to the UK took a massive hit due to Brexit, imports from other non-EU countries increased by 30.1 percent. At the same time, EU exports to other non-EU countries increased by 6.1 percent.

When the flow of raw materials from one country or region becomes problematic or non-cost-effective, it is in a business’s best interest to source these raw materials elsewhere. Having this variety of sources means the production of products or services can continue despite whatever problems may arise.

This allows a business to operate more efficiently and securely. However, once a business starts venturing into new supply lines, a certain element of risk comes into play.

Long-standing relationships provide a comfortable routine and while diversifying these routes can provide a security blanket, new issues with new suppliers may arise.

To survive in such uncertain times, exporters must explore new markets, and SMEs must be nimble in regards to where they get their products, all of which increase risks for those trading.

These new risks can be costly to SMEs, particularly those whose cash flow may not be enough to survive a major hurdle or hiccup. And with SMEs making up around 90 percent of businesses and over 50 percent of employment worldwide, their role in the economy can not be overstated.

This is where invoice financing firms step in. They are able to provide funding to these companies in order to cover the trade-finance gap from which they are currently suffering.

These businesses can provide SMEs extend credit lines in a more flexible manner than banks and traditional lenders can achieve.

This means an SME which is under pressure can rely on this credit to cover overheads such as paying wages and suppliers, allowing them to keep operating smoothly, even if unexpected problems arise.

An example of this would be a factory in one region, which provides car parts for a company in another region. On the first of the month, this firm ships out the completed order of car parts for an agreed fee of €150,000. However, the payment for this may not come in for a number of weeks – leaving the factory owner in a tough situation until that payment comes in. The invoice trading firm steps in there, as a middleman. He pays the factory owner, meaning said owner can pay his workers wages, and pay for the next load of raw materials. Once the money comes through from the buyer, the invoice trading firm then receives their money back, plus interest and the whole supply chain continues to operate smoothly.

As the geopolitical climate continues to shift and change, new challenges and hurdles are sure to arise. Fintech, in particular, invoice financing firms will play a decisive role in the future of trade. The flexible nature in which they can provide financing see that wages are paid, materials are sourced, shelves are stocked and businesses stay open.

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