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SIX WAYS TO FIND YOUR AUTHENTIC VOICE AS AN ETHNIC MINORITY LEADER.

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Debbie Tembo, Managing Director, The Black British Business Awards.

 

The pursuit of authentic leadership is important for everyone, but it is an altogether unique challenge for ethnic minority leaders who may already feel supressed by the weight of being in the minority. Indeed, comfort in being one’s true self, sharing information of one’s home and personal life and establishing social connection are proven to be easier within one’s own group than they are across a demographic boundary – in the case of this discussion, racial background.

I have met many people of colour who, through no fault of their own, fail to comprehend that the impact they have as a leader and their chance of progression is likely affected by their colleagues’ natural feelings of closeness towards them. We are all familiar with the systemic inequality that exists so deeply for ethnic minorities within the workplace, so on the surface finding one’s true voice may seem insignificant. The evidence, my own lived experience, and the experiences of my colleagues, however, is there to tell us otherwise.

Not only is authenticity fundamental to influential leadership, but study after study has also highlighted the direct link between leaders who can relate to their colleagues and how successful a business is. In fact, one study has also shown that employees’ perception of authentic leadership serves the strongest predictor of job satisfaction and it can have a positive impact on work-related attitudes and happiness.

It is important to note that finding an authentic voice is not about changing who you are as an individual. Rather, it is about gaining an increased understanding of how contexts can constrain expressions of authenticity for you as a minority ethnic professional so you can build the skills to flex personal style and energy to counter this.

Let us remember, what works for the majority does not always apply in the same way to the minority, not because minority leaders lead differently, but because being a minority leader challenges many of the entrenched assumptions of what leadership looks like.

Here are six ways you can find your voice as an ethnic minority leader.

  1. Believe in your worth: The colour of your skin does not determine your worth. No doubt you will have heard this many times before, but it is an important drum to bang. Let’s also acknowledge that when racism forms the backdrop of your everyday life, it can be hard to believe this is not the truth. Remember, where you come from and the experiences you have had, have helped form every part of who you are. Looking inward and gaining a keen sense of self-awareness is one of the most important traits of a leader. Asking yourself how your experiences have helped form your strengths can help you re-frame negative thoughts.
  2. Remain true to yourself: Extra-curricular and social events are important avenues to building trust and connection with other employees. However, studies have shown that racial boundaries can be a real impediment to socialising because some people fear being judged because of having different views and cultural references. Your power lies in your difference, and you should not shrink or change to fit the mould of the majority. Instead, look to take up space respectfully. Acknowledging what you believe to be your difference and sharing your experiences can help to kindle bonds.
  3. Make your voice heard: Lean into moments of discomfort and get comfortable speaking up, especially if it does not come naturally to you. You may not always have an ally in the room, but if you are asked for your opinion, embrace the opportunity to express yourself with impact. Taking a leap of faith when things get difficult can inspire and influence. Indeed, it’s likely there are others in a similar position to you who are seeking a role model for guidance and reassurance. You may have come this far without your own, but it’s time to take responsibility and be a guiding light for others. As Ann Cairns, Chair of the 30 Per Cent Club, said at an event I recently attended, “Don’t be a lady in waiting”.
  4. Prioritise personal development: Understand your capabilities, leverage your experience, and say yes to stretch assignments that allow you to grow and develop new skills. This is not a commitment to perfection, but rather an acknowledgement that investing in oneself will ultimately help your team and the business thrive. If stretch assignments are not offered, put your hand up and ask for them. Nobody can advocate for you if you do not advocate for yourself.
  5. Give your intuition a voice: If the voice you’re using doesn’t feel right for you, it’s probably not. I am naturally an intuitive leader guided by an innate sense of being and I find this to be one of my most powerful lights. It is no one’s place to tell you that this sense is invalid. Successful leadership requires a whole-brained approach, acting on facts will only take you so far.

Attend a targeted race and ethnicity leadership programme: Traditional leadership programmes seldom speak to the lived experience of those in the minority. Content insights, activities and practical recommendations often overlook the role that race plays in shaping perceptions during interpersonal interactions and of leadership. As I previously mentioned, what works for the majority does not always apply in the same way to the minority. Psychological safety and permission to talk freely and openly about experiences of inequality and discrimination are essential. You may have never had the opportunity to discuss your past experiences in a safe space with like-minded peers. You may find it enriching and reassuring to learn alongside other talented ethnic minority professionals who have similar aspirations and who face similar obstacles to you. Do not underestimate how beneficial this no filter approach could be for your personal growth.

 

Finance

2021: THE YEAR THE FINANCIAL SERVICES SECTOR WILL ENTER THE ERA OF BOUNDLESS CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT

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By

Steve Bell, VP EMEA Solutions Consulting, Verint Systems

 

It can feel like businesses lurch from one disruption to another. From macro-economic collapse to aggressive competitors, changes to regulations, political uncertainty, being slow to innovate; all these and more can undo the years of hard work that has been spent building up a viable, profitable company.

Yet dig beneath the surface of those issues, and despite the apparent variations there is a fundamental truth in all of them – that the reason for failure is an inability to change. History is littered with the names of once industry-leading companies that did not change their business model to reflect the evolving needs and demands of the market. Some have gone completely; others are shadows of their former selves.

 

Accelerated consumer demands

It’s likely that we will see more names follow them in the coming months and years. As we’ve seen in previous crises, not even storied banks are too big to fail. The pandemic will be blamed for much of it, and it will be a significant factor. But in all likelihood, all it will have done is accelerated what was already going to happen – just as it has done for digital transformation. We’re at a point now where consumers are expecting much more intuitive experiences and services from the brands they buy from, and that includes financial service providers.

Steve Bell

From new channels and ways of purchasing, to heightened expectations of what good looks like, banks are having to do much more with, in many cases, a workforce that is dispersed, disengaged, and underequipped to meet customer demands.

That means they need to adapt. They need to be able to offer self-service, social-media based customer interactions, mobile, ecommerce, and they need to be able to offer it at the same standard as innovators, all with a remote workforce. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling mortgages or fridges, whether you’ve been in business 12 months or 50 years – consumers are taking their experiences from other sectors and expecting everyone they interact with to be at the same standard. Put another way, financial service providers are no longer just judged against their sector competitors.

Decision-makers know this – a new study from Verint found that understanding and acting on rapidly changing customer behaviours was a top concern for 71% of financial service professionals. Their top challenges highlighted concerns relating to remote workforces, with maintaining established relationships with clients, a lack of physical interaction between employees and customers and inefficiencies in managing urgent client matters all causes for concern.

 

Ushering in a new era of customer engagement

It all points to creating a new approach to customer engagement. Banks and other financial service providers need to recognise that they have to deliver an always-on experience, irrespective of channel, while at the same time taking into account the fact that their workforce isn’t going to scale to meet the challenge.

What’s the solution? The answer combines culture and technology to create an approach known as boundless customer engagement.

It’s cultural because it demands a mindset change. One that sees the entire organisation as responsible for delivering an exemplary experience, not just customer service, or a subsection thereof. Where key performance indicators and objectives across all functions are dialled into how that department or team supports the delivery of better customer experiences. It’s also about empowering workforces to act appropriately and deliver the best response to customers, allowing the entire organisation to adapt and act faster.

 

Combining technology and culture

It needs to be cultural, because culture defines how the next part is used. Technology is inherently neutral – it is only through its deployment and adoption that it becomes either a force for good or simply a quicker root to short-term margin improvement. If the right cultural mindset is in place, then the technology that underpins it all will deliver boundless customer engagement.

It will do this through enabling the right balance of automation and human touch, allowing teams to scale without leaving customers feeling as if they are at the mercy of an impersonal algorithm. With artificial intelligence, everything from front-end chatbots to back-end knowledge management systems serving up the right information at the right time, can be deployed to meet accelerated customer expectations.

 

2021 – the year of boundless customer engagement

By combining a culture shift with the deployment of technology, financial service providers will be able to break down the barriers that disrupt better customer experiences and meet demand. And they’ll be able to do it without having to massively scale up or put teams under intolerable pressure.

Whatever else happens, the consumer experience in 2021 is going to be one characterised by speed, by intuition, and by a vast array of touchpoints. For financial service providers to be able to deliver on this promise without dramatically undermining their own employees will take a new approach – one that connects the realities of work today with data and experiences to build enduring relationships through boundless customer engagement. In doing so, banks, wealth managers and other finance organisations will drive real business outcomes that cements ongoing performance, irrespective of the wider economic climate.

 

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Business

HOW TO UP YOUR EMAIL MARKETING GAME IN THE FINANCIAL INDUSTRY

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By

Sam Holding, Head of International, SparkPost

 

The secret to a successful marketing campaign, no matter the industry, comes down to a well-oiled email programme.

In the financial industry, high volumes of emails are being sent every day, and it is vitally important that customers trust the sender and understand the information that is being shared through the email. And in the financial industry, this is even more true. But ensuring that emails are being received correctly, both in terms of deliverability and content, is much easier said than done. How can organisations ensure that their emails are reaching customers and prospects successfully, and sending the right message?

While financial services firms certainly need to consider the content and branding of their emails, they must also prioritise the foundational elements of email, namely deliverability, in order to make email the ROI machine it can be. That said, deliverability, content, and branding are the combined ingredients necessary for financial services to fully realise the potential of their email programs.

For high volume senders, even a seemingly nominal decrease in deliverability rates can represent a huge decline in how many customers are actually seeing their emails. More than that, with financial institutions, the value of each converted customer can be quite high meaning that even a 1% decrease in inboxing rates can mean major losses. Once financial organisations understand the pounds and pence of deliverability, it’s time to start implementing tactical best practices to avoid the pitfalls of declining deliverability rates.

 

Step 1. Improve your reputation as a sender

For financial organisations, using email to help boost their credibility and reputation is essential. Actions such as sending on new IP addresses with unproven reputations, can seriously impact an organisations reputation with current and potential customers, therefore it is vital that email activity is set up to improve a company’s reputation and not the other way round. It is important that anything considered personally identifiable about a customer (or PII), like their phone number, account number, or address, are properly protected and only shared with the customer themselves. On the other hand, another way to build customer trust is by letting them know information that you will never ask for over email, so that they can easily identify any suspicious communication that occurs, without finding out the hard way.

Also, when it comes to building a solid sending reputation financial firms shouldn’t send too much, too soon, from a new IP address.

 

  1. Relevant email sending is key

Once the more technical aspects of email sending are in place, organisations must next ensure that the content they are sending in their emails is truly relevant to the recipients. No matter how engaging and interesting an email is, if it is not relevant to the recipient, it simply will not yield success. The more relevant the emails are, the more likely they will be well received by consumers.

Financial institutions should be mindful when building lists for sends and use data like past purchases, traffic logs, and on-site search to inform who they’d like to send to, avoiding the temptation to blanket their whole audience with a single email in the name of efficiency. In order to get the most out of email communications, sending highly targeted messages will be much more effective in not only building reputation, but building out a strong and engaged list.

 

  1. Produce high quality content

Once the relevant audiences have been defined through segmentation, the next task is to decide on the content of the emails. When it comes to sending out marketing messages, financial institutions should consider the kind of information their recipients find valuable and produce content that is in line with their needs. One way of ensuring marketing emails resonate with the audience is through promotions. Who doesn’t love a good offer? Customers need to be able to see the value in subscribing to emails, and offering valuable educational seminars and content and special offers tailored to their financial picture via email is a simple way to do that.

Another best practice for financial institutions is to pay close attention to writing great subject lines. Since many customers won’t see more than the first few words — especially on mobile – senders should put the most relevant and targeted terms up-front, making the value to the customer immediately clear. With smart content informed by great segmentation, financial firms can really leverage the power of email in their marketing strategies.

 

  1. Use strong branding to boost integrity

The last foundational ingredient to a great financial services email strategy is branding.

To ensure brand integrity, it is essential that every aspect of an organisation’s messaging — visual identity, voice, value proposition — is consistent and compelling. A common pitfall is to use different systems or third-party providers for automated transactional emails, marketing emails, and other types of messages. This can lead the look and feel of the messages customers receive to vary widely, creating a confusing brand experience. By managing all messages through a single system, financial firms can build a stronger connection with customers and make each email they receive feel part of a coherent and valuable relationship.

As part of a financial services organisation’s branding strategy, it’s a good idea to use the brand name in the “from” field that shows up in the recipient’s inbox. Some marketers use an individual’s name with the belief that it will seem more personal, but this can also make it seem like spam. Instead, use a name customers will expect to see, then stick with it consistently across all emails to build recognition and trust. Using a solid and consistent brand is a best practice for any brand that sends email!

When it comes to your email marketing strategy, different approaches will work for different organisations, and will depend on the intended outcome. For large volume senders, like financial organisations, this is particularly true, and it is even more important that you know why you are sending your email and who it is intended for in order to get the most success possible. By following best practices, and taking care in your approach, email can be the gateway to a higher reputation and more loyal customer base.

 

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