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THE WORLD IS CHANGING BUT TRUST ISN’T – HOW FINANCE BRANDS CAN BUILD POWERFUL CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS THROUGH MAIL

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By Phil Ricketts, Wholesale Commercial Director at Royal Mail Marketreach

 

If the last eighteen months have taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected. The landscape can shift, and the context which defines our daily lives can change shape at any moment. It is impossible to know exactly what the future has in store, or how the world will change.

But what is more predictable is people. There are certain values that we stick with. Broader changes can shift our short-term priorities and habits, but they seldom change our core values and beliefs.

No matter the era, whether it is pre-digital or post-pandemic, we can know that trust matters to people. Trust is the foundation of any interpersonal relationship. People want partners they can rely on – and this is true for relationships with brands and businesses as much as anything else.

 

Loyalty and trust

Trust is everything in business. And customer loyalty is the most powerful asset a marketer can have.

For the bottom line, loyalty matters because it translates to Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) – a projection of how much money a specific customer will bring to the brand over a set period – and how likely they are to recommend the brand to others (as measured by Net Promoter Score and other metrics). Gartner research found 59% and 61% of businesses respectively listed loyalty and retention as their most important objectives in 2021.

For financial services businesses, trust is even more paramount. People need to feel trust and reassurance that their financial matters and commitments are in the right hands. Building and growing a trusted reputation stems equally from strong service, and the right communications.

Loyalty is built by optimising the many incremental interactions and experiences a customer has with a brand to be as positive as possible. And driving loyalty and retention come from understanding your customer and their needs.

This means driving value across every touchpoint in the customer communications journey. To deliver this, brands and businesses must blend behavioural understanding with appropriate personalisation and customer journey insight in a way that drives trust.

This can sound more complex than it is. Trust is not abstract. And some marketing channels naturally imbue trust in their communications, such as mail.

Mail is a strong medium for driving loyalty and making customers feel valued. Research shows that 70% of people said mail made them feel more valued compared to just 30% for email. In addition, almost all addressed mail is opened, and each piece is interacted with 5 times and remains in the home for around 7 days.

The lockdown era supercharged this effectiveness. Amidst the digital message bombardment of lockdown and hybrid working, physical communications have become more engaging than ever. Recent research shows that 99% of people open their customer mail, compared with 21% for emails and around 9% for finance app notifications.

Over two thirds (71%) of consumers say that they completely trust the mail they receive. And this trust spans across all forms of customer service mail, including; statements, invoices, customer updates.

Financial brand marketers and businesses can benefit from leveraging the trust values of mail. Especially when you combine its power with digital channels.

 

The digital dovetail

Businesses need to ensure their messaging is authentic. The digital era has made us all more weary and cautious of scams and fake news online. A global Kantar study showed social media as the least trusted for seeking out news and information – 70% of people in the UK said they ‘don’t trust’ a lot of content on social platforms, including posts from brands.

Audiences acknowledge the trust physical mail induces. Over half (51%) of people prefer to receive sensitive and confidential information via the post – with only 35% opting for email and 1% via text.

As trust in different media channels varies, it is apparent businesses should leverage an integrated media mix. Some channels may be more cost efficient, but others carry more weight with audiences. A balanced campaign will use both.

In fact, direct mail and digital can enjoy a powerful partnership, especially as they share a key similarity: both channels work best when they are fuelled by data. And with the rise of automation technologies such as Salesforce, Adobe and Iterable, sending communications by mail is quick, easy and efficient.

Smart use of data enables brands to deliver a personalised, timely and relevant message – if synchronised across digital and physical channels this means brands can not only gain the attention of their target audience but drive actions too.

The latest figures from JICMAIL reveal the symbiotic relationship between mail and digital, finding an increase of 70% in online activity driven by mail.

 

How the Close Brothers re-designed their journey through mail

Close Brothers is a leading UK merchant banking group, who like many, use customer mail to register new customers. But the business noticed that their original customer welcome pack led to10% of credit agreements being completed incorrectly. And this meant higher processing costs for the business.

The business improved their welcome pack with a simple redesign – altering the structure of information, adding clear calls-to-action, as well as data-driven personalisation. By optimising their customer mail with an investment of just £10k, incorrect applications reduced from 10% to 3%, delivering annual savings of £270k.

 

Putting faith in trust

Trends and habits rise and fall. Popularity is an ever swirling roundabout. The world can change at any moment. But what won’t change is the importance of loyalty and customer retention in the business of financial services.

Trust works for both parties. People want brands they can rely on – and equally brands want loyal customers. Building long-term relationships with customers and forging lucrative loyalty should be the overarching goal of marketers, and brands should have a clear idea of what channels strategies are the best fit for reaching these goals.

 

Business

IS SCARCITY OF TALENT THREATENING THE UK’S FINTECH CROWN?

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To be attributed to Rafa Plantier, Head of UK and Ireland at Tink

 

From the Square Mile to Canary Wharf, London has been the historic centre of global finance, with long-established trading exchanges and trusted financial institutions. In the digital era, it has also ensured that it’s moved with the times to become a thriving hub for fintech.

But the UK financial services sector is now at an inflection point. In the past year, London’s position as a global fintech leader has been under threat. Earlier this year, Amsterdam overtook The City as the largest European share trading hub. The European Banking Authority moved from London to Paris. And Dublin, Paris and Frankfurt are all competing to win a greater share of the European financial marketplace.

The culprits of the shift are the twin challenges of the pandemic and Brexit, combined with the speed of technological transformation in financial services – disrupting the traditional flow of people, capital and ideas. So the pressing question for the industry is: how do we maintain and, more importantly, accelerate momentum to retain London’s fintech crown?

The answer revolves around one key thing — people.

 

Diverse talent drives innovation

Attracting the best talent is crucial if the UK financial services sector is going to continue to thrive and retain its global position as the preeminent financial centre.

In February 2021, the Kalifa Review laid out a strategy and delivery model for the UK to lead the fintech revolution, covering five key areas. These included skills and talent, investment and international attractiveness and competitiveness. But what became clear was that access to the right level of highly skilled talent was one of the biggest challenges for UK fintech, with barriers spanning both domestic skills shortages and the need to access foreign talent seamlessly.

As a native Brazilian in the UK, working for a Swedish-owned fintech, I understand these challenges as well as anyone. I love London, but we must recognise that fintech firms need unique talent and skills, and such a talent base can’t be met by a single city – not even one as resourceful as London. Not only do fintechs require technology and data specialists, but also experienced managers with good knowledge of high-growth companies and financial services.

As someone lucky enough to have worked with startup and scale-up fintechs across the world,  I understand the unique grounding that comes from being a part of a high-growth global company. That’s why I believe it’s vital that we attract people from across the world with commercial experience at ambitious, rapid-growth businesses — so they can bring this experience to bear on the UK financial services sector.

At the same time, many companies face renewed pressure to create new services and products to meet expectations for growth. That is why it’s critical that the UK has access to people with the right technical skills in areas such as software engineering, DevOps, Cybersecurity and data science.

Put simply, having the smartest minds delivering the best products is good for everyone. It drives efficiency, productivity,  growth and, ultimately, prosperity.

 

The UK is open for fintech

The UK should be proud of being a fintech pioneer and the driving force behind legislation that helped usher in the era of open banking. There is now an exciting opportunity to take this even further. Having access to a diverse pool of talent and skills will empower the financial services industry to create innovative products to tackle complex social challenges, such as better B2B payments, financial inclusion and climate change.

The good news is that the UK government clearly recognises the role the industry has to play in driving growth and innovation. The 2021 Autumn Budget reaffirmed commitments to reskill the nation. With £3.8bn budgeted for skills and a formal criteria for the long-awaited Scale Up Visa, the Chancellor announced a set of proposals that will support the breadth of our sector — from startups right through to unicorns and incumbent banks. This will be essential for fintechs like ours to continue to trailblaze and for the UK to differentiate itself on the global stage.

In an increasingly competitive global landscape, and to sustain momentum, we must keep talent avenues open to attract the best of the best in the industry. As one of the fastest-growing areas of the UK economy, the benefits of nurturing UK fintech to drive productivity, growth and lead the UK’s post-pandemic recovery, cannot be overstated. 2021 has seen a surge of activity in the industry and I am eager to see what London’s fintech sector can achieve in 2022.

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

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SET YOUR BUSINESS UP FOR SALES SUCCESS IN A POST-PANDEMIC WORLD

Dean Fiveash, Head of FinTech Sales, IFX

Without doubt the Coronavirus pandemic impacted every aspect of our lives and fundamentally changed the way in which we all conduct business.

From the widespread adoption of working from home, to the amplified focus on employee wellbeing and work life balance, to simply acknowledging that people are more than their job titles and are often juggling childcare, pets and terrible wifi issues all whilst trying to do their job. The last 18 months have altered the way we work forever and in order to set our businesses up for success we have also needed to rethink how we operate.

Dean Fiveash

In a people facing sector like sales,  it’s  clear that the loss of face-to-face interaction is perhaps the biggest loss and an impending challenge as we slowly emerge from the confines of the pandemic. Gone are the days of instant downloads from ‘water cooler’ conversations with the team discussing deals or general matters. Instead, our inboxes and diaries are full of zoom catch ups. This isn’t to say that success has dwindled. Flexibility of working from home has helped many businesses to grow rapidly. In fact at IFX we have enjoyed our ten best months of company sales, but there is no denying the way in which we work within our teams has shifted. So how can you set up your sales teams to maximise its chances of success?

 

Adapting To The Times

For many businesses operating during these unprecedented times the shift towards the work from home culture has seen its benefits. Speed is key in the fintech industry and video calls on top of isolated working has greatly improved our time efficiency allowing us to do more for our clients in the long run. Equally, with the workforce being spread around the country and in some cases even globally, came the need for further rigorous checks and processes to ensure the high standards set in the office environment are still being met.

Despite this I would argue that this made us better sales people, and in turn a more successful and thriving sales team.

Post-pandemic success is grounded in not just the talent of your employees but also how you choose to structure your teams. For me, the old adage ‘People Buy People’ remains the most relevant factor for developing a slick sales team. At the end of the day, the technical stuff can be learnt over time but the proficient people skills needed in client facing roles is more innate.

When evaluating team skills, individuals who demonstrate determination and the ability to keep smiling through adversity are a vital asset, especially in the fast paced fintech industry.

Having worked in numerous team leader roles within the sales industry,  I know the difference that a collegiate and supportive team can make to successfully securing deals. The key is to have people at your disposal who are going to pitch in to help others, in turn making the team more robust. In the post-pandemic world, this will remain the key quality to look for and embed as a core value across the business.

 

Fostering A Successful Culture 

Whilst the team structure and core skills are an important part of the team set up, good management and personal development structure is crucial to success. At IFX, our sales leadership team all have client portfolios and are regularly signing and navigating deals. It’s through giving my team practical experience and regular client interaction that we can gain far better market insight than through managing team activity or KPIs alone.

More discipline is also required when working at home to retain the sales focus whilst navigating domestic distractions. As such, maintaining your employee motivation and focus is something each business should work on. A difficult feat without the physical presence of your team and one balanced on knowing your employees and their individual needs. But little things go a long way, so incentives and perks such as company socials, bonuses or simply a free breakfast can work wonders to motivate others. Another tip is to set  attainable goals and regular check-ins with your team to keep motivation on track to reach peak productivity.

 

Looking Forward

Team dynamics will continue to change to adapt to the ever-changing and rapidly evolving landscape, the secret to success will remain the same.

Something to look forward to in the next couple of years as a movement,  is the greater adoption of smarter contracts and embedded FinTech, which of course as businesses and as a team we will have to adapt to.

Ultimately, my biggest piece of advice to others is to get the basics right.  A leading-edge solution fails to achieve greatness if it isn’t backed with competent sales/relationship managers and attentive operational support. Traditional ingredients for success such as reputation and trustworthiness are built over time, often through word of mouth, but building a competent team who can make your clients happy is essential to that mix

 

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