Staff Reporters
Nov 15, 2016

Takeaways from the Financial Services Marketing Forum

Fintech, wearables, thought-leadership, agency roles and more: key points from Campaign's Financial Services Marketing Forum last Thursday in Hong Kong.

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Earlier coverage: Trust and Trump loom large at Financial Services Marketing forum

Fintech is no longer a branding exercise

Financial institutions are increasingly looking at fintech as an investment vehicle, compared to four of five years ago, when engagement with fintech was mere branding exercise. Instead of being an unwelcome disruption force, fintech can help financial institutions create disruptive business models to address the gaps in service, according to speakers in a panel discussion moderated by Adrian Seto, director of the Fintech Innovation Lab at Accenture. 

Financial institutions must examine their problems in servicing customers before working with fintech startups, instead of the other way round, said Inaki Amate, managing director for Greater China at Fjord. 

Don't follow the herd

That age-old advice in advertising still holds true, according to Michael McComb, director of brand for Prudential, who detailed a recent rebranding campaign. Prudential noted that many insurance brands were following a similar formula—long, tearjerking, movie-style ads where "someone's caught in a rainstorm, someone's falling down". So the company purposely chose to pursue a social experiment idea that looked very different, yet still had as its core mission creating emotional resonance with potential customers.

Agencies need to play nicer together

"There's an opportunity in Asia for agencies to play more collaboratively," McComb said. The Prudential integrated marketing campaign involved a number of agencies, all of whom wanted to make their mark, and it was a challenge for the client to keep everyone focused and pulling together, McComb indicated. He stressed the importance of a single-line brief that everyone could remember and hold up as the standard for each and every decision.

Don't overspend on customer satisfaction

Customers no longer advocate on behalf of banks, so best-of-breed customer-satisfaction programmes are not necessary, said Paul Dowling, co-founder and principal analyst with East & Partners. Instead, financial institutions should invest in high-quality, customer-centric thought leadership, which can provide returns hundreds of times higher than what it costs.

"Customers value enormously the sense of being listened to," Dowling said. Good thought leadership proves that you have listened, and are a thoughtful and engaged, "dare I say caring", service provider. In addition, winning thought-leadership content differentiates, provides evidence-based guidance and reminds customers how brilliant they were for choosing your company.

Digital is a means to an end, not a panacea...

Digital marketing practices can be a tough fit for the financial industry due to regulation. And even the abundance of data institutions hold can be daunting. Many are taking a tactical approach, shared Meredith Binder, senior director of global marketing at S&P Global Market Intelligence. "We were on a myraid of social channels, and after spreading ourselves too thin, we backed off channels like Instagram and concentrated on Linkedin and Twitter where our customers are," she said.

Digital should also be a facilitator across the whole financial business, said Geraldine Mole, APAC head of digital at Ptarmigan Media. For example, she cited doing "quick pop surveys" on social-media channels before spending millions on a strategy. "It makes more sense if you do only one or two surveys with a targeted audience first in a controlled fashion. We even do A/B testing to refine our focus."

...unless you're a traditional Chinese bank, then digital is a must

P2P lenders, robo-advisors, and other fintech firms are re-defining the mainland financial industry. Nothing matches the scale of China's fintech's landscape, said Zennon Kapron, founder and director of Kapronasia. Baidu's Baifa 100 Index Fund, for example, mines Baidu search data and analyses it with a quantitative model along with CSI index info to create a brand new financial product that "handily beat the market", he stated.

The impact on traditional financial brands is the loss in card fees and "tremendous" transaction data. "Banks have no visibility of the flow of money as transactions do not go through the China Unionpay network anymore, instead through WeChat and Alipay."

Historically, China was dominated by five banks encumbered by legacy technology, unlike fintech brands that are mobile-first and sharp with data. Digital is a no-brainer and has become a critical enabler, he said. And to add even more urgency to ramp up digital for traditional banks, China’s millennial population is getting increasingly demanding and fickle. 

Don't count wearables out...but be patient

Wearable technology allows easier banking and better engagement with customers, but regulations and in-person validation requirements are big hurdles preventing the financial-services sector from reaping the benefits of the technology, according to Mukul Agrawal, director and solution lead for core banking and digital, at Misys. Agrawal showed some compelling demonstrations, of a watch-banking app and a chatbot, but as one audience member pointed out, seem disconnected from the world we live in, where even a simple change of address requires an in-person appearance at a branch. 

Adapting to disruption

Traditional institutions like HSBC are taking a cautious approach by ensuring that any changes would be least disruptive to customers. Dhavani Bhatt, head of direct insurance, group insurance, HSBC, said disruptions would be more on a product and servicing standpoint such as making use of robo-advisors in the wealth management area. 

Fintech startups like 8 Securities have disrupted the industry by opening up access to wealth investment. Frederic Tardy, chief marketing, digital, data and customer officer, AXA Asia, said financial institutions can partner with startups to accelerate customer acquisition and “disrupt” their marketing strategies.

Can regulators and financial marketers ever be friends?

Yes—but only if risk disclosure statements and frontline staff's behaviour are not contradictory, advised Jill Wong, partner at Howse Williams Bowers in Hong Kong. She cited two mis-selling cases involving Standard Chartered and Bank Of Singapore, where they were held responsible for misrepresentations. Both banks put out disclaimers to say their employees do not have authority to give financial advice. However, their client agreements together with marketing brochures were construed as providing investment counsel to customers.

"If what a bank does and what a bank says is very different, it will not be believed when brought before a court," she said. Financial brands need to decide what is it that they do. "Are you selling a product? Are you giving advice? Then conduct yourselves with your customers accordingly."

Look for more coverage of the FSM Forum in the next edition of Campaign Asia-Pacific.

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