Digital technologies enable us to connect globally. Yet, alongside digitalization, we are also seeing increasing localization – making us focus on what is happening in our own countries. The reasons for this shift include geopolitical tensions, social unrest and struggling economies. And all of this is happening as an ongoing health pandemic – which is showing little sign of abating – adds to further uncertainty, with successive surges of optimism being dampened by a variable R number.
As these events play out, all businesses and organizations are making attempts to adapt to the new reality. Some have succeeded in doing so, some are on a journey and others have not fared so well. But what they have in common is the goal of normalizing their business at some level in the face of adversity and rapid change. To do this, they will need to rely on a strong financial system that provides products, services and solutions to bridge financial deltas or capitalize on opportunities.
A New Business Model – and New Challenges
Before the pandemic, the financial services industry was already undergoing significant disruption fueled by a combination of regulation and market-driven initiatives. These paved the way for FinTechs to emerge, offering frictionless experiences to corporates. This innovation has created a new industry business model centered on marketplaces, ecosystems and platforms, made possible by digital and driven by innovation and collaboration. Friendly FinTechs are also keen to partner with larger financial institutions to lean on their capabilities while bringing agility to benefit corporates.
Right now, financial institutions reviewing their existing book of clients to assess and manage risk will also be seeking opportunities to grow their book. And many corporates will be thinking about future-proofing their business as economies start to recover, while others will need help to stay afloat. So the opportunities are there. However, reduced in-person networking opportunities to build and deepen relationships make it harder for marketing, sales and client relationship teams in financial institutions to reach those who need help to survive or thrive.
Against this background, a further challenge is that authenticity and empathy in communications and interactions are becoming increasingly relevant when trying to strike the right chord with corporates. For example, discussions on the risk of default on loans, liquidity management, supply chain financing and other going concern issues must be handled with sensitivity and cognizance by relationship managers. Those corporates seeking a new relationship banking partner will be evaluating options based on service and value – and segmented, personalized propositions will be key.
What can financial institutions do in response? The oft-quoted CEO of BigTech Microsoft, Satya Nadella, was unequivocal in the company’s Q4 2020 earnings release: ‘The last five months have made it clear that tech intensity is the key to business resilience.’ As this comment underlines, there are a number of things that financial institutions can do now to address the corporate relationship challenges and customize communications. Across many industries, we are seeing a wholesale shift to digital channels and the use of data and analytics as levers for building, managing and deepening client relationships. Financial institutions too can harness these approaches to turn the current challenges into opportunities.
Pivoting to Digital Channels to Reach Corporates
The place to start is with communications. Today, clients and prospects are receiving a tsunami of content that is flooding their inboxes and screens. Marketing teams at financial institutions are also turning to digital channels and real estate. Examples include investing in corporate websites and business LinkedIn page with paid options to generate opportunities for sales and client relationship teams. This pivot is well underway as marketing teams across industries readjust their marketing budgets and channel mix.
The scale of this shift is underlined by recent research from Thought Leadership Consulting (TLC), a Euromoney Institutional Investor company. TLC surveyed 57 marketing executives in several sectors including financial services across EMEA and the Americas. Its findings showed that that banks use virtual conferences (73%) and webinars (68%) for networking opportunities and digital networking – and that of the two, banks prefer webinars for digital networking. As banks and their competitors move online to engage and interact with corporate clients, segmentation and differentiation will become even more important.
Data and Analytics Are Levers for Change…
How can banks gain these attributes? Segmentation delivers if the data you have to hand on your target market is clean, accurate and ready to use. The analytics derived from that data can be a lever for change in the way financial institutions go to market. However, to humanize your brand and be authentic in your marketing, you have to start with the right type of data – a set of points that is relevant, reliable and timely.
Authenticity is about being true to your brand and demonstrating the clear value in your purpose to the groups you are trying to reach. This means being relevant and inclusive – while also expressing these qualities consistently in the language, media and channels you use for communication. Forbes summarizes the B2B Tech Marketing Trends on the rise in 2020, including humanization, empathy and heavily personalized communications, together with one that we mentioned earlier – virtual events. These are themes that we explore in the context of building relationships in this webinar.
…Provided You Have the Right Insights
Let’s go back to the data needed to achieve the market advantage we’ve described. Structured data, in the sense of what motivates a person by understanding their interests, activities, associations, historic and current employment – what we call ‘people intelligence’ – can help financial institutions market their products and services better. This people intelligence improves segmentation by enabling marketing teams to construct audience profiles combined with the value their institution has to offer each segment. In turn, it steers the messaging and development of tailored content designed to engage clients and prospects.
When financial institutions aggregate people intelligence with other data sources, their marketing, sales and client teams can build models and profiles and perform analyses for data-driven strategies informed by predictive analytics. One data source may be marketing technology or ‘MarTech’ that collects data on client and prospect behavior on channels such as website and email. Another may be the customer relationship management system that houses information from conversations and interactions with clients and prospects.
For tailored propositions or value-added services, the interests, activities and associations derived from people intelligence can help discern a client’s potential appetite for relevant products and services. Financial institutions have access to a rich vault of client data. And their data and analytics teams can help teams across functions harness and unlock the value of that data by integrating people intelligence to optimize workflows as part of the organization’s data strategy. This creates benefits through economies of learning for the organization, with ready access to high-quality, accurate and timely intelligence on clients, prospects and even partners. These observations put the spotlight on people intelligence where internal teams exchange data that may be subject to Chinese walls, data privacy regulations or industry-specific laws applicable to financial institutions.
People intelligence, therefore, needs to be a part of a financial institution’s armory of data sources in order to deliver high-quality, personalized interactions, build new connections and deepen existing relationships. The synergy with digital is clear: as channels they provide the means for financial institutions not only to go to market, but also to gather data to shape existing and future go-to-market strategies. People intelligence helps you get to know your client and prospects better and respond with the elements of the value proposition that will connect with them. Put simply, it isn’t a nice-to-have – but a business imperative.