What’s Driving Digital Transformation in Financial Services?

For a while now, I’ve been curious about what’s driving digital transformation in the financial services industry:

  • Innovation that Attracts & Retains: You’ve got legacy firms and fintech disruptors chasing innovation – through products, service offerings, design, etc. – to lure clients and attract talented professionals.
  • Harnessing Data to Drive Loyalty: Practically every financial institution is seeking new ways to aggregate data for more research-based, customer-focused experiences.
  • Democratizing Wealth Management: Technology is up-leveling the way consumers are managing wealth and receiving advice.

These are big, audacious changes. For marketers in particular, they have a systemic impact on how we build integrated marketing programs that drive action.

Achieving “Intimacy of Scale”

Let’s unpack this idea of harnessing data to create more personalized customer experiences.

We’re now in a world, as marketers, where “Intimacy of Scale” is possible – and frankly, expected – by consumer audiences.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean:

How many of us are asked to create marketing programs that target “women”? Now, we know that just looking at “women” is an inappropriate way to classify an audience. Women can be executives, lawyers, business owners, mothers, wives, sisters…perhaps all of the above!

Gender is a single variable. But as a woman, for a firm to create truly meaningful engagements with me, I want them to look at 100 variables – What stage of life am I in? Do I live in a city or somewhere rural? What are MY interests?

With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, it’s becoming easier for companies to deliver a personal experience – which, by the way, doesn’t have to be big, bold and splashy to be effective.

The Challenge for Financial Services

But here’s the thing: financial services firms think they’re doing a good job of providing personalized customer experiences.

The truth? They’re not.

  • Updating Legacy Systems: Many banks are still operating under old infrastructure, which makes it difficult to aggregate and parse through custom, predictive data.
  • Product Still Reigns: For many that do have systems in place, they’re not using the data appropriately and instead push product promotions and service offerings rather than content that offers value and utility.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the wealth management space.

Speaking from my own experience, I have a brokerage account with one firm whose only customized interaction with me is to send an annual happy birthday email. That’s it. Compare that to the company that sends me vitamins each month. From them I receive emails with helpful articles and tips that are specific to my wellness goals, all based on a cool quiz I took on their website. A totally different (and super fun!) experience.

The Bottom Line: Personalize or Perish

Recently, I attended a Financial Communications Society breakfast where Forrester Analyst Alyson Clarke gave a presentation called “Personalize or Perish” on how financial services companies need to upgrade their CX or get left behind.

And I think that’s right. If financial institutions, especially wealth management firms, don’t step up to prioritize interactions over offers, customers will be lured away by somebody who does.

Knowing digital transformation will only advance, here are three key takeaways for financial services marketing and communications professionals:

  1. Manage Data Successfully: Our ability to access and parse through data will inform how we create communications and experiences targeted to our ideal “Segment of 1.” Our ability to be successful in doing this will empower us to provide the personalized approach our target audiences desire in a completely new, omnichannel way. This means it is table stakes to have a great CRM in place, and maybe more importantly, to understand how to use it properly.
  2. Twitter-ize Wealth Management: Communications have changed. While there may still be value in long-form .PDFs and giant financial plans, we’ve all moved toward the 30-second exchange, whether we like it or not (e.g., text, chat bot, quick call, video, etc.). It’s our as job as communicators to leverage the information at our finger tips—responsibly—to provide meaningful insights in snackable formats that will guide next best actions.
  3. Invest in Content: At the end of the day, firms need to ask themselves if their content is really offering value or if it’s just pushing product under a thin veil of insights. If the latter is true, as I suspect it is, the good news is now we have the tools to flip the script and deliver a one-two punch: customer-centric content that offers value at the right time, in the right channel, while still moving the needle for a firm’s bottom line.

What do you think financial services should be doing to provide personalized customer experiences? Click below to connect with me and share your thoughts.

Reed Handley is a Senior Vice President at Bliss Integrated Communication. She helps financial institutions and professional services firms leverage their data and insights to tell interesting stories to B2B and B2C audiences.

Connect with Reed
Email: reed@blissintegrated.com
Twitter: @ReedHandley
LinkedIn: Reed Handley

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