FS Forum Conference

FS Forum Annual Conference 17th March

Pete Markey, formerly of the Post Office and now joining Aviva, opened the conference with a discussion around our desire to know what the next big thing in marketing will be, and the subsequent scramble to understand whether ‘it’ matters, what we need to know and how to implement ‘it’. Referencing the recent Nunwood Report ‘Banking the Customer Experience Dividend’ he highlighted some key findings:

  • Customer experience is the new branding – you can’t just bring out shiny impressive adverts, you have to live up to the brand promise too
  • Omnichannel is everything, digital must be integrated across the customer journey
  • Knowledge management ensures success. Data matters and marketers must know it and understand it

These points were echoed in the key themes of the day:

Challenges vs Opportunities

Financial services, and in particular insurance represents significant marketing challenges but considerable opportunities for marketers. Annabel Venner from Hiscox acknowledged that financial services is a low interest category for consumers and businesses. It’s a necessary evil, tarnished by history, selling an undifferentiated and intangible product, in a highly regulated marketplace. Mark Evans from Direct Line adds that the only product you don’t know the cost of when you sell it is insurance – your £300 premium may end up being a £19 million pay out. However, both agree that being a marketer in this sector offers huge opportunities. Annabel suggested that you can become a more rounded marketer, with a true breadth of digital knowledge, plus the chance to own the complete customer relationship and journey, with access to and ownership of customer data. Mark Evans concluded that being a low interest sector doesn’t mean you have to be dull, and Andy Farmer from ORM proclaimed “There’s never been a better time to be a financial services marketer”.

Honesty is key

“How a company behaves internally and how it acts towards its customers must confirm –rather than contrast with –the image it portrays of itself in the media” said Annabel Venner in a blog in 2014. Honesty and perhaps even more so transparency is key in financial services and not acknowledging this just adds a further hurdle to successful marketing.

Digital marketing is dead as a role but not as a channel

Whether you are part of the acquisition team, the marketing team or whatever team, you should be focused on end-to-end customer communication and therefore digital will be a part of your role. Being the CMO means you probably don’t have the detailed knowledge to run an SEO campaign but amongst your toolbox you have the ability to talk around an SEO campaigns goals, and the specialists to make it happen. There should be no Chief Digital Officer, but there should be digital specialists on the team.

Customer data is an opportunity – and FS marketers have more of it than anyone else

Annabel Venner touched on the almost unique abundance of data available to financial services marketers. Stephen Ingledew from Standard Life highlighted David Buckingham’s comments on ‘Data is the new oil – we need to find it, extract it, refine it, distribute it and monetize it’.

Mail is great

Les Binet and Peter Field predicted the golden age of DM in March 2015 following a DMA research report on The Private Life of Mail and according to the IPA’s extensive effectiveness case studies data, campaigns which include mail perform better. The reality is that the growth of digital channels has actually been great news for mail, because mail has always been 1-2-1 and everything else is only just starting to catch up.

The conclusion – not everything’s changed, the fundamentals are the same.

The number of channels has ballooned but the marketers goal is still driving profitable growth and understanding customers. Effective marketing still needs to come from the whole organisation and not just the marketing team. It’s our responsibility not to let marketing 101 get lost in marketing 2.0.


 The main speakers 3 key take outs from the day.

  • There are more things that are still true in marketing than are still changing.
  • Marketing is too important to be left only to marketers – get out into the business and be curious.
  • Read Dr Seuss ‘Oh the places you will go’. Life undulates, you can be happy and successful, but not everyday.