Posted by Cognito on Wed, Jan 30 2013

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2013 - Putting trust, reputation and values back in the driving seat

On a cold winters morning, over 100 industry professionals made their way to Cognito’s first Breakfast Byte of the year to hear from HSBC’s Andy Berry, London First’s Rob McIvor and SunGard’s Paul Wilson on what they expect to be the biggest challenges for the financial services communications industry in 2013.

Photo of the Breakfast Byte

See here for more photographs from the event.

Five years on from the start of the financial crisis, Cognito explored the importance of trust, reputation and values as central to communications strategies and why the adoption of social media in the financial services industry remains cautious.

Build trust, restore reputation

Following a year dominated by rogue trading, Libor, the infamous London Whale and large scale job cuts, it’s no wonder that the impact of reputational damage on the financial services industry and London in particular, was of huge concern to the panellists. Unless organisations take charge of the ‘banker bashing’ debate and make a bullish commitment to London, the financial services industry will face irrevocable reputational damage and the heart of UK economy will cease to beat.

Often, the media are guilty of reflecting readers’ prejudices fostering a blame-led culture. The panellists believed that this industry needs chief executives to stop taking the back foot and turn the tide of reputational slander, shouting from the rooftops the significance of the financial services industry in driving the global economy, luring out support from the wider business community in the process.

Building trust is fundamental and communications teams will need to work harder than ever to build it. Much like personal relationships, trust takes a great deal of time to build but a minute to shatter. It cannot be bought and so the financial services industry will only convince a cynical media and British public of its restored reputation with actions not words, adopting new measures to increase transparency, efficiency and dedication to clients.

Practice a ‘value led’ culture

Against a backdrop of regulatory pressure and stakeholder scrutiny, financial services companies need to be creative in marketing themselves and differentiating from competitors. Going back to basics and understanding what your firm exists to do, is a good starting point and was neglected pre-financial crisis.

This paves the way for putting clients first again. Focusing on the economics of relationships and implementing an account based approach, clients will feel valued and be provided with a deeper level of support, even if this focus results in organisations operating with fewer clients.

More than ever, shareholders are insisting on total visibility to foster a value-led culture within an organisation. Adopting the highest global standards and implementing in all regions where an organisation does business, is vital in restoring an organisation’s kite mark for high service and pride amongst clients- a sentiment which existed before the industry’s reputation was dented.

Regulation remains a big challenge for financial services organisations but is by no means new to the industry. What differentiates organisations is the ability to foresee scenarios, prepare clients and implement appropriate international strategies to ‘weather the storm’.

It will take time, but the panellists were all in agreement that adapting business models to place emphasis on such value led practices will assist organisations in appeasing shareholders, regulators and the public.

Understand the changing face of the media

With a question mark hanging over the future of the Financial Times, the Guardian’s possible curtailment of its print form and the rise of tablet ownership, it’s safe to say that the world is moving towards digital media.

Social media has become a vastly powerful tool over the past five years, generating a trend for ‘hyper-connectivity’ and new media channels. Due to its fast-moving nature, we’re now in an era whereby news often breaks first through social media, quickly reaching a network of individuals and communities for whom it is entrenched in their day-to-day lives.

With this is mind, social media is fast becoming an essential communications tool for many corporates and financial services organisations, capitalising on the changing dynamic of relationships, unparalleled access to the public and ability to provide ‘non-corporate’ jargon. However, implementing a social media strategy remains a perennial problem for communications managers as compliance teams deem that the risk of inaccurate stories snowballing, far outweighs the opportunities that it brings.

Cognito continues to keep abreast of these important industry issues, fostering debate to help clients overcome challenges. 

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For more information about our New York Breakfast Byte, please email

What was said on Twitter

FreshMinds Research ‏@FreshMindsRes

Meeting some really interesting guys at the financial services marketing breakfast #cognitoBB

Allan Schoenberg ‏@allanschoenberg

A dual hashtag event and good discussion on trust this morning#cognitoBB #CogBB

Jacob Howard ‏@JH_Tweets

Enjoyed the breakfast byte yesterday - trust is key, but having a clear identity is paramount @CognitoPR #CogBB #CognitoBB

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