The financial services industry is having a different kind of crisis. In the last global financial crisis banks caused and were blamed for the collapse of the markets and the global economy. Their reputation took a battering and even ten years later only recovered slightly. For years the sector languished in the lower tiers of the Edelman Trust Barometer. This time however it’s very different.
The industry stepped up to the challenges created by the coronavirus and played an immediate role in keeping people safe and keeping lives functioning. Examples included the banks who provided emergency loans to businesses, the large fintechs who set up critical infrastructure in record time to make the movement of money possible, and the payment providers that made it more secure and safe to pay on-line. In many cases, companies have gone beyond regulatory mandates and implemented actions such as credit score protection, flexible payments and mortgage holidays.
Bold, fast and thoughtful actions and communications have made a difference. A recent survey by Opinium shows that the more vocal brands are perceived as having responded better to the crisis, with 35% of respondents stating that the financial services has responded well to the crisis, ranking it higher than the travel and transport industries. Clearly they have learned from the lessons from the last crisis and management truly understands the importance of leading with purpose.
Much has changed in the last few months and as we slowly emerge from the lockdown phases, I believe that the purpose driven organisation will be one of the legacies of this crisis. How can marketers and communicators ensure that change endures and purpose led marketing and communications is now embedded into the day to day?
Winning internal support throughout the organisation is crucial, from the CEO to the front lines, with a cohesive approach necessary across all functions from communications and marketing to finance to HR. Recruiting like-minded and passionate colleagues early on to continue the momentum and push for change will make all the difference.
Measuring performance at both a brand and organisational level is essential, tracking resources against campaigns, as well as the progress towards both social and organisational goals.
Select partnerships with charities and NGOs that are authentic to your brand and purpose to ensure a good fit on goals, activities and budgets. A great example here is the partnership between Lloyds Banking Group and Mental Health UK, which focuses on mental health resilience in young people. As part of the programme, Lloyds has made a commitment to train 2,500 staff to become Mental Health Advocates and was instrumental in the launch of the UK’s first Mental Health and Money Advice service.
Employee activation and engagement - brands and companies with a clear purpose energize employees and we have seen plenty of evidence of this during the crisis. Motivate and empower employees to find creative ways to be successful. They are after all your biggest brand ambassadors.
In this crisis, we will remember the companies that gave something back to the community, the companies who did the right thing by customers and the CEOs who supported their staff and this is no different in the financial services industry. As we look to recover and rebuild economies and businesses, the financial services industry has an opportunity to turn the tables and rebuild trust and reputation by building a vision for the future that stimulates change and progress.
Yvonne Maher is the deputy managing director of Cognito London