How the financial services sector has had to adapt to Covid-19

By Kirsty Maxey on Wednesday, 22 July 2020

This article was originally published here on Tuesday, 21st July 2020.

We’ve all experienced change recently. Change to our daily routines, personal lives and working lives – in fact almost every aspect of our lives has changed somewhat. Just as we have had to adapt to this new way of life, so have the companies that we interact with every single day. Their success relies on their ability to meet our ever-changing needs.

An industry that has needed to flex incredibly quickly has been the financial services sector. Many people are living on a reduced income or, in some cases, people have seen their monthly income drop completely. Banks, lenders, financial advice firms, investment companies have had to pivot quickly and efficiently to support the needs of the customers dealing with this significant change in personal circumstance.

Practical measures like mortgage and credit card holidays, extended overdrafts and emergency small business loans have all been introduced and crucial in helping people.

But, it’s not just the product offering and support systems that financial services companies have had to quickly adapt. Throughout a crisis, communication is not only crucial for brands in maintaining contact with customers but can be transformative. It is vital for cementing the most important relationships – from employees, to customers, suppliers, creditors, investors and the wider community. During the coronavirus crisis the focus of FS brands has, rightly, turned to the needs of the customer with a move to humanise content – something we have seen across multiple industries. I bet you all have an email in your inbox which is titled ‘A message from our CEO’. This move is no flash in the pan and will continue for years to come.

As the messages delivered by brands rightly evolve it is key that marketing and PR spend isn’t one of the first things to be cut, especially when competitors might be doing just that. Businesses that continue to maintain share of voice and share of market are proven to see increases in profitability that outweigh short-term savings.

In the FS sector, brands that have done it well include Moneyhub, which in response to the pandemic offered a six-month free trial for users and share content that signposts where help and advice can be found. And then there are brands like Fidelity and Charles Stanley, who have used the opportunity to grow their share of voice while the rest of the market has reduced their spend. As we support clients adapting their communications strategy into the new world of normal, here are some key things to consider with them.

1. Customer – first and foremost Understand how your customer is redefining value - and respond. What are their needs now? How can you meet them? What channels are most efficient in reaching them? Online video, broadcast and TV streaming take the top spots overall for increased media consumption, proving popular across all generations. Millennials are driving the increased usage of radio, podcasts and audio streaming? How can you update your strategy to meet this?

2. Consistency History shows that maintaining spend can improve market share, whether competitors are cutting back or not, and customers will value the reassurance of recognising known brands. Brands which advertised during the 2008 financial crash saw an 9x faster recovery in their stock market value and people haven’t forgotten this.

And, research shows that 78% of people believe that brands should help them in their daily lives, highlighting your consumers, employers, stakeholders, want to keep hearing from you.

3. Cost Customers will be cost conscious and keen to get the best deal. The key is to remain competitive and reward loyalty.

4. Core values Highlight what you stand for as a business to both employees and loyal customers and how these values translate into the current context.

As we emerge from this crisis, not only do financial services have a structural opportunity to be the engine of recovery, helping businesses and customers to emerge resilient, they have a greater opportunity, through adept communication, to transform both people’s lives and our world for the better.