Why brand experience is the future of financial connectivity

By David McCann on Tuesday, 21 July 2020

This article originally appeared on The Most Connected Brands 2020. Download your copy of the report here.

This unprecedented global pandemic has cost us all more than money. It has impacted loved ones, whole families, communities and changed our everyday lives.

As we start our journey to recovery, it’s encouraging to see how far the financial sector has come. Just over a decade ago, the banking sector in particular was seen as the perpetrator of the last global crisis, and with it came loathing and customer contempt. Today, as the data shows, things are evolving; it’s heartening to see the progress that financial brands are achieving in creating better connections with their customers and society.

However, even as global governments position banks as the engines of recovery, the scarcity of financial brands in the Most Connected Brands list clearly demonstrates that the sector still needs to improve. So, what’s missing? For us, it’s a lack of a connected brand experience strategy. When we talk about brand experience (BX), it’s about how people experience the brand, not just how its customers interact with the business (CX). It’s about how a brand clearly projects its values, reaffirms its reputation and follows through to provide people with a compelling reason to try, repeat their usage and then tell others.

Today, most of us deal with our finances daily online, via a mobile or wearable device, but it still feels more functional than fulfilling. That’s because financial institutions often put their focus on legal obligations and regulatory requirements, and adopt a risk mitigation mindset, rather than an experience first ethos. This means the efficiency of a transaction and its security is given more importance than the overall experience. A prime example of this is being forced to tick receipt of a fraud announcement that seemingly protects the bank more than the customer before being allowed to access your own online account.

In a sector where products and services are commoditised, and innovations are short-lived, the financial brands that have made it onto the list do so because they are united around a brand experience that aligns marketing resources, operational capabilities and organisational values to provide emotional and practical connections for people.

Over the past weeks and months, we’ve seen how brands have been offering pragmatic support, lowering interest rates, providing debt repayment holidays, or postponing shareholder dividends to protect customers. Some have gone further. Admiral, the UK general insurance firm, who did not make the Top 100 in the MCB list, returned £25 to every eligible motor customer who, due to lockdown, was unable to use their vehicle. Others like Nationwide (63rd) have used the power of communications to enhance their reputation, using their TV budget to connect through heartfelt odes where people share the common experience of lockdown and provide optimismfor the future.

Other brands like Lloyds (86th) have worked with Mental Health UK to create a partnership that shows that they not only understand the link between money worries and mental wellbeing but want to support customers beyond just financial transactions. This is an initiative that’s wholly in keeping with its stature as the UK’s largest bank account provider and clearly amplifies its brand values.

The internal silos, legacy infrastructure and an uninspiring compliance attitude obviously hasn’t been the case for the neobanks and disruptive insuretech brands, such as Monzo and Starling, which I’m sure will make the Top 100 in the MCB list in the next few years as they continue to win customers by providing imaginative ways to engage, educate and excite, and focus their efforts on providing a unified experience that matches expectations.

Our belief is that for financial brands – whether old or neo – the pandemic could become a catalyst for them to build or rebuild trust, better connect with customers and increase their number on next year’s list. To do so, they need a strategy that unites their brand values, projects their personality, builds a reputation as an empathetic partner and uses technology to seamlessly marshal the customer’s financial resources to protect and delight, and deliver the best outcome for them. This is no small challenge, but it will be an experience worth waiting for.