When it comes to buying financial services are we paying lip service to values?


Since the financial crisis of a decade ago, the financial services industry has struggled to rebuild trust with consumers, media and regulators, and to define a wider societal purpose than profitability and shareholder value.

Are we paying lip service to integrity?

The winds of change are certainly blowing with an increasing expectation that commercial organisations of every stripe strive to articulate how they make a positive contribution to wider society. Try finding a corporate website that doesn’t make reference to purpose, values, environmental policy, community engagement or diversity. Cynics may question whether these statements are real or significant drivers of business activity, behaviours or performance.

For an industry inherently predisposed to being fact based, performance driven, methodical and analytical, this presents challenges and requires greater emphasis on human insight, empathy, vision and communication.

The banking and investment industry is increasingly wrestling with a multitude of concepts. ESG (Environmental Social and Corporate Governance), SRI (Social Responsible Investing), Impact Investing, Ethical Investing, Ethical Banking, Islamic Finance and Green Investing are all in play.

Consumer values now and moving forward

Triodos Bank, who position themselves as an ethically driven international bank, surveyed 2000 UK consumers and found over half (53%) believed that choosing carefully where to invest is one of the best ways to help the planet. This rose to 76% in the 18 to 24 year old age group. 78% of this same age group also reported that they would be prompted to move their money to providers with “impact investments” that had a positive effect on society or the environment. While this group are currently cash poor, the long term implications are clear.

Prophet, the leading brand and marketing consultancy publish an annual global Brand Relevance Index outlining leading brands with outstanding growth results based on a survey of 50,000 consumers in USA, UK, Germany and China. Being “purpose led” now ranks as one of the top three attributes of those brands that score highest in the Relevance Index.

Put your marketing where your mouth is

All of this has implications for traditional performance-based marketing. The “my product is better than your product” approach will increasingly fall short of how consumers want to select partners and how forward-thinking organisations want to position themselves.

Developing a brand value proposition that sits at the heart of the organisation and clearly encapsulates purpose and values is essential. This must be authentic and manifest in how the organisation, its leaders and people behave and how the brand and individual product and service propositions are delivered. Great marketing and communication can bring the brand and the firm’s values to life, but they must be rooted in reality to be relevant to our digitally savvy, interconnected and cynical world.