we love blogging
Friday, 15 October 2010
Choosing digital channels has become increasingly complex in the past few years, with so many platforms to operate from and limited budget and resource brands are spending a huge amount of time calculating where best to reside. Earlier this week Brian Solis released Version 3 of the conversation prism which further underlines the sudden explosion of potential channels you as a brand could be using.
For those new to the market, undoubtedly the choice (whether correct or not) has been, whether to plump for Facebook or Twitter and this week two sets of figures emerged. The first from Visible Banking unveiled the most popular banks by Facebook fans, revealing that in the UK Barclays and RBS were out front by a long way. Interestingly while their Facebook presence is solid, their Twitter activity is far less co-ordinated. Around the same time it was revealed that in the US 45% of asset management companies had a social media presence, but it is evidenced that there is more engagement activity through Twitter and less so on Facebook.
So what? Well a couple of interesting pieces emerged this week that pointed to the future value of Twitter versus Facebook as a sales channel. Forrester research suggested that Twitter followers had a 37% propensity to purchase from the brands they followed as opposed to 21% on Facebook. This is a stark difference, but given the comparable numbers of users Facebook is still going to win out on sheer volume alone, in terms of its ability to drive leads. All of this has to be contextualied however, following a statement from Twitter's departing CEO, Ev Williams who stated, that the Twitter user base has the potential to reach 1 billion users. That number puts a different veneer on the scale of opportunity for brands.
Frankly, at the bottom of this social mountain we have begun to climb the message has to be - keep testing. See what works, invest more in that area and then keep on testing. There's nothing to say that either of these platforms will even be recognisable in 5 years time so there's little point in watching and waiting it’d be better to get involved and see where it takes you.
Head of Digital
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Three weeks ago ASB in New Zealand opened the doors (or whatever you term the online equivalent, launched I guess) to Facebook's first online bank branch. We blogged some months back about the potential for Facebook to become a major player in banking services and what ASB have done is recognise that potential and faced it head on, moving their services on to the social network. It's a brave move but one that was inevitable.
Last week we tried the branch out. It's a very simple service. At its heart it's an online chat interface built directly into Facebook. There are a selection of advisers to choose to talk to, all of whom are named and photographed individuals, to increase the person to person appeal that is the hallmark of social networking and you are able to choose from those available to chat.
We spoke to Elysse to find out how the launch was going? She was friendly, personable and very knowledgable and stated there had been considerable interest in the service. Although ASB are at present unable to offer services to those overseas, she said they had had considerable contact from New Zealand travellers who were able to sort out their issues quickly and easily through Facebook.
We went on to have a brief Twitter chat with Anna Curzon the General Manager, Internet Banking for ASB who confirmed the interest
That second statement really underlines the point of introducing this branch concept in to Facebook. In a time impoverished and globalised environment brands need to be in the places their customers are. Financial services brands are definitely behind the curve in following that trend, but ASB has made a huge step forward.
While the services through the ASB Facebook branch are currently limited the mere fact that they are there speaks volumes for their foresight and ambition. This is a bold first move and we’re sure it will be the first of many. We will keep an eye on whether ASB benefits from first mover advantage.
Head of Digital
Saturday, 11 September 2010
Geo-location has been the building story of 2010. Since SXSW in March this year the fight has been on to win the geo-location battle. The main protagonists so far have been first Foursquare who has successfully built 2 million followers by tapping into the enthusiasm for gameplay. Users who 'check-in' are awarded points and badges while sharing their location with their friends. Second there's Gowalla who allow users to attach pictures and videos to locations for other users to pick up when they next check-in. Then on the horizon is the big beast Facebook with its Places product, with 100 million users updating on their mobiles, the opportunity for Places is absolutely monumental as people start to share their location on a huge scale.
But what are the implications for Financial Services brands. There's been plenty of chatter about location-based services, but that doesn't mean brands should really be worrying too much at the moment. There's a place for experimenting with some accounts as an individual, and/or setting up profiles for your organisation's locations, all these new services should be tested out to identify utility. But there's no pressing need to plough into it right now. There are some applications that we feel could work well for the insurance or mortgage lending space, but at present the services need to mature, add addtional richer layers of content and users need to start getting involved more deeply before location will have real impact. Already new services like SCVNGR are beginning to show what the future could be, with both gaming and content elements wrapped into the same application, and by linking with Facebook Places they are already gaining enormous amounts of followers. We'll be watching the space with interest as it expands.
Thursday, 24 June 2010
The FSA stated that when financial services firms do ‘make use of new media as a platform for advertising they must make sure that the information stays accurate and relevant’ and does not go beyond ‘image advertising’. It was also keen to point out that the guidance around promotion of product applied in new media in the same way they do to other mediums.
However, reading the contents of the report is a little worrying. The paper has the feeling of a holding position for the FSA, while they get closer to and start to understand the medium and how best to approach its regulation.
The focus on Twitter and Facebook is the first alarm bell. Considering the wealth of sites out there that can be considered social the task of assessment is going to be enormous. The second was the use of the word advertising. This suggests a misunderstanding of the social web as a conversational medium. The third and somewhat more worrying alarm bell was a statement that appeared on Outlaw.com. OUT-LAW asked the FSA 'if promotions on Twitter that provide a link to further details are likely to fall foul of its rules on stand-alone compliance. An FSA spokeswoman said 'the FSA would not be prescriptive on that point''.
There are similar vague responses to the specifics of how regulation would apply in the medium. Overall there is an overarching feeling that Providers and IFAs are going to be left to interpret the regulations themselves. In an industry that has such stringent compliance procedures this position could very effectively dampen the growth of use of the medium for all but the most confident of companies. In a context where no regulation has been specified firms could take the view that it's simply too risky to enter the arena, or moreover social presences will become stiff broadcast mediums entirely unsuited to the new conversational online world.
The FSA needs to quickly get up to speed on this issue and offer much more specific guidance. This doesn't need to be a huge tome, in fact I'd suggest anything but, but it does need to provide examples of good and bad practice.
Maybe radically it could convene a loose working group that could help shape its approach to regulation in the medium. I know Teamspirit would certainly be keen to get involved in that. So how about it FSA? I'm having to ask you here because I couldn't find you on Twitter.
Head of Digital
Monday, 14 June 2010
Along with location based applications such as Foursquare and Gowalla these online services are the latest attracting ‘why would you want to share that information?’ type attention, just as Facebook and Twitter have in the past. However, arguably, sharing purchase information or location information is more valuable to your friends and followers than updating your Twitter or Facebook profiles.
Let’s face it, you’re either a person who shares or you’re not. Even if you’re a person that shares, it doesn’t mean you have to share everything and all these services allow you to select what you choose to share, or not. The point with Blippy and Swipely is that by sharing your purchasing behaviour you potentially reveal far more about who you are and what your preferences are, than if you share your thoughts on Twitter and Facebook. So, if you’re interested in building a personal brand, as a opposed to a public image, these services start to become essential.
From a business perspective, this type of purchasing information becomes invaluable. For years now the large food retailers have built huge levels of data about their customers’ buying habits, and with it they’ve built strong relationship-led businesses. Services such as Blippy and Swipely potentially offer the same level of personalisation to financial services companies. Certainly credit card companies will be hugely interested. However the opportunities for personal finance products are potentially huge and who knows, as the services mature more structured products could start to become contenders.
Head of Digital
Monday, 7 June 2010
Friday, 7 May 2010
While we’re in the grips of a hung parliament and the shape of the future government is still to be defined we thought it would be good to look at the policies of the three parties. In particular how they’ll affect the economy and the financial services industry in particular.
Here’s a quick overview of the likely changes that the three main parties will attempt to bring in over the next parliament so long as any one party has a clear majority.
Monday, 26 April 2010
The Thatcherite Revolution did many things but perhaps the biggest was creating the Cult of Property. Unlike many of our neighbours, Britons believe that owning bricks and mortar is an inalienable right and will do almost anything to achieve this. Including, as is clear with mortgage fraud cases and repossessions soaring, lying and borrowing way beyond what is sensible. Of course with rents still high and public housing stock pitiful this isn’t going to change any time soon. But surely every financial business has a real interest in educating their customers as to how and why they need to control their finances?
Organisations like the IFS School of Finance are attempting to do this, but until all companies that offer credit of any time take the issue seriously they are only scratching the surface.
Client Services Director
It is coming up to 6 months since First Direct launched First Direct Live. The site has been hailed as a triumph of the open and honest sharing of customer feedback in real time. First Direct is still really the only UK retail bank that has successfully engaged with its customers online. However, in reality the online experience isn’t ‘amazing’. The persistence in using white out of black in the design is still an accessibility minefield, however because it looks different it has been allowed to pass and while the First Direct 'Retail Experience' is so much better than other competitors it tends to be regarded as highly successful. However, if you place the offering next to some other large consumer brands it doesn’t stack up as successfully.
Now this is not to say that First Direct is not a decent experience, but it could be better and it is against this backdrop that the questions around First Direct Live come. There has been little critical evaluation of the site. It does seem to have snuck under the radar with little scrutiny, so 6 months on from launch there are 5 areas in which we feel the site could definitely be improved as a true reflection of customer sentiment.
1. Ratings - The ratings widget is an automated sentiment scoring system at present. In reality there isn’t currently a sophisticated enough algorithm to replicate true human sentiment, so the scoring needs to be taken with a bit of a pinch of salt.
2. Curation – the filtering of content appears to be moderated, or highly selective and you don’t seem to get a full view of all feedback. It would appear that not all comments are posted and you get no feel for the volume of comments received.
3. Live words don’t really mean as much as they could and because you can’t click through to any of the content that the tag cloud is made up from it’s difficult to understand context. There is also a mismatch between the positive and negative scoring and the overall sentiment scoring and it hasn’t really been explained why. As an additional point, the words that make up the cloud and how they are rated negative and positive bring into question the overall sentiment algorithm again.
4. The platform is still all about push and destination web thinking. There’s almost no interaction and the lack of a human face makes it feel quite corporate.
5. The fact that the site’s been leveraged with a campaign leaves a suspicion around the original motives for the site. The satisfaction proposition is indeed very strong, if a little unspecified, but again this feels suspicious.
Now we have to say that what First Direct has done is laudable. It’s certainly much better thought out and executed than many brand forays into social media to date in any category. However, it’s more controlled than other attempts and that’s where the conflict exists – control is not what you’re looking for if true transparency is to be achieved. Now maybe we haven’t reached a point where true transparency can be achieved for a corporate company and in terms of First Direct taking things forward it’s brave and still unique within UK financial services. The digital community has unbelievably high expectations of what brands can currently achieve given the corporate structures that remain in place and until businesses are modelled around social we won’t see truly social businesses, so I guess where First Direct is, is good, however we do need to consider First Direct Live with a more watchful eye.
Head of Digital
Tuesday, 23 March 2010
His argument runs that when subscription levels to Facebook hit a billion - as predicted by the end of 2012 - that it will hit a scale and organisational maturity that will not only facilitate the sales of simple products such as loans, insurance and savings, but will mean groups of individuals will be in a position to come together to execute group purchases and lending on a huge scale. It would be a simple task for Facebook to integrate a facility such as Zopa onto it’s platform and then users have access to all the tools they need.
If we work on the basis that Facebook's 2008 poll has some validity then 13% of users would be happy to use the platform as a bank. If we then assume an average £1,000 deposit with the bank of Facebook then at a billion users that's a £130 billion business, something financial institutions would have to sit up and take notice of.
Mark Zuckerberg is an ambitious man. Scale is his goal. The product will develop itself and as Power says the person with the biggest number of names wins the game. Financial institutions need to take note.
Head of Digital
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
Now I‘ve read quite a few of the economics manuals and they all state that the greater the competition the lower the price as everyone dives headlong towards owning market-share. Well FREE in my book seems to be a low price, however just to prove a point Halifax want to actually pay me £5 per month for my balance.
So how and why then should we consider paying for a Virgin Money Current Account? Will it be so different that it warrants me paying for it? Well only time will tell, but for my part, modern banking is little more than online facilitation nowadays. Yes when it comes to loans or savings I pay or get rewarded for my business, but Banks don’t really service me. I, like millions of others, choose to bank online and in that environment I’m a self service customer, so just why would I pay?
Added to that, there are a number of new and innovative money managers coming to market all available via the web, Mint or Wesabe from the states are some good examples. They actually help me manage and make the most of my money, which my bank doesn’t and again they’re FREE.
Now the debate about FREE banking has raged in recent years. Ever since the introduction of packaged accounts and the OFT’s pronouncements on credit card charges. All of which reached a recent crescendo with the subsequent failure on the fairness of banking fees.
So how and where does Virgin’s pronouncement fit? Well I think it makes the issue more confusing. Why can’t we just get the truth behind what it costs to run a current account? Naive I may be, but this has to be the holy-grail of modern banking. Once we have that, we the customer can decide whether we value plain vanilla or the bells and whistles of packaged accounts.
So is Mr Branson the White Knight of Banking and are the Virgin fees being brought about by actual competition or the desire for transparency? I’m not so sure it’s either. While I may desire the holy-grail, the reality of linking what a customer pays for a current account and what a bank charges is almost impossible to calculate. It depends on way too many variables; the type of financial institution; how many overheads the business carries; the cost of security; technology and the amount it pays its employees; the amount that shareholders or Venture Capitalists want as a return etc.
What worries me is it could be nothing more than a marketing trick to ensure margins. One just like Stella Artois used. They made us believe that paying a premium was worthwhile for the taste, when in fact all we got was good old fashioned Belgium cooking lager. ‘Reassuringly Expensive’ they called it!
Well for me all this increased competition is nice, but more choice doesn’t equate to better and paying for the privilege certainly doesn’t either.
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
They make the point that products and services developed for emerging markets also appeal in mature markets too. That’s because with these stripped down, focused offers, there is often a price advantage, they are easier to use and well-designed. Examples mentioned: The Classmate PC, Tato Nano, Tune Hotels, Zeebo.
It tied in with something I was mulling over in my head (which is always handy).
In the financial services world we grapple daily with ways to simplify the complex, without misleading consumers. And actually we are on a new wave…
· The aggregators have simplified the way we buy insurance;
· Barclaycard are simplifying payments with innovative wave technology;
· In 2010, Nokia Money will allow consumers to send money to another person just by using the person’s mobile phone number, as well as pay for goods and services and utility bills;
· With new free tools like smartypig and mint.com coming our way, we will be able to have one, simple view of our money if we want it;
· In the pensions world, we are seeing a revival of the simpler Personal Pension rather than the more complex and costly SIPP. Auto-enrolment for NEST will help simplify pensions planning for many.
But are we going far enough or are we in ‘choice paralysis’?
Verdict consulting research shows that over the past 10 years consumers have shifted from wanting a wide range with lots of choice to wanting an edited range of what they want.
So do we really need a range of over 100 fund links on pensions? Do we really need cover for all illnesses or all eventualities in our home? Do we really need to review all financial needs before giving advice and not just cutting to the chase and focusing on what the consumer wants to sort?
Quite an opportunity for brand to be the new Tata in financial services don’t you think?
Friday, 29 January 2010
Monday, 25 January 2010
Both RBS and Northern Rock as I’m sure you’re aware are publicly owned and for all intent and purposes could be controlled by Government.
And yet here we have two cases of very public non-interference by the controlling interest.
Now I could start off on the rights and wrongs of a government sponsoring a privately owned football team or indeed funding the hyper-inflated salaries of Investment Bank fat cats, but that’s not my point. What did catch my train of thought was the similarity between these two disparate sectors, there are in fact a huge number of parallels between them.
Both sectors rely on continual success whether on the pitch or share price to maintain their position in their respective leagues, and both have to pay heavily for the best talent available.
While we may baulk at the thought of paying footballers £150,000 per week salaries the truth is that that’s what economists call market forces, the old supply and demand thing to you and me.
In fact, teams that pay more are investing in their success, no matter what Deloitte may say about Brian Laws, sorry another football finance link!
Banking and finance like football is a fine balancing act and some get it wrong, Portsmouth like RBS invested heavily, but relied upon short term funding which has left them in a precarious position. Others like Manchester United have had to restructure their debt, not dissimilar to Lloyds current rights issue and so it goes on an on.
What of a resurgence amongst the mutuals? Well again you can look at the Real Madrid operating company, which is a supporter-owned, not-for-profit business. This has looked to grow through acquisition and merger borrowing heavily to buy the talent of the likes of Ronaldo, Kaka and Benezma
Well back to the things that started me thinking, if we took Mr Bragg's advice and refused to pay the £1.4billion which is mostly paid to front line staff who earn on average less than £20,000 per annum, this I believe would have a knock on affect and ultimately hurt the performance and competitiveness of the business.
The last analogy I’d like to make is that the premiership is seen by many as the best football league in the world and if we want to maintain that place then we need to reward and invest. It’s a hard fact that the Financial Services industry and the banking sector still account for about 15% of UK GDP. If we don’t invest we’ll relegate ourselves to the third division of banking, playing amongst the Accrington Stanley’s of Building Societies and not the Premier league of BoA, BNP Paribas or Santander.
As for the sponsorship of Newcastle by Northern Rock I can’t believe that it has been allowed, I see it as a ludicrous and outlandish waste of taxpayers money, which financially supports the privately owned the rising stars of the Championship… Well what did you expect from a die hard Chelsea supporter ;)
Extract from Myths and Facts About Football
Fact: Player performance is strongly affected by relative income
Or in other words, when a player's salary rises (or drops) relative to his team-mates' pay, his performance improves (or declines). German and Swiss economists demonstrated this by studying goals, assists and ball usage (and salaries) of players at 28 clubs in the German Bundesliga between 1995 and 2004. The "robust findings" show the relationship is not simply that "better players earn more" but that the "causality runs from pay to performance, not the other way round". Willingness to perform, as in many jobs, depends on relative pay.
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Couple of things jumped out at me.
That these brands are not seen as knowing about running a bank, so it feels like a stretch too far.
That Tesco’s is seen as taking over – a brand that is dominating our lives – and we do know that when it comes to money, people don’t like having all their eggs in one basket. We actually like privacy with money so we don’t want one brand knowing too much about us.
The other thing that surprised me was there wasn’t more dissatisfaction with peoples’ existing banks – quite the opposite. And if good mortgage deals are only available to current account holders, especially with interest rate rises, then this is a huge barrier.
Obviously these are the reactions from a few and it’s much, much too early to call. We don’t know what the offer is yet – what will be different or better about the experience with Tesco or Virgin.
But fascinating times – can’t wait to see how it pans out.
Monday, 18 January 2010
In doing so it helped to set out a model for a more connected, more life planning focus, that would put building a relationship through online social means at the heart of the IFA's relationship with their customers. This was the New Model Adviser's conference, it wasn't about suggesting that IFAs do a bit of blogging. This was about reaching out to new audiences, building networks through multiple channels and turning an IFA's social graph into it's commercial graph. This was about transforming an IFA's business plan and putting marketing at it's heart.
With high quality best practice presentations from Google, LinkedIn, youTube, BTTradespace and the BBC IFAs were exposed to the ways they could transform their organisation with the low cost social tools that are now available to all. This was backed up by the real life executional examples set out by Jaime Steele at Northern Financial Services who are using video in particular to transform their approach to market and Nick Bamford at Informed Choice who outlined the company's new personal finance information, guidance and implementation site Brilliant with Money. These are two organisations already highly engaged in building significant online presence and unlike the past are keen to share the learnings they have made with the rest of the industry.
The best practice was supported by a focus on how to help build and connect a small business from Thomas Power at Ecademy and Alan Stevens 'the Media Coach.' Their straight talking common sense approaches to building trust with audiences went hand in hand with Graham Jones' explanations around understanding the psychology of modern communications online. These were all key to developing a new level of empowerment for IFA businesses.
The new advisers are coming (some would say they're already here). These are nimble, relationship led, content hungry entrepeneurs. Mike Linskey helped to outline what the future can look like for these businesses with excellent examples from the states such as mint.com, Smartypig, Billshrink and Centscity.
This is what IFAs are going to look like from now on it's up to providers to provide the tools they need to execute and the content they can use to help them plan for their clients. IFAs are no longer anywhere near as reliant on providers to ensure their businesses grow and make profits and providers need to understand this before they get completely cut out of the loop.
Notes from the conference:
Chris Fox's overview
Richard Allum 'The Paraplanner's' thoughts
Head of Digital
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Well I’ve read the research on the PADA site (am I sad?) and seen the video
And 10 out of 10 for transparency and accountability for a branding project. It’s also been developed cost-effectively. You can see why PADA have gone with this route and it clearly has resonated with target audiences. So what do I think?
Well to be honest I don’t thing a name and logo is that important, it just won’t be what will encourage workers to participate in the scheme. Sure it can’t be a complete turkey and as our Planning Director David said the other day, it sounds like many 90s brand names, like the Eggs and Cahoots of this world, which haven’t exactly been success stories have they? I also think calling it a Savings Trust misleads – this is for retirement isn’t it and as far as I know there are no plans to have 401k flexibility? But that aside, it’s simple and accessible which I really like.
Powerful and successful brands are those that understand that it isn’t just what you say, but also what you do and what others say about you. And with an estimated 6 to 8 million people expected to save into nests and £8bn annual investment, the stakes are high.
So what are they doing to make this a success and what are others saying about them?
The most important change is auto-enrolment and this single decision will make the difference to how we save as a nation. Any watering down of auto-enrolment will just mean we have a new stakeholder by another name. Ensuring that employers know how to communicate this effectively to their employees will really be the key to success.
Nests’ reputation will be badly tarnished if companies, who already have company pensions, cut their contributions down to the new levels of 1% - rising to 3% by 2017. The LibDems have estimated 40,000 companies may do that, the Assoc of Consulting Actuaries think a quarter of employers will reduce their scheme benefits and 15% may close existing schemes altogether and move to nest. That will mean that the very people the Government are trying to help will have even less in their nest egg for retirement. The issue of means tested benefits also needs addressing urgently too.
There is a real opportunity for social change and to encourage saving for retirement in this country, so let’s hope that in the next 6 years the focus is on making sure that:
auto-enrolment stays and there is fantastic communications support for employers to employees that is simple and motivating;
that contribution levels go up;
and the underlying investment choices are robust so that the retirement nest egg will be much more than means-tested benefits.
Then nest will be a cracking brand. At the moment it is just too early to say.
Monday, 11 January 2010
Teamspirit the financial services specialist integrated agency has promoted Tim Nicholson and James Maxwell to the roles of Creative Director for the New Year.
Tim has been Head of Art at Teamspirit for the past 5 years. Tim studied Graphic Design at Maidstone College of Art, the year below Tracy Emin, graduating with a 2:1. He was Head of Art at DDM advertising eventually taking the role of Creative Director at Partners BDDH's integrated shop, Aviator.
He joined Teamspirit 5 years ago after a 10 year stint freelancing for many above and below the line agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi, TBWA/GGT Direct (Natwest village), WAVV (launching the More th>n brand), Joshua, Rapier (Film four and Barclays bank), Craik Jones (Prudential, Orange, Virgin Trains) and Proximity London (launching Alliance & Leicester's first ISA).
James Maxwell has been a senior copywriter at Teamspirit for 4 years.
With a background in International Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, James did a post-graduate in Copywriting and Marketing Communications at the AAA school in Cape Town.
He made a name for himself writing and producing ads at the 567 CapeTalk Radio Station, researching marketing strategy, writing websites and even had a small stint at Buckingham Palace. After time at Steel-London working with AOL and the Financial Times, he moved to Teamspirit.
Commenting on these promotions, Kirsty Maxey Managing Director at Teamspirit said: “We are delighted to promote both Tim and James who are very talented and have been integral to the award winning work we have developed over the past few years. We continue to grow our multi-discipline creative team and we have exciting plans that they will help us to deliver.”
Friday, 8 January 2010
This is the week of predictions, whether it’s the year of the Tiger or the year of Tax the first week of January is awash with crystal balls and hopes of joy and worries of doom.
Well, I don’t want to break with tradition so I won’t here’s some of ours, I’m not promising anything revolutionary or indeed any accuracy, I predicted the market to close on 4750 and it closed at 5400 so that’ll give you an idea of expected acceptable predictive tolerances.
Obvious things to watch out for will be changing political leadership, changing taxation, a bumbling economy and lots of change in the banking sector.
Just on the banking sector my question is whether the arrival of new banks will really bring about any change and increase competition or will it be just more of the same?
And the winning numbers this weekend will be…