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Friday, 29 January 2010

So what's the ROI of social media?

It's a question we're being asked consistently, it's a question @equalman has answered very succinctly.

Monday, 25 January 2010

When two passions collide

Two things happened last week that caught my attention the first was that Northern Rock agreed to continue its sponsorship of Newcastle United. The second was Billy Bragg's refusal to pay tax if RBS continued to pay bonuses totalling £1.4 billion.

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.

David McCann
Planning Director

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Would you move your Current Account to Tesco or Virgin Money?

There was an interesting video from Brand Republic (see below) of some consumer vox pops about what they thought of the new banks and whether they would move their current accounts.

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.

Jo Parker

Monday, 18 January 2010

Financial Services is about to become much more fun

Teamspirit spent two days last week at the first social media in financial services conference. The brainchild of Phil Calvert at IFAlife - the specialist IFA's social network - it set out a bold vision for how IFAs should be approaching their online interaction in an era of online connectedness.

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, 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

Crispin Heath
Head of Digital

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Have they cracked it with nest?

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 appoints two Creative Directors for the New Year

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

Ten for 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…