by Derek Stubbs
There exists a variety of ways that one can divine best practices in financial services. The problem is that “best” practices from a consumer perspective can be few and far between in this category. From our perspective, and you’ve heard us say this many times, the best financial brands and products are those that bring a measure of “simplicity” or “clarity” to the complex array of products and services that comprise financial services.
This is the core of overcoming the trust gap. In practice it is the idea of showing consumers that they can trust a company as opposed to telling them that they can. This can be translated through look-and-feel, product-and-service design, responsiveness, and on and on and on. In this manner, we are very keen on prioritizing functional benefits over warm-and-fuzzy branding. It’s not that we’re opposed to the warm-and-fuzzies; we are more directly evaluating those who are cutting to the heart of the matter most quickly.
Recently, the Aspen Institute’s Initiative on Financial Security addressed the problem of trust and codified the functional benefit of brands this way:
Aspen Institute and BAV, April 2013
Helpfulness emerged as the primary driver of trust in financial services. Simplicity, from our perspective, is essential to helpfulness, far outstripping how smart one is, or what one’s “value” (i.e., cost) is, or anthemic brand shingles like heritage or “tradition.” How would Aspen categorize brands in the banking industry as outlined above? This way:
Aspen Institute and BAV, April 2013
We couldn’t agree more. By the time one gets to the bottom of the above visual, I think we could all breathe a sigh of “no duh.” If I can’t trust you, and the news cycle won’t let me forget the reasons why, and you’re not helpful, you’d better believe that you’re going to end up at the bottom of everyone’s list.
USAA, on the other hand, would likely sit at the top of anyone’s FS best-practices list. They are nearly universally admired for their marketing, customer service, customer satisfaction and product and services design. As you know, they sell far more than just banking products. Being, in essence, a “closed credit union” or “mutual” company — they sell only to military servicemen and women and their families, as well as to firefighters and police officers and their families — they don’t have widespread reach. Still, USAA is our all-around best-practices provider.
Marketing Best Practices
Schwab: I grow weary of carting this one out all of the time, but this “Talk to Chuck” execution is among my favorites. It addresses the disconnect between marketing hooey — overly aspirational ideas of “retirement” — and the functional benefit of “practical” solutions. Moreover, the very look and feel of this ad conveys the notions of clarity we’re discussing.
Bessemer Trust: Again, the simplicity of the messaging here connotes what one might expect when engaging this wealth management firm. Even acknowledging that there is a trust problem is a refreshingly honest approach. Trust = honesty. Who knew?!
photo credit: TheTrustAdvisor.com
photo credit: StephanieFiermanMarketingDaily.com
photo credit: Vocabula.com
Property and Casualty Insurance: For a bit more fun, and also some excellent ways to discuss difficult subjects, there’s the entire P&C industry. We love Flo (Progressive), Mayhem (Allstate), the other guy from Oz (Farmers), Liberty Mutual’s campaign, and on and on. Having gone D2C early on, compared with the rest of FS, P&C has done much to understand how to speak meaningfully and clearly with consumers.
Product Best Practices
Barclaycard Ring: A very highly rated (by consumers) offering that is almost completely crowdsourced. Fees, rewards, benefits. Card members tell the card what it will be and what they need, not the other way around. Very “Collaborative Economy.”
Barclays Family Springboard Mortgage: We wrote about this too. Essentially, this product from the British Bank gives new mortgage seekers credit for their parents’ loyalty and portfolio, providing family members with breaks on terms and fees that only repeat customers traditionally receive.
AFS: Alternative financial services have much to offer. We’ve talked before of Motif Investing. There are plenty of others. For a quick hit on some of the most recent excellent examples, check out our blog post from last month’s Finovate. Pay particular attention to the mentions of Tandem from Yodlee and Think Finance’s Elastic. Very consumer-need-focused product development.
Customer Service Best Practices
Amica: Amica is known for its responsiveness and speed, a.k.a. “service and performance,” which are the differentiating factors for “high-asset” financial decisions. Although they don’t have local agents in various footprints, and can be awfully choosy about who their customers are, they certainly receive high marks for actually delivering on promises. How helpful is that?
Credit Issuers and Associations: Chase’s Sapphire card is widely valued for the fact that they always “pick up the phone.” You can say this about any of the card issuers or associations. American Express is excellent here, obviously. As are Citi, MasterCard, Visa, Discover, and on and on. One of the reasons for this is that, as with P&C, cards have been on the forefront of D2C marketing in financial services and therefore know far more about their own customers than the rest of the industry.