Why people still bank on purpose.
With the increasing proliferation of technology, automation the value of trust is increasing.
Traditionally, when faced with the choice of financial institution, trust, ease of access, quality services and reduced costs, all feature ubiquitously. Yet, with the increasing proliferation of technology, automation and growing blockchain disruption, the value of trust is increasing, exponentially.
Regularly cited by business journalists, consultants, and marketers among them, research shows that Purpose influences perception more than commercial activity itself. So, when competing in a world of standardised products, it’s clear, the more an organisation stands for something, beyond financial gains, the more it’s viewed as serving broader social and ethical needs. Where, by successfully aligning institutional principles and goals with people’s values, preference, favourability, and longevity grow. Thus resulting in customers choosing to stay with ‘a trusted bank’ for the long-term, if not beyond.
Whether global or homegrown* (*for want of a better adjective), turning a stakeholder into an ambassador, as well as profit-driver, is the objective of any bank. However, to get this right, guiding principles must stay true to purpose, and not be confused for product or service planning, legal technicalities or tactical communications, but real, socio-economic substance.
As we see on a daily basis, due to rising social consciousness, Purpose is most effective when woven into the fabric of business ⏤ fuelling enterprise-wide alignment and coordination to produce substantial shareholder return and meaningful impact. And while Purpose is considered more sustainable than profit, it’s only when contextualised via transparent and authentic ideals, focused strategy and meaningful utility that it can provide real meaning and value. For when properly brought to life, through measurable multi-stakeholder experiences, returns go unmatched.
This is because staying true to shared ideals attracts, recruits, retains and embeds product and service ideology into customers, workers and communities, alike. When truly understood and advocated internally, a credible institutional philosophy (i.e. vision, mission, and values) can create enormous opportunity to expand and diversify. So, for financial institutions wishing to stand out from the crowd, this notion not only implies that banks must be driven by a Purpose, but they must also follow through with a seamless, responsive and reliable, value-driven experience.
Regardless of code, because of their genesis, many local banks position themselves through provenance, tradition and cultural values. And while credible and authentic in concept, localised differentiation is all too often compromised by fintech FOMO; closely followed by costly and fragmented attempts at digital transformation, supported by fickle marketing. This resulting struggle, between tradition and progress, is perhaps best surmised as Institutional Schizophrenia — multi-stakeholder perceptions of confusion, delusion and withdrawal from reality.
As human migration continues, borders merge, and blockchain integrates, the role of banks will continue to evolve, on a human and utilitarian level. And while a vital component in ensuring relevance, technology alone won’t create the necessary levels of efficacy required by local banks to avoid becoming obsolete.
While tech-savviness creates opportunities for innovation, unless business strategy and brand execution become interchangeable, stakeholders quickly find themselves stranded in a sea of sameness.
In terms of growth and innovation, the West has led the world’s banking industry, with Asia hot on their heels. Fintech innovators, including Alipay and WeChat Pay, lead the world in digital payments, partnering with incumbent banks to help their customers simplify and organise everyday transactions. While clearly making people’s lives easier, this raises the question, who’s now leading the relationship?
Put simply, the role of brand is to provide orientation. If it doesn’t, for whatever reason, people’s willingness to engage and participate drops, with organisations quickly finding themselves in a place of unsustainable arbitrariness.
So, what’s the right approach?
Taking stock of the status quo, through the lens of sustainability, is a good first-step towards recalibration, strategic planning and enterprise-wide transformation.
Towards creating holistic value, the goal of sustainable business requires an evaluation of impact across multiple dimensions. Least not, institutional impact on communities and eco-systems not directly involved with the organisation. It’s as important, if not more so, to understand the needs of indirect stakeholders over those who might typically engage on a more day-to-day basis. This approach is vital to realising any ambition to become a trusted and credible institution.
That said, advocating a better, more sustainable approach to brand building, here are five imperatives for stakeholder impact evaluation, alongside stimulus to help drive internal debate, conversation and change:
Do the bank’s products and services promote public benefit? If so, are they targeted towards underserved markets? Have products and services been designed to solve a social or environmental issue, i.e. improving health, preserving the environment, creating economic opportunity for individuals or communities? What about arts and sciences, or providing capital to Purpose-driven businesses?
How does the bank treat its employees, through compensation, benefits, training and other opportunities? What about the work environment, management-to-employee communication, corporate culture, job flexibility, and health and safety?
What is the bank’s relationship with its suppliers? Does it encourage diversity, and is it involved in the local community? What about measurable practices and policies around community service and charitable donation? Have products and services been designed to solve social issues, such as access to essential services, health, education, economic opportunity and the arts?
Consider the environment, in full, i.e. distribution channels, transportation and the environmental impact of the bank’s supply chain. Have products or services been designed to solve an environmental issue? Such as products that aid the provision of renewable energy, conserve resources, reduce waste, promote conservation, prevent toxic and hazardous substance or pollution? How about education, measurement and consultation to solve environmental problems
What is the bank’s overall mission? What about ethics, accountability and transparency? Has the bank adopted a social or environmental mission? If so, how is success measured? How does it engage employees, board members and the community to achieve that mission? What about providing employees access to financial information and customers’ opportunities to provide feedback? Finally, what about the diversity of governing bodies?
Influencing many of the decisions we make daily — what we eat, what we wear, what we drive, where we invest our money — brand is commonly misunderstood to be both a noun and a restricted function within marketing, or corporate communications. But when applied as a verb, brand helps broaden our understanding of value. Where, for a Purpose-driven bank, this not only translates into a better market position and bottom line, but also significantly improves every experience. Creating a continuum of measurable moments delivered through own-able innovations, customer satisfaction, and lasting value.
This article was published by Dan Dimmock on medium.