A CROCODILE FOR BILLY?

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In his speech to the Financial Services Forum dinner in December Nigel Gilbert the outgoing Chief Marketing Officer of LloydsTSB talked about the role of marketing and the consumer in banking. He also talked about an initiative that LloydsTSB ran last year called “A Crocodile for Billy”. This is a book / ebook about saving and spending for parents to use with young kids.

His themes about the role of marketing and brands in financial services echo my own thoughts around the rights and responsibilities of marketing departments. I outlined some of these in my Battle of the Big Thinking presentation: Escaping The Matrix. Undoubtedly there is a massive need for more human understanding in business with its overfocus with quantitative analysis and comfort with people who are technically gifted but less comfortable with vision and working in our very human and emotional world.

When operating well marketing should be the “heart of an organisation” – and I mean that not to indicate its position but to capture its unique added value. Businesses and brands, the great ones anyway, are full of heart, vision, ambition and human understanding. They are often driven by a passionate leader who captures the heads and hearts of employees and customers alike. Marketing and the brands they develop have the ability to inspire and energise even when a charismatic founder or CEO isn’t available.

And there is something here that is at the core of why our big banks are not great businesses or brands. They have little heart, vision, ambition or human understanding. They can’t understand why people are appalled at billions sitting in bonus pools after the past two years of bailouts. They don’t have a vision for the role that banks and financial institutions need to play in our society. A senior executive at LloydsTSB recently said to me that their vision was “to become the UKs most recommended bank”. If that is the extent of their collective vision for a business that has been given near monopoly share levels and billions in state money (your money, my money) then my vote would be to break it up – they don’t deserve to exist with that little ambition or understanding of their responsibilities in society.

And Crocodile of Billy is a neat example of the practical impact of this lack of vision and “head beneath the parapet” attitude that most of our banks are operating in currently. Its cute, I like it, I’d like to get a copy (although I can’t see how? You can’t buy it anywhere?), and I’d like to read it to Luca and Daniel. There is no doubt that we need desperately need more financial education in our society. But Crocodile for Billy is a tiny, albeit positive, effort in this regard. Why doesn’t the financial services industry realise that they have a massive responsibility and the resources to fill this gap? They could work together, invest the hundreds of millions needed and ensure that every child gets the information they need to make informed decisions in their financial choices.

That would be a vision. That would be added value. That could be transformative to our view of financial services brands. Until they realise that we demand more as their customers and as members of our society, especially in the light of the last two years, financial brands will remain in the gutter, actively distrusted and disliked.

Get involved in the debate – comment below. Do you work for LloydsTSB or another UK bank – are you brave enough to share your view?

Happy New Year! I hope 2010 brings you all that you need.

Justin

Email me: justin@basini.com
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TRUST IN BANKING

I’ve been thinking about Trust again as I pick up my book writing after a summer break.

I want to return to a theme that I discussed in a speech that I made to the Financial Services Forum conference earlier this year. You can download the text of the speech from my website. If you read my earlier blog on Banking and Common Good there are some key themes that emerge if banking is to regain our trust as consumers. As I outlined in that blog I believe we are a turning point but there is significant regression to the mean and that the old status quo is most likely to return. I read with interest in the weekend’s FT about the prediction of a bumper bonus season for the investment bankers.

As “masters of the markets” financial services can contribute market based solutions to the biggest problems. The issues facing us today as a globalised society are bewildering: climate change, peak oil, water crisis, natural resource depletion, all underwritten by uneven wealth distribution, poverty, crime, conflict,increasing urbanisation. These issues are moving more quickly and in a more interrelated way than ever before. The European Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme and the futures markets for protection of Amazon land, are all examples of financial markets contributing solutions.

Contribute proactively to a move away from an age of naked consumerism to something that priortises inidividual well-being and community cohesion. Imagine a world where a conversation in the bank, with a bank manager, could assess whether a credit card to fund that new purchase, or a stretching mortgage to buy that bigger house, were needed putting individual happiness at the heart of the discussion.

After all is said and done what we trust are organisations that have values communicated through their actions, run by accessible and open people, businesses that value their loyalty, and seek to create profit by creating products which meet consumer needs transparently. We will trust brands that communicate openly and positively about the many benefits they provide. Brands can move from basic levels of trust when their businesses start to play for higher goals.

What do you think? As always please feel free to share, retweet, comment and get involved.

Yours

Justin

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