Sunday, 22 June 2014

A Social Recovery in Financial Services

The 3rd annual Financial Services Social Media took place in London this week. How are the latest digital tools reviving the financial sector? 

While social media creates challenges for heavily regulated environments such as the financial sector, it also represents a window of opportunity to become more likeable, accessible and personable with both external and internally stakeholders.

The Financial Services Social Media 2014 by Brand Republic, was an opportunity to learn how some major financial companies are making the most of critical opportunities with a strategic and robust engagement levels and presence across different platforms.

The conference started with the premise that having a good level of visibility will positively affect many financial services businesses, even the ones that due to concerns on compliance, legislation and public criticism may be more resistant to the concept of social.

Nationwide

"Social media is about people, engagement and interactions. It is not an add-on; it's the modern equivalent of going to the bank." 

Nationwide's Senior Manager Paul Beadle, who helped the bank to set up the building society's first social media team, gave plenty of examples on how the industry can meet the challenges of social media.

It was interesting to hear how the bank is using Twitter to engage their customers and understanding their changing needs. Executed with transparency as well as a human approach, the account has been an invaluable asset. "We learned to listen first...Otherwise how do you know what to do?." They are investing and involving employees on using this and other social channels in a way that "adds personality, and focuses on being open, supportive, honest and quick."

He drove home the importance of ensuring business buy-in. He showed how the Chief Executive of the company Grahm Beale, is not only encouraging social media activity across the business, but is setting the example by being himself a proactive, consistent and authentic voice.


RSA

At simply-communicate we have always reported the RSA story on their use of the employee social network (ESN) Yammer.

The conference was a timely reminder of the transformative social business journey that the UK insurer is undertaking. Global Head of Social Media Jenny Burns, stressed how the ESN is embedded at the core of the organisation. "We have 15,000 posts on our platform every month. Yammer has totally transformed the way we interact internally: from a top-down, traditional one-way of communicating to two-way conversations at all levels. The platform is driving employee engagement and building a culture of innovation."

Burns didn't hide the challenges of making transparency the new way of working, as well as the fact that the business is still catching up. Yet, with the aim of helping staff connect and collaborate for the benefit of the business, she highlighted how the company is allowing social to flourish by making the most of daily opportunities. One suggestion was: "Do not underestimate the power of lurkers. Look for every chance to encourage dialogue."

Morningstar

Katryna Deligiannis of Morningstar was also well received. The investment research firm is using the power and impact of videos - through the global company's websites, YouTube and Vine app - to humanise the brand externally and internally, spread thought leadership across the business and also as a recruitment tool.

#myMStar was the Vine campaign launched at the beginning of April 2014 through the @MorningstarJobs Twitter account. Developed for the Morningstar Development Program it aimed at creating Vine videos to strengthen the company's core value of 'Great People'. The results were pretty remarkable: each video averaged a follower reach of 21k through retweets, helping to build engagement in and out.

Deligiannis also stressed how the company sees compliance as part of their communication process, by consulting with staff on a regular basis. Employees can decide if they want to be featured on social and the firm never tags on personal accounts.


Having social media policies in place

It was no surprise that this was a recurring theme of day. It started with Social Advisors' Simon Ryan, who gave a talk on keeping up with regulations.

It was from this presentation - drawn from the social media guidance for financial services firms published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) - that you could understand the huge challenges for this sector compared to other less heavily regulated industries!

Ryan's speech centred on risk management and corporate accountability. "We do expect some kind of internal staff accreditation for staff with social media accounts...a process for who has authority, access and scope. Plus, to be able to monitor staff activity in social media - including personal activity for authorised people."

With regards to strategy and governance he advised to:

• Define what you intend to/not to achieve (the scope for your social media activity)

• Carry out a risk assessment (produce a risk register)

• Appoint one person to own all these (make sure they report at least quarterly; have someone interested and with authority for them to report to)

In terms of monitoring, Ryan's suggestions were to "be clear about which staff you will monitor, say how you will monitor your staff, record breaches and lessons learned, and have a policy for social media just as you would speaking to the press."

He had plenty to say also on auditing and archiving: "record all the activity of your firm and staff; keep a complete archive - that means by user; record compliance breaches and remedial action taken, and be prepared for FCA spot checks."

Being purpose driven and human

"There is an ROI in being a purpose driven business. But having a purpose is nothing if you don't live it" 

This message from NixonMcInnes's Tom Nixon, resonated among many in the room. Passionate about companies becoming "communities of purpose," Nixon emphasised how collaborative cultures with shared values can make a real difference to an industry constantly under scrutiny such as the financial services.

This is especially true today. The openness and transparency brought by new technologies have changed dramatically the expectations of people towards how business is conducted as well as the credentials and reputation of many established companies. An example can be the Co-operative Bank, which recently has been showing an imbalance between words and actions.

Having a meaningful purpose, which serves as a unifying focal point of effort can bring compelling results. Yet, for communities to be united around a shared vision, transparency and trust must be prerequisites. And these can only be achieved when the business is walking the talk, living and making those values real. If companies can do that, everything else will follow.


The need of being authentic was a point disseminated by the majority, including LV='s Justin Harper. He shared how the company is managing social media through a balance between staying true to yourself and "remembering the pub". "It is all H2H - Human to Human," he said.

"With social, don't make it all about you, put yourself in others' shoes and add the human touch. Tap into what your stakeholders are saying, feeling and sharing. Mix rational with emotional."

ROI

The benefits of social media are often intangible and difficult to quantify on a spread sheet, yet there is still the need to talk about the ever-popular Return on Investment (ROI). Despite this being a topic particularly close to the financial sector, many appreciated that the 'Return' in ROI is having conversations that matter the most to the business. Knowing the core value of the business and understanding its communities better, will allow the company to be more agile, proactive and innovative.


Conclusions

During the day there were other relevant presentations. What appeared throughout was that social media presents financial services with an opportunity to engage with their stakeholders not only in a creative and innovative fashion as never before, but also in a genuine manner. Having a real and personal presence seems to be essential to maintain trust and goodwill among both clients and employees. The value in this approach and social exposure is significantly greater compared to the missed opportunities of being impersonal or even invisible.

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate