Trends in financial services
November 18, 2013
Five years into the tepid recovery from the financial crisis,
the biggest banks are bigger than ever, benefiting from continued
intervention by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.
However, their longer-term challenge is how to adapt to the
dramatic shift to simpler roles as facilitators of staple financial
How will financial brands thrive in this new normal? Retail
banks continue their long road to rebuilding consumer
relationships, striving to deliver value through technology, more
transparent product offers, and attentive service. Investment banks
have similarly moved toward lower-margin corporate banking that
calls for more authentic day-to-day connection with clients.
This search for authenticity is the dominant theme for 2014.
Aligning messaging and delivery
Striving to overcome lingering distrust, financial firms are
flying their flags prominently on Main Street, presenting staple
services in more constructive ways. Brand research shows that while
trust is table stakes in other sectors, it remains a strong
differentiator in financial services. Expect to see more consumer
advocacy-flavored campaigns such as Wells Fargo’s Together
we’ll go far, Schwab’s Talk to Chuck, and Chief
Life Officer from Lincoln Financial.
Tougher regulators and memories of past overpromises encourage a
modest profile, so don’t expect to see elitist Live richly
or disingenuous You and us messages. The lexicon of
formerly positive phrases that have become taboos continues to
grow, particularly in the areas of trading and investment.
Financial innovation, high-frequency trading, and
information edge have joined pejoratives from the mortgage
meltdown that include structured products, CDOs, and Ninja loans.
Smart brands will choose their words carefully, avoiding
superlatives or performance promises they cannot deliver. Confident
brands can stand out by making sensibly bold claims they are able
to back up.
Streamlining B2B and B2C experiences
Financial firms are starting to treat individual and corporate
clients similarly, giving brands an opportunity to tell an
integrated story across channels and modes. Look for consistent
interfaces and authentic experiences that encompass every audience
and interaction. The professional expertise typical of corporate
platforms will become standard in consumer accounts, and the highly
interactive experiences typical of consumer platforms will become
standard for corporate clients.
Building more visible investment brands
The brightest spot in financial services will continue to be
wealth and asset management. Margins are high and business is
strong, but this is a category where brands have traditionally been
rather understated. Competition is increasing and the space is
becoming crowded, yet only a few are making clear, bold claims such
as BlackRock’s Investing for a new world and Pimco’s
Your global investment authority. The remaining array of
funds use similar language to describe themselves. As firms
continue expanding their asset classes and fund types, and new
legislation eases restrictions on branded investor communication,
expect to see stronger, more sophisticated messaging conveying each
firm’s distinctive value proposition.