Much can be said about the impact of building a financial brand with purpose. It reminds us that the focus should be on our clients and that, as an organization, we want to move our financial brands beyond the commoditization trap to build a human-centered operation with heart.

That’s the core of building trust with your customers in a digital world.

But purpose doesn’t just serve your customers. It can power your internal team too, pushing past previous limitations and into a brighter, bolder future. 

I'd like to continue along with this pattern of thinking surrounding purpose and share perspective into how we can communicate within our institutions and apply a purpose that puts people at the center of everything we do. 

Boston Consulting Group shared key insights on how purpose drives your team; they found that purpose not only establishes trust and motivates consumer behavior but can also do the same for your internal team members. 

When it comes to having a shared goal as an organization, your purpose sits at the heart of it, propelling you forward. 

Why It' Crucial to Share Your Purpose Internally

Through Boston Consulting Group's research — and looking specifically at gaining internal buy-in for transformative initiatives like digital growth and digital transformation — what Boston Consulting Group found is that, "Purpose is one of those powerful intrinsic motivators because it speaks to both the head and the heart." 

Powering Your Brand_ Building and Implementing Your Purpose Internally copy

Of course, purpose can power your financial brand externally. But I'd like to focus on how purpose can also power your financial brand internally, and why having and implementing your organization’s purpose is so important for digital growth and transformation. As Boston Consulting Group shared:

"The shift in employee expectation together with the demands of an always-on transformation has further exposed the shortcomings of attempting to influence people through carrot and sticks and far too many transformation programs. People are treated as a means to an end or worse as collateral damage." 

When we look at digital transformation, we know that around 80% of digital transformation projects are failing right now. 

These projects aren’t failing because of technology. 

They're failing because we're forgetting about the people. This is why this purpose-driven thinking must be applied organization-wide. It’s not just about sharing these ideas with internal and external key stakeholders; it's also about having an inside-outside perspective for team members, consumers, and the communities that your financial brand serves. 

When we think about the anxiety surrounding all the changes that we've experienced regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, we as a society are feeling pretty overwhelmed and frustrated across the board. And in truth, this is why purpose must be at the heart of your financial brand's digital growth blueprint. It all comes down to making an emotional connection with people. 

Defining Your Digital Purpose and Setting it in Motion

Discussing your purpose with your internal team can be a very intense, emotionally charged, emotionally driven discussion. But? It's well worth it. Once you define your digital purpose, you can begin to share it and put it into action in the form of narrative

How do we accomplish this? By crafting a purpose statement that allows you to communicate your purpose with clarity and simplicity. 

Your purpose statement will be composed of four elements that correspond to the different parts of our brain. 

  • Who are you creating for?
  • What value do you create with the products you are offering?
  • How do you create value through your processes?
  • How do you make people feel through these processes?

This may feel very existential — and it is!

Why does your organization exist in the first place? Is it to just drive a profit, or is it to truly transform the lives of people, helping them get to a bigger, better, brighter future? 

When you define your unique answers to these questions, the profits will come. Defining and applying your purpose statement doesn’t happen overnight, though. This takes time. And it starts with the culture of your whole organization.

Before sharing your purpose externally, it needs to be an integral part of your internal operations so that your entire team is living and communicating from your place of purpose. Only then can you successfully apply your purpose externally in the communities you serve through your communication and the actions of your marketing and sales teams. 

Your purpose is what you say; it's what you do. This is how you build trust with people in a digital world. 

Crafting a Digital Positioning Statement

Your purpose statement has the potential to do more for you — to become your digital positioning statement

This digital positioning statement can help your financial institution attract like minds, but only if internally and externally your team believes in the bigger purpose. This belief has to extend beyond just the promotion of commoditized products and driving profit. It has to be about truly transforming the lives of people. 

This idea of purpose is about so much more than commoditized retail products like socks and shoes. Purpose can absolutely create value and elevate your financial brand. 

I’d like to share a little bit about Aspiration, a purpose-driven financial brand that launched in 2015. 

Since their inception, Aspiration has raised over one hundred million dollars in capital; at the same time, they're putting their purpose into action. They've acquired over a million customer accounts. And? They've reported that they're adding over 100,000 new accounts every single month. 

So, what's Aspiration's purpose? It's twofold:

  1. The organization is determined to help people save money. 
  2. They are determined to help save the planet. 

Aspiration strongly believes that they're not just building another commoditized financial company; they're building something bigger — something more important. They're building a community of like minds. They didn't set out to be a bank necessarily, even though they work within the financial sector. 

Instead, Aspiration set out with the purpose of building a better world, one where they could put more money back into people's pockets and give people more power to do good with their money. 

They distilled their purpose into four simple words: 

Do well, do good. 

This is how Aspiration communicates its purpose. Do well, do good. For this purpose to be successful, they actually have to act on these words.  Why? If we consider trust, it's about what you say and also what you do. 

How Aspiration acts on their purpose all comes down to even how they position their financial products. 

Aspiration: Digital Positioning in Action

Aspiration has built a customer-centric line of offerings that truly match its purpose. But they’ve only been able to do so because the team has adopted their purpose wholeheartedly. How does this reflect in their business?

One of Aspiration's key products is heavily influenced by their purpose. This product, called their “Pay What is Fair" offer, allows their consumers to pay Aspiration whatever fee that the consumer believes is fair to their account. 

This groundbreaking offer was built on the belief that if you want to gain trust with people, you have to give trust. And? Aspiration is so confident that people will love being part of the Aspiration community that they're doing what no other financial brand does regarding fees. 

Was there some skepticism among investors when Aspiration launched this strategy? Sure. But with their pace of growth, they're proving the skeptics wrong. Aspiration's primary product is a spend-and-save account that offers interest rates that are significantly better than some of the largest banks in the industry. They also have zero ATM fees worldwide

Aspiration also has a program that allows their customers to AIM, which stands for Aspiration Impact Measurement. AIM is intended to help their customers aim for a better future by tracking their planet impact score. This score is rooted in each person's spending behaviors and habits to determine whether they're spending money in a socially conscious way. 

Aspiration’s AIM program shares with customers valuable insight so they can see how their dollars are matching up against their personal values and beliefs. Aspiration is also acting on their stated purpose of helping save the planet by using only fossil-free accounts.

Comparatively? In 2019, there was a lot of bad press surrounding some of the largest global banks, including JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and City Bank of America. The controversy around these banks was in regards to how they were funding fossil fuels. By leaning into this narrative, Aspiration positioned themselves against fossil fuel funding. 

And as a result? Aspiration was able to scoop up over 200,000 ex-Wells Fargo customers who left the bank over this fossil fuel scandal. 

Aspiration is very clear: They are profit-driven, but they're profit-driven with a purpose.

And rather than charging fees to customers, they're making their money off of the spread of interest rates along with interchange that's charged to retailers when people swipe their Aspiration debit cards. 

What’s more? This financial institution gives 10% of every dollar they generate to one of seven customer-chosen charities to help other Americans build a bigger, better life. Amazingly, this makes Aspiration the industry leader in giving back, and it allows their customers the opportunity to decide on the social causes they want to focus on and contribute to. 

Holding Firm to Your Purpose

When I think about Aspiration's approach as a purpose-driven financial brand, it is absolutely a bold one. 

Aspiration also made a really big promise: that customer deposits would never fund firearms or political campaigns. In doing so, they run the risk of alienating certain consumers who might be pro-gun or work in fossil fuels.

Why am I sharing this?  It has nothing to do with politics. I want to highlight how a financial brand is courageously committing to banking on a purpose that's bigger than itself — and Aspiration is doing just that. They're doing it well, and what’s more, they're doing it for both internal and external stakeholders. 

I'm impressed. 

I'm impressed with what Aspiration's doing — but I'm not the only one. They've gained attention and investment from big names like Orlando Bloom and Leonardo DiCaprio.

As you move forward with your own digital growth journey, consider this:

Without action, this idea of defining and banking on purpose is just another branding exercise. 

And for the most part (I hate to say it),  the branding for most financial brands doesn’t amount to much besides pretty pictures, colorful logos, and shiny, happy stock people on websites. 

It's not real life. 

When it comes to banking on purpose, your branding must transcend these shallow images. 

In today's digital economy, your financial brand's purpose is your brand. It's why you do what you do. But it has to go further than the surface level. 

If your purpose is not backed up by proof and your process, your potential customers can sense it; they’ll know. 

Defining your digital growth purpose is about transcending the promotion of commoditized dollars and cents. You have an opportunity to position your financial brand around a purpose that educates, empowers, and elevates people both internally and externally. 

As you commit to putting the transformation of people over commoditized transactions into effect, be bold! Commit to make your purpose your guiding light. You have a unique opportunity to guide people in your financial community on a path to a bigger, better, brighter future.