Is there still room for compassion and empathy in the financial world?
Kerry-Ann Betton Stimpson, Chief Marketing Officer of the JMMB Group in Jamaica and host of the Internal Marketing Podcast, believes that marketing cannot be successful without first having a strong employee engagement and brand advocacy perspective. In their conversation, James Robert and Kerry-Ann discussed the importance of putting love and respect bank in banking.
Marketing in the Financial Industry
It’s no secret that for many years, there has been a struggle to demonstrate the value that marketing adds, especially in the financial realm. That there was a disconnect between brand and profit marketing and the successes financial institutions found in their work. But as Kerry-Ann has observed, “With the pandemic, what we've realized is that brand is what people tended to turn to.”
What does this mean?
Empathy is more important than ever.
Kerry-Ann continued, “In the age of lockdown and quarantine and all the financial challenges that everybody was facing, the word empathy has come up so often.”
Consumers were looking for brands that were exhibiting empathy; for brands they could trust. From a marketing standpoint, those who failed to focus on who they were as a company missed out on an opportunity to create lifelong relationships with consumers who needed empathy from their financial brand.
In the financial industry, what is the main reason consumers choose one brand over another?
Great interest rates on loans mean nothing if a consumer doesn’t trust the brand as an expert and a credible entity. Banks can offer great rates, but if price is the sole decision-maker for a consumer, that relationship will be purely transactional; it won’t last a lifetime.
Banks need to look to build trust with their customers, which is built through an empathetic, positive brand experience; banking on purpose.
Banking on purpose is a tremendous opportunity for financial brands to rise above commoditized promotions and transition into something much deeper.
Banking with Love
Kerry-Ann works with JMMB, a company that is under 30 years old and is headquartered in Jamaica and the Caribbean, with operations in Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic. In the team’s work at JMMB, they have been focusing on how they can empower everyday individuals to achieve their financial goals. Not everyone has access to the money market, and they have addressed this in their work and their marketing.
But at the heart of it all?
“Love is at the core of who we are.”
One of JMMB’s co-founders, Joan Isabel Duncan started the brand with the vision to empower everyday people to achieve their goals because she believed in the equality of all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, background; that every individual has greatness within them.
Kerry-Ann explained, “And how you unleash that greatness is through the power of love. Showing love to individuals in a way that allows them to realize the greatness in themselves and to achieve that. And so that's our purpose.”
In how they serve, empower, and engage with their clients, Kerry-Ann’s team members work to help their customers realize the existing greatness within themselves.
But what is banking with love?
Love is more than an emotion, love is a choice, love is to will the good of another person.
How does this fit with traditional banking?
Bankers work from a place of logic, reason, and dollars and cents. But the customer brain is more motive-driven, which means that Kerry-Ann and her team must reconcile the analytical and the emotional in everything they do.
For starters? Kerry-Ann and her CEO have eliminated what they call “nuisance fees;” the small fees that add up and disrespect their customers. As she elaborated, “We don't believe that that's having the client's best interest at heart.”
She continued. “But that being said, it means that we're going to have to make decisions around where we just are. Maybe our feed-in won't be as high as some other institutions. But at the end of the day, we still choose that because that is who we are. And what we realized James, is that having made that decision, the clients see that they know that they feel that. And when you do that, they will come, they will come.”
There are certain things that the JMMB team will do, and certain things they will never do. And that’s where they find customer loyalty because the client experience is so strong. They see that JMMB stands for their interests. And as Kerry-Ann detailed, “And it's been a wonderful experience for us so far.
Finding Purpose and Accountability
What Kerry-Ann and her team have found is a sense of purpose. Purpose is the North star. It provides direction; it provides accountability. It’s helpful to remember that at the core of what the financial industry is about is more than just accounts and investments, deposits and loans. The core of finance is a service, which is far more people-centric.
This is the key to success. Kerry-Ann shared, “First of all, we can't win without our people and our people need to be engaged and empowered in a way that allows them to deliver on that vision of love... The vision of love that we say we have towards our clients and the wider community.”
If team members aren’t empowered to deliver this kind of love and this kind of customer experience, there is a disconnect between the mission and the real world. For Kerry-Ann and her team, this means that employee experience is just as important as customer experience. This means benefits, free childcare, a focus on health and wellness, a positive company culture, and constantly working to make JMMB a place where folks want to work. Why? “Because we really do believe in the power of love being extended to our people internally, as much as we do to our customers.”
Kerry-Ann and the JMMB team are working to elevate their employees as much as they elevate their customers, so they have a vested interest in JMMB and are prepared to best serve their customers with love, purpose, and intentionality.
"Marketing is Still Human to Human"
Some brands in the financial industry might be reluctant to allow their employees to advocate for their brand. This is a philosophy that Kerry-Ann does not subscribe to. As she puts it, “Marketing is still human to human.”
The messages that go out to consumers, the interactions they have? They are coming from employees, who can be a brand’s biggest asset. Marketing can only go so far, but people trust people. People prefer to engage with people, not marketing or technology.
This gives employees the opportunity to be as authentic as possible, which drives to the heart of a brand a demonstrates real empathy and concern; a meaningful connection. In this digital world, the more that financial brands can empower team members to build up their own personal brands can be a transformative experience.
Organizations need not be scared of employees developing their own personal brand, or that this will dilute their larger branding message. This gives employees a sense of ownership, and happy employees who are engaged and empowered become strong external advocates. Kerry-Ann shared, “Let me tell you, it saves a ton of money on that marketing.” It’s genuine, real, and authentic, which builds more loyalty than commoditized marketing ever could.
Finding Your Own North Star
Not every bank can center their entire philosophy around love—and that’s okay. Kerry-Ann put it simply: “Not everybody, every customer will do business with us because of love. Maybe their purpose doesn't align with ours. That's okay. We're still successful, we're still delivering awesome ROI and shareholders' equity. It is what it is.”
She continued. “And so that's my encouragement to executives: Based on your purpose on that North Star, just lean into that—own it. Don't be afraid of it...because there's more than enough opportunity for folks to succeed in whatever space they're occupying.”
Each bank or credit union will have its own North Star, which becomes about pinpointing their clarity of purpose; who they are as an organization and as individuals.
This world is ripe with confusion right now. People are looking for a light—a path—to guide them out of that darkness. Clarity, sense of purpose, and working from an authentic sense of self and a personal North Star is where transformations can begin to happen.
This article was originally published on July 16, 2021. All content © 2021 by Digital Growth Institute and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.