Our ongoing series of short interviews with leading financial services marketers, uncovers the driving forces behind their careers and what makes them tick. This month we get to know more about one of the industry’s most creative and innovative marketers – Anne-Marie McConnon, Chief Marketing Officer, BNY Mellon Investment Management.
Please introduce yourself…
I’m Anne-Marie – Irish to the core and mum to two beautiful girls. And I guess I should say something work related – I love working in marketing because it can drive real change in a business.
What is your career history?
I’ve worked most of my career in investment management, with a short dally to an online procurement business about 12 years ago. I sort of fell into the investment industry and then fell in love with it. There is a real element of skill in marketing investment products – you have to understand technical products, clients, and at the same drive innovation in what can be a very traditional and sales/product led business. There is still lots of room for improvement in FS marketing, and I like the idea of being part of that transformation.
It might be controversial for some, but I absolutely believe marketing is at the heart of an organisation. The marketing department should be the best place to work in the company. It should be the hub of the business – full of creativity and innovation. Marketing is increasingly playing a critical role in understanding the needs and preferences of clients through digital and data management platforms.
Being in marketing has enabled me to do some amazing things, from singing in a choir with Gareth Malone, helping achieve equality for women in sports, helping to save lives of cancer patients through game-changing sponsorship, and even rowing the Irish sea in a Celtic rowing boat. And, we delivered some innovative campaigns and big brand projects that made a difference along the way!
What excites you about the future of Financial Services?
The fact that the potential is so huge – I’m not sure anyone has cracked it yet from a marketing perspective. Investment marketing still has a way to go to catch up on other sectors in terms of having a genuine seat at the table. The emergence of Fintech is hugely exciting and there is nowhere better to be than in London to take advantage of that trend. The March 2018 edition of Think Tank Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centres Index, again placed London in first spot – just ahead of New York. London is an international financial hub, and a hotbed incubator of FinTech. In 2017, over £800 million was invested in London-based FinTech start-ups alone. I believe this gives us a great opportunity to reach more people who don’t invest today. For example, a recent report showed that 64% of women think investing is important but only 6% invest. The potential to make a positive impact on people’s lives is huge.
What are some of the biggest challenges in your industry?
One of the biggest challenges is attracting and retaining talent. Technology is perceived to be sexier than financial services, and by 2025 as much as 70% of the workforce will be millennials. Perhaps the broader application of technology – fintech – will help attract more of this talent. We need to communicate what’s great about this industry, its importance to the world, and the fact that millions of everyday people rely on our expertise to achieve their life goals. It is a dynamic, exciting and innovative industry. Most importantly, it’s friendly and full of great people.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Some pieces of advice stick with you. One that stood out was from a leadership coach Simon Starmore. He told me that you can be ruthless in your decision, but humane in the execution. I took this to mean that you should care about people – and not to forget that, even when you have tough decisions to make.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out today?
I would say follow your passion and always stay true to yourself. By the latter I mean don’t focus too much on your weaknesses but play to your strengths. Always work with, and for, great people. Finally, don’t be afraid to fail. This is particularly true in marketing – you must be willing to go against the grain every now and then and try new things. Sometimes you won’t get the result you wanted, but you will always have learned something new by trying.
If you could have any mentor, who would it be?
That is a tough one. I am going to choose a modern Irish heroine: Mary Robinson. She was the first female President of Ireland and was already well-established and respected as an academic, barrister and Senator long before being elected President. Just some of the issues she advocated included the right to the legal availability of contraception, a removal of the requirement that married women resign from the civil service, and the right for women to sit on juries. She also passed two transformation bills in Ireland. She proved to be Ireland’s most popular President ever, breathing new life into the role. She had the courage to do it her way and wasn’t afraid to tackle the tough issues, which I love.
What’s the key marketing skill you will be developing over the next few years?
I believe in making marketing a science as well as an art and really building the reputation of marketing as a strategic function. As a result, I think mastering the power of technology to deliver better client experience will be key. With these new tools comes a demand for a new set of competences to use them. But modern marketers shouldn’t lose sight of good old-fashioned skills such as brilliant copywriting and direct marketing – which starts and ends with really knowing your customer.
What lessons could financial marketers learn from other sectors?
One of our biggest challenges is that the financial services sector is not perceived to be selling a very sexy product. Most people would rather do anything other than talk about their pension. So, we must think about how we engage clients better, but also our employees. Take Airbnb for example – they are not selling anything particularly exciting, but instead of following the traditional business model, they create change and empower employees at all levels. This has a huge effect on the success of the company, both monetarily and culturally. I think FS could take a leaf out of their book and do more to engage employees, to amplify brand, promote products and attract talent to our businesses. How we communicate investment messages has to change in the future – the power of imagery and video could be transformative for FS in the future. Social media and true digital brands are visually engaging – something FS should consider rather than the usual PDF.