In this month’s Meet the Marketer, we talk to David Bower – a highly experienced financial services marketer – on technology, data, and understanding the person, not just the customer.
Please introduce yourself
I’m David – a farmer’s son who, unlike my brothers, left the land to pursue a very different career. I have a large family (and a badly trained black Labrador), which makes for a constant juggling act. But based on the old adage ‘there is no such thing as time, only life’ I make the most of every minute.
What is your career history?
I started out as a marketing analyst for Mobil Oil, where my focus was using the Premier Points loyalty scheme to build the Mobil business – one of the first digital loyalty schemes of its kind. From there a career in management consulting led me to the wealth and investment management sector where I’ve worked for the past 20 years. Most recently I led Invesco’s European marketing, and I now consult with a variety of asset managers. I have always been fascinated by commerce, and a career in financial services has proved one of my better choices, working in an area that provides boundless opportunities to keep learning and understanding how capital markets oil the wheels (or not!) of enterprise and the global economy.
I love the pace and variety, and that no two days are the same. Marketing is a constant stream of projects and initiatives. It is intimate with the customer, and I have always been intrigued to understand why people do what they do. Marketing is the best profession to be in to build this understanding and take this insight back to the wider business to build better products and services.
What excites you about the future of Financial Services?
Technology is simplifying our industry, empowering the consumer more than ever before to make better financial choices. An industry driven by the consumer will drive innovation for the right reasons; to deliver better financial outcomes. It is a slow change from an industry that has too often been self-serving, that has not put the customer at the heart of everything we do. To market these new services to existing and new customers is really exciting.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the industry?
Financial Services are inter-twined with the politics of the day – and as we see more extreme policy on both the left and the right, I worry that the sector, particularly wealth and asset management, will be regulated and governed for political purposes. This always has unintended consequences, generally to the detriment of the saver. The industry must find its voice to engage more proactively and effectively with policymakers.
What’s the best advice you have ever received?
Correlation and causation are not the same. If only more journalists understood this! More often than not, the analysis behind so many decisions is based on identifying a data correlation to substantiate a conclusion. In a world where data is so easily available it is becoming a big issue for good decision making. Always take the time to look behind the numbers to understand what they are telling you. Marketing is about constant decision-making, about trade-offs between different paths, and using more data to evidence decision-making provides a great opportunity. Don’t fall into the trap that just because something can be measured makes it important and something that cannot makes it unimportant.
What advice would you give a marketer starting out today?
Learn to speak to the person first, and the ‘customer’ second. This is such a simple lesson but not one taught in marketing 101. As an example, I’m sitting on the train as I write this, and I can see their marketers only think of me as a ‘passenger’. If they could appreciate me as a person, doing my best to navigate another challenging day, they could present their proposition, and their services, in a much more engaging manner. This is how marketers help organisations move from good to great.
If you could have any mentor, who would it be?
I want many – I seek advice from those who have lived a rich, full life, willing to look back and honestly share what they could have done better. Life repeats itself generation after generation but within a very different technological and social context, and this wisdom when you find it is truly valuable. A few hours with Nelson Mandela would be close to the top of my list – in particular, understanding how he could forgive such grave injustice to build a brighter future for his country.
What key marketing skill will you be developing over the next few years?
My digital knowledge. To continue to make the most of data, of new platforms, of new media; I am striving to better understand the underlying technologies that power these solutions. This way I believe I will better harness them to deliver my day-to-day marketing objectives.
What lessons could financial services marketers learn from other sectors?
As technology empowers the consumer, we can look for lessons from consumer goods sectors. Here consumers quickly switch to better products and services, customer loyalty is less durable, and a product’s life-cycle can be measured in months rather than decades. In particular, the techniques to build enduring brands can be transferred more effectively to financial services, in particular to wealth and asset management since consumer finance is well on the way to leading in this field of marketing.