INTERVIEW: Aviva UK&I Life Marketing and Customer Director on building deeper customer relationships

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

The life sector needs to move towards nurturing customers and away from selling products, says Aviva’s Customer & Marketing Director, UK&I Life.

Paul Fletcher started in his current role at Aviva in January. Aviva’s Life business accounts for 70% of the overall business with around £15 billion in turnover, including direct-to-consumer health, wealth and protection as well as workplace pensions and intermediaries.

The business has broadened its offering in its domestic market with the acquisitions of Wealthify in 2018 and Succession Wealth in 2022, while selling off its international businesses.

Paul says there is an opportunity to change Aviva from “a place where customers buy products towards deeper relationships where they use several of our services”, becoming more customer persona-driven than product-centric.

He sees marketing’s role within this as inspiring more customers to take positive action towards financial and physical wellbeing.

The key priority at the moment is aligning marketing, digital and data so that it works for the benefit of customers. Marketing needs to become more “emotive, engaging and creative” in order to drive loyalty and consideration. Work is being done on a central strategy across all audiences for content, which previously has been quite siloed.

“We’ve got a great brand and huge amounts of awareness, but there are areas where we probably need to improve consideration such as everyday investing.”

Paul argues that marketing does best when it is not too centralised or decentralised.

“It needs to be close enough to the business to understand its priorities and to deliver against them whilst retaining the objectivity of the customer.”


Urgency through education

Paul previously was on the executive committee at Coutts, a role which then broadened to overseeing the wealth franchise at the NatWest Group. This encompassed Coutts, all affluent customers from a banking perspective and asset management.

As in this role, the broader goal was to encourage people to think more about things they might not see as urgent.

“For most people, financial planning is probably up there with their annual visit to the dentist.”

He says the biggest challenge for life and wealth businesses is to “create urgency in customer behaviour when they’re thinking about their horizon 20 to 30 years away.”

Paul says achieving this is particularly difficult in the current environment, when more immediate pressures such as cost of living are acute.

Despite these challenges, he argues that a large proportion of society does have the ability to save and invest more but are leaving money in cash, where its value is being eroded by inflation.

This means education is key.

“The problem is that most people find it difficult to engage with the subject matter. This is where the emotive point really kicks in: how are we inspiring people to take action?”

For Paul and his team, it’s crucial to find those “moments in people’s daily lives or times of the year when we think we have a chance for customers to focus on investing.”


An end-to-end customer view

The strategy aims to boost customer retention, with Paul noting that the majority of new sales tend to be with new customers rather than existing ones.

Notably, as well as marketing, Paul’s title contains the word “customer”, which exemplifies how intertwined the concepts are within the company. His role encompasses end-to-end responsibility for the customer and how that works in terms of insight, data and digital.

“Where it’s moving away from is marketing purely being the growth engine.”

He notes the importance of nurture in the segment.

“With a lot of the things we talk about in this market, you might only get five or six big decisions or transaction in a customer’s lifetime: where do you put your pension, where do you consolidate, which advice do you take, etcetera. So nurturing people outside of those moments is really important.

“[We need to] make sure that through our understanding of the customer, we’re able to introduce the next most relevant product which we know is going to be useful to them.”

This is one area where the B2C part of the business can learn from B2B, Paul argues. B2B has come from a background of nurture, not just conversion.

“Starting to use that expertise from a nurture perspective in a B2C context is hugely important, particularly higher up the funnel.”

The customer should see a shift from multiple apps to a single “really intuitive”  app where customers can do the vast majority of what they need to do, whether this is health or wealth.

To exemplify where the firm should get to, he uses the analogy of a GP surgery.

“That’s probably where we need to get to in order to be able to do this at scale.”

As with a doctor, a customer may not speak to the same financial advisor each time, but they can be sure that the advisor has “all the facts available to them and really confident that they’re going to be really professional and provide really cost-effective advice.

“That’s where the big opportunity is: how do you make sure you understand customer behaviour when they tend to be thinking about certain things? The delivery of that needs to be absolutely seamless and right every time.”

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