Interview: IG Global CMO on targeting the “driven and confident” investor

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

Trading platform IG is looking to contemporise its brand as it looks to offer financial freedom to sophisticated investors, according to its recently appointed Global CMO.

Katherine Whitton, who joined in the role in October, says she “fell into marketing”, having originally planned to be a children’s writer when she left university. In the 80s she put these ambitions to one side to join Regency Life, which later became part of Aegon.

“I get asked a lot about advice in marketing and what people should do and what qualifications they should get,” Katherine says. “I haven’t got any formal marketing qualifications, but just a shed load of experience in terms of my career and a passion for understanding consumer needs and motivations.”

Katherine’s varied career path has encompassed stops at other financial services companies such as Barclaycard and American Express, as well as at BA and most recently as global CMO of Specsavers. She also has had stints on the agency side earlier in her career.

She says she moved to IG due to the chance to learn about a new sector, as well as the opportunity to make a mark around transformational marketing to support the company’s ambition for growth. She says the trading space offers an interesting marketing challenge.

“The main driver for people to start trading and investing is market volatility, which is not something you as a marketer can control,” she explains. “We have set annual marketing plans, but we have to be really reactive to capture the opportunity when it  comes along.

“[IG] is a digital platform where people can trade and invest, and we operate in terms of meeting client needs in 14 markets across the world. We have a very significant marketing team of over 220 people, and then we also have a content engine.”

Content has been at the heart of IG’s business since the beginning because the firm has “a huge responsibility to clients to help them understand how to trade and invest, as well as the content that takes us right the way through to giving people a world view of opportunities based on social, economic and political events. It helps build knowledge and confidence which is critical for our customers and is our responsibility.

This has put IG in a good position as content has become more and more key in today’s marketing mix.

“We’re inherently actually a very modern marketing company because we have this content engine, with analysts all around the world to give expert perspective for our clients. We do pretty much all our content creation in house.”

The company also bought a company last year in the US called tastytrade, which broadcasts 10 hours a day of content.

“It’s very aligned to what IG is all about and certainly creating entertaining and immersive content for traders.”


Capturing the driven and confident investor

Compared to Katherine’s previous roles at American Express and Barclaycard, the target audience for IG is a much narrower and more defined one.

“Our customers are self-directed, so they want to do it themselves. They have the confidence and the drive to want to explore the opportunities of trading and investing.

“If you put the characteristics of self-direction  together with the confidence and commitment to trading and investing, this creates a very discrete attitudinal audience. That’s pretty different from the marketing challenges of the past.”

She also differentiates IG from newer entrants to the trading space, such as the likes of Robinhood, Freetrade and eToro.

These brands, she says, absolutely capture the market of those who are “curious and interested” in investing.

“Some of the new entrants have a good proposition in terms of ease of use ‘giving it a go’.”

However, IG doesn’t compete directly with these mass market players, with its focus of the “intentional trader and investor”, with more sophistication.

This is not to say the next gen investors may not be a future growth opportunity – Katherine says IG is currently working on really understanding the “emotional and rational” needs of this group and how we can create experiences and propositions that help them become knowledgeable and confident when they start their trading and investing journey.

IG makes use of the classic marketing mix to reach its audience, Katherine says, including SEO and paid media.

“The first thing is obviously understanding who the audience is, including how they consume media. We see a direct correlation of people becoming customers based on world events, so it’s making sure we’re turning up at the right place at the right time.”

Alongside this, IG plans to step up its brand marketing efforts.

Although the details of the strategy are only expected later this year, IG is “looking at the brand and what it stands for and its distinctiveness.

“Ultimately content needs to be engaging and immersive. Modern brands don’t just broadcast – they create dialogue.

“Without giving too much away, we do have some really strong attributes that we want to keep and have in our brand armoury. There is an opportunity to move the brand again, focusing on the sophisticated investor and trader, but to contemporise that and find more opportunities for people to experience it.”


Financial freedom for the ambitious

One strong attribute that she notes is IG’s “unique” culture. As its heritage dates back to when it was founded to trade gold in 1974, the brand considers itself the ‘original fintech’. It has been an early adopter of technology trends, including of the Apple Watch.

“We are obviously a regulated business, so that creates an important framework for how we act and how we think. Having said that, there are many aspects of the culture that feel entrepreneurial and fairly un-hierarchical, and because of the nature of what we do things change really quickly. We have the fluidity of more of a fintech, with that close collaboration and a lot of iterative thinking.

“It’s a very ambitious business, but also a business based on purpose as well, which is really our North Star and where all the decisions from long-term strategy to ESG are focused.”

IG defines its purpose as “powering the pursuit of financial freedom for the ambitious.

“What’s great in that statement is you have the client right in the centre of the purpose, which goes back to what I mentioned about the target audience.

“We’re not an advice business, but we are all singularly focused on giving our clients the tools, the knowledge, the platforms and opportunity to take potential advantage of the markets.”

The company is hiring, Katherine says, for a range of roles across the global marketing community.

“We have opportunities literally around the world, from content creators in China to graphic designers in Johannesburg to channel specialists in London to general marketers in Chicago and many more roles.

“Because of the culture we have some very smart and talented people, with a specific attitude. We’re looking for people who are incredibly personally and professionally ambitious, curious and talented and want to come on what I think will be a really amazing journey for us in the future.”

You can explore the career opportunities at IG here.

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