EVENT: Is This the Age of the Building Society?

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

This week saw the Financial Services Forum host its inaugural event focused on marketing in the building society sector.

It featured five sessions dealing with topical challenges in the industry, a vibrant world for marketing where the stature of marketeers is rising and new opportunities to differentiate from the high street banks are emerging.

You can access the presentations from the event here.


Session One:


Alistair Narnor, Senior Manager, KPMG Management Consultancy Financial Services practice

Anju Tiwari, Technology Advisory Partner and Architect, KPMG

Alistair and Anju from KPMG focused on the intersection of technology transformation and customer experience.

Alistair introduced KPMG’s Customer Experience Excellence benchmark and outlined six key pillars for delivering exceptional customer experiences: integrity, resolution, expectations, time and effort, personalisation, and empathy.

He illustrated these pillars with examples from various industries, such as Mazda meeting brand expectations while British Airways struggled to consistently meet theirs. The key takeaway was that building societies should focus on setting and meeting expectations with their customers.

Anju emphasised the importance of data in digital transformation, highlighting its foundational role. A command of data would allow marketers to lead and drive internal transformations in the business.


Session Two:


Lee Goodenough, Managing Director, VASS

Lee addressed the pressure for martech transformation in the building society sector, particularly focusing on the role of Customer Data Platforms (CDPs), which bring together data from disparate sources to achieve a unified view of the customer.

He outlined five key points for leveraging CDPs effectively:

1. Integration: Seamlessly connecting CDPs with existing systems.

2. Data Quality: Emphasising the importance of clean and organised data.

3. Security and Accessibility: Opting for hybrid CDP models to balance security and flexibility.

4. Technical Support: Ensuring dedicated IT teams are available to maintain CDP functionality.

5. Customisation: Tailoring CDP choices to address specific challenges and goals within building societies. Goodenough stressed that CDP impacts extend beyond marketing, potentially influencing the entire organisation.


Session Three:


Claire Oldstein, Marketing Director, Wesleyan

Claire talked about the approach to the concept of mutuality at Wesleyan, a mutual organisation catering to professionals like doctors, dentists, and teachers.

She discussed how Wesleyan was modernising the concept of mutuality, emphasising sharing and community benefits.

For example, the organisation runs a financial education programme and incorporates the views of members into its decision-making processes through advisory boards.


Session Four:


Michelle Pickard, Head of Marketing, Coventry Building Society

Michelle shared insights into the marketing department’s transition from a product-led to a purpose-driven approach. Coventry’s historical focus on competitive rates and excellent service had been effective, but posed challenges in establishing a distinct brand identity.

She noted that investing in branding with members’ funds is always a challenge and emphasised the need for clarity regarding a company’s purpose.

Coventry had undertaken research into the understanding and value of mutuality, which found the concept was not widely understood by the general public. Ultimately, whatever the values of an organisation, people won’t become customers unless they are getting value and this has to come first.

The revised purpose was “giving people the power to be better off through life.”

The session emphasised finding mutual-commercial win/win opportunities, such as the naming rights of the Coventry Building Society Stadium, and aligning internal purposes with external messaging to enhance brand differentiation and consumer engagement.


Session Five:


Alex Bannister, Independent Board Advisor/Economist & Former Head of Future Ventures, Nationwide

Georgia d’Esterre, Head of Marketing, The West Brom

Debbie Enever, Head of External Affairs, Building Societies Association

Adam Oldfield, Chief Revenue Officer, Phoebus Software

Chaired by: Alex Sword, Editor, The Financial Services Forum

The panel discussed the relevance of the building society model to today’s world, the current sentiment towards banks and how mutuals can differentiate from them.

They also talked about combining modern digital engagement with traditional building society values. For example, Georgia from the West Brom talked about new approaches to branches that cater to how customers today use them.

You can read more from Georgia in this interview.

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