INTERVIEW Teamspirit CEO on communications during a crisis

Alex Sword


The Financial Services Forum

The government’s mini-budget last week led to turmoil in markets, as the value of the pound compared to dollars fell and yields on government bonds soared. The Bank of England intervened to bail out pension funds, which were apparently on the verge of bankruptcy, while expectations have increased that interest rates will rise significantly later this year, potentially hitting homeowners.

Founded in 1994, specialist financial services agency Teamspirit counts major firms such as Fidelity and Prudential as clients. The agency’s CEO Kirsty Maxey said that while customers may be more used to volatility in the wake of the Covid pandemic, this week’s turmoil has been marked by more of a sense that “nobody is in charge”.

“I think the thing that we’re missing is that massive piece of reassurance from people to say it’s going to be okay. You know, mortgages do get pulled. They were hugely pulled during the pandemic, but they come back into the market.”

“Here the grownups are supposed to be in charge…they are perhaps out of depth in way they are responding.”

While the response from government may have been lacking, financial services firms need to step up to the plate. She says it is important to proactively communicate and provide reassurance to customers, otherwise people may respond to the panic by making poor decisions.

“I think the people who just hold back are the ones that leave their customers feeling like, oh, my goodness, what’s happening?”

“The most important thing is that reassurance piece,” she says. “Whether it’s lenders or investors, you [need to be] out in the market very quickly reassuring customers about where they are, giving them opportunities to have conversations, making sure that your customer service teams are all geared up and able to answer the questions that clients have.”

This may be advising them that they don’t need to do anything in response to the conditions, or for those that do need to do something, telling them what the options are.

“[It’s saying] these are that the options that they could take or if they need to talk to someone, these are the types of people that they could talk to.”

Formats such as visual representations can be particularly effective, Kirsty says, suggesting that graphs charting financial markets over the past decade can show that this type of volatility is precedented.

“People being able to visually see this is what has happened over the past few years, over the past decade reassures people to understand this is how the markets operate. As long as you do not need to take your money right now, it will pass at some point and the markets will come back again.”

It’s important to remain present in the conversation even for those firms that are pulling mortgage products, she says.

“Lenders can say to customers that they’re pulling back on [a product] now, but saying we will be coming back when we have an offer that is right for you.”

“At the end of the day mortgage lenders want to lend money and they they’re waiting for the right time to do it. And hopefully it won’t take too long for some of those offers to come back into the market.”

“[It’s about] giving them the insight that enables them to understand in a way that feels honest and straightforward”.

She adds that it is particularly important to reassure older customers, who may have access to less information.

“Younger clients are more comfortable in a volatile world because they’re used to seeing their apps all the time. They’re used to looking at their apps all the time, so they’re just used to looking at those pots going up and down with the markets on a daily basis sometimes.

“It’s the older generations who are not used to seeing that – that’s where you really need to provide that reassurance and make sure they don’t make any fast decisions that are going to damage their long-term finances.”


Kirsty’s key advice:

  • Don’t rush communications and check tone of voice across every single thing that’s going out
  • Reassure customers
  • Provide content that helps people understand that while this feels like an unusual set of circumstances, it’s happened before
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