Mick Smyth, Senior Strategist at Siegel+Gale looks at five financial services brands that are authentically delivering on their purposes.
Over the course of the last decade we’ve witnessed financial services brands proactively demonstrating a heightened standard of ethics and transparency. In light of recent hurdles, like the pandemic, inflation and cost-of-living crisis, more and more brands are trying to have a positive influence on the world. Although the financial crisis of 2008- was a turning point in regaining public trust, brands are continuing to lean on emotion, championing purpose and values to demonstrate their authenticity. As a result, these FS brands produce higher value, human-centric initiatives that positively impact society.
Nevertheless, the industry has been shaken by the recent collapse of Sillicon Valley Bank, and Credit Suisse, disturbing the global economy. Although this is unlikely to match a 2008-level crisis, the crash serves as a reminder of just how delicate the world economy can be when a lack of regulation and bad actors are exposed. These events will have damaged the brands of those industry players looking to lead by example.
In the spirit of optimism, I’d like to share examples of some financial services brands that are genuinely benefiting society and helping financial institutions to regain pubic trust.
Sustainable and social investments with Triodos Bank
Triodos claims the title of the world’s most sustainable bank. Based in the Netherlands, this is a brand on a mission to ‘help create a society that protects and promotes quality of life and human dignity for all.’
Having launched its first ‘green fund’ all the way back in 1990, it now boasts multiple ethical opportunities. These include four different individual savings accounts as well as current accounts. Investments are designed to have a positive impact on the planet and society, including financing renewable energy, sustainable farming and education, rather than fossil fuels, fast fashion and weapons and ammunition.
Unpicking these investments uncovers a vast array of programmes such as community housing, nurseries, and care homes which are all clearly listed on their website. In supporting fairness, sustainability and transparency through its investments, Triodos Bank is living its brand values.
Social impact through digital insurance with Lemonade
Lemonade is a recognised B-Corporation insurance brand operating out of New York. Asking potential customers to forget their preconceptions of the industry, it positions itself as digital insurance built on social impact. The brand removes any temptation to refuse payment to policyholders by donating the remainder of unspent policies to non-profit organisations and only taking a flat fee.
Over $1.8m was donated to 59 non-profits in 2022 alone, with programmes ranging from cleaning beaches to feeding school children in Somalia, to providing clean and safe drinking water to people in Mali. Initiatives all chosen by policy holders. The brand’s mission, ‘to transform insurance from a necessary evil into a social good,’ is actively demonstrated through all its activity.
Promoting diversity in wealth through CNote
Using technology to unlock diversified community investments, CNote is a ‘women-led impact platform that aims to increase economic mobility and financial inclusion.’ In short, this is a bank on a mission to close the wealth gap. California-based CNote’s initiatives include partnerships with the Mastercard Impact Fund to support women of colour entrepreneurs with small business loans.
In the C-Note 2022 Q4 report alone, the brand highlights that 81% of loans went to BIPOC borrowers, and 97% to low-to-moderate income communities. Delving deeper into these statistics within the Impact Stories section of their website reveals the funding of independent apparel stores, entrepreneurs fighting food insecurity, and a street circus bringing social change. The true diversity of the communities they empower is also shown by the broad range of programmes they offer.
Funding opportunity with Amalgamated Bank
Amalgamated Bank, also based in New York, is the largest and one of the only union-owned banks in the United States. Founded nearly 100 years ago, providing working people financing opportunities normally only available for businesses and the very wealthy.
Offering an hourly minimum wage of $20 (well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25) the brand also supports New York legislation for a fair minimum wage of $15 per hour in the ‘Fight for $15.’ With clients such as Renew Capital–the Africa-focused impact investment firm–and initiatives such as the focus on accessible identification for opening current accounts, Amalgamated Bank is living its mission to become the socially responsible bank of America.
Investing in people with Tugende
Tugende, based in Uganda, prioritises small businesses in Africa who are seeking to close the credit gap. Initially providing microloans to motorcycle taxis in Uganda, the brand’s offering has developed to provide services like training, insurance and lease-to-own financing.
Tugende has financed over $60m of income-generating assets since 2012, and currently has over 29,000 active clients, all while creating over 800 full-time jobs. From customers and employees to the local economy, Tugende’s actions aim to ‘help people help themselves’, sticking strongly with its mission statement.
Learnings for the rest of the market
No matter where they’re based, or at what stage the institution is, the above brands are connected by a tangible thread: authenticity. Be it a mission, a vision, or a set of values, these institutions boast a genuine ambition to benefit society and use branding to clearly communicate this to stakeholders, employees and consumers. Although they may be one step ahead of their peers, it is possible for all institutions to mirror their actions by promoting transparency and following words up with genuine action. There is a huge opportunity to be taken in contributing true value to the lives of your customers, and society as a whole.