OPINION: The future of financial services brands is Agile

Steve Martin

By Steve Martin, CEO of Agilistic

The concept of Agile has been around for a while in the finance industry and has often been labelled as just another buzzword mainly aimed at tech transformation. In fact, very few organisations within the industry understand that its true value has nothing to do with tech solutions. Although Agile originates from the programming function and the Agile Manifesto clearly states that one of its key values is to deliver working software, Agile is now much broader and can be used to benefit organisations in any industry.

Now more than ever, financial services organisations need to move from lengthy operational processes and compete with the fast-moving digital world. The industry is at risk from smaller, dynamic and agile start-ups. Financial tech company Tide is a great example of this as it doesn’t have long-winded processes in place or complex hierarchical systems which means it can make swift changes to provide continuous value to its customers. In sharp contrast to this, traditional institutions often have lengthy approval processes in places and try to do too much at once leading to overload and lack of focus on swift continuous delivery. From a marketing perspective, this means that finance companies may lose sight of their end users at a time where they need to understand them as never before. As a result, financial marketeers often struggle to assemble truly impactful messaging and strategies that cut through the noise.

But what does it actually mean being an Agile brand within the finance industry? In the past when it came to building a brand, dedication to consistency and stability paid off and this is the way that many financial marketeers still operate. However, the speed and sophistication of today’s technological developments means that those things are no longer enough as end users and other relevant stakeholders interact with brands on a more regular and instant basis. To a certain extent, end users hold the power to shape the brand identity. Therefore, in order to deliver powerful messaging that their audiences find relevant, financial marketeers need to really be able to understand them. An Agile brand focuses on client value and business outcomes over activity and outputs.

In an Agile setting, marketing teams use data science to understand their audience and drive their activity. Instead of blindly following an annual marketing plan which may not be delivering the best possible outcomes, Agile teams are curious and flexible and are open to optimising their output on an ongoing basis based on data and client feedback. The data collected also helps teams to improve and apply any lessons learnt to the next project, which keeps campaigns effective and continuously improves return on marketing investments.

Since Agile promotes experimentation and flexibility, it can also encourage cross-functional collaboration making the most of resources available and breaking down silos. This encourages teams to drop the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ mentality and stops them feeling confined by the function they operate within in the company. Smart Agile organisations re-structure their entire organisation around the customer: marketing, product development and service delivery. The cross-functional teams are able to finish projects autonomously without stalling out due to dependencies. Essentially, an agile marketing team structure provides a significant productivity boost without adding more resources to the team

And it’s not just output and brand trust that skyrockets when teams become more Agile. Agile marketers engage more in their work because they have control over it and have the space to approach projects more creatively to deliver more impactful campaigns. At the same time, other departments are aware of what marketing is doing and are able to communicate any relevant information to them to enhance their work.

With the post-pandemic world in a state of flux, doing what you’ve always done is no longer an option. Brands are living, breathing entities which need to be able to adapt quickly to changing markets and shifts in demand even when navigating a complex operational environment. And they have to do all this without losing track of their mission and values. This means that ultimately the organisations which are supported by a strong, flexible Agile brand are the ones which will have the best chance of succeeding.

Image: solidcolours

Previous article

Q&A: What the FCA Consumer Duty means for marketers

Next article

FCA sets six-month countdown for high-risk promotions

Get access to valuable thought leadership from the financial services marketing industry

Keep up-to-date with current trends and changes across marketing and financial services is vital in this fast-moving business environment.