‘Banks need to look to John Lewis to rebuild trust’

Banks need to follow the lead of Apple and John Lewis and model their entire business strategy on meeting customer needs or fail to reduce the trust deficit built up since the financial crisis, according to senior financial services marketers.

HSBC dropped from first to third in Brand Finance’s top 500 bank brands poll.

The rallying call came at an event in London earlier this week detailing a report by brand consultancy Brand Finance which found £1.5bn was wiped off the value of UK banks in 2012 in the wake of a series of corporate scandals that engulfed the country’s biggest banks.

HSBC led those in decline dropping from the world’s top bank brand in 2011 to third last year with a valuation of $22.8bn. Barclays fell to $13.4bn, while Standard Chartered’s brand slumped to $7.02bn in the year. All three fell foul of regulators in 2012 denting the already damaged reputation of the industry.

Speaking at the event, CitiBank’s European marketing director Jane Griffiths – who saw her employer’s brand value increase – said banks “must try harder” to rebuild lost trust in the industry by changing their culture top to bottom to one dedicated at every stage to “surprising and delighting” customers.

She added financial services marketers need to strive for “product parity” with brands such as John Lewis and Apple who are “on the side of customers”.

“We need to elevate our holistic product to the level of leading consumer brands- to meet and exceed requirements. Give people a reason to choose you over rivals. It requires a transition in culture driven by the board but embedded in the company’s culture as well as being consistent in all you do and say, ” Griffith said.

Claire Fulda, head of brand innovations at French bank BNP Paribas – which also enjoyed a lift in brand value last year, echoed the need to become customer-led, adding marketing should lead the change. “Those that do so are more likely to achieve future success”, she added.

Many other bank brands have acknowledged the need to change. Yesterday (5 February) Barclays chief executive Antony Jenkins, who took over when Bob Diamond resigned over the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal, told MPs at a Select Committee hearing he was “shredding” the legacy of his predecessor to become more ethical in its approach to banking. The bank’s marketing director Sara Bennison told Marketing Week earlier this year it now has a “relentless focus on customers”.

Speaking at the Brand Finance event Steve Denning, the author of several books on leadership and business narrative and a former director at the World Bank, said banks need to reverse decades of acting only in the interests of increasing shareholder value.

“The leadership [in banks] need to embrace the approach [of brands like Apple] and focus on adding value. They need to rediscover the purpose of banking – creating secure financial communities, reducing risks and maximising opportunities.”

US bank Wells Fargo topped Brand Finance’s list of the top 500 most valuable banking brands, a list arrived at by looking at earnings and the contribution of trademark and intellectual property, with a value of $26.04bn.

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