RBS’s decision to cut marketing is counter-productive

The mind-boggling amount lost by some of the banking groups post and pre-financial crisis is mirrored by the sheer volume of job losses that have stemmed from it.

Russell Parsons

Not a month seems to go by without news of thousands facing the axe. Collateral damage, it seems, for the surfeit excess of an industry that flew too close to the sun.

I have every sympathy with those that have and will lose their jobs, the majority of whom were not responsible for the profligacy of their respective employers. Forgive the parochial sympathy but the latest batch were particularly noteworthy.

Last week, Royal Bank of Scotland announced it was to cut 1,400 marketing, communication and data analytics jobs – about 38 per cent of the 3,600 total – from its retail business over the next two years. The money saved, the state-owned bank said, will be spent on the “things that matter” to customers. Or, to put it more pointedly, we are taking tough decisions and are getting rid of the things that are, quite frankly, a luxury – like those pesky marketers and their funny ways.

Sounds good and it is a sell that could work when spinning a redundancy story to newspapers. But delve a little deeper and what you are left with is a counter-productive call that will leave RBS wanting.

Marketers are in tune with what customers need and want, be it the ever evolving, and fast-moving digital world, or the sixth sense of market prescience that all great marketers and teams have. Analytics and the data practitioners crunch leads to better customer service and services by identifying what they want, when and how they want it.

There is, of course, a cold hard reality for those working for the financial services firms bailed out in 2008/09. Their costs are and should be scrutinised as they are still recovering from colossal debt and are answerable to Joe Public. Job cuts, therefore, are sadly inevitable. But cutting more than a third of the staff dedicated to identifying and meeting the needs of customers is not cost efficiency, it’s just plain dumb.

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