Over the past few weeks, I have been perturbed by how our once great financial services sector is being portrayed in the media.
There is no denying that both NatWest and Barclays need to step back and really look at how they have lost the respect of the nation, but it is worth remembering that brands have been built on how they are seen in the flesh. This is especially true in banking.
So, while most of us now do our business via cash machines, internet banking and direct debit, the image we hold is usually rooted in how that bank manifests itself on the high street.
And this is where I fear the “mighty two” have lost their way. As they have invested in offline channels, moved operational functionality into shared service centres and even transferred much activity offshore, they have forgotten what it was that made them great – the mighty bank manager himself.
It wasn’t that long ago that your local bank manager was a pillar of society. They were trusted. They could make decisions. For most people they were the bank.
But that has all gone now. The manager of my local bank stumbles over his words and any request I have has to be checked with “the computer”. If I am lucky, he might refer to head office, but more often than not “the computer says no”. Basically, he has no empowerment.
The first thing I would do as the marketing director of one of these two institutions would be to invest in my branch network. I would turn the business on its head. I would reinstate proper bank managers and re-empower them to engage with their communities. Of course, I would retain much of the investment over the years in those fantastically slick processes, but I would use them to help the people on the ground not to replace them.
I would probably also keep the back office out of the branch but I would instead invest in figureheads who could get out there and be the ambassadors of my brand.
Marketing is not all about glossy TV ads or super-engaging social media campaigns. Marketing is actually about engaging with customers to build trust and in turn grow the business. If I were running one of these brands today, this is where I would be investing my budget.