Branding in Financial Services: Authenticity Matters

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Last week’s Gramercy Forum NYC: Financial Marketing 2016 event provided attendees with a unique opportunity to hear directly from senior marketing executives from top Wall Street firms about the priorities, opportunities and challenges they see heading into 2016.

For readers not familiar with the Gramercy Institute, it’s an industry think-tank focused on the intellectual needs of senior marketers in the financial services industry. With a core membership of more than 30 of the world’s top firms, the Gramercy Institute connects thousands of professionals in the financial sector, and is the largest network of senior financial services marketers in the world.

Panelists at the New York event represented a cross-section of the broader financial services market.  Marketers from leading asset and wealth management firms were joined by their counterparts from auditing and professional services companies, stock exchanges, advertising and marketing agencies, and media organizations. Session topics included:

  • How are firms differentiating themselves and communicating their value proposition?
  • What are the key elements of a firm’s brand in the institutional financial services sector?
  • What are the most effective strategies and channels for connecting with key audiences?

While all of the panels were insightful, one entitled Reputation Management: The Authentic Financial Brand, featured a very compelling discussion about the evolving nature of financial brands and how best to manage them. The panelists included SVPs and VPs of brand marketing from a major asset manager, a large commercial bank, and a ‘Big Four’ accounting firm, as well as the president of a major advertising agency. Following are some of the more notable points made in the session.

“When making any kind of change, be really clear about the brand and what it represents with internal audiences first. Then and only then can you bring it to external audiences.”

“It’s an equation.  What you do, plus what you say, times your culture equals your brand.”

“Brand used to be described as a promise – an expectation in the customer’s mind.  Well, it’s no longer a promise. Your brand is the sum total of what your people actually deliver today, tomorrow, and the day after that.”

“The propellant for a financial brand today is authenticity.”

The panelists all agreed on this last point. They pointed out that with mobile, social and always-connected customers, there’s an immediacy to brand building today. Given that immediacy, and the significant influence that connected customers have on a brand today, it’s imperative for firms to be transparent, and to be upfront and honest about all that they do.

It is forthrightness that helps create the authenticity that clients seek today – and that has often been missing on Wall Street in recent years. In today’s market, the more authenticity a firm can create, the stronger its brand will be…and vice versa.